For former captain Michael Hooper, one horror moment in the first half perfectly summed up the Wallabies' dreadful night in their record loss to Wales at the Rugby World Cup. Eddie Jones' side suffered their biggest-ever loss at the World Cup as Wales ran out 40-6 winners to bury Australia's hopes of making the quarter-finals.
It marks the first time in World Cup history that Australia will fail to make it out of their group at a World Cup. The Wallabies were only down 16-6 at half-time, but one shocking mishap left Hooper gobsmacked.
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Trailing 10-6 on the scoreboard, the Wallabies inexplicably turned down a gift penalty goal and instead opted to kick for the line. The gamble backfired immediately as not a single Wallabies player contested the lineout, with Wales gaining possession and kicking a game-changing 50/22 off the back of it.
"Tell me why we wouldn't take the kick?" Hooper said while dissecting the first half in the studio for Stan Sport. "If you're on the field at that moment and you're making that decision, why do I not take the kick at goal here?
"And I can't see too many reasons why you wouldn't. I'm sure the team on the field maybe felt the momentum was in their favour, we can go big, score seven... it doesn't happen and then Wales gets an absolute lift from it. So hindsight's a lovely thing there."
Hooper was unceremoniously dumped by Jones, who didn't select the former captain in his World Cup squad. Jones' decision to overlook a number of experienced veterans has backfired brutally, with a younger Wallabies squad unable to match it with their opponents.
The 2 crucial moments for the Wallabies in that half:
The Donaldson break but passed to the Welsh player.
The lineout where they fell over in the setup.
— Steve Lenthall (@steve_l15) September 24, 2023
Would help if the Wallabies remember how to do a lineout. Well and a maul
— Ian Godwin (@Godwin_UQ) September 24, 2023
The lineout itself made me face palm. When was the last time you saw a lineout that dreadfully done 😂😭
— Pricey (@PriceyNick) September 24, 2023
The players got a lot of basics wrong tonight. 15 year old boys know how to take a lineout properly. And the amount of penalties will singlehandly lose more gaves for Aus
— Pricey (@PriceyNick) September 24, 2023
It's difficult to disagree, but gosh, some blunders by the Wallabies can't be leveled at Eddie Jones. Dreadful missed tackles, lineout errors, kicking mistakes and silly penalties are expected from "C" graders but not at Test level.
— Robert Doran (@DoranRobert1) September 24, 2023
That sums up Wallabies RWC. Penalty infront of posts. Kick to touch. Bottle lineout. Wales kick 50/22 and kick a penalty 🤕 #AUSvWAL
— Dane Sherratt (@danesherry) September 24, 2023
Michael Hooper hurting for Wallabies after embarrassing flop
Hooper said he felt for the players and the fans, with a number of Wallabies seen in tears at full-time. "I'm looking at the faces of our boys there on screen and that's a representation of how we all feel I think, they're absolutely gutted," Hooper said on Stan Sport. "There's no lack of effort - obviously we're well off the pace.
"I've still got my player's hat on, I'm a part of this team, I was in here six or seven games ago too so it really hurts when you're not able to get the pay-off for all the hard work you do but also give fans and the country something to get behind. As we saw with the Matildas earlier in the year, you want to get that 'We can do something here', and to have that ripped out from under you it's heart-breaking."
Bernard Foley, who was also omitted from the squad when Jones took only one specialist five-eighth in rookie Carter Gordon, tweeted: "It didn't have to be like this. Players have always put in."
The Wallabies now need a miracle that Fiji lose both their remaining games without bonus points. It seems an absolute certainty that Australia will bow out without making the knockout stage for the first time in history.
The humiliating loss capped a dramatic day for Rugby Australia, with a report emerging that Jones had already interviewed for the Japan coaching role while with the Wallabies at the World Cup. Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh said before the match that Jones had denied that he was pursuing a return to the Brave Blossoms, and he would be "disappointed" to find that was the case.
Jones is contracted to the Wallabies until 2027, but many have called for him to resign or be fired in the wake of Australia's worst World Cup performance ever.
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