Wallaroos aiming for expanded 2019 calendar

Womens International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallaroos coach Dwayne Nestor hopes his team could play as many as five Tests in 2019 after an historic Bledisloe double header this season.

Nestor and his team returned from Auckland on Sunday afternoon after a 31-11 loss to the Black Ferns at Eden Park, one of their only two Tests this year.

The women's side believes playing more Tests is the quickest way to improve but it's not without its challenges.

It has historically been difficult for the Wallaroos to organise regular Tests with many of the top women’s XVs nations in the Northern Hemisphere.

Australia had hoped to have Ireland’s women come down under in the June Series but the IRFU declined.

Sydney’s Bledisloe double header was the Wallaroos’ first Test on home soil since 2008 and the team played just five Tests in total between the 2014 and 2017 Women’s World Cups.

Rugby Australia is yet to lock down any firm dates or opponents for the Wallaroos in 2019 but with the nation bidding to host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, there is a desire to ensure that support is continued.

Nestor said there were discussions to play as many as five Tests next year, which would be their biggest calendar outside of a World Cup year ever.

“There's a lot of work going on in the background to at least try and get five Tests for us next year, which is fantastic,” Nestor said.

“Five next year, possibly a couple more the year after in 2020 leading into the 2021 World Cup. 

“Any opportunity's a good one to learn.”

The biggest difficulty for Australia is locking down opponents, with the world no. 1 Black Ferns their most accessible opposition.

Flanker Grace Hamilton said they would be glad to continue playing the Black Ferns regularly but any opposition would be a good one for them.

“We'll play anyone - the more Tests we can play, the better we're going to get,” she said.

“Even if it is the Black Ferns, that's good, we can narrow that margin and maybe beat them because I actually think we can, they are beatable and we were right there in it (in the past two Tests).

“At the end of the day, I'd like to play anyone - anyone that's around ,even get the Pacific Islands, Japan, Hong Kong or have (had) Ireland with the boys.

‘Just to play double headers or get involved and have more of a correlation between men's and women's rugby.

The Wallaroos won’t play again until 2018 but will go back to state-based training and Nestor said their attitude in the coming months would be pivotal to continuing their progress.

“I think the thing they need to take out of it is they need to work hard when nobody's watching,” he said.

“That's probably the biggest message we'll give them is that what they do in their own time is probably going to determine how successful they are next year.”