Sunday 19 November 2017

Wallabies battling to get fans back on side after 'boring' Test

Australia's Israel Folau bursts through France's defence during their second rugby union test match in Melbourne
Australia's Israel Folau bursts through France's defence during their second rugby union test match in Melbourne
Australia Wallabies' Nic White passes from the scrum as France's Morgan Parra attempts to block
Australia Wallabies' Nathan Charles scuffles with France's Frederic Michalak

Ian Ransom

THE 6-0 victory in Melbourne may have sealed Australia's three-match series against France, but the bore-fest will do few favours for the game's standing Down Under.

Following a seven-try rout of Les Bleus in the Brisbane opener, a disappointing crowd of 27,000 turned up to the 55,000-capacity Docklands stadium on Saturday and may have expected more than the error-strewn spectacle served up from both sides.

Neither could blame the elements. The stadium's roof was closed, shielding the pitch from drizzle over the city and offering sublime conditions for rugby.

Still scoreless after 52 minutes, jeers rang out from the depleted crowd as new captain Michael Hooper indicated Australia would shun the chance of setting up a try and instead take a kick at the posts after France were penalised in their own half.

The Wallabies deserved credit for holding off the visitors in a tense final few minutes to secure the win but the final siren merely heralded a storm of criticism on social media.


"Grind is the operative word, it was boring rubbish and if the Administration of Rugby Union want to put some bums on seats then they need to do something about the terrible spectacle that took place in Melbourne last night," fumed one critic on a Fairfax Media website.

While the game enjoys captive audiences in southern hemisphere rivals New Zealand and South Africa, it remains down the pecking order in Australia, where the indigenous football code and rugby league carve up a lion's share of the market.

Fifteen years after the second of the Wallabies' two World Cup triumphs and more than a decade of domination by neighbours New Zealand, rugby has lost ground and the Australian Rugby Union is battling to staunch the red ink.

The ARU have spent millions in a bid to establish a rugby foothold in Melbourne, the country's second largest city where nine Australian Football League teams are based and compete the top-flight Australian Rules football competition.

The AFL has also invested a fortune in building a presence in Sydney.

Though traditional rugby league country, a crowd of more than 41,000 flocked to the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch a regular AFL championship match between the local Sydney Swans and competition leaders Port Adelaide.

That significantly outstripped the 33,000 that turned out for the Wallabies' series-opener against France at Lang Park, underscoring the ARU's challenge.


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