Wallabies winger Dane Haylett-Petty answered some critics against Ireland in Brisbane, and the Australian backline went a long way to silencing some sceptics off the ball as well.
Haylett-Petty played his first Wallabies Test in 10 months when he started in Brisbane, off an injury-interrupted Super Rugby year, where he has battled with concussion and a neck issue.
“The concussion only lasted probably two weeks but the neck definitely lingered probably because I rushed it,” he said.
“First tackle back, stirred it up again and tried to play on though the season with it, but in the end we decided to just take our time with it and I've been pretty happy with the last couple of games.”
With Reece Hodge and Jack Maddocks impressing for the Rebels, there was speculation over whether Haylett-Petty would in fact start, but the 29-year-old repaid the coaches’ faith with an impressive first Test outing.
“I think it was a little quiet down that left edge, so hopefully if I get to play this weekend again, get a little more ball, but I was pretty happy,” he said.
“Getting back, I played those two Super Rugby games gave me some confidence leading into this Test series.”
Though the Wallabies backs didn’t get a whole lot of opportunity to attack, with limited possession in Brisbane, their defence looked far improved from that of recent years.
Winger Marika Koroibete epitomised their physicality, with a try-saving tackle on Jacob Stockdale, one of 11 tackles for the game, a performance that set the tone for the other backs, Haylett-Petty said.
“I think especially standing at the back, it's pretty good to watch when guys fly through and hit someone, but definitely passes on confidence to all the other boys,” he said.
“Samu was really good, Kurtley was really good, but I'm very lucky to play each and every week with Marika and to watch him chase down players and chase after ball is pretty special.”
Defence is an area where the Wallabies have been criticised in recent seasons, particularly against the All Blacks, but Haylett-Petty said they had developed in that space.
“I think over the years we've changed a few things, but I think we're quite clear on what we're trying to do now and there's definitely been some growth and there's a lot of room to keep growing there,” he said.
Haylett-Petty said the Wallabies might be tweaking some parts of their attack, but he doesn’t expect much change from Ireland in the second Test.
“I don't know whether they'll change too much,” he said.
“They've obviously been very successful with the way they've played 12 in a row.
“They've had a lot of success with the way they've played and I can't imagine they're just going to go and change everything after one loss.”
The Wallabies take on Ireland in the second June Test on Saturday June 16 at AAMI Park, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST. Buy tickets here.