The first clue that the 2012 Australian Under 20 squad would struggle came in August 2011 at the Weigall Ground in Ruschcutters Bay. An England Under 18 side was visiting Australia and had arranged a game against an Australian Under 19 side.
One of the teams looked in fine physical shape and all the players in it were connected with the academies of professional rugby clubs and regional national academies. And the way they played the game, you could see that they were footy-smart and were following the precepts of the playbook of their national senior team.
The other side had come through the Australian system.
The Pom forwards were smaller but they outmuscled the older Aussies and kicked out of hand and for goal like pros in the windy conditions. In the set pieces, mauls and restarts they did it by the numbers and even in and around the rucks they were like the Borg.