SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia have sought permission to wear a special indigenous jersey in the semi-finals of the World Cup in Japan — should they make it that far.
Michael Cheika’s Wallabies will don the mainly green jersey designed by Aboriginal Australian artist Dennis Golding in their pool game against Uruguay in Oita on October 5 and hope to wear it again in the semi-final on the weekend of Oct. 26-27.
The semi-final request has caveats, and could be scuppered by a potential clash with green-jerseyed Ireland or South Africa, not to mention that the Wallabies might well crash out earlier.
Once a fixture in the top two of world rankings, the Wallabies have slumped to sixth after winning only four of 13 tests last year, their worst season in decades, and are rated long odds to claim a third World Cup trophy.
Australia wore a gold jersey of the same design in a match against World Cup champions New Zealand in 2017 and also against England at Twickenham last year.
Utility back Kurtley Beale, the only Aboriginal Australian player in the Wallabies camp, wore the strip with pride in London and said on Thursday it would be the “pinnacle” to show off the green one in Japan.
“It’s obviously a special moment, a pinnacle moment for Australian rugby to recognise and acknowledge the First Nations people in such a beautiful jersey,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“To see the support behind the one jersey that acknowledges and represents the indigenous people of this land is extremely powerful.”
Indigenous players are heavily represented in rugby league and Australian Rules football but only 14 have played for the Wallabies in the team’s 120-year history.
Beale, capped 83 times for Australia, said he hoped the jersey could inspire more indigenous children to take up the game.
“It’s definitely a big symbol for the next indigenous generation,” he said.
“To see the patterns and symbols on a national jersey on a big stage will no doubt inspire and encourage kids to play our special game.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)