The Australian national rugby union team is the representative side of Australia in rugby union. The national team is nicknamed the "Wallabies" and competes annually with New Zealand and South Africa in the Tri-Nations Series, in which they also contest the Bledisloe Cup with New Zealand and the Mandela Challenge Plate with South Africa. As at 21 July 2008, Australia are ranked third on the IRB World Rankings.
Australia have competed in all six of the Rugby World Cups that have thus far been staged. Australia is the most successful team in the competition's history. Australia have won the World Cup on two occasions, in 1991 against England, and in 1999 against France, and also lost in the final match in extra time to England in the 2003 competition. Australia are governed by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU). Seven former Australian players have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame, with one of the seven also having been inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame.
The first tour by a British team took place in 1888. A British Isles team toured the Australian colonies and New Zealand, though no Test matches were played. Although they had representatives from all four home nations, the players were drawn mainly from England and the Scottish borders. The tour was not sanctioned by the Rugby Football Union as it was organised by entrepreneurs and thus contravened the union's strict regulations pertaining to professionalism.
In 1899 the first officially sanctioned British Isles team toured Australia. Four Tests were played between Australia and the British Isles (three in Sydney and one in Brisbane). Although all called "Australia", the teams were a representative of the colony in which the match was played. Accordingly the team wore the blue of New South Wales when playing in Sydney, and the maroon of Queensland when playing in Brisbane. The tourists won all their games except the first, which was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground and won 13–3 by Australia.
In 1907 the New South Wales Rugby League was formed and star player Dally Messenger left the Rugby union for the rival code. The next year the first Australian team to tour the British Isles left Sydney under the name of 'Rabbits'. The players thought this name derogatory and replaced it with 'Wallabies'. The 1908 tour coincided with the London Olympic Games at which rugby union was contested. The Australian team won the gold medal by defeating Cornwall, the English county champions representing Great Britain. When the team returned home more than half of them joined professional rugby league clubs.
Australia's last Test before World War I was against New Zealand in July 1914. The war had a very negative effect on rugby union in Australia. The sports authorities decided it was unpatriotic to play rugby while thousands of young Australian men were being sent overseas to fight. This resulted in competitions all but closed down in New South Wales and Queensland. In Queensland regular competitions did not commence again until 1928. As a result players switched to rugby league in large numbers.
During the 1920s the only representative team available for international opponents was the New South Wales Waratahs; all thirty-nine internationals played by them in that period have since been accorded Test status. In 1921 South Africa visited Australia and New Zealand for the first time — winning all three tests in Australia. The most famous Waratahs' team was the 1927/28 Waratahs who toured the United Kingdom, France and Canada. They introduced a style of open, running rugby rarely seen before. They won 24 and drew two of their 31 official matches. When the selectors sat down to choose the immortal 1927/8 Waratahs, they picked no less than seven from the Drummoyne Rugby Club.
The re-emergence of the Queensland Rugby Union in 1928/9 immediately made a forceful impact on the performances of the Australian team, which that year defeated New Zealand in all 3 Tests for the first time. In 1931, the then Governor General of New Zealand, Lord Bledisloe donated a rugby trophy to foster sporting ties between Australia and New Zealand. Bearing his name, the Bledisloe Cup was established. The inaugural competition was won by New Zealand two games to one.
Australia made their first tour to South Africa in 1933 for a four Test series, which was won by South Africa three games to one. Australia won the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 1934. The tour of the 1939 Wallabies was cancelled as war was declared a day after the team arrived in England; two weeks later they returned home.
After returning from the successful European tour, Australia hosted the New Zealand Maori in a three match series in 1949; both sides winning once, with one draw. In September of that year, Australia played the All Blacks twice in New Zealand, winning both games and taking back the Bledesloe Cup for the first time on New Zealand soil. The 'Number 1' All Black side was touring South Africa at the time and the wins by Australia agains the B-team have sometimes been downgraded. However, in deference to the Aparthied system then in operation in South Africa, The NZRU did not select any Maori players for the tour. Many of those regular All Black Maoris played against Australia instead and it could be said that the New Zealand team that played Australia was at least as good as the one on tour in South Africa. The British Isles toured Australia in 1950, and won both of the Tests against Australia. The following year Australia fell to a three Test whitewash to the All Blacks. Australia won in July 1952, defeating Fiji at the Sydney Cricket Ground — they then lost the second Test to Fiji by two points. Australia managed to beat the All Blacks at Lancaster Park after the Fijian series; however they lost the second Test.
In 1953 Australia toured South Africa for the second time and although they lost the series they were given a standing ovation after defeating South Africa 18-14 in the second Test at Newlands. Wallaby Captain John Solomon was carried off the field by two South African players. This was the first Springbok defeat for 15 years. In 1957-58 they became the only one of the southern hemisphere sides to have lose to all four Home nations in one tour. They also lost to France on the same tour.
