When Cooper Vuna was asked yesterday who it was that gave him the good news he had made the Wallabies squad, he wasn’t sure. “Err… I’m not sure who it was on the phone. I think his name was Bob.”
The former Newcastle Knight is likely to make his Test debut on Tuesday against Six Nations strugglers Scotland, and he doesn’t yet know the names of the playing group, let alone the staff.
It’s the same with fellow league convert Joe Tomane. I asked the 22-year-old if he knew everyone’s names yet.
“Nah, I just call them all bro. Or maybe cuz.”
With 15 uncapped players, Robbie Deans has a group of men with comparatively little experience, but enthusiasm seeping through their pores. For many of them, Scotland may as well be New Zealand, and Hunter Stadium looms as large as any ground in world rugby.
It’s a squad with a lot to learn, and a wide expanse of blue sky on the horizon.
What we will most likely see on Tuesday night in the Steel City is a group getting to know each other, and providing flashes of individual brilliance while failing to produce a solid team effort.
The side won’t be the first string Wallabies outfit, with the three-Test series against Wales a much tougher prospect, and a four-day turnaround before the opener in Brisbane.
Many will arrive in Newcastle having played a Super Rugby match over the weekend. For the Brumbies and the Rebels, it will be against each other. When I asked Tomane about his anticipation of a Test cap, he said he was simply looking for a win over the Rebels, and he meant it.
With the competition as finely balanced as it is, a local derby means enough to put the idea of a green and gold jumper momentarily in the shadows, and with just a few days in between, there will be precious little time to prepare mentally.
The ‘camp’ in Sydney began on Tuesday night and is already over, the players with Super commitments returning to their respective home bases.
Before yesterday’s rushed media session, a frantic few hours were spent on the paddock learning the moves, memorising the lineout calls, and trying to develop some form of cohesion while calling out, ‘Cuz, I’m open’.
It’s no kind of preparation for a national side, particularly one with such little experience.
Despite that, the win will probably come, but it won’t be as emphatic as we hope, or as ruthless as we expect. The inevitable criticism will follow, but withhold your judgment until after the final Test against Wales on June 23.
Perhaps with four Tests under their belt, this side will give us hope as well as moments of stunning rugby.