A new dawn beckons for the Wallabies and lock Rob Simmons believes a strong first-up performance against South Africa would be the first step in convincing critics that Australia can be a credible force on the world stage once more.
Saturday night’s Rugby Championship Test looms as the grand unveiling for should be a new-look side under coach Michael Cheika, who will steer Australia for the first time on home soil.
Simmons doesn’t accept that the Wallabies have fallen “off the radar” as an international force and despite their struggles in recent years, deserve to be seen as genuine World Cup contenders.
“It’s very important for us as a team to start building our own identity and putting our best foot forward from the start, and show the rest of Australia and the world how we want to play this game,” Simmons said.
“Something we’ve worked on for 12 months now is to find out exactly what we want to be.
“There’s no ifs or buts we have this identity, anyone can come into this group and they’ll know what we’re about and what they have to do to fit in.
“We started that during the spring tour. This weekend is all about us trying to put that out to the public.”
The public may take some convincing – the previously impeachable Wallabies brand took a hit last year after some shameful off-field controversies and rugby is somewhat on the nose in Queensland, as a consequence of the Reds woeful Super Rugby campaign.
Told that the take-up of tickets for the Suncorp Stadium Test has been slow, Simmons said: “If we get a good performance in at the weekend, the ticket sales will change.”
Simmons is in contention to start against the Springboks and take on the lineout-calling duties for the Wallabies, but there is stiff challenge for a spot with the likes of Dave Dennis, Dean Mumm and the giant Will Skelton in the squad.
Simmons said he feels even fitter now than during the Super Rugby season, after spending the last few weeks in camp while the Waratahs and Brumbies played finals.
“We’ve had three weeks of just getting smashed now and we’re ready to play,” he said.
“We’ve done a fair bit of work and we feel as though we’re a lot fitter even though it’s essentially halfway through the year.
“Everyone’s feeling in good shape and ready to get out there to play another game now.”