A RWC Wallaby Retrospective: 1995 vs 2011! - Green and Gold Rugby

A RWC Wallaby Retrospective: 1995 vs 2011!

A RWC Wallaby Retrospective: 1995 vs 2011!

Where were we in 94:

Even though the IRB rankings didn’t really come into effect until somewhere around 2003, if you apply the same formula historically, as Pick and Go does so well, you will find something rather surprising.  Australia was ranked the #1 team in the world in June of 1994.   I guess I shouldn’t find this too shocking. After all we were the reigning World Champions and followed that up quickly with Bledisloe Cup win in 92 and a series win over the Boks in 93.

I am sure we were helped as well by the Froggies doing the do on the All Blacks in New Zealand, winning both their tests. The All Blacks had also been done by the Poms at the end of 1993, so it is a fair argument that, yeah, we deserved that number one ranking.


Key Players:

Not too much had changed for the Wallabies, and that probably had an impact on what would eventuate over the next 12 months or so.  Bob Dwyer was still coach and still getting results, as we can see from the above. Nick Farr-Jones had retired (twice) but now for good and his partner-in-sublime Michael Lynagh was the first choice skipper.

There were many core players still running around from 1991 as well, including the entire tight five and Campo out wide. Number 8 Tim Gavin was back from injury, a little slower, but still contributing.

So far that year:

It was a fairly cruisey start to 1994 for the Wallabies. They defeated the Irish in a couple of tests (33-13 in Brisbane and 32-18 in Sydney). Both tests contributing to the list of Wallaby One-Test Wonders – centre Matthew O’Connor in the first game and then utility back Ryan Constable in the second. More significantly that 2nd test saw the debut of hard running centre Daniel Herbert, who would score with his first touch of the ball.

Tim Wallace may have joined O’Connor and Constable as he came off the bench in the Wallabies’ next game against Italy (won by Australia 23-20 in Brisbane). But an injury to Michael Lynagh would see Wallace start the next test (won by Australia 20-7 in Melbourne) and join the ranks of those Two-Test Wonders (alongside Alistair Murdoch, David Fitter, David Nucifora and Dally Messenger amongst others).  That first Italian test would also be the debut for a talkative young scrum half, George Gregan. He would go on to play a considerable number more tests than two, as well as becoming considerably less talkative.

The Team:

15 Matt Pini, 14 Damian Smith, 13 Daniel Herbert,12 Matt Burke, 11 David Campese,10 Tim Wallace, 9 George Gregan, 8 Tim Gavin, 7 David Wilson, 6 Ilie Tabua, 5 Rod Mcall, 4 John Eales, 3 Ewen Mckenzie, 2 Phil Kearns [c], 1Tony Daly.

Phil Kearns would take over the captaincy in the absence of Michael Lynagh through injury. Both Tim Horan and Jason Little were injured having suffered knee injuries playing for Queensland against Natal in the Super 10 final.

The year ahead?:

1994 would finish with two sensational performances. The first a comprehensive and exhilarating 73-3 win over Samoa in Sydney and then a 20-16 defeat of the All Blacks which included this brilliant Jason Little try from the kick off and then the famous Gregan tackle.



New Faces to come:

From the time that 2nd Italy test finished until the start of the World Cup the following year, not a single new player was picked in the Wallabies. Whilst Herbie and Gregan made their, significant, debuts earlier in the season, no more rookies would feature. That is, of course, until the World Cup itself.

In the second pool game, following our opening loss to host nation South Africa (18-27), nineteen year old Joe Roff would score a try on debut against Canada (and score two more in the next match against Romania). Coming off the bench against the Cannucks was QLD hooker Michael Foley, who would also get another run the next game v Romania, this time starting.  For this game Daniel Manu now made his debut off the bench.

It was a sign of squad imbalance in that injuries were such a factor and new players were getting their start in a tournament as important as the RWC. Unlike he did he 1991, Dwyer rotated his team significantly and by the time the all important Quarter Final against England came, the best team seemingly still wasn’t known and worst still, hadn’t played together before.

Those that missed the boat:

Tim Wallace was probably the only real casualty never to play for the Wallabies again, as we sought for a replacement, or at least back up, for Lynagh. Two options for that spot were eventual Brumby stars David Knox and Pat Howard. Both featured significantly in those two outstanding 1994 wins against Samoa and the All Blacks, yet neither made the RWC squad the following year.

Darren Junee, the permed utility back, also played his last test in that one off 1994 Bledisloe, however his was of his own making as he made the decision to switch to rugby league. Joining him would be boom lock forward Garrick Morgan, who finished the 1993 international season widely acclaimed as one of the best forwards in the game. A failed stint in league unfortunately corresponded with the RWC year. He was a big loss to the Wallabies.

Interesting is the fact that during the RWC Ilie Tabua, Tony Daly, Peter Slattery, Rod McCall and Michael Lynagh all played their last tests for Australia. Perhaps a sign we held on to a few players just a tad too long? In must be said though, Lynagh was superb this tournament scoring 53 points in the three games he played.

The 1995 RWC:

The Wallaby team that played England in that fateful Quarter Final v England on 11th June, 1995 in Cape Town was:

15 Matt Burke, 14 Damian Smith,13 Jason Little, 12 Tim Horan, 11 David Campese, 10 Michael Lynagh [c], 9 George Gregan, 8 Tim Gavin, 7 David Wilson, 6 Willie Ofagengaue, 5 Rod Mcall, 4 John Eales, 3 Ewen Mckenzie, 2 Phil Kearns, 1 Dan Crowley.

