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‘I hope not’: Legendary Wallaby weighs in on World Cup ‘wake-up call’

By Finn Morton
The players of Australia form a huddle at full-time following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Portugal at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on October 01, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Legendary playmaker Michael Lynagh has weighed in on the disastrous “wake-up call” that Australian rugby received after the Wallabies’ underwhelming Rugby World Cup campaign in France.

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The Wallabies are at an all-time “low point.” With Fiji securing a losing bonus point against Portugal last weekend, Australia have bowed out of the sport’s showpiece event at the pool stage for the first time.

With coach Eddie Jones at the helm, an inexperienced Wallabies outfit began their quest for the quarterfinals with a big win over Georgia at Stade de France.

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The euphoric celebration from smiling duo Carter Gordon and Ben Donaldson after one of ‘Dono’s’ tries reflected the apparent mood in the squad as they recorded their first win of the year, but it was their last for a while.

Australia were beaten by Fiji for the first time in almost 70 years in Saint-Etienne, and a record World Cup defeat to Wales followed. Jones’ Wallabies were no longer in control of their own destiny.

Fiji came frighteningly close to a once unthinkable loss to Portugal by eight points or more but managed to do enough as they snuck into the quarterfinals on head-to-head over the Wallabies.

“My overriding emotion is one of sadness,” Lynah said on BBC’s Rugby Union Daily podcast. “Australia really hasn’t fired a shot at this World Cup and it’s really disappointing.

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“I feel for the players. They’re not bad players and they’ve worked really hard but when they get out on the field it just doesn’t seem to click for them.

Knockout

New Zealand
South Africa
11 - 12
Final
Argentina
New Zealand
6 - 44
SF1
England
South Africa
15 - 16
SF2
Wales
Argentina
17 - 29
QF1
Ireland
New Zealand
24 - 28
QF2
England
Fiji
30 - 24
QF3
France
South Africa
28 - 29
QF4

“I feel the way this has gone there’s going to be a few of them that might struggle to get over this experience. I hope not.

“So sadness, not just for the players but a lot of Australian supporters, not only the ones back home btu also the ones that have financially and emotionally supported the team in France to be knocked out so early, is terribly disappointing for them all.”

The Wallabies won just five of their 14 Test matches in 2022 under former boss Dave Rennie, which included an incredible comeback win over Wales at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

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But with the World Cup less than a year away, Rugby Australia decided to go in a different direction as they replaced Rennie with former England coach Eddie Jones. For a while at least this was seen as a welcomed change in Australia.

Jones, 63, had rugby union back in the regular sports headlines as the rivalry between the sport and rugby league intensified. But sport is a results-driven business.

The Wallabies were 0-4 before naming their World Cup squad, and Jones couldn’t turn their woes around in their final warm-up Test against France after naming a young squad.

“It’s probably the culmination of a downward trend over the past 10 or 15 years that rugby’s been heading this way,” Lynagh continued.

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“This was a really full-stop wake-up call that something has to be done in Australia about this and the decline of rugby – in the way of people attending games in Australia. The youngsters coming through are choosing different sports which are better funded than rugby.

“We all hope that a successful Australian rugby team can carry is through and plaster over these problems but I’m afraid this time it hasn’t. It’s time for a full stop and see what we can do going forward.

“We want them to be competitive, we want to have the local support behind us, the whole country behind us, as opposed to AFL and rugby league supporters laughing at us and putting us down, which is what is happening at the moment.

“It’s at pretty much a low point at the moment but a lot of people, me in particular, have seen it coming for a while and been worried about it for a while.”

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