Wallaby coach Robbie Deans believes his players grew mentally stronger during their 3-0 test series win over Wales this summer.
The RBS 6 Nations champions pushed the Australians to the limit in all three games, but the gritty home approach came out on top in each game of a tense series.
That pleased Deans and his coaching team and they will be looking to build on that success when they had into the inaugural Rugby Championship with a home clash with the World Cup holders New Zealand next weekend.
“The greatest piece of growth out of the series against Wales was not that we were running at the end, but the fact that we were still thinking and running at the end,” said Deans.
“That was the point of difference, ultimately. It wasn't just pure enthusiasm, it was well-directed enthusiasm.
“So the blokes we relied on to make decisions at that end of the game, when they are under the pump, are getting better. Part of that is physical, but part of it is mental.”
The Wallabies will enter the expanded tournament as the reigning champions of the former Tri-Nations competition, but with only one of the five Aussie Super Rugby franchises reaching the knock-out stages
“The competition is not getting any softer. The standard of athleticism, and even team work, just keeps going up,” admitted Deans
“One thing is very clear – this Rugby Championship will be the best yet. You've got three sides who have traditionally been going at each other very hard and then you add Argentina, who have always been physical.
“You only have to look at last year and how tight that competition was. We were ultimately able to prevail, but there were many remarkable games of rugby and this year will be no different.
“The All Blacks have essentially been No.1 for close to a decade, in spite of a few aberrations. And the fact we were able to pick up the Tri Nations trophy last year would have irked them.”