What a difference a week can make

Australia's Digby Ioane, right, scores the first try against Wales during their international rugby union match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009. AP Photo/Tom Hevezi

It was great to finish the tour on that note. We set the tempo early and brought intensity at the carry, tackle and breakdown. And possibly one of the most pleasing aspects was our defence: keeping them try-less at Millennium Stadium was a great effort.

A lot has been said about the missed opportunities of the tour and the disappointment.

It is disappointing to have missed the opportunity of the Grand Slam, but that’s not how it went. And as a group, we have learned a lot on the trip.

The mid-week games gave a lot of guys opportunities and they stepped up and set the tone for the weeks leading into the England and Wales games. Possibly more midweek games will be scheduled for next year?

The game against Cardiff on Tuesday night was a fantastic defensive effort, and a lot of promise was shown in attack, too.

Kurtley Beale had a great game and was rewarded with his first test cap against Wales – a special moment for him. Dean Mumm led the midweek team well and was rewarded with a start.

It’s exciting to be part of a team where coaches pick teams based on performance and are willing to give guys a crack. The Cardiff Blues were talking up the fact that they had beaten the Wallabies the last six times they had played us and were very keen to make it seven.

I was on the bench for the game and the build-up was superb. The detail and intensity were right up there.

But back to the weekend’s game.

We had a lot of people come up to us and say that, despite their team losing, they loved watching the game and really enjoyed the running and the tries. There was some great interplay between backs and forwards and Genia, Giteau and Cooper really controlled the game well.

I think that’s the best I’ve seen Quade kick.

It’s an area that he has put a lot of hard work into with Robbie, and it’s great to see him reap the benefits of it. It’s also a delight as a forward to see the ball fly 40 metres upfield and bounce out.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first half.
It was a great ball from Steve Moore that gave me the chance to get my first Test try, and get winded in the process, which put a dampener on any celebration.
And then, just before half time, I dislocated my thumb. I probably could have kept playing, but I’d lost a lot of grip strength so the doctor pulled me at half time – with someone like George Smith as your replacement, you’re only letting the team down if you keep playing, even if you’re at 90 percent.

He came on and had a huge impact. He just did what you expect from George, I guess.

Once again the front row did well at scrum time, which always helps get the referee on side, and the backs are happier getting clean ball.

It was immensely satisfying to walk off the field having won like that in Wales.
The Welsh are rugby mad but also hospitable and knowledgeable and it was great to have some banter with the locals walking up the road to get a coffee this morning.

So that brings the years’ rugby to an end.

A few of the team stayed to play for the Barbarians against the All Blacks, but the rest of us are here at Heathrow, waiting for our flights to Sydney, Brisbane or Perth.

I am really looking forward to having a break.

I think I’ve been in Perth for about three weeks all up since the end of Super 14, so it’ll be great to be back there for a decent amount of time and be able to hang out with mates and get the training done in my own time before we join our Super 14 teams in early January.