A “conservative” Matt Toomua is embracing his role as one of the Wallabies finishers, but he could end up being one of the starters this weekend.
Inside back Toomua added spark off the bench against the All Blacks last weekend and could be pushing incumbent five-eighth Bernard Foley or even inside centre Matt Giteau for a run-on spot in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup decider in Auckland.
He helped straighten the Wallabies backline with some direct running and set up a try to winger Adam Ashley-Cooper with a perfectly weighted kick.
“I never thought I’d be someone who comes on and tries to change a game,” said Toomua, who has come off the bench in two of Australia’s three Tests this year.
“I’m not used to coming on and bringing a bit of spark because usually I always consider myself the conservative-type player.
“Without having to stretch myself, I wouldn’t have learnt that.
“It’s about continuous improvement. (In) my comfort zone it’s easy to sit back in the pocket and shift, which I probably did earlier in my career, but I’m trying to grow.”
The “finishers” – as coach Michael Cheika has referred to his bench – have played a vital part in Australia dominating down the stretch of all their Tests this season.
The Wallabies scored 14 unanswered points in the last nine minutes to come from behind and beat South Africa, 15 straight points in the final 11 minutes versus Argentina and substitute halfback Nic White notched ten late points in five minutes to bring down the All Blacks.
“The teams that finish fast are usually the teams that win the game,” Toomua said.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to do that in the last three games where we’ve actually put points on teams in the last 20 minutes, which is something we haven’t seen in a while.
“We understand that whilst at the start of the week there might be some initial disappointment because you’re not starting – and everyone wants to start – you know you do have a role to play (off the bench).
“‘Cheik’ and the guys have been quite forthright in expressing how important that role is.”
Toomua said Australia were looking for “little improvements everywhere” in their quest for back-to-back wins over New Zealand.
Renowned defender Toomua expressed admiration for Giteau’s ability to put his body on the line despite joking about the veteran’s “weary legs” and being “very very old.”
“He takes some hits for such a small bloke,” Toomua said.
“I know how sore I am and I’ve probably got ten kilos on him and I only played half the amount of time so I can’t imagine how he’s feeling.”