Gregan: Wallabies must grow from adversity
Cornell Vander Heyden
October 12, 2014
Australia's George Gregan receives his IRB Hall of Fame cap, IRB Awards and Hall of Fame Induction, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, November 18, 2013
George Gregan receives his IRB Hall of Fame cap in 2013 © Getty Images

Australia great George Gregan believes the Wallabies need to come through the current tough times together and improve their consistency in order to become serious Rugby World Cup contenders in 2015.

Gregan, who hold the record for most appearances for Australia (139), concedes the Rugby Championship campaign was "disappointing" but told ESPNscrum personnel changes are not necessarily the answer as the experience of coming through adversity is a vital ingredient in success.

"The team needs to get some shared experience together, and some shared winning experience together against some of the top countries in the world," Gregan said. "I think history shows - particularly at the World Cup- that experience counts and you need players that have been there and done it and experienced the highs and lows of that competition.

"They need to know how to deal with tough situations and the World Cup's not easy. You need to have that experience. When you come through the tough times and really look at each other with that shared experience and find that resolve that comes from tough times and play with the level of consistency you know you can deliver, that's what they need to do. That's the challenge that lies ahead."

The 41-year-old former scrum-half, who was inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2013, is pleased with how Bernard Foley has developed at fly-half but believes the Wallabies could benefit from Will Genia's nous at scrum-half now he is back in the squad after injury.

HSBC ambassador George Gregan
George Gregan © Getty Images

"I think Bernard Foley has been really good throughout the year," he said. "Test rugby presents a whole range of challenges that are not necessarily that related to Super Rugby but I like the way that he plays. Nic Phipps and Nick White have been quite solid at times in this series but I've always been a big fan of Will Genia and I think there's a good chance he'll get an opportunity against New Zealand in the third Test match. With Quade Cooper and others I think we've got plenty of depth at No. 10."

As for Australia's much-maligned forward pack, Gregan says any assessment of their performance needs to be put in the context of the large amount of injuries they have suffered in the past year.

"The Australian forward pack always gets a hard time I think. When Australian teams do well and score points and have good victories it's always based on the back of good attacking ... your Israel Folaus, Kurtley Beals and Bernard Foleys will get all the kudos but it's often on the back of some really solid play up front. There's definitely a consistency with the set-piece that needs to be addressed but we're vastly improved on where we were at the end of the Lions series in 2013.

"There have been some serious injuries to guys in the tight forwards - Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau - they're real leaders and are really critical to the side. There are players out so I wouldn't say this is the best possible pack we can field but I don't think we've been totally out-muscled or out-scrummed in this series. But I think all in all, considering all the changes, they've been tested and they've come through pretty well."

Gregan, who admits he is busier now than during his playing days with a host of business ventures as well as media and coaching commitments, says critics of the National Rugby Championship need to give the tournament time to show its worth to Australian ruby.

"It's a new concept so you're not going to fill the stadiums with it, but it's a level of competition that separates South African, New Zealand and you could argue some of the Northern Hemisphere countries from Australian rugby. The jump from club rugby to Super Rugby is huge, the jump from Super Rugby to Test rugby is huge, so you do need that fill-in competition to create the pathway for younger players. I think it's been a really positive step from Australian rugby and I think in five or 10 years people will understand how good it is for Australian rugby

On the subject of recent changes the ARU has made to the eligibility conditions for Wallabies selection, Gregan believes the governing body has the balance just about right.

"There's a real fight to get the best talent across a number of sports in Australia compared to other countries so if we can retain the majority of our players, that's great. If they go abroad and are still playing at an incredibly high level - a good example is Matt Giteau - then why shouldn't they be eligible. Why shouldn't someone who plays long-term have the ability to play overseas but still come back and play for his country? From a rugby finance perspective, there a level Australian rugby can't match so everyone is a bit of a winner in that regard. I think it's a smart bit of future-proofing made by Australian rugby."

George Gregan spoke to ESPN courtesy of HSBC, for whom he is a rugby ambassador. HSBC, the world's leading international bank, is proud to partner with the Wallabies. HSBC shares the ARU's ambitions to grow and constantly strive for success. Follow HSBC Rugby on Twitter at @HSBC_Rugby

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