Green light for Toomua to write new Test ending

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Matt Toomua didn’t watch last year’s Bledisloe opener live.

Ironically, the playmaker was in a driver’s education course for running a red light halfway across the world when the Sydney car crash was unfolding.

When he finally watched the tape back, ‘horrible’ was the only way to describe it.

“I was on a driver education course because I got done for going through a red light, so I missed the first half,” he said.

“I ended up watching it later, it was horrible, it wasn't good and the year before wasn't much better but I think as everyone's said, you park that first 50, it was a decent end.”

Back then, Toomua was fairly certain he had already played his final Test for Australia, in Sydney a year earlier.

Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley will be pushing each other to be better. Photo: WalmsleyToomua suffered a concussion just 19 minutes after coming on to replace injured Matt Giteau and was subsequently ruled out of the rest of the Rugby Championship.

“Yeah, (it was a) pretty somber old night,” he said.

“Got on early and then got off early, unfortunately.

“I thought that would have been my last Test,  I thought it was my last Test.

“I’m glad I hopefully get a chance to write a nicer ending (this time around) or a bit more fitting ending, from a selfish point of view.”

Toomua left for Leicester having made some peace with the fact it meant he wouldn’t play any more Wallabies Tests.

A knee reconstruction after his second game there planted a seed that his best was behind him.

Toomua’s two-year extension with Leicester last season was a reflection of that mentality, seemingly extinguishing his World Cup ambitions, locking him in until 2020.

It wasn’t until he was on a vacation in San Francisco, with time to reflect on a full UK campaign that he began to consider that he still had more to give in Australia.

“I just hadn't thought about it (coming home) too much and hadn't taken it seriously and then I just did a bit of thinking,” he said.

“I think my knee injury when I first got over there probably did things a little bit early on - I maybe thought that my best rugby was behind me.

“I think having the year to play, get the knees right, get the body right, probably felt like I had something still to offer hopefully.

“I still had that little competitiveness about me so it was definitely a little bit of a moment there.”

Toomua said he hoped he could bring extra weapons into the Wallabies from his time in England, admitting 10 is what he sees as his best spot.

“I think my junior stuff was all done at 10. I think I probably still slightly prefer it,” he said.

“However, I do like playing 12 in the Australian system because it is more interchangeable than other systems.

“Without sitting on the fence too much, I'd say 10 but I don't mind either.

“I think the new environments (in England), a lot of problem-solving there with the different seasons, different competitions, Test players weaving in and out, there is a lot more problem-solving.

“As a playmaker, it's quite good, mentally, trying to find ways to win in different environments and against teams, different styles of play, it's probably helped knowledge more than anything.”

Preparing to play in Sydney for the first time since that 2016 Bledisloe Test, Toomua said he felt the team owed something to a fan base that has been through a lot of pain in recent years.

“Every year you are told what has happened since the last time we won it,” he said.

“I remember as a kid seeing John Eales kick that goal and Toutai (Kefu) scoring under the posts and they were inspiration moments for kids, motivational moments for a lot of kids like myself.

“It’s up to us to provide a few of those moments for the good of the game in Australian rugby, to get a few kids excited about playing for Australia so it’s a huge responsibility for us but a huge opportunity as well, something to get excited about.”

The Wallabies host the All Blacks in the first Bledisoe on Saturday August 18, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO, with the Wallaroos taking on the Black Ferns from 5:15pm AEST as well. Buy tickets here.