Campese: Kickers must perform for Wallabies to push deep into World Cup

Rugby World Cup
by Emma Greenwood

Wallabies legend David Campese says an accurate goalkicker who can perform under pressure is crucial if Australia is to push deep into the World Cup.

Campese, who recently headed to the United Nations headquarters in New York with Rugby  Australia to help showcase its development, diversity and inclusion initiatives, believes the Wallabies have a "really good chance" of again pushing into the World Cup decider.

For all his flair, Australia's leading try-scorer - with 64 in his 101 Tests - knows World Cups are not won with razzle-dazzle running rugby but generally by teams who are able to take the points on offer at any stage of the game, meaning a reliable kicker is a must.

David Campese (right) holds the World Cup trophy with captain Nick Farr-Jones in 1991. Photo: AFP

"World Cups are a totally different competition to the Six Nations or the Rugby Championship or a Test match," Campese said.

"It's basically about winning seven games. It's not about how good you play, as long as you win.

"It's about kicking goals and winning. That's the difference.

"You've got seven hard games and you've just got to make sure that when you turn up today, you play well just to get through to the next stage.


"And that's what we want, to win. It's not about how you play, unfortunately, it's about winning.

"But the most important thing in the World Cup is you need a really good goalkicker.

"The goal kicker's got to kick 90-95 per cent (for the team to go on) to win. Tries don't win World Cups, it's goals."

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will name his team for the opening match of the tournament against Fiji early this afternoon, with Christian Lealiifano likely to get the nod over Bernard Foley.

Bernard Foley working on his goalkicking in Japan. Photo: Getty Images

Lealiifano has kicked 16 conversions and 37 penalties in his 22 Tests and while that's well below the level of Foley (124 cons, 96 pens, 1 field goal), his efforts early in the Rugby Championship were strong.

But both players have had the wobbles at times this season, with Lealiifano's early misses in the Bledisloe Test at Eden Park particularly costly, while Foley - who helped kick Australia into the final at the 2015 World Cup - slotted just two of his six attempts against Samoa.

Campese hoped whoever landed the job would cope with the pressure well enough to push the Wallabies deep into the tournament in Japan.

"I was fortunate to play with Michael Lynagh and guys who kick goals all day long," he said.

Campese makes a break against Canada in the 1995 World Cup. Photo: AFP

"We've got some good goal kickers but under pressure, certain people react differently.

"They've just got to make sure that when they kick, they land them because that's the difference between winning and losing, I think."

Campese believes the Wallabies will top their pool with victories over Fiji and Wales, to meet Argentina or France in the quarter-finals.

"If we win that, we'll probably play England probably and that's going to be the big game," he said.


"But on the day, you can beat anybody. If we turn up and play like we did against the All Blacks in Perth, I think we've got a really good chance."

"If you win by one point, who cares, it doesn't matter, you win. It's not about how many points you win by.

"You've just got to play your best game that day and get better along the competition.

"During the World Cup, you don't get stronger, you don't get fitter, it's a mental process - you've just got to turn up mentally and make sure you play well and that's how World Cups pan out in the end."

David Campese recently headed to New York with Rugby Australia representatives including chief executive Raelene Castle (left) to present to the UN. Photo: Getty Images

Campese will be in Japan for the quarter-final and semi-final stages of the tournament, continuing his jet setting after his recent New Yok trip which included promoting the World Cup and introducing hundreds of participants from all over the world to Rugby Australia’s two introductory Rugby programs, Get into Rugby and Touch 7s through a coaching clinic in the Bronx.

"Being there and being involved and being part of that was fantastic," Campese said.

"I was actually quite amazed the subjects that they brought up, taking about the indigenous (#dreamBigTime project) and the islanders (Oceania rugby).

"It was quite interesting for me to listen and to understand a bit more about what's happening. From that point of view, it was fantastic and I really enjoyed it."