A marathon Test year is finally over and rugby.com.au has broken down the Wallabies' season.
It’s fair to say a year ago, this was not the season many had predicted for a Wallabies team that had just made it to a World Cup final. A three-nil loss to England was the biggest shock, after a shortened leadup, and from there, Australia struggled to get any momentum back from the season.
Thirteen debutants in a year signalled a start of a new generation of Wallabies, all of whom had their moments but will want to build on their first Test season.
Wins 6 - Losses 9 (40%)
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Biggest win: 32-8 vs Wales, Cardiff
Heaviest loss: 42-8 vs New Zealand, Sydney
High point: Victory in Wales
Their attack looked slick and the Wallabies put in one of their most complete performances in Cardiff.
It’s a victory that might now be taken with a grain of salt, given what followed for each side, but the elements that shone through were the signs Wallabies fans have been looking for.
Moment to forget: 42-8 loss to New Zealand Bledisloe
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has said several times that the opening Bledisloe was the Wallabies’ lowest moment of 2016 and it’s hard to argue. Being so comprehensively beaten by New Zealand set the tone for their Bledisloe series, with the final two games in New Zealand, and seemed a flashpoint for the rest of the year, as the Wallabies tried to recover from a 0-4 start to 2016.
Biggest positive: New blood, and plenty of it
It’s a number that has been trotted out a few times this year but getting experience into a new generation of Wallabies has produced some exciting signs for the future. Adam Coleman proved himself as a lineout caller after just two Tests and Samu Kerevi put pressure on Tevita Kuridrani, a competition that has paid dividends for the quality at 13. Dane Haylett-Petty became a regular in the lineup as did Super Rugby rookie Reece Hodge. Young props Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Robertson showed potential coming off the bench. These players will all be part of Australia’s long play, but the challenge is not to drop off from here.
What needs improvement
The Wallabies have shown glimpses of their potential this season, but one forced pass too many, a knock-on deep in attack, a missed lineout or tackle have all cost them at various points. They have shown growth but not across the board in every game. Discipline should be a key focus in 2017 – the Wallabies gave away penalty counts in most of their Tests this year and regardless of contention or interpretation, that’s something they’ll need to fix next year.
In terms of influence, Will Genia’s stints for the national side this year made some of the biggest differences to the side of any. Genia only played nine Tests of the 15, due to injury and club duties, but the 27-year-old proved he still has some of his best rugby in him. Was close to the best for the Wallabies in every Test he played. Michael Hooper would be up there as well – the openside flanker won his second John Eales Medal for his 2015-16 efforts and he was tireless in every match he played. His backrow mate David Pocock returned to some of his best rugby in the Spring Tour, with a match-winning effort against France.
Dane Haylett-Petty was the only one of 13 debutants to start every Test he played, missing just Australia’s France Test, and has grown into the wing position at national level. Compare his defensive efforts against England in the Wallabies’ final Test to that first Bledisloe Test in August and that alone shows what he’s been able to do in five months. His Force teammate, Adam Coleman, is up there as well, after taking on the Wallabies’ lineout calling duties in just his second Test.
A bit of rugby league came to rugby when Tevita Kuridrani planted one down against France, using every ounce of his athleticism to score the match-sealing try. His teammates were in awe of his physical acrobatics, as he notched the third of four tries on the five-week Spring Tour.
Social Media MVP
David Pocock always has a strong presence on Instagram but Wallabies rookie Reece Hodge has really come to the fore over the Spring Tour. The 22-year-old has delivered some top tourist shots across the five-week Spring Tour, in what has probably been the most prolific use of the medium on the tour.
The Wallabies don’t play another Test until their first June Test, against Fiji in Melbourne. Next year’s midyear Tests won’t be as hyped up as their England series was this year but they ‘ll need to be spot on from the get go to show they have improved. Michael Cheika and his assistants will be meeting with the Super Rugby clubs in the coming weeks as they work towards a more national footprint, one that will hopefully ensure they are ready to go regardless of the timing of a Test.