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Wallabies join unfortunate company in history books after early exit

By Adam Julian
Eddie Jones looks on as the Wallabies warm up. Photo by Julian Finney - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images


The 1972 Wallabies were purportedly the nadir of Australian rugby. The ‘Woeful Wallabies’ were so bad on their New Zealand tour that they lost their opening fixtures to Otago (0-26), and Buller-West Coast (10-15).

In the aftermath of their second Test loss (6-29) to the All Blacks, the doyen of New Zealand Rugby writers Sir Terry McLean demanded:

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“The NZRU must rethink its international programme. You just simply can’t expect the New Zealand public to shovel out $2.50 for seats at matches played by the Wallabies.”

The Wallabies were even worse in the third Test, thrashed 38-3. Unusually, there were 13,000 empty seats at Eden Park. In 1973 Australia was embarrassed by Tonga and by 1977, Australia did not play a Test because the Australian Rugby Union was broke.

It took six years for the Wallabies to return to New Zealand. Australian rugby was helped by an increasing number of games played between New Zealand provinces and Aussie sides. Auckland against New South Wales and Queensland versus Canterbury became regular fixtures.

Unfortunately, the Wallabies 2023 World Cup campaign spearheaded by Eddie Jones is possibly a lower ebb. Yes, Portugal proved a genuine surprise package, but the punch-drunk arrogance and bewildering selections of Jones (six captains in eight Tests) has boarded on farcical.


The Wallabies are so bereft of ideas and confidence that Australia has slumped to their lowest-ever world ranking of 10th. Two wins in the last nine Test matches is all Jones has to show for his Trump-like bluster.

Rugby Australia’s finances are again under strain, with private equity investment gone and the game trying to raise $90 million to keep going. Furthermore, the Australian Secondary Schools recently suffered their largest loss to New Zealand since 1995 and the Black Ferns hammered the Wallaroos 43-3 in Hamilton.

The Wallabies crash and burn Rugby World Cup campaign ranks alongside some of the more unfortunate rugby campaigns of the last five decades.

The 1983 Lions were swept 4-0 by the All Blacks. Despite finishing last in that year’s Five Nations, England was the most represented country in the tour party which caused resentment. Irish hooker Ciaran Fitzgerald was a disliked captain and struggled with his lineout throwing in the Tests. Off the field, there was a food fight at a function following the third Test in Dunedin. The drinking was legendary with Robert Ackerman telling The Roar in 2015.


“Gerry McLoughlin replaced Ian Stephens and joined the tour party in Pukekohe,” he said. “We won that game. It was a tough one. All Blacks Captain Andy Dalton scored two tries for Counties. We enjoyed our victory long into the night.

“The next morning, we were assembled in the hotel lobby to depart and Gerry had lost his blazer, a prized possession. We walked down the street and there was Gerry’s blazer hanging in a tree about 200 yards away from the hotel. ‘Ginger’ still doesn’t remember how it ended up there.”


The 2005 Lions were rowdy in a different way. They brought 27 support staff, including 10 coaches, a Kit technician, and Alastair Campbell, a spin doctor for Tony Blair. No amount of PR could disguise the brutal reality of an aging pack, and Johnny Wilkinson at second-five in the first test, being flogged 107-41 over a three-match series.

Two years earlier the bizarre and sadistic Kamp Staaldraad didn’t help the Springboks advance further than the World Cup quarterfinals. In the god-forsaken hole of Thabazimbi, the team was ordered to climb into a foxhole naked and sing the national anthem while ice-cold water was being poured over their heads. The players were also forced to crawl naked across gravel, participate in bare-knuckle fights with each other, and spend a night in the bush, during which they were to kill and cook chickens, but not eat them.

The All Blacks were so good between the start of 2004 and the World Cup quarter-final in 2007 that they won 42 of 47 Test matches. On the 2005 Grand Slam tour they beat Wales (41-3) and then changed the entire starting XV in their 45-7 slaughtering of Ireland. ‘Rest and rotation’ became vogue, but the All Blacks came unstuck on an ill-fated night in Cardiff.

An independent inquiry was launched by the New Zealand Rugby Union in December 2007. It found the on-field leadership model to be faulty, reflected in the decision not to go for a drop goal in the frantic final minutes when the All Blacks were trailing by two points; that New Zealand were at their most vulnerable when expected to win; and that there was a failure to push the emotional button in the week before the 2007 quarter?final.

The 2011 Samaon World Cup campaign was an absolute shambles. On the field, the team wasn’t too bad, memorably defeating Fiji at Eden Park, but failing to make the quarterfinals. Off the field, 6m Samoan tala (€2m) that was supposed to fund the team before, during, and after the tournament disappeared. The bulk of the money, which was collected after a fund-raising drive in Samoa, never reached the players. The audit noted instances of missing pages from receipt books, vanished receipt books, inadequate documents, and no vouchers for expenses totalling just under €400,000.

The team resided at the Pacifica Inn for 12 days for 12,000 tala (approximately €4,000) before moving 600 metres up the road to another hotel. The second hotel bill ran to 174,000 tala (€60,000) for 15 days.


England is the only host in tournament history not to get out of pool play at the Rugby World Cup. Following defeats to Wales (25-28) and Australia (12-33), England crashed out. With only two Lions in the third Test in 2013 the hype around England was out of sync. Discipline was appalling and the midfield of Brad Barritt and Sam Burgess was a disaster.

A report into the failure was never released however Burgess, reportedly paid £500,000 a year, later complained, “If people actually re-watched the games I participated in, you will see I added to the team. What cost us an early exit was individual egos and selfish players not following our leader, which essentially cost the coach and other great men their jobs.”

Australia Under Eddie Jones

Australian Rugby CEO Hamish McLennan: “I was really concerned that we would get knocked out at the pool stages, which is why we made the change from Dave (Rennie) to Eddie,”

Dave Rennie only won 13 of 34 Tests as Wallabies coach but he managed a win against the All Blacks in 2020 and his last result against most opponents Jones coached against were considerably better.










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