Make midweek tour games an annual affair

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallaby XV captain Will Skelton would like to see the concept become an annual part of the Australian Rugby calendar, after leading the team in Bordeaux on Thursday.

The Wallaby XV brought together Australia’s Wallabies development players as well as a mix of France-based players for the match, and a packed out stadium in Bordeaux was a ringing endorsement for the concept.

“It [the atmosphere] was crazy - you couldn’t hear the calls,” Skelton said.

“We want to be clinical in those areas and we’ve got to execute in those pressure moments.

“I thought a lot of the match we did (execute) but there were a few moments we let it slip. Hopefully this is an annual fixture.

“The people of Bordeaux got right behind it and the Australians who came to support it as well.” - Will Skelton

The match was the first senior international for Waratahs Andrew Kellaway and Jack Dempsey, who both shone in France.

Dempsey switched to openside for the first time since his Under 20s days and was among the best for the Australians in a brutal contest.

The 22-year-old backrower said the chance to pick the brains of some former Wallabies during the week was invaluable.

“I think in terms of physicality, we didn’t show what we could have and that’s probably where we lost the game just around those rucks,” he said.

“We had a lot of content to cover in four days of prep but I’ve learned a lot off Peter Kimlin, Benny Mowen ... that’s huge for me just the way they prepared for the game. They gave me a real calm sense just the way they go about things, which I learned from.”

Kellaway was thrown into the fray off the bench, replacing the injured Jono Lance, who broke his arm just three minutes in.

“It was a really good learning curve and I was lucky to have [Mark Gerrard] playing inside me, who was really able to guide me through so I really appreciate that,” he said.

Wallabies captain Stephen Moore watched the game in Dublin and was full of praise for the national development players, whose outing in France will likely be their only match in a five-week tour.

While Izaia Perese missed the Wallaby XV game through injury and Taniela Tupou was ineligible for selection, Moore said the group had pushed the regular Test players in training.

“I thought young Dempsey had a good game, he’s trained with us the whole tour and I think he did a good job.” - Stephen Moore

“I’m sure they would’ve been disappointed to not win the game but it was a good occasion by the looks of it.

“It’s a tough situation to be in – I know they’re young but they’re not necessarily getting any game which can be a tough situation over five weeks.

“They’ve rolled their sleeves up, worked really hard, asked lots of questions and they’ve been a big part of out group.

“They’re four guys who you’d say would at some point get the chance to put that jersey on and this is their first taste of what that environment’s like.”