Bledisloe the ultimate Australian rugby barometer

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Bledisloe is the ultimate measure of success for the Wallabies and Australian rugby as a whole, Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle says.

A fortnight into her new role as Australian rugby boss, Castle said claiming back the trans-Tasman trophy for the first time since 2002 was priority number one in many ways.

“There's no doubt we need to win the Bledisloe Cup,” she said.

“It doesn't really matter what we do on the spring tour, until we win the Bledisloe Cup it won't be seen as a successful Wallabies season, so that's number one on the priority list.

“The reality of building into a World Cup is you do have to have that in the back of your mind because some of the things you have to prepare for building into a Rugby World Cup, is about taking some risks and trying some players and making sure you deal through, ‘What if?  scenarios  as you build into that Rugby World Cup.

“There is slight compromises in those Tests leading up but there's no doubt winning is the top of the list and it's not the catch all to fix all your issues but it certainly helps."

Israel Folau has hist 12th try of the Test year. Photo: Getty ImagesCastle has spent time with a number of rugby stakeholders since taking on the job, and is set to visit WA later this week, and said there was one main thread that had come out of those discussions.

“They don't want to see a fractured sport,” he said.

“They want to see a united sport, so many, many people have spoken to me about wanting to be part of the solution and make sure we're all working together.

“I think that's a really positive thing. If we can have more people wanting to come together and recognise that, as we've said lots of times, there's been some enormous challenges but we're actually tired of that, we're willing to come together now and make sure we're moving forward.

“That's been the overwhelming feedback I've had.”

Unity on-field will manifest itself through data sharing and more aligned fitness strategies at the four Super Rugby clubs, with that critical to building a successful Test campaign.

“There's no doubt our Wallabies are our shop front as is Super Rugby, so it kind of builds really, you build through Super Rugby, Sevens was a great start - two medals - hopefully that will build into some support for Super Rugby,” she said.

“Super Rugby needs some wins no doubt, that builds into the Wallabies' season and that's what burns your aspiration for little kids - boys and girls- to want to play the sport of rugby.

“You need good systems around your structures and community programs to make sure it's easy for parents, it's affordable to [play and they feel like they're getting good coaching but also if they happen to be talented, they’re getting a pathway.”

The states have been involved in Raelene Castles' appointment. Photo: Getty ImagesOne of the key elements of Castle’s tenure is likely to be determining what Super Rugby looks like beyond 2021, and whether Australia needs to look in its own backyard for a competition.

Castle was equivocal about the direction of those discussions, adamant Australia shouldn’t distance itself from its SANZAAR partners.

“You're in a partnership for a reason,” she said.

“That partnership's there because you've got a product that fans want to engage with, broadcasters and sponsors want to pay for.

“It gives you a natural pathway to grow athletes into becoming Wallabies, so it’s a platform that’s working.

“it might not be perfect but it's working at the moment, so you've got to be careful that you don't isolate yourself from that and go, 'this is only what's good for Australia,' because you have got four business partners.

“It's like any business partnership, there's compromise and that's what you're got to try and work through.”