'I've got a lot of confidence': Slipper believes Wallabies are heading in the right direction
Skipper James Slipper has boldly declared the Wallabies are heading in the right direction despite a third successive spring tour loss that has put them in danger of finishing 2022 as the worst-performing Australian team in more than 60 years.
The Wallabies rebounded from a humiliating loss to Italy with a gritty showing in Dublin against world No.1 Ireland before ultimately falling 13-10.
The home side only hit the front in the 76th minute with replacement five-eighth Ross Byrne kicking his side ahead.
The Wallabies had the chance to tie up the match through a penalty kick a minute later but opted to go after a try to win it.
The Australians kicked to the corner, only to concede a penalty themselves for a technical offence as they tried to maul the ball.
The performance came at a huge injury cost with five players likely to be unavailable for their final match against Wales, with fears that star prop Taniela Tupou may have ruptured his achilles tendon.
From four spring Tests, three points is the biggest margin, beating Scotland by one point before losses to France and Italy also by a point.
With Wales still to come next weekend, the Wallabies have repeated their 2018 effort under then-coach Michael Cheika, when they also managed just four wins from 13 matches.
In 1958 they only managed two wins and a draw from 11 Tests which was historically their worst outcome in years where 10 or more Tests have been played.
But Slipper felt they were on the up ahead of the World Cup in France next year.
“In terms of where this group is heading, what we’ve faced, I’ve got a lot of confidence,” Slipper told reporters.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity and lost a lot of players, I could go through the list but at the end of the day, we haven’t got the results we wanted.
“As a captain at the moment, I’m happy with where we are heading.
“I’d love to be in a better spot so I’m understanding of that, but it sets up a big game for next week.”
Slipper backed coach Dave Rennie, whose future beyond the World Cup is in doubt with a dismal win strike rate of 36.4 per cent.
“There’s so much trust in Dave … we’re the players out there in those big moments that we’re failing in,” the Test centurion said.
“We go into these games and we couldn’t be more prepared.”
The Wallabies’ discipline was a massive talking point after 16 penalties in their loss to Italy.
They conceded four early for “neck rolls”, however the penalty count ended at 12 apiece.
Nic White was denied a third-minute try with hooker Dave Porecki pinged while replacement hooker Folau Fainga’a put the team under immense pressure when he was yellow-carded for the same offence.
With Porecki already off following a head knock, Folau’s foul play meant that, with no available hookers, the Wallabies were forced to play with 13 players and uncontested scrums for two minutes early in the second half.
The Wallabies kept the home side from crossing the line, with White and Bernard Foley tackling Australian-raised Ireland winger Mack Hansen into touch as he flung a pass in-field.
Rennie said they were “gutted” they didn’t take their opportunities against the top-ranked team.
“We had a fair bit of adversity and showed a huge amount of character but there’s frustration because we had opportunities,” he said..
“You’ve got to give credit to the Irish defence but I’m gutted for the boys.”
Some positives out of the match were the performance of rookie winger Mark Nawaqanitawase and flanker Michael Hooper, who was in vintage form.
Fullback Jordan Petaia, who replaced Hunter Paisami (knee), also produced his best showing of the year.
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