With the 125th anniversary British & Irish Lions tour now less than two years away the size of the task ahead of team manager Andy Irvine’s squad in Australia is starting to become clear.
A record breaking provincial rugby crowd of 52,113 – the biggest since 1907 – roared on the Queensland Reds to a 18-13 Super 15 final triumph over the mighty Crusaders in Brisbane to prove the Wallabies youngsters are maturing into world class competitors.
Even though the Reds were playing at their own Suncorp Stadium it was Richie McCaw’s Crusaders who arrived as favourites to take the title back to New Zealand after a period of South African dominance.
But not even the magic of Dan Carter, who scored all 13 points for the Crusaders, could quell the spirit and tenacity of the Reds. James Horwill’s pack put in a super-charged second half performance to give Test half-back Will Genia and Quade Cooper the chance to display their awesome talents.
Where Carter led in the first half with his solo try, Genia came up trumps in the second half with a sensational 65 metre run to turn the game on its head. After that score the Reds grew in confidence and turned their dreams into a stunning reality.
Now Wallaby coach Robbie Deans is hoping his international side can build on the Reds’ success this summer as they head into the Tri Nations before seeking a third World Cup triumph in New Zealand in September and October.
Deans was obviously impressed with what he saw in Brisbane because he has chosen 15 Reds players in his squad of 40 for the international against Samoa next weekend and the Tri Nations tournament thereafter.
"We haven't had a lot of success at Super Rugby level and the Reds have done that. We've talked about momentum and the importance of it and now we want to take the next step and start winning consistently," said Deans, who recalled Reds No 8 Radike Samo after a seven year absence from the Test arena.
"It was a great effort and we hope to run off that. There's a big overlap of people, inevitably there will be some carry-over."
Reds hero Genia was equally positive after scoring the vital try to take the Super Rugby title back to Australia for the first time since the Brumbies triumphed in 2004.
"It's just all about self-belief. Once you cross that line, cross that barrier, when you do believe you can win – anything is then possible,” said Genia.
"Look at the Reds – who would have thought two years ago we would have won that title, or even last year, or even the start of the year. If we can take that belief in there to the core Test group it will go a long way towards hoping to be successful."
Genia and Cooper look set to be the starting half-backs for the Wallabies at the World Cup and will be joined in the back line by two more exciting youngsters in Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor. They will be the players Deans hopes can light the touch-paper to another good World Cup campaign – and then carry their form forward to the Lions tour in 2013.
Forwards: Ben Alexander, Ben Daley, Dave Dennis, Rocky Elsom (captain), Saia Faingaa, James Hanson, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, James Horwill, Sekope Kepu, Salesi Maafu, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota Nau, Beau Robinson, Benn Robinson, Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Dan Vickerman.
Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Rod Davies, Anthony Faingaa, Will Genia, Mark Gerrard, Matt Giteau, Digby Ioane, Pat McCabe, Luke Morahan, James O'Connor, Nick Phipps, Lachie Turner