Thursday marks one year till the start of the 2019 Rugby World Cup but former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock is urging Australian fans not to panic.
Even if they have every right to.
"They've still got time," Mortlock told AAP when asked if under-fire coach Michael Cheika had the capacity to arrest the Wallabies' alarming decline from 2015 finalists to an all-time low ranking of seventh in the world following Saturday's sobering loss to Argentina.
"You've only got to look at the last World Cup. 'Cheik' only had the team for less than 12 months.
"So it can be done.
"It's more a case of what's happening now and the systemic issues that are creating the poor results of late.
"That's probably more the question: What specifically do they need to do better to consistently turns these defeats around?
"A lot of them are quite narrow, barring the ones against New Zealand."
The concern for Mortlock is the Wallabies' troubles are widespread, though not necessarily deep rooted - and certainly not irreversible.
Australia's 2007 World Cup captain nominated the Wallabies' inconsistent defensive displays, ill-discipline, "robotic" attack and long-running lineout woes as the four chief issues holding Cheika's side back.
"It can be turned around and, once things start falling in place, it can happen quite quickly," Mortlock said.
"However, there's four things I've highlighted that need to be consistently done at a high level when it matters the most. That's Test-match footy.
"But questions need to be asked a little bit about these facets of our game because they've been off - and they're considerably off."
Just how off is evident in the Wallabies' dreadful record against the top-tier nations since he took the helm in October, 2014.
Since then, Australia are two from 11 against the top-ranked All Blacks, one from five against world No.2 Ireland and one from seven against Eddie Jones' England, who the Wallabies haven't beaten since the 2015 World Cup.
The Wallabies have also lost their past two encounters with Scotland and beaten South Africa only once in their past four starts before slumping to their first defeat to Argentina on home soil in 35 years.
All up, the Wallabies have an unflattering 50 per cent winning strike rate under Cheika - 26 wins from 52 Tests.
The good news is they are a combined seven from seven against their 2019 World Cup Pool D rivals Wales (4-0), Fiji (2-0), Uruguay (1-0) and Georgia since his appointment.
Only a complete disaster would stop the two-time champions and four-time World Cup finalists from safely progressing to the knockout stages in Japan.
Even a loss and finishing second in their pool wouldn't be the end of the world given Australia's quarter-final opponents will be tough regardless, coming from Pool C's group of death containing England, Argentina, France, Tonga and the USA.
In any case, Mortlock maintains Cheika is the man to lead the Wallabies to the global showpiece despite calls for his head growing louder.
"Cheika's a fantastic championship coach," Mortlock said.
"He's really good at getting everybody aligned and armed and ready to go in to battle for something unique and obviously now that's the World Cup in the next 12 months.
"That's going to be his sole focus and I'd argue he's in his element when he's got something really specific to focus on.
"If I go back to prior to him getting the last World Cup coaching gig, when he took the Waratahs to the (Super Rugby) championship in 2014, there were a lot of things that he did that were effective.
"He has an ability to galvanise the team to go hard towards an end goal.
"So he went very well in 2015 with limited preparation so I very much think he's still the right man to steer us through a campaign."
Tasman have outlasted a spirited Manawatū to earn a 29-19 Mitre 10 Cup win in Palmerston North tonight.
The Mako were made to work all night by the Turbos but got off to a flying start thanks to a superb solo run by Jamie Spowart.
Spowart was the first receiver off a Mako scrum inside their own half and after a simple step back to his right, burst through a hole in the Manawatū defence.
The Tasman winger ended up running 60m untouched to score and give Tasman an early lead they would never surrender in the rest of the match.
That wasn't to say the Premiership side weren't tested by the struggling Championship outfit as Manawatū pressure Tasman's forwards all night.
As a result, the Mako's scrums and lineouts began to become a serious issue in the game as they gave up multiple knock-ons and penalties which the Turbos converted on twice.
Despite a try on halftime to cut the deficit to 14-12, the Turbos were ultimately undone early in the second half when they gave up two tries in the space of eight minutes.
A late score from Michael Tagicakibau wasn't enough to rein in the visitors either.
With the win, Tasman remain second on the table behind Auckland in the Premiership while Manawatū continue to remain trapped in second-to-last in the Championship with just one win in six games so far this year.
Jamie Spowart took the ball off a scrum, spied a hole and never looked back.
