|Giteau prepares to feel the wrath of the Rugby Union public in Australia [GALLO/GETTY]|
Australia’s first defeat to Scotland in 27 years has been met with a storm of criticism back home – with some commentators predicting the “death of Rugby Union” Down Under.
What the headlines would have been had Matt Giteau’s stoppage-time conversion attempt been on target is now a moot point.
But the fly half’s erring boot exposed a performance clearly deemed unacceptable by writers and former players as they queued up to stick their own boot in after Saturday’s 9-8 defeat at Murrayfield.
The head of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has promised a full review of the team’s dismal results this season.
But the critics are already demanding that heads roll, savaging the team’s display and calling for player salary cuts.
“The Wallabies are not just the laughing stock of Australian sport. They are also the laughing stock of the international rugby world after suffering their worst loss in decades,” the Sydney Morning Herald wrote.
“This Wallabies side will be the death of Australian rugby followers, if not the death of Australian rugby”
The Australian newspaper
“This defeat was not as bad as being beaten by Tonga in 1973 but it’s not far off.”
The Australian newspaper wrote that the team’s poor performances were threatening the very support of the game in a country where four football codes – League, Union, Aussie Rules and soccer – are all fighting for fans and sponsorship.
“This Wallabies side will be the death of Australian rugby followers, if not the death of Australian rugby,” The Australian wrote.
“They are becoming the anti-All Blacks of world rugby, the Wallabies.
“Where the New Zealanders nearly always find a way to win, the Australians nearly always find a way to lose. Hats off to them. That’s a rare and perverse skill.”
Comparisons with the All Blacks should perhaps be tempered by the fact that the much-vaunted New Zealanders have not won a Rugby World Cup since the inaugural edition in 1987. Australia have won twice.
ARU Chief Executive John O’Neill said he was “devastated” by the loss to Scotland and promised a full review of the team’s performances.
O’Neill said everyone would be held accountable but coach Robbie Deans, who has managed just 14 wins from 27 Tests since taking charge last season, was not at risk of losing his job.
“We have every confidence in Robbie Deans being the right coach for us,” O’Neill said.
“The results are clearly disappointing and not acceptable.
“We have two more games to go on the tour and rest assured we will be reviewing every aspect of this tour.”
Bob Dwyer, who coached the Australia team that won the World Cup in 1991, said the Wallabies were struggling because they did not have two world-class second rows, or locks, and had lost their way in attack.
“I think one of our giant problems is we don’t have a second row of top international class,” Dwyer told the Australian Associated Press.
“No team can win at the top level without good locks. If you look at the great sides, they’ve all had great locks.
“We haven’t got any and apart from that the second thing is our attack has gone to pieces, it’s poor in the extreme.”
The Sydney Morning Herald even suggested the players should be docked of their match fees if they continued losing.
“It begs the question of whether the Australian Rugby Union, which has an annual player salary bill of A$27million ($24.7million) is getting value for money? Hardly,” the paper wrote.
“Their skill level is uninspiring. They cannot back up. They have a losing mentality. They are lazy. And deep down they know they can get away with unacceptable performances, because player depth is so poor.”