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Wallabies' grand plans for spring tour

AAP logoAAP 23/10/2016 Darren Walton

Far from moping, the Wallabies believe they can salvage an elusive grand slam from an otherwise dismal 2016 campaign.

With seven defeats from their first 10 Tests, including humbling 3-0 series losses to England and New Zealand, the Wallabies are staring down the barrel of the worst season by an Australian team in 20 years of professional rugby.

One more defeat from their remaining five Tests would match Australia's eight losses under Robbie Deans and Ewen McKenzie in 2013 and the eight that led to Eddie Jones' sacking in 2005.

But embattled coach Michael Cheika will on Monday name a squad of around 35 players that five-eighth Bernard Foley maintains can pull off an undefeated spring tour of Europe.

That means toppling Wales, Scotland, France, Ireland and England in successive weeks, in doing so emulating the legendary Alan Jones-coached, Andrew Slack-led and Mark Ella-inspired grand slam winners of 1984.

Only two Wallabies sides since have embarked on grand slam tours, with Deans' class of 2009 coming unstuck with a 20-all draw with Ireland in the second leg before falling to Scotland at Murrayfield and McKenzie's 2013 side losing to England first up.

The Wallabies looked set to complete an unofficial grand slam at last year's World Cup after beating England, Wales and Scotland only for Argentina to take out Ireland in the quarter-finals to deny Australia the chance.

Undeterred by Saturday night's 37-10 loss to the All Blacks, Foley in fact departed Auckland buoyed by marked improvement in Australia's attack and believing a rare sweep of the home nations was in the offing.

"It's definitely possible," Foley said on Sunday.

"For us, this year's been challenging. We can't sugarcoat it or say anything else. It's been a real challenge.

"It's something we've sort of been fighting through since the start.

"So I think the tour, it's going to be really exciting. A lot of the guys are doing their first spring tour. The fact that it's a grand slam is massive - no easy Test matches.

"But the best thing is, the resilience of this squad, you know, we've worked our way through a lot this year in terms of feats and challenges, and maybe a lot of outside talk but for it will be really good to get together and be on tour for five weeks and just really give it a great assault.

"That's what we're looking forward to with this grand slam (opportunity)."

Fuelling Foley's optimism is the Wallabies' gallant showing against the All Blacks.

Despite the 27-point loss, a margin that flattered the All Blacks, the Wallabies had the world champions under pressure for the first time all year.

The match turned after the television match official reversed a brilliant try that Foley set up for winger Henry Speight that looked to have locked the score up at 15-15 early in the second half with Foley's conversion attempt to come.

Wallabies winger Dane Haylett-Petty, looking to support Speight, was deemed to have changed his line and impeded All Blacks opposite Julian Savea, who admitted afterwards he wouldn't have caught the tryscorer anyway.

"Nothing we can do now, but it was disappointing," Foley said.

"But it probably wasn't the reason we lost the game."

Cheika must decide whether to risk touring Samu Kerevi after the centre was sent for scans on Sunday for a suspected syndesmosis ankle injury that is set to sideline him for between two and six weeks.

Veteran forward Dean Mumm faces a sanction after being cited for alleged striking at Eden Park.

WALLABIES' GRAND SLAM QUEST

Australia v Wales, Millennium Stadium, Nov 5

Australia v Scotland, Murrayfield, Nov 12

Australia v France, Stade de France, Nov 19

Australia v Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Nov 26

Australia v England, Twickenham, Dec 3

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