Australia back-row Emily Chancellor has urged her Wallaroos team-mates to create history when they take on Japan in a two-test series this month.
Newcastle will host the opening match on Saturday and represents the Wallaroos’ first step on the road to Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand.
Head coach Dwayne Nestor has picked a new-look squad for the first test, with nine of the 23 players selected in line to make their debuts.
Chancellor’s own international bow only arrived last August but she was named Wallaroos Player of the Year at the end of 2018 and says the influx of young talent has brought a “different energy” to the squad.
And she is confident that the positivity around the camp can be harnessed to help them achieve something that no other Australian team ever has.
“We want to win a series on home soil,” Chancellor said. “No Wallaroos team has done that before and we don’t shy away from our ambition to be successful.
Building something special
“This group has come together really, really well. It’s been good having so many young debutants too. It’s brought a different energy from 2018 and a different approach to things.”
The Wallaroos’ only test involvement since Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland was the two-test series defeat to New Zealand last year, in which Chancellor made her debut.
With just over two years to go until the next tournament, the 27-year-old is well aware that Australia’s 2019 international programme – which again includes two games against the Black Ferns – will be pivotal for the squad’s development.
“It’s crucial! We need as many tests as possible to ensure that we are building well for the World Cup,” Chancellor said.
“I believe we are building something really special here at the moment and have a good vision in place from Rugby Australia. For us, as players, it’s all about continuing to work with the coaches to make sure we’re growing as players.”
Chancellor is certainly someone who has improved through hard work. She was made to wait for her chance at test level, having been part of Wallaroos squad previously without earning match-day selection, but grabbed her opportunity with both hands when it arrived.
She will line up in the number seven jersey in Newcastle but having been “truly humbled” to be acknowledged for her performances in the gold jersey in 2018, she does not take her status for granted.
“I certainly feel like a welcomed member of the squad but the competition for spots in this team is really strong, so no one is resting on their laurels,” Chancellor said. “It’s a good problem to have because we all want to really be here but know there are really good players outside the squad knocking on the door.”
On the domestic front, Chancellor has picked up where she left off in 2018 by helping NSW Waratahs to a second successive Super W title, having been forced to watch on injured 12 months previously. And she is in no doubt about the impact the competition has had on the Wallaroos.
“Pardon the pun, but it’s a game changer!” she said. “In Australia the competition amongst our domestic sports is fierce. Super W has created a good fan product and a great player pathway for the Wallaroos.
“It’s also meant we’re playing more elite games and getting better as we make the step up from club rugby.”
Away from the pitch, Chancellor has become an ambassador for ChildFund Pass It Back, the programme which is supported by World Rugby and aims to help children from developing communities in Asia to learn essential life skills.
An amazing experience
“I have actually been talking to them for quite a while and wanting to get involved in some capacity and then last year they contacted me saying an opportunity had come up for me to go to Laos with the ChildFund Australia group,” Chancellor explained.
“I just love the work they do and to be able to connect with communities and the kids through rugby in the ChildFund Pass it Back programme is an absolute honour.”
Chancellor is clearly passionate about her involvement with the programme and travelled to Laos with Wallabies legend and World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Stephen Larkham (pictured left) earlier this year to get a better understanding of some of the work being done.
“It was an amazing experience and one that I won’t forget,” she said.
“We got to experience a country so different to Australia and help engage with the children in communities through the ChildFund Pass it Back programme, playing rugby with boys and girls wearing no shoes or in skirts on some of the most creative rugby fields.
“Steve is such a caring guy too, it was great to get to know him.”
For more information on the ChildFund Pass it Back programme, visit www.childfundpassitback.org.