Christchurch: Israel Folau has described the Wallabies’ Bledisloe Cup capitulation on Saturday as “quite shocking” and put his hand up for a number of bad defensive reads, despite being one of Australia’s best in attack.
In one of the most extraordinary halves of rugby seen on Australian shores, the Wallabies had few answers in defence to a rampaging All Blacks attacking outfit, who took a 40-6 lead into half-time.
Despite notching four unanswered tries in the last half-hour of play, the damage was irreparable for the Wallabies, who now have less than a week to turn things around before another showdown with world rugby’s premier side.
“It was quite shocking,” Folau told Fairfax Media. “It was frustrating to see the scoreline like that in the first half.
“Despite the scoreline going into half-time, I still felt like there was not much difference. It was really close, which is quite funny. The second half was a lot better. I thought we started off the game really well and had a few collapses defensively. We’ve had a review of the game and we’ll look to work on those things yesterday, today and through the rest of the week.”
Folau was caught out of position during the All Blacks’ second try, giving 20-year-old Rieko Ioane too much space on New Zealand’s left edge before he ran around and scored.
The Wallabies fullback has accepted responsibility for the miss but, to his credit, he scored a five-pointer himself in the 69th minute and set up a Tevita Kuridrani try with a clever offload while on the ground.
“Myself, I’ll put my hand up for a couple of mistakes and errors defensively,” Folau said. “[There were] a couple of poor reads and simple one-on-one tackles. We’ve identified that as a team and we’ll work as a team and try and fix that.
“There’s areas across the whole line we know we need to work on as quick as we can going into the game.”
Arguably the most recognisable and adored man in Australian rugby at the moment, Folau has implored fans to stick by the team through one of their toughest periods in recent memory.
“The effort throughout the training week and going out there on the paddock, it’s always there,” Folau said. “The result doesn’t show that, but for us players it’s hurting us as well.
“We just hope they [supporters] can stick around and continue to support us. It’s a big thing as a team to get that support from the public and fans and to keep pushing us through, especially for this challenging time.”
There is significant pressure on the Wallabies to give a better account of themselves in Dunedin on Saturday.
At the same time, the All Blacks are bitterly disappointed they conceded four tries in the second half, in a series of uncharacteristic concentration lapses.
No doubt the men in black will be seeking an 80-minute performance, but Folau has stressed the Wallabies need not be too tense heading into a game in which they are trying to save the Bledisloe Cup.
“We’ve got to start well but not take on that kind of pressure that is unnecessary,” Folau said. “If we can go out there relaxed and ready to play and knowing our roles, it’ll make our jobs easier. We’ll learn from that and continue to work on our game.
“Our mentality going out from the start of the game has to be the same.”
Folau said he relished the chance to again start alongside Wallabies No.12 Kurtley Beale, who after a slow introduction found his feet in the second half.
“I enjoyed playing with Kurtley and it’s great to see him back out there in the gold jersey,” Folau said. “I’ve been playing with him for a couple of years now and I feel really comfortable knowing the way he plays and what his role is for the team.
“We try and find opportunities in the game and just feed off each other. It’s something we try and work on during the week, so we’ll continue to do that.”