Tough Bledisloe lessons to help Wallabies on Spring Tour: Castle

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

An unbeaten Spring Tour would be judged a pass mark by the Wallabies and tough lessons learned against New Zealand can help achieve it, according to Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle.

After playing the All Blacks in Yokohama last weekend, the Wallabies have been training in Japan this week and will depart for Wales on Saturday, ahead of a three-Test stretch against the Welsh, Italy and England.

Speaking to media for the first time since Michael Cheika addressed the board last month, where the Wallabies' coach was backed to coach through to the World Cup despite a lean year, Castle was asked what would represent a pass mark for the national side on the Spring Tour.

The Rugby AU boss said an undefeated trip was the Wallabies' benchmark and she was positive they could after seeing "improvements" in their most recent loss to New Zealand.

“They are determined to go there and win all three games,” she said.

“That's the start point, that's the pass mark from where they are, from their perspective, that's the expectation that certainly Michael's setting for them and there's no reason why they can't do that.

“They will be very confident that they can come home with three wins.”

Castle revealed Cheika had targeted defensive improvements in the third Bledisloe Cup game and heading towards the World Cup, and she believed they'd been evident despite the Wallabies conceding 37 points.

"I think the great thing about the third Test was we saw some improvements and some things they identified they were concerned with,” she said.

“I'm not justifying the result - we all wanted a win - but if you think about building into a World Cup, there was some very specific improvements, particularly around the defensive patterns and things I know they had targeted, that Michael had (targeted), as important for that game.”

A 3-7 record this year is not easy reading for Wallabies fans and though Castle admitted the organisation wasn’t happy with that ledger, she said the lessons from the final Bledisloe Test in Japan would pay off in Europe.

The Wallabies have had mixed success in Europe in recent years - when Cheika was first catapulted into the role in 2014, the side won just one of four matches.

Their 2016 grand slam tour finished 3-2, with losses against Ireland and England to finish, and last year’s tour started positively with wins over Wales and Japan, before two defeats to England and Scotland.

“No one's suggesting we're happy with the lack of wins,” Castle said.

“We also play the All Blacks more than any other country in the world, so we have that pass mark and that's the benchmark that we set for ourselves.

“We played Ireland earlier on in the year, they're second in the world, beat them in the first Test, arguably should've won that series, gave ourselves enough opportunity.

“I think as we move into the UK tour, it's a slightly different style of rugby, different emphasis and I think the preparation the All Blacks will have given us is the best platform we could have going into that Spring Tour.”

The Wallabies will take on Wales in Cardiff on Saturday November 11, kicking off at 5:20pm local, Sunday 4:20am AEDT, LIVE on Foxtel's beIN SPORT, SBS and SBS on Demand.