Salta win should be line in the sand game for Wallabies: Foley

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia’s win against Argentina should be a line in the sand moment for this crop of Wallabies, flyhalf Bernard Foley says.

The Wallabies have copped deserved criticism in this Rugby Championship for their lacklustre outings throughout much of the tournament but the Salta win showed there is something more to this team than what they have been showing.

Both coach Michael Cheika and captain Michael Hooper were quick to say post-match that the team’s next step would be their most important, as they prepare for a clash with the All Blacks in Japan in three weeks.

While there are no guarantees that last weekend's clash will be any kind of lightning bolt moment, Foley said the players needed to treat it as a defining moment heading into the World Cup.

“It definitely should be (a line in the sand moment),” he said.

“As a team though we know our potential, we know what we can do and it’s frustrating we’re not delivering that every time and as players you see what we’re capable of doing and that’s what we’ll definitely address.

"We’ll make sure that every time we put on this jersey the pride is there and we’re going to go forward and with that intent.”

Foley had said pre-game that he felt the team only needed to crack its potential for things to turn around and though they had to pull themselves out of the darkest doldrums for their win in Argentina, that promise finally came to fruition, albeit only for the second half.

“There was a real sense of belief amongst the squad in terms of guys acknowledging how good we can be,” Foley said.

“In saying that, the disappointing thing is we had to get ourselves in that position to then fight back.

“As a squad it was really good to sit in the change room there and savour that win.

“We don’t get to celebrate too hard for wins like that, especially away from home in a hostile city like this with a crowd like this.

“When they’re noisy and loud, for us to then celebrate, sit in that change room and have that satisfaction looking around the squad being able to come back like that (was nice).”

Foley looked as assured as ever back in the starting 10 jersey and it seems he won’t be giving that back anytime soon with the attack working as it is supposed to in that electrifying second half.

He will almost certainly start in their next Test in Japan, with Matt Toomua unable to be released by Leicester and Cheika is yet to decide whether to call upon Toomua and his Leicester teammate Tatafu Polota-Nau for the Spring Tour ahead of a long 2019 campaign.

Cheika said he felt Foley and Beale's combination clicked well by the end of the game, though the flyhalf will need to keep his defensive intensity up from the get go.

"I thought Bernard needed to do better in his defence in the first half, without a doubt," he said.

"But he wasn't alone.

There were some guys with single digits on their backs that weren't defending adequately either so I'm not going to point the finger there.

"But he hasn't played a full game for a while, so I thought he got back in the saddle quite well and then very much, second half, he really ran the show there, himself and Kurtley.

The Wallabies backline looked rattled in the first 40, pushing passes and making poor decisions but Foley said he always had faith they could unlock their scoring capability and five tries in the final 40 showed that.

“It was there in the first half, we were probably trying to play too expansively in that first half and it was a bit to our detriment – putting the ball into touch or knocking it on out wide or losing that wide breakdown,” Foley said.

“What our forwards gave us was that really good go forward and with the quality of our backs we’re going to score points.

“The platform was set there especially through the start of that second half and the guys were willing to go through and get that go forward and then we were able to play off the back of it.

“I’ve always said there’s points in this team, we’ve just got to do the right things and keep delivering even when it goes against us, we can turn up and do it again.”