In 1962, Australia played the All Blacks five times and lost all but a 9-all draw at Athletic Park. After defeating England 18–9 in 1963 in Sydney, Australia beat the Springboks in consecutive Tests in South Africa; the first team to do so since the 1896 British team.
Fewer tests were played throughout the mid-1960s, with Australia only playing the a three Test series against All Blacks in 1964. They won the third Test after losing the first two. The following year Australia hosted the Springboks for two Tests, winning 18–11 and 12–8. This was their first ever series win over South Africa and first over a major nation since 1934.
The British Isles came the following year, defeating Australia 11–8 at the SCG, before hammering them 31–0 in Brisbane. Australia left for Europe in that December where a 14–11 victory over Wales was followed by a slim 11–5 defeat of Scotland. The tour continued into the following year where Australia defeated England 23–11 before losing to Ireland 15–8 and France 20–14. Australia then hosted Ireland, who beat them again in Sydney. This was followed by a 20 point loss to the All Blacks. The following year, Australia lost to the All Blacks by just one point, and defeated France by the same margin for their last win of the decade. After losing to Ireland and Scotland on tour, Australia hosted Wales who also defeated them.
The following year, Australia hosted Tonga, and after winning the first Test, they lost 11–16 at Ballymore in their second. Australia also had a short tour of the United Kingdom in November where they lost 24–0 to Wales, and 20–3 to England. In 1974, Australia hosted the All Blacks for a three Test series—losing two, but drawing in Brisbane.
In 1975 Australia defeated England in a two Test series at home. Australia then played Japan for the first time; defeating them by 30 points in the first of two matches, and then winning 50 to 25 in the second. They then travelled to the Northern hemisphere for matches against Scotland and Wales where they were not able to score a try in either of their losses. The tour continued into 1976, and Australia lost to England at Twickenham, but were able to defeat the Ireland at Lansdowne Road. On their way home Australia played one more match—in Los Angeles against the United States. Australia won 24–12. In June of that year, Australia hosted Fiji for a three Test series and won all three. Australia finished the year with two Tests against France in France, but lost both of them. There were no Wallaby tests played in 1977.
Wales toured Australia in 1978, and Australia defeated them 18–8 at Ballymore, and then again by two points at the SCG. This was followed by a three match series with the All Blacks. Although New Zealand won the first two, Australia defeated them in the last Test at Eden Park with Greg Cornelsen scoring four tries. The following year Ireland visited Australia and defeated Australia in two Tests. Following this Australia hosted the All Blacks for a single Test at the SCG which Australia won 12–6. Australia then left for Argentina for two Tests. After going down 24–13 in the first, Australia finished the decade by defeating Argentina 17–12 in Buenos Aires.
In 1986 Australia toured New Zealand in a three match series for the Bledisloe Cup. New Zealand rugby was in turmoil as an unofficial team named The Cavaliers that contained the bulk of the All Blacks players toured South Africa. On return those All Blacks who had toured with The Cavaliers were banned from selection for the first Bledisloe Test. Australia went on to win the first match by 13–12. The ban on players was lifted for the second Test which was played on 23 August 1986 at Carisbrook. New Zealand squared the series 1–1 by winning the match 13–12. The match included controversy when Welsh referee Derek Bevan disallowed a try by Australia Steve Tuynman. The final match was played on 6 September 1986 at Eden Park. Australia beat a full strength New Zealand team 22–9 to secure their first series win on New Zealand soil.
Australia went into the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 confident. However, the semi-final against France at Sydney's Concord Oval, was lost 30–26. Australia then lost the third-fourth playoff match against Wales. While Australia's performances over the three years under coach Alan Jones were of a high standard, Jones had a polarising effect on the team with many players unhappy with his management style. Mark Ella, who retired after the 1984 stated he may not have retired had Jones not been coach. Notably, there were deep ructions between coach Alan Jones and influential Nick Farr-Jones. Preceding to and during the 1987 World Cup Alan Jones increased his activities outside coaching the Australia; including radio broadcasting. Players have suggested that Jones was paying too much attention to these pursuits to the detriment of his coaching role. Following the World Cup Jones was removed as coach and Bob Dwyer—who had coached the Australia in 1982 and 1983—returned to coach in 1988.
In 1989 the British and Irish Lions toured Australia for the first time since 1966. After winning the first Test, Australia lost the second and third matches to lose the series 1–2. Bob Dwyer identified a lack of forward dominance as a major contributing factor to the loss and entered the 1990s with an aim to improve this facet of the Wallaby game.
