Australian rugby is riding high on the Waratahs' Super Rugby triumph but Test playmaker Matt Toomua has warned the Wallabies have "a lot of ground to make up" against New Zealand before the first Bledisloe Cup match in less than a fortnight.
As Ewen McKenzie and his test squad, minus 11 Waratahs, embarked on their "Bush to Bledisloe" tour of Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst, Toomua said the watershed win for NSW had generated palpable excitement within the Wallabies.
The Brumbies five-eighth, who is the incumbent test No.12 and was named again as a centre option for the Rugby Championship, said the success of the Waratahs, Brumbies and Force this season could only help the Wallabies prepare to meet the sport's top-ranked team, but would not be all that was required.
"It only helps having teams do well in Super Rugby," he said.
"Internationally, it's been a while since we've beaten the All Blacks. We want the Bledisloe and the championship as well, so we've got a lot to prove in that space.
"You can get excited about having the Waratahs winning it and us making the semis, but there's still a lot of ground to make up."
The Wallabies already have injury concerns in the front row.
Prop Scott Sio rolled his ankle during the squad's first training session and has been replaced in the squad by Laurie Weeks while hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (knee) has been ruled out of at least the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney on August 16.
Polota-Nau, who was injured during the 33-32 win over the Crusaders, has been replaced by his Tongan-born uncapped understudy at the Waratahs, Tolu Latu.
Toomua, who says he is "more Country Road than country", established himself as McKenzie's top pick at inside-centre on last year's European tour and cemented that spot against France in June.
Waratahs No.12 Kurtley Beale has roared back to life this season and was used off the bench at centre in the June series with France.
But McKenzie again named him as a five-eighth option with Bernard Foley in his Rugby Championship squad, and Toomua's superb form at the back end of the Super Rugby season, including a treble in a sudden-death clash with the Force last month, will make the 24-year-old impossible to shift.
He looks certain to team up again with incumbent No.10 Foley in the Wallabies' bid to claim their first victory in three years against the All Blacks and revenge on a Springboks side that badly outclassed them last year.
"We've got to win big games," Toomua said.
"We failed to beat the All Blacks last year and South Africa as well, and England. They're the three pinnacle teams, so you've got to have good performances against those teams. There's no better way than two All Blacks tests. There's no use talking about how positive it is. We've got to do it on the park."
New Zealand-born Brumbies winger Joe Tomane has never played a test against the country of his birth, but after scoring three tries for the Wallabies last year is a welcome addition to the squad after the departure of Nick Cummins.
"I don't really know what it's like to be on the wrong side of the scoreboard against them, but it is painful for Australia, we're such a proud country and we want nothing but success," Tomane said.
"We can draw from all the pain that the community has felt over the last 11 or 12 years and we can use that as motivation to hopefully get one over them."
As for aura, Toomua said it was important the team respected their opponents, who will be playing for test rugby's all-time greatest winning streak for a tier-one nation. They sit at 17 in a row alongside their forebears from the 1960s and the Springboks under Nick Mallett.
"It's an impressive statistic, how long they've actually been winning, but other than that, I think you kind of respect them but you don't fear them," he said.
"The best thing for us is we get to play them a lot. It reinforces they are very good players and they have depth. It's very impressive but you can't read too much into it."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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