It was only three weeks ago the Wallabies were being walloped by the All Blacks and they can’t afford to get cocky after so back-to-back wins.
The expectation that comes with two wins over the world champions is real for the Wallabies.
But while players phones were “blowing up” after last weekend’s second straight win over South Africa, Australian captain Michael Hooper knows that other, more ugly, recent past couldn’t be forgotten.
Three straight losses to the All Blacks preceded the massive victories over the Springboks, wins which came from a back-to-the future type move, throwing veteran playmaker Quade Cooper into the mix.
This week in Townsville, one-time wunderkind turned Wallabies exile James O’Connor will come off the bench in the clash with winless Argentina, playing with Cooper again 13 years after both made their international debuts in 2008.
But while the team list has one foot in the past, the focus has been only on preparing for the future, and that means building on the wins over the Springboks, and not reverting to the lacklustre efforts against the Kiwis.
“Most of the guys phones were blowing up (after that South Africa win), but that wasn’t the case two weeks ago and we can’t forget that,” Hooper said on Friday.
“We have high expectations of what we want to do and where we think we can get to and that that’s the most important things focus. We’ve had two decent games … we don’t want to go back.
“Certainly confidence is higher and belief within our game plan is greater as. That has been the focus this week; off two losses you are looking to find that solution and then it’s about how you can grow that, nutting down the stuff that has worked.”
Hooper declared he had no intention of having a rest anytime soon, despite playing every minute of the past five tests against the All Blacks then South Africa.
“I’m feeling good. You don’t want to miss a Test, particularly in your backyard,” he said.
With Marika Koroibete, Hooper has arguably been the Wallabies best player through all those games, with Cooper stepping up to the plate as a matchwinner in his return two weeks ago.
The Wallabies captain lauded the impact of not only 33-year-old Cooper, but O’Connor too, on an emerging playing group looking to latch on to their experience, and expertise.
“They’ve brought so much to the group for quite a short time that he’s been in and Rabs (James O’Connor) certainly before his injury, but since he’s come back from his injuries certainly adding a lot of direction around the backs” Hooper said.
“Quade obviously, there’s a fair bit talked about what he’s doing on the field, but off the field for some of our young fly-halls and the way we control and move a game around he’s been fantastic.
“The other thing is our coaching staff that are willing to introduce these guys back into the environment, give them a shot, it‘s just that sport’s so great that it can do that and they’ve grabbed it.”
Hooper said it was Cooper’s “time in the saddle”, that is playing a key position through now 71 tests, which made him so valuable.
“Quade‘s certainly been great in terms of his leadership around the on-field control of the game. I think what’s been noticeable there is you know it’s time in the saddle,” he said.
“So often I think a 10 (five-eighth) all these guys have skill, but just it‘s a time thing.
“He‘s watched a lot of tape – you can imagine the hours of tape he’s watched compared to you know a second or third-year 10 – so time in the saddle is huge and experience in that role.”