Success the only way to win back fans

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Winning is the only to turn around an increasingly disinterested rugby fan base, attack coach Stephen Larkham says.

The 54,648 that turned out to watch the opening Bledisloe was the lowest headcount ever for a trans-Tasman encounter at ANZ Stadium, more than 10,000 fewer than the 65,328 at the 2016 clash.

While Larkham said he couldn’t be preoccupied with counting crowd figures, he conceded only winning would turn things around and that was the Wallabies’ responsibility.

"That comes back to us. We've got to make sure that we're winning games,” he said.

“If we do that, we play the style of rugby that we want to play then the crowd will come back. 

"We've got a job to do as a team. All the external stuff, it certainly matters.

“But for us internally we've got to make sure we're putting on good performances on the paddock and winning games.

"We didn't do it last night so our focus certainly won't be on crowd numbers. It will be on making sure we win next week.”

Beale defended his teammates’ desire on Sunday morning and urged fans to stick with them despite the 54-34 result. 

“For us as a group it's important that we stick together and keep playing rugby,” he said.

“We are working hard, we do care and a lot of the boys love playing rugby for Australia, so for us as a group we're just going to keep focused on playing rugby and try and deliver the right brand of rugby that everyone wants to see.

“We've just got to keep focused on that and hopefully everyone can keep sticking by us.”

Beale played his first game in three months in the Bledisloe and worked his way into the game after a hesitant start, Larkham said.

“Probably a bit tentative in that first half, making sure he could find his feet and the pace of the game but certainly opened up in that second half,” Larkham said.

“He just gives the guys so much confidence when he’s out there on the field.

“He sees the game really well, made really good decisions last night and injected himself when he needed to.”

The 28-year-old said he felt more at home as the game wore on.

“As the game progressed, I felt more comfortable, I felt like the team was starting to get a roll on and a few momentum changes and we were lucky to pounce and take our opportunities,” he said.

“That's why I think next week, we can take a lot of good stuff out of that second half and build into that and obviously start from where we finished in that game last night.”

The Wallabies fly to Christchurch on Sunday, ahead of Saturday’s second Bledisloe Cup Test in Dunedin.