Australia national rugby union team
The Wallabies are the Australian rugby union national team. They won the Rugby World Cup in 1991 and 1999, and lost in the final match in extra time to England in 2003.
The Australian Rugby Union is the governing body of rugby union in Australia. It was founded in 1949 and is affiliated to the International Rugby Board the sport's governing body.
After William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it in 1823, the sport of Rugby Union would have been sent out to Australia with the new colonists soon after.
The first recorded game of Union in Australia was on 25 July 1839 and involved members of the military. Soon after, the game spread throughout the new colonies, and the game enjoyed much more popularity than in England where Soccer was taking hold.
However the game was firmly established in Sydney where it developed a strong following. The recognised first club was the Sydney University club, which was formed in 1864. 10 years later in 1874 there were enough clubs to be able to create a Sydney Metropolitan competition.
The first interstate game occurred in 1882, when Australian Rules players from Queensland travelled to NSW. NSW won by 26 points to 4 (although there are some reports that NSW actually scored 28 points). By 1899, the first English team had been sent out to tour Australia. They won all their games except the first that was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where Australia won 13-3.
The first contest between Australia and New Zealand was played in 1903, in which Australia lost 22-3. This was the start of a long tradition of losing to New Zealand which daunted the Wallabies until the 1990's.
Australia throughout most of the 20th century were a consitantly reasonable side, however they were clearly not up to the standards of the major dominant sides like New Zealand or South Africa's Springboks. The key to this was because it was an amateur sport, unlike the professional Rugby League which quickly gained support in the working-class communities and poached star union players. It was a small white-collared niche of supporters who kept Union alive in Sydney and Brisbane.
In 1980, Australia won the Bledisloe Cup for only the fourth time, defeating New Zealand 2-1. This was the start of a succesfull era for the Wallabies.
In 1984, Australia toured the British Isles with a young side, and new coach Alan Jones. For the first time they won a "Grand Slam", beating England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Young gun Mark Ella scored a try in each match. Other players on the rise included David Campese, Michael Lynagh, Nick Farr-Jones and Simon Poidevin who would all prove instrumental in future years.
Australia toured New Zealand in 1986 playing three games. For the first time they won two away from home and only lost the third by one point. The Wallabies were jubilant - for the first time they had beaten all the major teams of the world and had become a dominant force in the rugby world.
Therefore the Wallabies went into the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 feeling quite confident. However the semi-final against France, held at Sydney's Concord Oval, was lost 30-26. France went on to win the Grand final against New Zealand.
The team regrouped and then went into the 1991 World Cup, held in England, with a renewed attitude and a new coach - Bob Dwyer. They ending up beating England in the final 12-6. By this stage many players which have become household names in Australia today were on the rise, including John Eales, Tim Horan, Jason Little, Phil Kearns and Willy Ofahengaue.
After this victory, Australian rugby had a slight slump for a few years. However, the mid-90s proved to be some of the most important years in the creation of the modern game. The memorable South African World Cup in 1995 (which saw Australia being knocked out in the quarterfinals by England, their worst ever result), the creation of the Tri Nations and Super 12 tournaments, and the entire professional revolution brought Rugby Union much more attention and acclaim. In particular in Australia there was much more expectation for performance, when the game had more popularity and media coverage.
The Australians again had a new coach Rod Macqueen, and new young players on the rise - Matt Burke, George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, Joe Roff and Toutai Kefu. The Wallabies won the semi-final at the 1999 World Cup after a memorable dropgoal in extra time by five-eighth Larkham (it was his first ever attempt in a test match) and the Grand final against France at Millennium Stadium was easily won by 35 to 12, the majority of which was courtesy of fullback/goalkicker, Matt Burke.
The Wallabies were again world champions, the first side to ever win the William Webb Ellis trophey twice. Soon after, they were also the victors of the Bledisloe Cup, the Tri Nations and their first ever victory over the British and Irish Lions in 2001. They were also the first international side to beat New Zealand at their stronghold of Dunedin. Rod Macqueen, the coach, and John Eales, the captain, however both retired soon after this leaving new coach Eddie Jones and new captain George Gregan having to prepare the side for the next world cup to be held on home turf in 2003.
The new millennium
The new team established a training centre at Coffs Harbour and enjoyed mixed success. They were certainly competitive, but inconsistant, and public faith was lacking the leadup to the 2003 Rugby World Cup. However this faith was all restored in the exciting semi-final match against New Zealand where Australia won 22-10. Australia went on to play England in the final, losing the game in the final minutes of extra time when English five-eighth Jonny Wilkinson kicked a drop goal.
Most capped players
- George Gregan - 102
- David Campese - 101
- Joe Roff - 86
- John Eales - 86
- Matt Burke - 81
- Tim Horan - 80
- David Wilson - 79
- Jason Little - 75
- Steve Larkham - 73
- Michael Lynagh - 72
Leading try scorers
- David Campese - 64
- Joe Roff - 31
- Tim Horan - 30
- Matt Burke - 29
- Chris Latham - 25
- Ben Tune - 24
- Jason Little - 21
- Stirling Mortlock - 20
- Steve Larkham - 18
- Michael Lynagh - 17
Leading point scorers
- Michael Lynagh - 911
- Matt Burke - 878
- David Campese - 315
- Paul McLean - 260
- Joe Roff - 249
- Stirling Mortlock - 190
- Elton Flatley - 180
- John Eales - 173
- Tim Horan - 140
- Chris Latham - 125
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