The decade was one of the most important in the creation of the modern game. Australia's defence of the World Cup in South Africa in 1995 opening with defeat to the home side. Pool play was followed by an exit in the quarter-final against England courtesy of a long-range drop-goal from the boot of Rob Andrew. This was Australia's worst ever World Cup result, on a par with Australia's unexpected exit from the 2007 campaign at the quarter-final stage, also against England. The Tri-Nations and Super 12 tournaments were established that year, and started in 1996. This pushed the game into professionalism. In response to rugby's move to professionalism, the Rugby Union Players' Association of Australia (RUPA) was established in October 1995 to safeguard the interests of Australia's professional rugby players.
Greg Smith was national coach in 1996 and 1997 when Australia only won two of their eight Tri-Nations Tests, both over South Africa in Australia, and suffered record-margin Test defeats to the All Blacks and Springboks. Rod Macqueen was appointed as Smith's successor and in 1998 Australia won both their Tests over the All Blacks to gain the Bledisloe Cup. They retained the Bledisloe in 1999 when they defeated the All Blacks by a record 28–7 in Sydney.
In the 1999 World Cup Australia won their pool and conceded only 31 points before facing Wales in their quarter final. They won 24–9 before winning the semi-final 27–21 against defending champions South Africa. The semi-final was won after a memorable drop goal in extra time by Stephen Larkham (his first drop goal attempt in a Test match). The final against France at Millennium Stadium was easily won by 35–12; with the majority of points courtesy of and goalkicker Matt Burke.
In 1999, five Australian players won their second Rugby World Cup: Phil Kearns, John Eales, Tim Horan, Jason Little and Dan Crowley.
After not retaining the Tri-Nations in 2002, and losing the Bledisloe Cup in 2003 Australia made a strong start to their 2003 World Cup campaign with a 24–8 win over Argentina, and two large victories over Namibia and Romania. They then narrowly defeated Ireland 17–16 and defeated Scotland 33–16 in their quarter-final. They claimed one of their greatest victories over New Zealand when they upset them in the semi-final winning 22–10, prompting George Gregan to taunt the New Zealanders with the words "Four more years boys, four more years". They played England in a thrilling final and were finally defeated after England's Jonny Wilkinson kicked a drop goal in extra time.
In 2005 to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the professionalism of rugby union the Wallaby Team of the Decade was announced. John Eales being named captain by a selection panel of 30. Following the 2005 European tour, media outlets such as the Daily Telegraph called for the sacking of both Eddie Jones and George Gregan. Former coach Alan Jones also called for their sacking. The record of eight losses from their last nine Tests resulted in Jones being fired by the Australian Rugby Union.
John Connolly was named as the head-coach of Australia in early 2006. Australia won both of two Tests against England in 2006, as well as a subsequent win over Ireland. Australia lost by 20 points in their opening Tri-Nations fixture against the All Blacks. They then defeated South Africa in Brisbane by 49–0. They won one of their remaining four matches of the tournament. Following defeat to England in the Quarter-Finals of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Connolly announced he was resigning as head-coach.
The Wallabies play in Australia's traditional sporting colours of green and gold. Before there was a national jersey in place, the Wallabies would play in the jersey of the state the game was being held. The Australian Coat of Arms would often replace the state logo on the jersey, a variety of these colours were used in a number of matches in the early 1900s.
In 1928 governing bodies agreed that "the Australian amateur representative colours of green and yellow, should be adopted". The following year the All Blacks came to Australia, and the jersey worn was emerald green with the Australian Coat of Arms; with green socks with bars on the top. The jersey remained the same, with a few variations, mainly throughout the 1930s. In 1961 a gold jersey was used for a South African tour (to prevent a clash with the South African colours), and the gold has remained ever since.
The company's design for Australia's 2007 World cup jersey is more controversial, and features a curved tan-coloured panel across the chest resembling the shape of a bra. This led the Sydney Morning Herald's chief rugby correspondent to publish a satire in his column comparing it to Kramer and Frank Costanza's infamous man bra from Seinfeld.
The nickname "Wallabies" is in reference to the wallaby—a marsupial that is widely distributed throughout Australia. The name has its origins during first United Kingdom and North America tour by the Australian team in 1908. New Zealand had just completed a tour, and the English media dubbed their team the "All Blacks" in reference to their black attire. It was suggested by the media that Australia should too have a nickname. Rabbits was apparently one of the names suggested, though this was turned down as they did not want the national team to represent an imported pest. They opted for the native Wallaby instead. At first it was only touring parties that were nicknamed the Wallabies; when Australia played domestically, they were referred to as internationals.
