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‘Really strong’: Youthful Wallabies hold promise for future

By Finn Morton
Fraser McReight and Tom Hooper of Australia look on as they walk out of the tunnel prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Georgia at Stade de France on September 09, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Coach Eddie Jones surprised practically everyone when the Wallabies revealed their 33-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in France. There was no room for former captain Michael Hooper and veteran Quade Cooper as coach Jones picked a young team packed with plenty of promise.

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Will Skelton was named the newest captain of the Australian rugby team on August 10, with the towering lock picked to lead an inexperienced side that included just one flyhalf.

Out of the 33 players selected in the coveted squad, only eight had played a Rugby World Cup before. There were a number of players who’d donned Wallaby gold on less than 10 occasions, too.

Defence

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Tackles Made
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Tackles Missed
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Tackle Completion %
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Coach Jones picked the squad with an eye on a golden tomorrow, but their World Cup campaign couldn’t have gone much further off script.

The Wallabies beat Georgia in their tournament opener before losing to Fiji and Wales, leaving their campaign in tatters. They need Portugal to pull off a rugby miracle in Toulouse on Sunday to avoid a first-ever pool stage exit at the sports showpiece event.

But assistant coach Dan Palmer is confident that the “core of this group” can help the Wallabies improve ahead of a Rugby World Cup on Australian soil in four years’ time.

“They are thinking ahead. It’s a young group and if we can keep the core of this group together they can be a really strong Wallabies team,” Palmer told reporters on Monday.

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“We’re all disappointed with how the first few weeks here have gone, but I’m sure they’ll be looking forward in terms of trying to put some better performances on the field.

“But they are still focused on the task at hand. We are not entirely out of this competition yet.”

With coach Eddie Jones at the helm, the Wallabies’ form throughout 2023 has been nothing short of disastrous. If the Wallabies fail to make the quarterfinals, they’ll finish the year with just two wins from nine starts.

But if Portugal beats Fiji by eight points or more in the tournament’s final pool game this weekend, then the Wallabies will live to fight another day.

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The Wallabies are on a bye week now and are enjoying three days off as of Monday, with some players even travelling up to Lyon. But by the time Sunday evening rolls around, there’ll be plenty of interest, intrigue and anticipation from Australian fans and the rugby world as a whole.

“The disappointment is we haven’t controlled our own destiny. In a pool stage, you want to control your own destiny and we haven’t done that. As I’ve said, I take full responsibility for that,” coach Eddie Jones said after the 34-14 win over Portugal.

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“What am I pleased with? When I look at the squad and I look at the number of players that have improved individually then I am really pleased. 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.”

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