No, I am not going to predict the Wallabies will do a clean sweep of Ireland in this series, and then go on to give the All Blacks a shake – and you cant make me!
But, in the aftermath of the weekends results, can we not take pause for a moment and glory – sunbake, if you will – in that tiny shaft of light that has made its way down through the gutter grating, and right into this deepest darkest corner of the dingy dungeon where Australian rugby has been residing for the last three years?
For it was a win! And not only a technical win, up on the scoreboard, but a great and inspiring win against the No.2 ranked team in the world, the grand slam champions of the mighty Six Nations, Ireland.
This time, most years, as you know, we have been scratching our heads going … We what? We lost to who? How could we get dusted like that by England/Scotland/Samoa?
But not this time!
This time, Michael Cheikas men, playing against the very best that Europe could throw at them, played like champions from the first minute to the last, were supremely fit, physical and fabulously creative throughout. In the forwards, they were led by a supremely dominant David Pocock, who with skipper Michael Hooper, also back to his best form, brought to mind that famous couplet about Australias great fast bowlers in the 1970s: Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust/ If Lillee dont get em, Thommo must.
This time, together, “Pooper” as they are becoming known, were something like: Side to side, goal to goal/ with Pocock we rock, with Hooper we roll.
(Settle Banjo, settle. Ive stopped now. And it wont happen again. Sorry.)
In the backs, meantime, Israel Folau reigned supreme on the ground and in the air, while Kurtley Beale was at his brilliantly creative best.
Around and about them, there was not a weak point in the whole Wallaby team and every time the Irish looked up, there was wave after wave of enormous, fit men in green and gold coming at them.
Overall, though, it is hard to overstate the impact of Pocock.
A couple of years ago, my learned colleague Paul Cully crunched the numbers for the Herald and worked out that while Michael Cheikas overall win rate as Wallabies coach was “in the mid 60s . . . Cheika's win rate in games without Pocock is 40 per cent.”
Get it? Somehow, he seems to be the chemical component with which the whole Wallaby side detonates, and he has been desperately missed while away. But now hes back!
I repeat, I dont say this in any way predicting that our blokes will do a clean sweep of Ireland – only that it was superb first up win to glory in, particularly when weve been down so long. And the All Blacks, meantime?
Over at Eden Park, they bloody well struggled in the first half against France! With five minutes to go before the break they were losing 8-6. And yes, France so badly wilted in the second half that the Blacks were able to put 50 points on them…
But still France showed in that first 40 minutes that the All Blacks could be bested with creative play – its just they didnt have the legs to do it for 80 minutes. But our blokes might!
Ok? Ok, as you were. Back to the dungeon. It is only a single shaft of light, after all, and a long way from a new dawn for Australian rugby.
But gee, its precious while it lasts!
Peter FitzSimons is a Herald journalist, columnist and author, based in Sydney. He is also a former Wallabies player.
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