So that’s basically the 1991 RWC team with Burke in for Roebuck, Smith in for Ego, Gregan in for NFJ, Gav for Coker (although Gav would’ve been 8 if fit), Wilson for Poido and Crowls (who was there in 91 anyway) there for Daley! Remembering Daley was in the RWC squad anyway.

Oh and the tournament itself? Well the All Blacks were brilliant; on the back of a rampaging Jonah Lomu, but the host nation were the ones that would have the true Hollywood ending as Australia had their hopes dashed by a Pom fly-half kicking a drop goal. How prophetic.


2011 RWC Learnings:

To say that the 1995 RWC squad was a dad’s army or the walking wounded would probably be stretching things a bit. What is fair to say is that the squad was not at peak fitness. Now I could understand rushing the likes of Tim Horan back, remembering that the previous year there were doubts he’d ever run again, let alone play rugby. But it was still a risk. Particularly on the back of some excellent Wallaby performances by others the year before.  Others carrying injuries include 91 World Champions Rod McCall, Phil Kearns and Tony Daly.  Powerful Fijian blindside Illie Tabua was also struggling.

It is a fine line a coach must tread in making the hard call as to when a player must be cut and new options found. Perhaps that is something that Deans is aware of as he continues to look beyond the likes of Phil Waugh, Al Baxter and Stirling Mortlock. It was noticeable in Steve Larkham’s and George Gregan’s latter years that the ability was still there, it just wasn’t there as regularly. There were more down games than up. So whilst Deans will need to balance youth with experience, a move away from some of the ‘old timers’ may well prove beneficial come RWC 2011!

  • g man

    i thought after about round 5 of the S14. That we had all these new stars. and how good the international season aheahd was going to be. Well the start wasnt whati had hoped for, yet i still feel we have enough tallent to guide us towards atleast a top 2 finish in RWC.

    I was at the season opener reds vs warratahs, with my old man (an Ex COACH) and we were arguing about a player, Quade cooper, dad didnt like his style his hesitation his odd, awkard step. I told him after the first game that Quade cooper would be a super star at the end of S14 season, he disagreed, who was right in the end. but there still more you see the wallabies are a young team and we might not see the the best theyve got this year, but when the muture as a team im almost positive that we will be the best in world rugby

    Also George Gregan was one of my all time favorite players, but i already think that will Genia is a better player i expect big things in the future for this half back. already he can pass better kick better tackle better and run the ball better then gregan.

  • Gumby

    If I remember correctly there was also a fairly big distraction causing undercurrents within the Wallaby Team as well just before and throughout the tournament; the David Lloyd (from memory) proposed professional Rugby Circuit.

    It ultimately failed because Rugby’s Administrators were wised up by what happened to Cricket a decade earlier but Kearns was sacked as Captain afterwards for being a supporter and there was a fair bit of angst under the surface before, during and after the Tournament.

    • g man

      yeah i seen that documentry on ABC earlier this year

  • Langthorne

    That awesome Campo kick and regather try against the Samoans was one of those occassions I remember saying “only Campo could ever think of doing that, let alone do it”.

    1995, 2003 and 2007 World Cup matches against England were all very close. In all cases small things were the difference, and a Wallaby win in all three would not have been unimaginable (although in 2003 it would have been highway robbery for England to not win).

    As for things that can be learnt from 1995 – I’d say don’t bring injured players, don’t have too many fragile oldies (although England 2003 had plenty of older blokes, and it didn’t really hurt them)

  • Garry

    Ilie Tabua, “the human skewer”. Thanks for all the memories. Please someone put together a collection of his greatest ‘hits’.

    On paper that WC final team looks formidable. Beaten by the Poms? What happened?

  • gothereds

    Please correct me if im wrong, which im sure you all will, but would love to hear gaggers perspective on this.

    The wallabies dont seem to be lacking too much in skill level, more along the lines of wrong tactics, mental weakness and bad attitude, but the skills are there and the natural ability as well. I am no fan of Dingo or Jimbo. I think 99% of our problems would be solved with a new coaching panel, I suggest Link as head coach, Kefs and Eales as forwards/lineout coaches/consultants, keep noriega as scrum, nathan grey or even timmy H or farr jones as backs coach, with Alan Jones/Macqueen as mentors. The whole dynamic and mentality of the team would change, because right now nothing is working and the current panel dont seem to have any idea on how to fix it. the infighting, the weakness and lack of desire that is plaguing the wallabies, plus the constant chopping and changing(not just through injury), a lot of wrong selection decisions, we look screwed, am I wrong in putting a lot of it down to the coaching staff? I am not one to blame the coach, I usually dislike people that do that, though I have never seen a wallaby team in such disarray, where nothing seems to be improving, especially after our best s14 season in years, I cant handle another year like last, we need something to change and make these prima donnas hungry again

    • Gumby

      I doubt a new coaching panel along the lines you have suggested would improve anything at all. Firstly as much as I respect Link he has yet to coach a winning Super 14 Team. Eales and Farr Jones would not be available with their respective careers and Eales has more than once said coaching is not for him. Horan would be unlikely to be available for similar reasons.

      They were great players but whose to say that they would deliver any more as coaches than Johnson has for England?

      Further. I don’t think the Wallabies problems are Coach related to a large extent. They keep losing the tight matches. If they had won most of their tight matches going back to the RWC in 2007 (as the 99-01 team had a habit of doing) we would not be having this discussion.

      They are losing these matches because of what is or isn’t going on in their collective head space. They haven’t as yet developed the mental toughness necessary to win the difficult games. It is about maturity and composure under pressure. That is where they are falling short.


The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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