[Source: Rugby Pass]
Rugby World Cups are brutal and this young Wallabies squad have learnt that the hard way in their second pool stage loss in France.
The 40-6 defeat at the hands of Wales is the largest the Australians have conceded in their illustrious World Cup history and comes off the back of another historic loss, having fallen to Fiji the week prior.
The criticism is loud and the consequences may be significant as Rugby Australia has announced there will be a review into the campaign with coach Eddie Jones’ job potentially on the chopping block.
With Wales and Fiji both owning superior winning rates in Pool C, the Wallabies face a first-ever pool-stage exit.
“We’re hurting,” Wallabies legend Tim Horan told Andy Ellis on The Front Row Daily Show. “The players are stinging, the fans who have saved up so much money over the last four years… You’re never guaranteed the side you’re supporting at the Rugby World Cup is going to go deep or go to the final but I feel for the players. They’re gutted.
“I walked into the dressing room, I haven’t been in the dressing room for probably 10-15 years, I just wanted to go in and just shake their hand, put a hand on their shoulder and just make sure they’re okay because I think it’s going to sting for a long time.
“We’ve been there, we’ve had big losses in Test matches or grand finals or whatever, and every time your head hits the pillow in the next four or five years, 20 years time, you’re going to be looking at the ceiling thinking about that loss.”
Memories of the losses recurring night after night pose a torturous outlook for Wallabies personnel, and the team will have to wait four years before they get the chance to make amends for the losses on rugby’s ultimate stage.
That chance will come in their own backyard, as Australia will host the 2027 Rugby World Cup. For now, the Wallabies must channel the disappointment into fire for their final pool match against Portugal.
Horan expanded on his time in the Wallabies dressing room after the match and revealed the players had just one thing to say.
“When the players walked past, they were just saying ‘we’re sorry’, because they know they’ve hurt, their feelings are hurt, as fans are. The supporters around the world, that come from London, that come from all over the world in a Wallaby gold jersey in support, they’re going to hurt for a very long period.
“And it’s good, you want them to sting because you want to remember that feeling.
“It’s not all about Eddie Jones either, Eddie is going to have to take some responsibility, so are the players. The players for the next week or so, they’ve got another game to play, how they respond, their values, their standards, it’s all going to come down to how the players respond.
“The hard thing now is how do we provide hope for the next two years going into a British and Irish Lions series? And then in four years’ time, hosting your own Rugby World Cup? How do we regroup with the help of our New Zealand neighbours to try and continue to grow the game in Australia? We’re at the lowest we can be now.”
The 80-Test Wallaby is no stranger to the highs and lows of Rugby World Cups, Horan recalled his experience bowing out earlier than anticipated and the pain that accompanied it.
“We obviously won the World Cup in 1991, put rugby on the map in Australia, ticker tape parades. But then, in 1995, we thought we’d do the same game plan and we’d win the World Cup but we get knocked out by England in that quarter-final in Cape Town.
“We had all these tickets planned for the semi-final and final, and the majority of the players – we flew out two days later – arrive in Perth with about 15,000 Aussies arriving in Perth going to Johannesburg.
“We had guys in the airline club hiding behind pot plants as all the fans were coming in through. Because players were embarrassed, and that’s what’s happened against Wales and it stings and that still hurts.”