Relive 1 NEWS NOW's live updates of tonight's Mitre 10 Cup match between Manawatū and Tasman at Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North.
FT: MAN 19-29 TAS
That does it for a scrappy ol' game in Palmy. A much better performance from Manawatū than in recent weeks but still not enough to get them a win. Tasman will have plenty they want to work on this week - especially the forwards at set piece after a horrid night in both scrums and lineouts. Still, it's a bonus point win and keeps them in the upper echelon of the Premiership table. That'll do it from us here tonight. Have a good evening.
77min: MAN 19-29 TAS
Manawatū look for a late line break but there's a forward pass from Malcolm. That'll probably do it. Mako scrum on halfway.
75min: MAN 19-29 TAS
TAS THREE! Hunt slots it with ease and pushes the lead to 10.
74min: MAN 19-26 TAS
Mako launch a composed attack and get to within 2m after 19 phases of play. Nothing fancy. Just forwards and backs hitting the line with hard, straight runs and getting over the advantage line. Manawatū finally give up a penalty for being offside. Looks like Tasman will play it safe and take the three.
70min: MAN 19-26 TAS
Black's kick goes to waste as there's another knock on at the lineout. Tasman scrum on their 22m.
69min: MAN 19-26 TAS
Tasman try to milk another penalty at the scrum but it backfires as they lose control of the ball at the back and get penalised for not releasing when Manawatū come through to steal it. Black hoofs it down field and it's a beauty. Turbos lineout on Tasman's 22m.
67min: MAN 19-26 TAS
Turbos straight back under pressure as their lineout throw isn't straight just outside their 22m. That's going to give Tasman an attacking scrum.
65min: MAN 19-26 TAS
MAN TRY! Tasman are penalised for an early push at the scrum. It's taken quickly but the ball is inches short. Turbos recycle quickly, numbers to the right and Tagicakibau goes over. Black adds the extras and Manawatū are back to within seven.
63min: MAN 12-26 TAS
Tasman's defence holds and they bundle Mafi into touch. Tasman's lineout 10m from their line but it's another shocker and they knock it on! Turbos with another chance as they get the scrum 10m from the Mako line.
60min: MAN 12-26 TAS
Turbos with a big chance to come back here as they get a penalty and kick for touch. The lineout will be 10m from Tasman's line. They're still down a man though.
57min: MAN 12-26 TAS
TAS TRY! Too easy. Hunt sees a hole off the lineout, pins the ears back and sprints through it to score under the posts. Big task coming up now for the hosts.
55min: MAN 12-19 TAS
MAN YELLOW! Ironically, Kiri Kiri is sent to the bin as he's penalised for a high tackle off the lineout. Mako kick AGAIN for touch and now the lineout is 15m from the Turbos' line. Three penalties for 80m. Not a bad trade.
54min: MAN 12-19 TAS
Mako get another penalty as their maul forces another offside play from Manawatū. The ref calls in Kiri Kiri and says another one will see someone in the bin. Tasman kick for toucha again and now their lineout is 10m inside Turbos' half.
53min: MAN 12-19 TAS
Mako scrum puts the shunt on and earn a penalty as Manawatū collapses. Mako kick for touch and get a lineout 15m from halfway.
52min: MAN 12-19 TAS
Turbos go absolutely nowhere for 12 phases until finally Otere Black makes a run down the left wing. Gets passed his man and finds support. Christie makes a try-saving ankle tap and there's a knock on. Mako scrum 15m from their own line.
50min: MAN 12-19 TAS
Manawatū with an attacking chance after kickoff as Tasman try to run the ball and a loose pass goes into touch. Turbo lineout 10m inside the Mako's half.
49min: MAN 12-19 TAS
TAS TRY! Mako get inside Manawatū's 22m shortly after the lineout. It comes to the left and somehow Fox-Mataamua holds onto a pass behind with a one-handed catch. He gets it to Jordan and the sub is in with his first touch of the night. O'Malley's conversion is off the post... seen that a bit lately.
47min: MAN 12-14 TAS
Big 30min coming up for one man as Jackson Hemopo comes onto the field. If he gets through this, could be in for a trip to Argentina with the All Blacks. On the field, it'll be a Mako lineout 10m inside Manawatū's half.
45min: MAN 12-14 TAS
Manawatū's defence holds for 12 phases and it forces Tasman to go wide. The pass is a big skip pass and it's forward! Turbos scrum on their 5m.
