The mental work the Wallabies need to is as critical as the physical efforts they put in each week, flanker David Pocock says.
Australia lost to Wales for the first time in 10 years on Sunday (AEDT) with a Dan Biggar penalty securing a three-point victory in the dying stages of the game.
In their decade-long run of wins, the Wallabies had always looked mentally tougher than Wales, able to clinch victories from the jaws of defeat even after the full-time whistle.
This time around, it was the Wallabies who lost the key moments, with dropped balls ending periods of sustained pressure and two critical lineouts ending with little reward in the second half.
Pocock admitted there was some work to do between the ears after that Cardiff loss as they face two more Tests.
“It's all mental,” he said.
“Physically everyone's pretty strong and fit so it's all about the mental side of things and as players we know that and we're working on that.
“It's a great challenge - (we’ve got) two more games on this Spring tour and you're reminded of how tough Test match rugby is.”
Pocock was one who led the charge in a major area of improvement in Cardiff, making 12 tackles and pinching four turnovers in one of their best defensive efforts this year.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika reserved plenty of praise for his star backrower after that effort.
“We've copped it in the neck a fair bit about our defence and we've worked very, very hard to improve it, with David leading that part of the game for us and not only is he leading in organising but he's also leading on the field with the way he approaches it,” he said.
Whether Pocock and many of the Wallabies’ other top-line starters are rolled out in Padova against Italy next week remains to be seen but it’s a debate that has become a lot more delicate.
Halfback Jake Gordon, teenage star Jordan Petaia and veteran back Adam Ashley-Cooper are among those who have been tipped for a jersey in Padova after a long season for many of the first-choice players.
With the Wales result, Australia’s match against Italy becomes even more important than it might otherwise have been, with the Wallabies desperately needing to clinch a victory after just three wins in their past 13 Tests.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika maintained the loss wouldn’t shift his thinking when it came to selection but the option to rest some of his top-flight players against the world no. 13 certainly becomes a lot trickier.
“We've had some ideas in our head of what we wanted to do in the next game or on the tour as a whole around getting players games and there's some players who have been pushing hard for selection,” he said.
“We'll assess that after we have a look at the game and see exactly what we need for next week.
“There are a lot of things in this game, I want to make sure players in their disappointment take with them into next week because there's a lot of very, very good work around the effort of the team, the work ethic, the physicality and also the defensive side of the game.”
Wales and the Wallabies will meet in 10 months’ time at the Rugby World Cup and Wales have struck an important blow when it comes to the dynamic between the two sides.
Cheika said the outcome would mean little when their 2019 clash rolled around.
“Everyone's got a different opinion on that stuff” he said.
“My opinion on rugby is when you get to the game no one's thinking about what happened 10 years ago, one minute ago, you're thinking about what you're going to do for the next 80 in that individual moment,” he said.
“Yes, it's in our nature to want to look at how this could effect that and the knock on like it's a big game of dominoes but it's not really .
“You just turn up, kick off and it's on for 80.
“When that game happens, it will be an individual moment of itself and it's about whoever will be best on the day.”
The Wallabies head to Padova on Sunday night (AEDT) ahead of their second Spring Tour Test against Italy.
Australia plays Italy in Padova on Saturday November 17, kicking off at 3pm local, Sunday 1am AEDT, LIVE on beIn Sport Channel 513 and SBS.