Australia has appeared at every Rugby World Cup since the first tournament in 1987. Australia are one of the most successful nations at the World Cup, being one of two nations (the other being South Africa in 1995 and 2007) to have won the Webb Ellis Cup more than once, winning it twice; in 1991 and 1999. They have appeared in three Rugby Union World Cup finals, a record jointly held with England. Australia co-hosted the 1987 event with New Zealand. They were grouped with England, the United States and Japan in Pool A. In their first ever World Cup match, Australia defeated England 19-6 at Concord Oval in Sydney. Australia defeated their other pool opponents to finish the top of their group and advance to the quarter finals where they defeated Ireland 33-15. They were knocked out by France in the semi-finals, and then lost the third place match against Wales.
Being finalists of the 1987 tournament, Australia automatically qualified for the 1991 World Cup in Europe. Australia again finished at the top of their pool, defeating Western Samoa, Wales and Argentina during the group stages. They met Ireland yet again in the quarter finals, defeating them by one point to go through to the semi-finals, where they defeated the All Blacks 16-6 to qualify for their first World Cup final. Australia defeated England 12-6 at Twickenham in the 1991 Rugby World Cup Final to become world champions. Australia were again automatically qualified for the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. Australia finished second in their pool, losing one game to hosts South Africa. They were then knocked out in the quarter finals by England.
Australia finished at the top of their group at the 1999 World Cup in Wales, defeating Ireland, Romania and the United States during the group stages. After defeating hosts Wales in the quarter-finals, they defeated defending champions South Africa 27-21 to make it to the final. There they defeated France 35 to 12, in the 1999 Rugby World Cup Final and becoming the first nation to win the World Cup more than once. Australia solely hosted the tournament in 2003, and went undefeated in Pool A, defeating Ireland, Argentina, Romania and Namibia. Australia defeated Scotland in the quarter finals, and then the All Blacks in what was regarded as an upset in the semi-finals, to go to the final. England won the final in extra time with a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal.
Australia again finished first in their group at the 2007 World Cup in France, after recording wins over Japan, Wales, Fiji and Canada. They were at the time the 2nd ranked team in the World, and the only team to have beaten the favourites New Zealand that year. However, they only progressed to the quarter finals, thus equalling their worst finish at the World Cup finals. They were eliminated once again by England 12-10, largely thanks again to Jonny Wilkinson's successful attempts at penalties. The loss was widely regarded as an upset, especially as England had only finished 2nd in their pool and were ranked 7th. Nevertheless, England went on to beat another favourite, France, and advanced to the final where they were defeated by South Africa.
Australia contests a number of other trophies outside the Tri-Nations, Bledisloe Cup and World Cup. Since 1997 the winner of England-Australia encounters have been awarded the Cook Cup, and since 1999 the winner of Ireland-Australia Tests have won the Lansdowne Cup, with France since 1989, the Trophée des Bicentenaires is contested, and against Wales since 2007, the James Bevan Trophy is contested, and with Scotland since 1998, the Hopetoun Cup is awarded.
Their Test match record against all nations, updated to 8 October 2007, is as follows:
|Nation||Games||Won||Lost||Drawn||Percentage of wins|
|Position||Super 14 team|
|Nathan Sharpe||Western Force|
|Richard Brown||Western Force|
|David Pocock||Western Force|
|Matt Giteau||, ,||Western Force|
|James O'Connor||Western Force|
|Ryan Cross||Western Force|
|Stirling Mortlock (c)||Brumbies|
|Drew Mitchell||,||Western Force|
|Adam Ashley-Cooper||, ,||Brumbies|
Seven former Australian players have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame; David Campese, Ken Catchpole, John Eales, Mark Ella, Nick Farr-Jones, Tim Horan and Michael Lynagh. Eales has also been inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame, having received this honour in 2007.
The longest winning streak by Australia was produced in the early 1990s, and started at the 1991 World Cup in England, with three pool wins, and subsequent quarter-final and semi-final victories over Ireland and the All Blacks respectively. This was followed by the win over England in the final. The streak continued into the following year, for two matches against Scotland and the All Blacks, lasting in total, 10 games. Similarly, the Australian record for the losses in a row is also 10 games, which was sustained from a period from 1899 to 1907, including two British Isles tours, and losses to the All Blacks.
The largest winning margin for Australia was produced at the 2003 World Cup, in which they defeated Namibia 142 points to nil during the pool stages, the match is also the largest number of points scored by Australia. The largest loss, as well as the largest number of points scored against Australia, was by the then world champions South Africa, whom defeated Australia 61 points to 22 in 1997.
The Wallabies play at a variety of stadiums around Australia. Some of these include Subiaco Oval in Perth, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, ANZ Stadium in Sydney, and the MCG and Telstra Dome in Melbourne.
A variety of venues were used around Australia for the 2003 Rugby World Cup matches.
Some of the earlier stadiums that were traditionally used for Wallabies matches, included Sydney's Concord Oval and the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and Sports Ground, as well as Ballymore and the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane. It was the SCG that hosted the first ever Australian international, against Great Britain, in 1899.