Australia look to 2016 with renewed self-belief

The Rugby World Cup is over, but for the Wallabies it’s the start of a brand new dawn

So close: Australia’s head coach Michael Cheika  walks past the the Webb Ellis Cup after Saturday’s final. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

So close: Australia’s head coach Michael Cheika walks past the the Webb Ellis Cup after Saturday’s final. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

 
World CupDan CarterConrad Smith

Of course they have been replenishing their stocks, with Sam Cane leading the All Blacks at this tournament while Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga will tussle for the 10 jersey vacated by Carter.

Sonny Bill Williams and Malakai Fekitoa seem like handy enough midfield replacements.

But the Wallabies that reached the World Cup final and rattled New Zealand therein will return in 2016 with renewed confidence in their collective ability. Unless they see McCaw’s rugged features at the arrow tip of the Kapa O Pango.

“I don’t think you ever have enough of it,” said McCaw just seconds after the full-time whistle. “If you get moments like this why would you ever call it a day?”

However, confirmation of McCaw’s retirement is believed to be imminent. That leaves Cane charged with resisting the helter-skelter breakdown expertise of David Pocock and Michael Hooper.

‘Just the start’

Second Captains

So he is a career coach after all.

Israel Folau will be a different entity when his ankle heals. Folau was primed to dominate this tournament from the Wallaby back field with high leaping and broken field running from another planet. His brilliance was seen all too infrequently across the stadiums of England and Cardiff. Black jerseys hammered him in the early stages of Saturday’s final.

“I got to say it was affecting me a lot,” Folau admitted now the competition was over. “I couldn’t train during the week and it limited my opportunities to get some work done. But that’s what happens when you play a contact sport. I had to deal with it, I’ll learn from it.

“Within a year Cheiks has done a great job for the squad. The guys are very proud of what he has done and what we have achieved so far. We want to improve ourselves again.”

An improvement is to wrestle the Bledisloe Cup back from their neighbours. That Stephen Larkham, who is only running the attack for three months, has already brought a razor-sharp edge to their play is a good example of what they can become.

“We saw an upsurge in rugby in Australia after hosting the tournament in 2003, following [winning it] in 1999,” said Larkham of the days when he was the supreme green and gold outhalf. “There is real pride in the jersey now, not just from the players who are wearing it and the players who want to wear it but, more specifically, from the general public.

“I probably wavered in my support for the Wallabies, a little bit, but having been part of this group and seeing what they have gone through to get where they are at the moment, I’m very proud to be part of that.”

Hates losing

“We clawed our way back into the contest and changed the momentum of the game at 21-17,” he said. “Even when we got seven points behind we could have brought it to extra time, we were right back in the hunt. We could have easily gone home then. We had a good campaign, we’re sweet, but the heart, the courage in this team will last us going forward.

“They stayed in the battle to the end.”

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