AUSSIES ON THE BALL
into dark places, but they’ll have to bond together to get themselves out of it,” he explains.
It’s going to be a tough time, Mitchell insists, “but they’re the times you need to get ready for before they go off to Japan and experience hard times, in a rugby sense.”
The road to Tokyo for this team has reminded the retired star of his own glory days and the last
World Cup campaign he was a part of – making the match-winning break against Argentina which put the Aussies in the fi nal.
With the Wallabies giving fans a glimmer of hope they could repeat those heroics after their stellar performance in the fi rst Bledisloe Cup match in Perth, Mitchell is unapologetically on the band wagon they can do it again. “I’m already starting to sense some similarity between our group and this one. They will write their own story, but just the way our performances leading into the World Cup in England weren’t where we wanted them to be ... you can hear the team now, just the way they speak about each other in interviews, I can see them all coming together.”
A Cheika acolyte, Mitchell is certain no hot stone will be left unturned in the days leading into Tokyo.
Keeping the team focused has been made harder by the Israel Folau termination and the fallout from his inflammatory social media post – which has largely derailed any positive press for the team he was expected to star for in this tournament.
Relegated to the sidelines until his unfair dismissal case is heard next February, Folau would have been a valuable strike player but Mitchell says his absence has created opportunities for others to shine.
The form of Nic White and James O’Connor, in particular, have given selectors “options,” the Fox Sports analyst says, and could prove the difference come game time. “Just that little change up, bringing James in at 13, who was able to link the midfield to the outside backs
... at least in the fi rst Bledisloe ... it proved that worked well.”
Making his own transition from the players ranks to the commentary box has been seamless for the one-time Queensland Reds and Western Force star – even if he’s suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) right now.
“I think anyone whose played would love the opportunity to do that again, but you’ve got to understand when your time is done and the players in that position are more capable than us older guys are.”
Still, he bleeds true blue, or rather green and gold. “I don’t think we can win it, I believe we can. Besides the fact I’m Australian and I’ve worn the jersey, I have always thought they’ve had the squad with the ability to go out there and do something special,” he enthuses.
Just in case his excitement overwhelms him, Mitchell jokes: “If you see me limbering up on the sideline, you should take the beer out of my hands.”
7PM, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, ON FOX SPORTS AND 10. RUGBY WORLD CUP STREAMS ON FOX SPORTS  FROM FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20