2022-04-05 04:53:00

Gold Coast — If you trace back to where it all started to go wrong for the Wallabies under Michael Cheika, look no further to the first series after their World Cup final achievement in 2015.

Signed on a new $1.2 million deal on the eve of the series against England, the three-match series was billed as the Wallabies against England.

But it was more than that, it was Michael Cheika against his old Randwick teammate Eddie Jones.

Eddie Jones has not lost a Test coaching against his old team, the Wallabies. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Jones picked a battle, Cheika couldn’t help himself, and the Australian laughed all the way back to England to continue his unbeaten start as the rugby powerhouse rebuilt following Stuart Lancaster’s departure.

The Wallabies never recovered under Cheika, with the oxygen run out with only the odd breath to help fill the lungs over the rest of his dejecting tenure.

Michael Cheika’s Wallabies were hurt by their series deflating loss to England. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

After their famous World Cup pool win at Twickenham in 2015, the Wallabies lost the next seven straight against England under Cheika, including their miserable performance at Oita to be dumped out in the quarter-finals in 2019.

Michael Hooper is the only player in the Wallabies squad who has played in all eight consecutive Test defeats to England, including their most recent under Dave Rennie in November.

“Casting back, we came out red hot in Suncorp,” Hooper recalled on Tuesday, speaking from Royal Pines at the Gold Coast as the Wallabies’ series fixtures against England were confirmed for July.

“That Suncorp game, we came out really on fire, we were scoring early points, it was looking really good, and then slowly it just unravelled in that game.

“That took a hit to our confidence going into the second game, where it was a low-scoring affair, and then the last game it stretched out a bit.

“We played some decent rugby but we weren’t quite clicking, high emotion.

“We’d come off a good year, close to getting a really good result there in ‘15, so it started us off not on the path you meant.

“Then you roll into New Zealand after three losses and the pressure starts to mount.”

Michael Hooper reacts at Allianz Stadium during their defeat to England in the third Test on June 25, 2016 in Sydney. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Six years after that famous series in ’16, the stakes are just as high.

The expectation is low compared to Cheika’s side of 2016, but for a rising Wallabies squad, who are now all into their third season and getting used to the style of play under Dave Rennie, Hooper sees July’s series as a “springboard” ahead of next year’s World Cup in France.

“Yep, big three games against the English and then what rolls on from that is really exciting,” Hooper said.

“So, yeah, springboard this first block, and really see some of our guys and what they’ve learnt over the last bit.”

Michael Hooper says the Wallabies’ series loss to England hurt their confidence. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The series has more meaning than meets the eye.

Just like when the Wallabies held a decade of dominance over Wales, which ended the year before their crucial World Cup pool match and sewed the seed of doubt in 2019, so the same can be said about England.

While England are not in the Wallabies’ pool for France 2023, they could meet in the quarter-finals given their groups will crossover for the first knockout match.

So ending Eddie’s stranglehold over the Wallabies, who seemingly lose the plot in the back-end of every match against England, could prove crucial for their confidence and momentum.

“It didn’t work out well for us last time … we have to change the story and we have a great opportunity here,” Hooper said.

“We talk about getting silverware back on our mantles a bit and what the process looks like to get that sort of result.

“That’s why we’re here, to build that connection and carry on that from last year, and to start to plant some seeds at an individual level for how we can play over the next 10 weeks to carry into the English.”

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie won’t play any mind games with Eddie Jones’ England. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Rennie shrewdly has not taken the same approach as his predecessor, opting to stay well clear of any bait that could be used by Jones, who is under the pump following successive Six Nations campaigns yielding just two wins from five Tests.

“He’s got massive experience, he’s the most experienced international coach in the world isn’t he,” Rennie said.

“He’s a smart man, and they’re a team that’s really well resourced.

“It’ll be interesting to see if they change the way they play, but what they’re very good at is trying to dominate the game at the right end of the field and apply pressure through that.

“I guess our job is try to minimise the impact that they have from set-piece and that’s a big part of their game.

“What we knew last year was we weren’t disciplined enough, we weren’t accurate enough and we spent 70 per cent of the game down our end without the ball, and it’s hard to win Tests like that, so we’re going to have to be better.”

Just like Cheika, Rennie has continued the theme of having camps in April, which serve more as a logistics and marketing exercise than a training camp, so they can hit the group running when they reunite in late June.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and captain Michael Hooper pose with Wallaroos assistant coach Sione Fukofuka and player Shannon Parry at Royal Pines. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Rennie gave little away during his press conference, keeping his cards close to him over the crucial open positions at hooker, lock, fly-half and fullback.

But perhaps it was a case of not knowing who will run out, with nobody commanding the positions at Super Rugby level.

“If you look at what we picked here, we picked six locks because it is an area of focus for us, we have four hookers here, we have number of guys who can play 10 and a number of guys who can play 15.

“So you are right, we are very happy with (fullback) Tom (Banks) prior to getting injured and he’s been in excellent form.

“It has been great to see Jordy (Petaia) play back to back games and he is getting better and better (at fullback), and Hodgey (Reece Hodge) has played there a bit for us last year. And we still have Kurtley (Beale) to come back, so we have some options.”

Meanwhile, the Wallaroos will play against Fiji and Japan in May.

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Source by [graycupnews.com]


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