The thing every Wallaby wants to change on the next World Cup jersey

Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

Jersey launches usually follow a predictable pattern.

First comes the smoke and the spotlights, some pump-up music and then officials browse through the social media feedback from the safety of their sand-bagged bunker. 

For a day or two tends the reaction tends to be, well, emotional. Then people mellow and by the time the tournament rolls around, we’re pretty much on board.

Throw in a winning run and hey, we even grew to love the 2015 shoulder patch.

But somewhere back at the jersey launch will also be the design guru, walking through the latest hi-tech features and those all-important one-percenters.

The 2019 Wallabies’ World Cup jersey has silicon grip hexagons, for "improved ball control catching and carrying”. The side panels are different material to maximise grip for forwards at maul and scrum time.

And this year, players were even involved in creating and designing the jersey, with each man being individually fitted after undergoing “3D measurement and fitting”.

General warning front rowers: put down the second party pie, those babies are snug.

But for all their input and colloboration into the design and look of the 2019 jersey, it’s not the one they want to change.

What every single Wallabies player who goes to the 2019 World Cup wants to do is change the next one. The 2023 jersey.

Just like John Eales, David Campese, Michael Lynagh and Stephen Larkham - and the rest of their 1991 and 1999 crews - did for this one.

When the 2023 World Cup jersey is being designed, the Wallabies want to add one more number on the right sleeve: 2019.

Since the 2007 Rugby World Cup, nations who’ve won the William Webb Ellis Cup have been able to display a trophy and their victorious year on the right sleeve of their World Cup jersey.

It is rugby’s version of the World Cup-winning football team jerseys, who traditionally add stars above their crest every time they win soccer’s biggest prize.

Australia were the first to have a second year added beneath the silhouetted trophy - 1991 and 1999 - and by the time South Africa got to the 2011 tournament, they did too. 

New Zealand had lonely old 1987 for a while but now have three victorious campaigns on their sleeve, and they’re favourites to add a fourth in 2019.

Many nations still have a blank sleeve, and it’s a toss-up which brings more pressure heading into the World Cup: those teams yet to make their mark in World Cup history, or for those who have.

Those who walk into every World Cup fixture with the visible challenge of living up to their beloved predecessors.

So, you ask some Wallabies. Those two World Cups on your sleeve - inspiring or imposing?

"I reckon it is inspirational,” Lukhan Salakaia-Loto says.

"Not just for players but also for the fans who go and buy the jerseys. Many will have great memories or maybe they just proud that their country won two World Cups."

For a majority of the likely Wallabies squad who were either babies or not even born yet, there are no memories of the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

"But you always hear about those two World Cup winning teams, and how good they were,” Nick Phipps said.

"Not just as the World Cup but years either side as well. You’d love to be remembered like that, and to add your Cup and your history to the jersey.”

Ned Hanigan agrees. Wearing Wallabies' history on your shirt would be a constant reminder of the privilege given to those lucky few selected to go to a World Cup, he says. 

“And for us as players, to hopefully have 2019 on the next one would be pretty cool and something you would be able to look at forever with huge pride,” Hanigan said.

For Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, there exists not only a chance to be part of a team who adds another trophy to the 2023 sleeve, but to lift the trophy later this year.

"It’s an inspirational thing to see them on the jersey,” Hooper said.

"I have such fond memories of the 2015 World Cup and we didn’t win it. So imagine going one step further, how that would feel?

"I still remember parts of 1999, and definitely 2003 pretty vividly. 

"It doesn’t escape anyone that we have a great opportunity to do a great thing later this year.

"The guys who won World Cups are immortalised on the jersey here, and we’re privileged to carry them with us into another campaign."