SYDNEY • Australian rugby finally has something to cheer about after a torrid period, with pundits saying yesterday their gutsy draw against the All Blacks in Wellington shows “brighter days may lie ahead”.
The Wallabies went into last Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup opener with a new coach, Dave Rennie, and uncertainty about how their young line-up would fare in their first outing since a disappointing quarter-final exit at the Rugby World Cup in Japan a year ago.
But the thrilling fashion in which they battled back to clinch a 16-16 draw, and created opportunities to win during a breathless finale, garnered applause and even optimism that they can pull off a rare upset in Auckland this Sunday.
National broadcaster ABC said: “It was not a flawless performance from the Wallabies but there were enough positives to give Rennie hope his side can win the second Bledisloe Cup Test.”
It is a big call – the Wallabies last won at Eden Park more than 30 years ago. But New Zealander Rennie has introduced a more tactical approach than the running game of his often-criticised predecessor Michael Cheika, who resigned after the World Cup exit to England.
With three debutants, Filipo Daugunu, who scored Australia’s second try, Hunter Paisami and Harry Wilson all impressing, the Australian newspaper said the signs were encouraging.
“What had lit up Sky Stadium on a gloomy afternoon was the shining appreciation by the Wallabies that they understand rugby is more than a one-dimensional run-at-all-costs game,” it said, in a dig at Cheika’s philosophy.
“Australia played wide, Australia played close, Australia kicked, Australia ran with purpose. And there wasn’t a single member of the starting side that would want to have the game over.”
The gritty draw will help Rugby Australia put a horror 18 months behind them, during which the Wallabies slumped to seventh – they have since rebounded to fifth.