In the wake of the Wallabies 40-14 drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks on Saturday evening, Aussie rugby legends have explained where it is going wrong for the much-maligned side.
Australia could not rebound from the controversial heartbreaker in the first Bledisloe Cup match, and instead put in an error-riddled display to go down to New Zealand by 26 points at Eden Park in Auckland.
It’s a venue the Wallabies haven’t won at since 1986 – and some pundits suggested the side capitulated in the face of patriotic Kiwi support, and were overawed by the imposing All Blacks.
Ex-Wallabies star Justin Harrison, however, refused to believe it was because the All Blacks have more pride in their jersey.
‘I think it’s important to recognise that New Zealand don’t have a mortgage on the jersey and national pride when they lose or win Test matches and they have fear of losing,’ a fired-up Harrison told host Alanna Ferguson on Stan Sport’s post-match coverage.
‘Every single time you take a Wallaby jersey onto the field, you have the same amount of pride in wearing that jersey.’
The towering lock, who earned 34 caps for Australia, said the rollercoaster ride for Wallabies supporters wasn’t due to a lack of passion for the green and gold jersey from the players.
‘What we’re searching for is a team that has consistency … we had some adversity thrown at us, we had over 25 missed tackles and we had over 13 or 14 handling errors,’ said Harrison.
‘Now that is not a lack of pride and a lack of knowing what it means to wear the Wallaby jersey.’
Harrison’s concerns about the Wallabies alarming lack of consistency was echoed by coach David Rennie after the match.
‘We were shaded in all areas tonight. We know when we’re at our best, we can compete with anyone. But we’ve got to be in and around 100 per cent every week,’ said the disappointed Wallabies coach.
Rennie has been under relentless pressure ever since being appointed to the top job in November, 2019.
Australia continues to show flashes of brilliance – namely stirring wins against both Argentina and South Africa earlier in the Rugby Championship, when all the odds were stacked against them.
On paper, however, it doesn’t look pretty.
In the 29 games since Rennie took charge of the side, Australia has won just 11 of 29 matches.
Every time they seem to take one step forward in their development, they take three steps back: much like we’ve seen across the last two Bledisloe Cup games.
Of course many fans will still be ropeable that referee Mathieu Raynal’s controversial penalty seemingly cost the side a certain victory in game one of the Bledisloe Cup.
Harrison’s fellow Wallabies great and Stan Sport commentator, Drew Mitchell, said he had a theory as to why Australia never appears to get the rub of the green.
The side are – rightly or wrongly – perceived as ‘arrogant or maybe whingers.’
‘Look, if there is a perception, then perception is reality,’ Mitchell said on the Stan Sport’s broadcast when asked about Australia’s reputation for arrogance.
‘If that’s the perception the ref is holding, let’s just assume they do … look, I’m guilty of it, we’re all guilty at times of whingeing because we’re emotionally invested in this.
‘When there is a 50/50, of course, you’re going to go to the bias where you’re emotionally invested. Last week I was against Mathieu Raynal because emotionally I felt like we got the wrong rub of the green.
‘It does work against you,’ added Mitchell.
Mitchell then pointed to a few examples in Saturday night’s loss that would appear to back up that perception.
‘You look at the way the ref spoke to Nic White today when he told him ‘If that was directed at me, you’re going off the field’. Ask me again, was it reinforced further? ‘Be really careful, be really careful’,’ he said, when describing player-referee interactions.
‘Those types of interactions with referees give you an insight as to how they feel or how they position themselves against these players or teams.’
That wasn’t the only example of perception seemingly being reality.
Raynal was adamant he made the right call despite drawing the ire of (almost) the entire rugby world in Australia’s heartbreaking loss on September 15 – the first match of the Bledisloe Cup.
When explaining his controversial decision to Australian skipper Nic White, his words drew the ire of Wallabies players and supporters.
Raynal’s language implied the threat to his ego appeared to be the greatest motivation for his decision to blow a penalty – which would .
‘Nic (White) I’m sorry, you know exactly what I wanted,’ he could be heard saying on the vision, which was released by Stan Sports.
‘So that’s not fair what you did at the end, you just run the time and you know exactly. If you think I’m not capable to give a scrum, you’re making a mistake.
‘So now you know it.’
For now, the perception does appear to be the reality.
The Wallabies will look to put the disappointing finish to the Rugby Championship behind them, with a gruelling European Tour set for October and November.
They’ll face Scotland in October before a quartet of tough Tests against France, Italy, Ireland and Wales in November.