It has to be a shell-shocked Wallabies team out of ideas as Wales pulled away in the second half of their must-win Pool C clash in Saint-Étienne, falling to their record Rugby World Cup defeat. Head coach Eddie Jones insists a comprehensive rebuild is underway and things will look very different in 2027.
Try of the tournament
Amidst the gloom, there has been the odd bright spot for Wallabies fans looking ahead to a home Rugby World Cup in four years’ time. Two of the biggest reasons for cheer starred in a fine team try against Portugal. Superb hands from 23-year-old wing Mark Nawaqanitawase – labelled “world class” by legendary Wallaby centre Tim Horan – set Izaia Perese free and after the ball was worked back and across the pitch, loose-head prop Angus Bell, who was Australia's player of the tournament, was there to claim a first try for his country.
Quotes of the Tournament
"A lot of these players have really bright futures, as this team does. If we keep sticking at it, keep working hard, keep focusing on what's important then we will be a good team and won't have this sombreness that's around Australian rugby at the moment," said Jones.
"If there needs to be a fall guy for the World Cup, then it's obviously me. When you become a head coach for a team, you take on that responsibility.”
Man of the moment
Number eight Rob Valetini is the sort of centrepiece around which Jones can build. The 25-year-old has started all nine tests this year, completing a full 80 minutes seven times. An 86 per cent tackle success rate and 167m made in his four World Cup matches stands out.
One for the future
During a sombre final assessment of the campaign, Jones and captain Will Skelton brightened when discussing Tom Hooper (22), Fraser McReight (24), Ben Donaldson (24), Nawaqanitawase (23) and Tate McDermott (25). But Bell stands out, even among this company. "We’ve got to turn into a team that fights," said the 23-year-old.
From the Touchline
Their rugby may not have been too inspirational, but one Wallaby at least has already left a positive mark on troubled youngsters back home. Just 12 months after being taught by him, students at a behavioural school in Sydney were able to watch Blake Schoupp make his Rugby World Cup debut for Australia.
"A lot of them hadn't had a lot of schooling in the periods before they came to our school," the loose-head prop explained. "It was about providing an environment for them to come and learn and get away from whatever was going on outside of their lives."
Australia’s overall statistics picture looks pretty bleak, with ruck speed and efficiency in the crucial red-zone figures placing them in the bottom half of all 16 teams. Considering this, openside flanker Tom Hooper’s numbers are impressive. In the losing cause against Wales, the 22-year-old made 18 tackles, a figure that rose to 20 versus Portugal.
Australia, with an average age of 26.5, assembled the youngest squad to ever travel to a Rugby World Cup. Head coach Jones insisted throughout that this was “100 per cent” the right decision and he and his team are on the right track. Whether Jones is there to complete the work he has started remains to be seen, but with the British & Irish Lions touring in 2025 and Rugby World Cup 2027 looming, the future remains promising.