43min: MAN 12-14 TAS
Mako with another strong drive and it leads to a penalty as Turbos enter the maul offside. Mako kick for touch again and look to do the same with a 5m lineout.
42min: MAN 12-14 TAS
Mako immediately with a great attacking chance after Turbos are penalised for an illegal strip. Mako kick for touch and it's a lineout 15m from Manawatū's line.
40min: MAN 12-14 TAS
Mako get us going again.
HT: MAN 12-14 TAS
Halftime and the scoreboard is a fair reflection of the game so far. Close contest in the first half but Tasman have done more with ball in hand to earn a two point lead. What will really concern the Mako is their set play. Lineouts are a horror show at the moment and they've give up multiple penalties at the scrum too. For Manawatū, a strong first half and they'll be confident they're right in this one. It's on them now to keep that intensity up and force more errors in the second 40. Don't go anywhere. We'll be back soon.
40+2min: MAN 12-14 TAS
MAN TRY! Patience and power from Manawatū gets them a big try on halftime. They continue to pick and go for 13 phases to get within 5m of the line. Alaalatoa is at the back of the ruck and sees space on the left of the ruck. Picks, goes and stretches out to score. Plonks the ball right on the line to score. Big moment in the game.
38min: MAN 5-14 TAS
Turbos slowly burrow their way towards Tasman's 22m but there's a knock on and the Mako counterattack with Alaimalo on the left wing. He kicks ahead to chase but the bounce goes into touch. Manawatū's lineout 10m from halfway.
35min: MAN 5-14 TAS
It's a clean lineout for Tasman but a poor pass from the ensuing ruck leads to a knock on. Turbos scrum on halfway.
34min: MAN 5-14 TAS
Tasman's scrum earns another penalty as Manawatū buckle from the shove. Mako clear and get a lineout 10m from halfway.
33min: MAN 5-14 TAS
Tasman survive a horror restart. They completely misread the kickoff and Tagicakibau takes it on the full. He runs it all the way to within 5m. Manawatū go to pick and goes but one is too upright and the ball gets held up. It's a maul that dies and Tasman gets a scum 10m from their line. Lucky.
31min: MAN 5-14 TAS
TAS TRY! Tasman finally get a lineout right and it leads to Aumua scoring. They maul for a solid 20m before Makalio breaks from the back. He's taken short. It's recycled quickly and Aumua is over with ease. O'Malley converts and pushes their lead to nine.
29min: MAN 5-7 TAS
It takes a couple of resets but the Mako finally get a clean scrum. They attack down the blindside and it works as the Turbos make the tackle but they're penalised for playing at the ball off their feet. Mako kick for touch and get lineout on Manawatū's 22m. Can they get it right here?
26min: MAN 5-7 TAS
Manawatu look to score down the right wing again but they get isolated and penalised for not releasing. Tasman kick for touch and get a lineout 15m from halfway. It's yet another horrid lineout but they're lucky this time as Manawatū knock it on trying to steal it. Mako scrum 10m outside their 22m.
24min: MAN 5-7 TAS
Manawatū's defence doesn't budge for 13 phases and it forces Tasman to go wide. But that backfires as Alaimalo is driven into touch. Turbos lineout just outside their 22m.
21min: MAN 5-7 TAS
Turbos use a short lineout and get the ball to Kiri Kiri in the midfield. He hits the line hard but pops the ball loose in contact. Tasman scrum in the middle of the field bang on halfway.
20min: MAN 5-7 TAS
Turbos throw the ball away shortly after the lineout when they're penalised for not releasing. Great kick from O'Malley gives them a lineout just inside Manawatū's 22m. But it's another shocker from the Mako and a knock on leads to a Turbos scrum. Mako scrum is again penalised for collapsing so Turbos kick for toucha and it's a lineout on halfway.
17min: MAN 5-7 TAS
Tasman front row is penalised after they collapse it twice in a row. Turbos kick for touch and get a lineout 10m inside Tasman's half.
16min: MAN 5-7 TAS
Turbos clear early after the kickoff and Tasman look to attack. But after eight phases of hitting the line hard with straight runs there's a knock on. Manawatū scrum 15m inside their own half.
14min: MAN 5-7 TAS
MAN TRY! Turbos strik back with a brilliant team try. They launch an attack 40m from Tasman's line with a skip pass to the right win. Kiri Kiri fends off one before giving the ball to Waitokia. Waitokia is one-on-one and gets and offload to Malcolm who runs it 20m to score in the right corner. Great stuff.
