Wallabies halfback Will Genia has vowed to use the Rugby World Cup to win back the respect of the Australian public, after admitting the team felt underprepared for their failed 2011 campaign.
The Wallabies were knocked out by eventual champions New Zealand in the 2011 semi-finals and Genia insists the exit still sits uneasily with him – as does the criticism directed at the team upon their return to Australia.
Genia felt the Wallabies went into 2011 an underprepared unit under Robbie Deans, so he’s imploring his young teammates to cherish every moment at this World Cup.
“If I look back to 2011, we didn’t have a really specific plan about how we wanted to go about things in that World Cup – as far as preparation and just little things to focus on,” admits Genia, who will start at halfback in the Wallabies’ Cup-opener against Fiji in Cardiff on Wednesday.
“Whereas preparation this time around … we’ve left no stone unturned.
“The detail, everything is there, everything’s been done. The groundwork has been done.
“Everyone has worked hard – beyond hard – to make sure we’re ready physically and mentally. That’s one of the big differences.”
Genia has sat down with the likes of 23-year-old prop Scott Sio, one of seven World Cup debutants lining up against Fiji, to explain the importance of the event.
“When I look back, you kind of just went through the tournament as another series of games,” Genia said of the 2011 campaign.
“Which is a good thing, but also a bad thing, because you don’t grasp the moment.
“You don’t want to overthink things and try to do too much, but at the same time you want to make the most of it.
“It’s not just another game, because you don’t know if you’ll be here four years later.”
Australia enter the World Cup as the No.2-ranked nation in the world behind New Zealand, but a stigma remains about their perceived fragilities: the scrum, goal-kicking and their ability to win the biggest games.
Genia understands the only way to alter those perceptions is by delivering on the field.
But he says it hurts to hear the Australian public taking pot shots at the Wallabies – and he’s making it his mission to ensure they have no reason to “kick us while we’re down” anymore.
“You’re always playing against the best teams in the world – South Africa, New Zealand – and when you don’t do well everyone is ready to jump on the bandwagon to bag you,” he said.
“This is a really good opportunity for us, on the biggest stage of them all, to play well, to make the country proud and bring back those fans who have drifted away from the game.
“It will go a long way to gaining some respect back.”
Genia doesn’t really care what people say about him, but is hurt when they criticise the team “about things that have happened in the past”.
“They don’t back us. They don’t believe in us. That hurts.
“That’s something that is driving me personally to want to do well, to gain that respect and credibility back.”