Wearing indigenous jersey has Wallabies excited

For the first time at a Rugby World Cup, Australia are to wear a special strip that reflects the heritage, history and diversity of the side and the country.

TOKYO, 3 Oct - An excited Matt To'omua says the indigenous-inspired jersey that reflects the ethnic backgrounds of the Australia squad and will be worn against Uruguay on Saturday is "kind of cool".

With seven Wallabies boasting Samoan heritage, five of Tongan descent, four with their cultural roots in Fiji and Kurtley Beale, pictured above wearing the jersey, a proud member of Australia's First Nations peoples, the Melbourne Rebels centre cannot wait to wear it.

"To see an indigenous jersey filled with a team full of brown guys is kind of cool and kind of different," said To'omua. "It is very much indigenous art and an indigenous jersey, but it is representative of society changing in a sport that, in the past, was once seen as being upper-class, white-collar.

"It's recognition of quite a few things regarding where we are moving as a society - it's quite exciting. The make-up of the Wallabies team is a lot different culturally than it was 10 years ago. So, we are getting little things like this. While it's just a different jersey, it means a lot to a lot of people back home."

To'omua is quick to highlight the indigenous heritage that lies at the heart of the jersey. The design features a wallaby motif woven around 14 watering holes, representing the 14 players of indigenous descent to have so far played for Australia.

It starts with celebrated scrum-half Cecil Ramali, who lined up against the All Blacks in 1939, and stretches through such recent luminaries as the Ella brothers, Mark, Glen and Garry, and Wendell Sailor before reaching Saturday's full-back Beale. 

"Obviously, we are very fortunate at the moment that we have got Kurtley in the team and he has shared with us quite a lot of stories in terms of what it means and getting recognition for the first people of our country," To'omua said.

"We have had a chequered history there and to start getting that recognition is quite exciting."

The shirt has previously been worn twice by the Wallabies - against the All Blacks in Brisbane in 2017 and against England at Twickenham a year later, but it is taking it to the world stage that has Beale buzzing.

"He’s a good mate of mine and he’s a bit more happy this week," said Wallaby number eight Jack Dempsey. "In 2017, the guy (artist Dennis Golding) that designed it came in to talk to us and 'KB' (Beale) told us about what the jersey meant to him.

"It’s not something we only bring out for this kind of week. We have a lot of Polynesian boys and different cultures in the team, so it's something we are always sharing and experiencing together through the whole year."

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