11min: MAN 0-7 TAS
Turbos escape pressure after the Mako have another poor lineout. Turbos get the ball and Tasman are penalised for being offside soon after. Turbos kick for touch and get a lineout on halfway.
9min: MAN 0-7 TAS
Tasman right back on attack after Manawatū are penalised for hands in the ruck straight after kickoff. Mako kick for touch and get a lineout 10m inside the Turbos half.
8min: MAN 0-7 TAS
TAS TRY! What an amazing run from Spowart! Gets the ball from the base of the scrum at speed and he steps inside his man. Pins the ears back and he's away to score untouched. Superb solo run. O'Malley with the extas from the right wing and he's got it.
6min: MAN 0-0 TAS
Laloifi makes a great break down the left wing but he's driven hard into the ground. Unfortunately, his head hits the ground hard with whiplash and he stays down so that forces a stoppage in play. He's slow to get up. That's his night done unless he passes an HIA. Game will restart with a scrum to Tasman 10m inside their half after Laloifi also lost the ball in contact.
5min: MAN 0-0 TAS
Manawatū come up with a steal at the lineout and clear shortly after. But Tasman counter attack down the left wing and get all the way down to just outside the Turbos' 22m. That great attack from Alaimalo is undone though as Tasman are penalised for misconduct at the breakdown. Turbos clear and get a lineout on halfway.
2min: MAN 0-0 TAS
Tasman cleary early after kickoff and the Turbos return it from halfway. Blackadder comes up with a steal at the breakdown though and Tasman look to attack but the Turbos are penalised for being offside. Mako kick for touch and get a lineout 5m inside Manawatū's half.
Turbos get us going!
Clear night in Palmy. Light northerly favouring the team playing left to right. 16 degrees at the moment dropping to 14. Pretty perfect conditions underfoot too.
Tasman Mako player Tim O'Malley makes a run against the Turbos in 2016.
It's David against Goliath in Palmerston North tonight as Championship strugglers Manawatū host Premiership high-flyers Tasman.
After a positive start to 2018 with a 24-19 win over Waikato, Manawatū have suffered four straight losses to Taranaki, Otago, Canterbury and Northland.
On the other hand, Tasman have won all their matches in 2018 bar a hefty loss to undefeated Premiership leaders Auckland and enter tonight's game coming off a convincing 53-17 win over Taranaki.
One positive for the Turbos is the inclusion of All Blacks rookie Jackson Hemopo on the bench but they will be without strong performing midfielder Rob Thompson, who has been rested for the match.
Tasman have also made tweaks to their backline with captain David Havili making a rare outing at fullback with Will Jordan shifted to the bench.
New Zealand Rugby says the new initiative it has launched today could see some undiscovered Kiwi talent head to the Tokyo Olympics as part of the World Champion All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens squads.
The Ignite Sevens was announced today which will see New Zealanders under the age of 23 able to trial for spots in the two sides.
NZR head of high performance Mike Anthony says the programme was designed to "encourage talented athletes from all sporting codes, regardless of rugby experience, to come forward and have a go at sevens".
"Our national Sevens teams compete at the highest level on the world stage and we want to be sure we are casting the net as wide as possible and tapping into the huge reservoir of athletic talent that exists across New Zealand."
Coming from a touch and hockey background Grace Steinmetz admits she is still getting used to contact.
Source: 1 NEWS
People registered their interest earlier this year before NZR's high performance sevens coaches and trainers selected 96 players (48 men and 48 women) who will assemble in Auckland from 21 November to 24 November for a training camp and tournament.
The selected athletes will have their strength, speed, skill and agility measured before three days of training to start the camp.
Then, on the final day, players will be divided into four teams to play against each other in the inaugural Ignite7 tournament with three men and women selected by scouts to attend national development camps next year.
"The selected six players will be training alongside the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens in the New Year," Anthony said.
"It’s a massive opportunity that will give these players access to the full benefits of NZR’s high performance system and it effectively opens the door for selection into our two national Sevens teams."
After that, the chosen six can become full-fledged Sevens players in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan much like how Black Ferns Sevens players Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman did in 2016 after a similar programme.
High performance manager Tony Philp says the Ignite 7s could be a big break for untapped Kiwi talent.
Source: 1 NEWS