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Exclusive: 'The Aussie DNA is missing' - David Campese reflects on Wallaby exit and ponders the future of Aussie rugby

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Wednesday Sep 27, 2023

First off, it was amazing to see how the Welsh turned up to play. They used their strengths very well and had clearly done their homework on the Wallabies. This was no doubt the best game of rugby Wales have played in quite some time, and it has to be said that the players and coaching staff should be very proud of the way they took the game to Australia.

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The Wallabies, on the other hand, appeared lost and without direction. The Aussie rugby DNA is about having fun and creating opportunities by ‘giving it a go’. It’s this culture that helped us become the first country to win two World Cups and built a whole generation of fans supporting the game in Australia.

The problem now is that the free-flowing and exciting version of the game that the Wallabies were once known for, appears to be missing.

Every time the Wallabies got the ball kicked back to them the players either thumped the ball back or decided just to run the ball up without any support.  When you counterattack, you need to look for support. We’re always told to look around, catch, pass, support, move the ball, and try different angles. Obviously, this is back in my day so it’s very old, but I still think that practice remains relevant today.

They tried hard but they actually played to the strengths of the Welsh. Their defense was very good and we didn’t try to upset them by trying to do something different. We saw that in the Fijian game in the last 6-7 minutes, we’d rather kick the ball away for them to make a mistake instead of being positive and backing our strengths and skills, so maybe that’s the reason why we kicked the ball away.

The Aussie way is to play what is in front of us, to support each other when we have the ball, and to create opportunities – not just wait until the opposition makes mistakes. We need to find our DNA in Aussie rugby, our culture, and our history. Without this, we have nothing.

From an Australian point of view, it’s very disappointing and sad to see. We have a lot of really talented players, but the experiment of bringing Eddie in seven months before the tournament wasn’t the smartest move.

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Will they now change how they play rugby? Will they change the way the coaching system is set up and allow players to play with more flair? Will they provide the players with the skills to create opportunities to back themselves and have a go?

There will be a big inquiry, some heads will roll in Australian rugby because I don’t think we can go on like this. Everyone seems to be talking about the problems, but no one has the solutions. I know the solutions, we have to get the kids to understand the game, allow them to try different things, and give them opportunities to try and fail. Life is about that, you’ve got to fail in life to get to that next stage, and the only way we can do that is to make sure that we play a style where the coaches are allowing the players to play with freedom.

We need players wanting to be a Wallaby. Bring that campaign back, because to succeed moving forward we need kids on board. We’ve got the British Lions in 2025, the men’s World Cup in Australia in 2027, and the women’s World Cup in Australia in 2029, so we’ve got 10 years of fantastic opportunities. We’ve just got to make sure that people are on board, and the people at the top understand what we’re trying to achieve.

Rugby Australia needs to get some older guys who have achieved success with the Wallabies in the past to get involved to be ambassadors for the game. Go around promoting the game, not just at corporate lunches and dinners, but actually go out in the field, get involved, get dirty, and just tell the stories about what a great game rugby is.

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I can’t blame Eddie Jones for the disappointment of the World Cup, he was thrown into the deep end. The people on the board have got to be responsible for something, you can’t just let them off.

This is a very sad time for us as Wallaby fans and it’s very sad to see. We are all very emotional ex-players, new players, and supporters at this time, but that’s sports and the only way to improve is to learn from the mistakes and get better.

Looking forward to the Portuguese game, I would want the players to go out there have a bit of fun, have a smile on their faces, and just back their skills.

  • Words of David Campese writing exclusively for Rugbydump

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