Peering through the gloom of a failed Rugby World Cup campaign, Kurtley Beale has declared there are buds of growth and reasons to be positive about the Wallabies’ future.
The most experienced squad at the tournament in terms of total Test caps came up short through four stuttering pool games and against a ruthless England in the quarter-finals.
With at least eight accomplished players moving offshore and the hunt already under way for a new coach, the short- to medium-term prospects could be seen as grim.
Michael Cheika confirmed on Sunday he won’t seek re-appointment as Wallabies coach.
The 52-year-old had always said he would stand down if the Wallabies didn’t win the tournament.
He has been linked with a coaching role at French club Montpellier.
But fullback Beale was adopting a positive approach.
He labelled rookie outside back Jordan Petaia “a superstar, no doubt” and believes it’s the tip of the iceberg given Australia’s junior-level success this year.
Prodigiously talented 19-year-old Petaia has been universally praised since his stunning debut on the wing against Uruguay.
His reputation was only enhanced by Saturday’s display when thrust into outside centre against the English, emerging as arguably Australia’s best player.
“It’s important he’s in a really strong rugby program and I think … you’ll see a big improvement with Jordy,” Beale said.
“If he has that same application and the same commitment to his training then he’ll be a superstar, no doubt, in the years to come.”
The national under-20 team was denied its first junior world title when beaten by one point by France in the final in Argentina, completing an otherwise unbeaten year.
And the schoolboys team toppled their Kiwi counterparts for the first time in seven years, reflecting the greater attention given to the junior ranks.
“I think there’s a lot of hope there for Australian rugby. There always has been,” Beale said.
It’s a matter of making sure we develop these kids and give them the experience and put them in good programs so when they get the opportunity to play a big game at big tournaments like this they can flourish.
“You could see little glimpses of it tonight with Jordy Petaia.”
Fresh coaching impetus next year could lift a Wallabies team that has retained most of its best-performed players.
Among the biggest losses are inside centre Samu Kerevi, lock Rory Arnold and, potentially, flanker David Pocock although a new coach may have decided to call time on a twin openside flanker tactic that largely hasn’t worked for the Wallabies over the past four years.