Veteran winger Drew Mitchell has claimed his own slice of history – first surpassing David Campese and then Chris Latham to become Australia’s most prolific Rugby World Cup tryscorer.
The 31-year-old now has All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu in his sights after capping a remarkable international comeback with a five-minute second-half double in Sunday’s 65-3 thrashing of Uruguay.
Mitchell’s 11th and 12 World Cup tries at Villa Park took him past Campese, equalled and then eclipsed Latham’s tally of 11 from the showpiece tournament.
And now, just two games into his third World Cup campaign, it leaves Mitchell with a shot at greatness should he cross four more times to break the 15-try mark set by Lomu.
It’s a record at least four years in the making for Mitchell, who was destined to break the Wallabies’ mark during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand before injury struck in the cruellest fashion.
Mitchell was racing away to score his third of the afternoon in Australia’s rout of Russia – a try which would’ve taken his World Cup tally to 11, and elevate him above the brilliant Campese’s all-time tally – when his hamstring was ripped from the bone.
It looked as though that would be his last World Cup involvement until the ARU relaxed its eligibility rules mid-year, allowing overseas-based players like Mitchell with 60 or more Test caps to be picked.
And suddenly the door was open for Mitchell once more.
He would’ve been forgiven for thinking that 11th try was simply not meant to be when he grassed an early chance against Uruguay.
Backing up a scything run by fullback Kurtley Beale, Mitchell had the tryline at his mercy, only for the pass to bounce up off his shoulder.
He needn’t have worried.
Seven minutes after the halftime break, Mitchell bounced off defenders to crash over to equal Latham.
Five minutes later the record was his alone, when he accepted a pinpoint cut-out pass from Quade Cooper.
Whether Mitchell’s two-try effort will be enough to force his way into the starting line-up for Australia’s remaining pool matches against England and Wales, giving him chances to chase down Lomu (15), remains to be seen.
“There are a few players that definitely put their hands up for selection, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Michael Cheika said.
Fellow All Black Doug Howlett, with 13 five-pointers, is the only other player above Mitchell on the all-time World Cup tryscoring leaderboard.