Bledisloe Cup 2020: Pasifika unity strengthens revitalised Wallabies, says Matt Burke

Plaudits have flowed for new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, after a rejuvenated Australia pushed the All Blacks to the limit in a thrilling 16-16 draw in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington on Sunday.

But as much as their on-field product looks improved, Wallabies great Matt Burke believes it's behind the scenes where the most encouraging signs of progress lie.

The 81-test fullback turned commentator believes part of Rennie's edict has been the embracing of the team's diverse Pacific Island background, which has resulted in a renewed sense of unity within the squad.

"I think the interesting part is more the culture that is around there," Burke tells Newshub.

"I know that NZ have changed up the haka to Kapa o Pango to embrace the Pacific Island nations, and I think that's what Dave [Rennie] has brought on board as well.

"We have a great deal of Pasifika players in this team and they have been embraced for their heritage but also understanding that Australian way,and I think it's absolutely fantastic."

The Pacific island influence within the Australian squad has never been more prominent, including the likes of loose forward dynamo Pete Samu and Fijian try-scoring juggernaut Filipo Daugunu, who was a revelation in his test debut on Sunday.

"We've seen some vision come out of their training camp so far of them together and singing songs… I think it's a fantastic opportunity to bind and bring a team together.

"So it's not so much the footbaling aspect, I think it's the behind the scenes that he's worked incredibly well at."

But the Wallabies' improvement on the rugby field has also shown plenty to be encouraged about, with Australia displaying a more diverse and flexible tactical approach, Burke adds.

"More than anything else, it becomes an understanding of a holistic way to play the game," he says.

"In previous years it's been pretty simple - bash and barge, and bash and barge, and if that doesn't work,  there was no 'Plan B'. 

"I like the way Dave Rennie has approached it.. understanding what to do in the tight parts of the game. For the first hit out that wasn't too bad. 

"They'll get better and NZ will get better as well, but I think there is hope that this new direction that they have is something they can take on, not only against NZ, but also South Africa and Argentina."

While a "gutted' Burke says Australia have reason to feel aggrieved at the lack of some late whistles in their favour, their weight of possession should have resulted in more points on the board.

"The effort they put in, the way they controlled the ball. They had a lot more possession. Perhaps you could argue that they should've scored more points... but those last nine minutes were just hectic. 

"Were there a couple of penalties that couldve been given? Perhaps. But we played out what was a fantastic game."

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