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Wallabies lick their wounds

2012-08-27 09:22
Johannesburg - The injury-hit Wallabies are in such dire straits after their second comprehensive defeat to New Zealand in as many weeks that there are now serious concerns their No 2 world ranking is under threat.

Their second-rate status was confirmed by their inability to score a point against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday night, condemning them to a 10th straight doomed Bledisloe Cup campaign. Adding to the embarrassment was that it was the first time in half a century that a Wallabies line-up had finished pointless in a Bledisloe Cup fixture.

No wonder the Wallabies remained in shellshock on Sunday as they made their way back across the ditch. They continued to push the line that the All Blacks were so exceptional that no one would have beaten them, with some in the Australian colours arguing it was New Zealand's best Bledisloe Cup performance in the past decade.

That did not marry with the prevailing view in New Zealand, with the local media far from effusive about the All Blacks' effort and insisting they still had some way to go before being considered the finished article.

The conflict of opinion merely amplified the fact that the Wallabies, admittedly labouring under a crippling injury toll, have virtually become a team of cardboard cutouts, lacking in basic skills.

Again their kicking game was poor, again they were swamped in the aerial battle, and again their attack never threatened. They have also run out of ideas about how to subdue the All Blacks. So now their main focus is on consolidating their position as next best behind the world champions.

Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore, who has always been a straight-shooter, said it was now imperative the team regain their composure, and win back the faith of their supporters during the rest of the Rugby Championship.

''Without doubt the All Blacks are the No.1 side in the world. And there's quite a way to us in second place,'' he said. ''The challenge for us now is to try and maintain that spot against South Africa and Argentina.''

For that to happen, the team has to develop character. It also had to harden up off the field. ''It's a team game, so we all take responsibility for what's going on, on and off the field,'' Moore said. ''Both of them go hand in hand. We need to make sure we carry ourselves in the right manner off the field if we want to make sure we get our performances right on the field. We all take accountability for our actions. We are all old enough now to be able to do that.''

''There has been a concern that for some time within the Wallabies camp that while several experienced hard heads continue to provide the backbone, and put in the hard work, they have been let down by several supposed team superstars, who are too inconsistent on the field and too easily distracted off it.

But Wallabies coach Robbie Deans continues to defend them. ''I was proud with how our guys hung in because it was clearly a dominant performance by the All Blacks,'' he said. ''To have only one try scored against us was pretty remarkable. They are such a relentless side. Whether they have or haven't got the ball, they're attacking you. We tried narrow, we tried wide, they closed both. They are a very experienced side, on top of their game. There's no let up. The shackles are off.''

Deans also warded off queries about his future. ''It's not about me. It's about this group, the Wallabies, and what we do. It's great to see the pride these blokes took in the way they approached their work, and that will be important in going forward.''

The Wallabies will have a week off before assembling next Sunday to travel to Perth for their next Test against South Africa on September 8. None of their many injured players are scheduled to return. Winger Drew Mitchell could again be sidelined for a lengthy period after rolling his ankle in the first half and Quade Cooper will have a scan on his knee today after receiving a knock during the Auckland Test. Pat McCabe is expected to return against Argentina on September 15.

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