Hodgkinson: Wallaroos can win World Cup
They say that success breeds success and that is certainly what Australia's Wallaroos are hoping is the case when it comes to next year's Women's Rugby World Cup and their dreams of uniting the 15-a-side and Sevens trophies for the first time in history.
Australia's women have already created one piece of history by becoming the first to be crowned Sevens world champions back in March, but Debby Hodgkinson - the Player of the Tournament - is adamant that success is only the beginning.
The next target on the radar, having secured qualification with an emphatic 87-0 defeat of Samoa in Apia earlier this month, is the Women's Rugby World Cup in England next autumn and a burning desire for more silverware.
The Wallaroos finished seventh in the last edition in Canada, but Hodgkinson is not shooting from the hip with talk of ending New Zealand's 12-year reign as world champions, she firmly believes the squad are genuine title contenders.
This confidence can be traced back to last year when Hodgkinson and a blend of experienced rugby players and touch stars came together to form the first ever Australian Women's Sevens team under the tutelage of Shawn Mackay.
Mackay, the former Australian Sevens captain who passed away in April, fostered a team spirit and belief that nobody was unbeatable, something the Wallaroos proved by beating New Zealand not once but twice in the Oceania qualifiers for RWC Sevens 2009 - the first time Australia had ever beaten the Black Ferns.
Anything is possible
They repeated the feat again in the RWC Sevens final to take their place in the history books and Hodgkinson, buoyed by the smallest ever margin of defeat - six points last November, believes the Wallaroos can finally beat the all conquering Blacks Ferns in the 15-a-side arena.
"I think when the Sevens started last year, Shawn Mackay was our coach and he created a team environment where everyone was encouraged to have fun, but he also made us believe we could do it," Hodgkinson told Total Rugby Radio.
"I think it was the first time ever in the Wallaroos and the Australian Women's team that we thought we could be the best and that has definitely carried on since he left. Not only are we now winning but we are also having fun at the same time."
Australia's success in Sevens and the manner of their emphatic qualification for Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 - which begins its one year countdown on Thursday - means that the Wallaroos will now be on everybody's radar and no longer a surprise package.
Not that this or the increase in expectation worries Hodgkinson.
"I think since we won the Sevens all the other countries are definitely going to be looking out for us," insisted Hodgkinson, who remarkably shone at RWC Sevens despite being so sick she required hospitalisation in Dubai and on her return to Australia.
World Cup within Wallaroos reach
"The game plan we have been given with our new coach (John Manenti) is so clinical that I think a lot of the other nations are going to struggle to defend how we are going to play.
"I think now, especially with the Sevens, we have set a standard for ourselves and we want to win the fifteens and the Sevens and make a difference.
"I don't think I would get up at six o'clock every morning and train till like 8pm every night if I didn't think we could do it [win the World Cup] collectively as a group.
"All the countries are inching closer together now, before it used to be England and New Zealand who were just the outstanding countries, but now…
"Last year we nearly beat New Zealand. We lost by I think it was six points and that is the closest we have ever come, so it is definitely within our reach and hopefully we will time it so we peak at exactly the right time in London next year."