Top 15 of 2017: Wallabies' winds of change

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

It's been a big year in rugby on many different fronts, so is taking a look back at the 15 biggest storylines of the year, based on the stories you read and reacted to.

#4: Wallabies changing hands

The 2019 Rugby World Cup transition is well and truly in its next phase, with the Wallabies more closely taking the shape they will in that Japan tournament.

Most significantly was the handing over of the captaincy from Stephen Moore to Michael Hooper in August, signalling a changing leadership in the side, with Moore bowing out of the game by the end of the year.

Before even that, though, the winds of change were blowing, with line in the sand decisions to omit overseas-bound players including Scott Fardy and Rob Horne, though the latter was recalled in June because of injury.

Not long after that, the omission of Quade Cooper from the Rugby Championship squad became another sign of a focus on the future, as surprising as it was at that time.

It was a call that may have exposed a lack of flyhalf depth, though Reece Hodge is seemingly being groomed as the next long-term Wallabies 10 option, the youngster stepping up in the Japan Test.

The Wallabies' Plan Bs had a run towards the back end of the year as well, with Israel Folau taking a sabbatical over the Spring Tour.

Taniela Tupou became Australia's 27th debutant since the 2015 Rugby World Cup when he played against Scotland, the week he became eligible.

It didn't all go smoothly, Australia finishing the year with a 7-2-5 record not exceptional, but Michael Cheika and his charges looking at the bigger picture, even after a demoralising finish in Edinburgh.

Now past the halfway mark between World Cups, next year will be telling for the Wallabies, with this transition to be put to the test immediately in June when they face Ireland in the June Series.