Wallabies in no rush to label 'new era'

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

They’ve got a new long-term skipper and a handful of fresh faces in camp but Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps says only wins will usher in a ‘new era’ for the Test side.

Phipps, who returned to the wider train-on squad after an ankle injury ruled him out of the June Series, said players didn’t want to make any grandiose statements before they start putting results on the board.

“To say this is going to start the new era of Australian rugby’s tough to say,” he said.

“We’ve certainly got so much more work to do before then and a lot more work before we can start saying that publicly.

“We’re just quietly working away, working hard to make sure that by the time that first game comes we’re as ready as we possibly can be and make the public proud.”

The public battle has become one of the most difficult for the Wallabies, after an Australian Super Rugby season in which no sides overcame their Kiwi counterparts in 26 attempts.

It’s that outside view that flyhalf Bernard Foley said had hit players hardest this year.

“It’s been really disappointing and mainly the connotations and the negative perceptions around rugby has been disappointing for us as players but we can’t change that,” he said.

“We can’t hide away from results, this year hasn’t gone our way and I think that’s what the last couple of weeks says is, we’re going to do everything in our powers to be ready for the first Bledisloe.”

It’s the psychological side of recent camps that could prove most critical for the Wallabies in the opening Bledisloe in a fortnight’s time, Phipps said.

Many of the drills have relied on ambiguity, calling on players to keep working when they think a task or a session is over.

“It’s definitely something that’s been touched upon by our coaching staff and our leadership group at the moment, the idea that there's no set distances,  set times, you never really know,” Phipps said.

“People sort of crave that knowingness in their game or in their life.

“We’ve got to learn how to embrace the unknown.

“You don’t know how long that play is going to go for, you don’t know what’s going to happen but when it does happen we’re going to be ready for it and we’re going to keep ripping in until the whistle goes.”

Though Michael Cheika said in June fitness had been an issue for the Wallabies, Foley said the development they'd found mentally was crucial.

"Everyone’s fit, everyone’s played six months of Super Rugby so if you’re not fit by now, there’s something wrong with you," he said.

"It’s the mental challenges we’ve been thrown, the ability to go when you’re sore or not feeling good or do another rep you’re not prepared for and I think you get a lot of growth out of a player when  they come through those times and they see the rewards for this hard work."

Phipps said Michael Hooper was the perfect man to set that standard going into 2019, having played alongside him for most of his career and seen his development first-hand.

“I think that was one of his biggest goals this year was to be able to lead better and be a better leader amongst the group, not that he needed it,” he said.

“He’s so across all those different things he needs to do now and him putting so much work into that, demands a lot more respect from everyone else - they see him working super hard in those areas then you definitely get behind him and follow him wherever he wants to go.”

The Wallabies host the All Blacks on Saturday August 19, kicking off at 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.