Australia’s ailing captain Michael Hooper will give everything to play against Wales in Cardiff with the Wallabies desperate not to leave their underwhelming British tour empty-handed.
The sight of their leader limping off with a foot injury at Twickenham seemed to sum up a dispiriting night for the game but outgunned Wallabies in the 32-15 defeat at Twickenham on Saturday (Sunday morning, AEDT).
“I’ve done something to my foot, we’ll have a look at it. It happened in the tackle, a rugby injury,” Hooper reported afterwards, adding that it currently felt “all right”.
Asked about being fit for the team’s final Test of the year at the Principality Stadium next Saturday, he promised: “I’ll give it every chance I can.”
If not, either Nic White or James O’Connor could take the reins after both doing a spell as stand-in captain following Hooper’s exit.
But coach Dave Rennie will surely need his inspirational seven firing again for a match that now takes on even more significance after the disjointed performances which have led to a narrow defeat against Scotland and a much more comprehensive loss to England.
“It’s hugely important (to win in Cardiff). With the support that we have back at home and here, we definitely want to finish on a high,” said Rennie, who’s at least confident he’ll have props Allan Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou back after the head knocks which have sidelined them.
As he suggested, no-one could question the heart and defensive effort of his side but they must improve dramatically in all other areas – particularly discipline.
Among the 81,575 who thronged to ‘HQ’, a sizeable contingent of fans wearing the green and gold were left frustrated to see them give away a penalty, on average, every four-and-a-half minutes, while winger Tom Wright and prop Angus Bell both took a trip to the bin.
Some of those errors, sighed Rennie, were just “dumb” and, unlike last week when he was clearly unhappy with some of referee Romain Poite’s decisions, he had no complaints about Jaco Peyper’s calls this time as he pinged England nine times too.
“Most of the issues were our own undoing. We got into some good positions with the ball and got stripped three times. We’ve got to be better,” he said.
“We prepared really well, went in with good clarity and confidence, but we’re turning too much ball over and some individual mistakes put us under pressure.”
It raised the spectre of whether a burgeoning team which had flourished with home backing during the Rugby Championship might have simply not been able to handle the pressure of packed cauldrons ‘up North’.
“I’m not sure how much the crowd’s got to do with it,” retorted Rennie. “It’s exciting for the boys to be up here. We talked a lot about embracing it and we’re where we want to be.
“It’s got more to do with us having to be accurate; you don’t get many opportunities at this level, you’ve got to build pressure. We just didn’t do that.
“Of course, it’s a setback. The plan was to come over here and keep building on that (run of victories in the Rugby Championship and in Japan).
“Over here, they ask a lot of questions of you, put a lot of ball in the air, and play a lot of territory.
“You’ve got to be disciplined and you’ve got to be accurate – we were neither.”