Will Genia cites team bonding as key to building Wallaby confidence
This generation of Australian rugby players have shown a tendency toward ‘yo-yo’ performances
Will Genia: Looking forward to the final game of this series. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
The Wallabies are still essentially a youngish, developing side who look as if they may be stronger in a couple of years’ time than now. Without a backlog of achievements to their names, unnervingly with today’s game in mind, this generation have also shown a tendency toward inconsistency, or what the local media refer to as yo-yo performances.
For example, they lost 22-0 to New Zealand at Eden Park in August last year and then, when riddled by injuries and 18-point underdogs, held the rampant All Blacks to an 18-18 draw at Suncorp when they next met them in October. But they then moved on to Europe and began their November tour with a 33-6 pasting by France in Paris, whereupon the next weekend they beat England 20-14 at Twickenham.
Going back to the World Cup, they beat Italy 32-6 and then a week later, of course, lost 15-6 to Ireland in Eden Park. “That’s definitely been an issue for us in previous years,” admitted Stephen Moore, a key leadership figure in the Aussie ranks and a key absentee that day in Eden Park.
“We haven’t spoken about it too much, there’s been so much going on we have tried to just focus on how we want to play. I guess that’s up to the guys who have been around for a while, to take the lead there and make sure we really go out and do our job, and really attack, and take the game to these guys. That’s the only way we can address it.”
Tom Richards Trophy
That there is a trophy – namely the Tom Richards Trophy in honour of the only player to have played for both the Wallabies and the Lions, as well as receiving the Military Cross for his exploits in Gallipoli – and lots more besides on the line, which should help. “I think so,” said Moore. “There’s a huge prize at the end of it, for whoever wins tomorrow. I am confident the group is well aware of what’s at stake.”
The Wallabies have recovered from a first Test defeat to go into the decider as slight favourites, which Will Genia attributed to “just building bonds”, adding: “We spent a lot of time together leading up to the series, and it was a big focus to guys to get outside your comfort zone, mix around with guys you don’t normally mix with. The boys really took to that. We spent time with each other and that really shows on the field. You have to be good mates on the field, and trust each other on the field, and it shows in the spirit and character you play with.”
Had James Horwill been suspended, Genia would have been captain, and it was evident from the quick communication between the two that the fateful 72nd minute decision to opt for a scrum rather than a penalty was as much his call.
But, despite being invited to draw a comparison between the approach of the Australians and the conservatism of the Lions in generally taking a shot at goal, Genia declined to do so.
You’d imagine too that, privately, the Wallabies won’t have been too unnerved by a Lions starting selection which is 80 per cent Welsh, bearing in mind they have beaten Wales eight times in succession. Again though, needless to say, Genia wasn’t hinting at such. “Yes, and no. You can understand it’s a big game and Warren has gone back to combinations that he trusts, hence obviously the Welshmen.”
And however much the Lions may be inspired by the uniqueness of their time and place in history when coming together every four years, Moore emphasised how much it means to home players for whom the opportunity comes along once every four years. He expressed the hope that the modern-day tour never changes in format and yesterday Genia echoed his comments even in the aftermath of losing the first Test.
“I will look back on it as something I will never forget. Living it and breathing it now, while we’re in the moment, I feel so lucky, so blessed, so privileged to be here and part of this series.”