By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia flyhalf Bernard Foley is convinced the Wallabies can win the Rugby World Cup for a third time next year despite slumping to seventh in the world rankings after a disappointing couple of seasons.
The 29-year-old all but ensured on Wednesday that he would be off to Japan for a second World Cup campaign by announcing that he had extended his contract with the Wallabies and New South Wales Waratahs to the end of 2019.
Having been an integral part of the Wallabies side that bucked expectations by reaching the final in England in 2015, Foley said he believed something similar, or even better, could be on the cards at next year’s tournament.
“I think having that experience is very comforting,” he told reporters.
“Twelve months out from the World Cup last time, I didn’t have that belief at all but now I’ve got that belief.
“I’m more than confident that we can go one better than we did last time with the players that we’ve got and the programmes we’re setting up and the coaches we’ve got putting it all in place, that we can be where we need to be to win the World Cup.”
Foley has often flown under the radar in a test career that has now earned him 64 caps — a reliable, if not spectacular, performer in a position where Australia once boasted huge riches but now has a serious lack of depth.
Typically, when coach Michael Cheika dropped him to the bench for three matches in the recently-concluded Rugby Championship, Foley, though disappointed, tried to use it as a learning experience.
“It was challenging, personally, to take a back seat but it was also a really good time to review, to reflect and to make some changes,” he added.
“It was a chance to look at the game holistically and what this team needs to get to where we want to be.”
Two losses, at home to Argentina and away to South Africa, convinced Cheika to restore Foley to the number 10 shirt for the return match against the Pumas, only for the Wallabies to go down 31-7 at halftime.
That Australia then staged the second-biggest comeback in test history to run out 45-34 winners in Salta sent out a warning to the rugby world, Foley thought.
“Everyone knows how good we can be now, it’s been seen,” he said.
“We need to approach every game like that second half. We’ve shown we can do it, now we need to do it every single game.”
Foley said nothing should be read into the fact that he signed only a one-year deal and that a longer-term contract was still a possibility after he dealt with “unfinished business” at the World Cup.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)