Retiring lock Dan Vickerman has urged the Wallabies' growing army of doubters to keep faith, pointing out they are younger than their perennial tormentors, the world champion All Blacks.
Unable to play since last year's World Cup semifinal because of a shin stress fracture, Vickerman yesterday called time on a playing career that included 63 tests for Australia.
"The rigours of professional rugby, [the shin] just didn't stand up to the load," Vickerman said.
With captain James Horwill ruled out of the entire Rugby Championship by a hamstring injury and stalwart Nathan Sharpe retiring later this year, Australia is running low on experienced locks.
But Vickerman said the Wallabies were in a good position with emerging locks like the Queensland Reds' Rob Simmons, NSW Waratahs' Kane Douglas and Sitaleki Timani plus Melbourne's Cadeyrn Neville and Hugh Pyle to back up Horwill.
And Vickerman insisted the Wallabies' prospects were bright despite deflating successive losses to New Zealand to start the Rugby Championship.
"I think we're a young side," said Vickerman. "There's not too many guys in our side who are over 25.
"If you look at the All Blacks the majority of their team would be 28 to 32.
"I think all teams that have done well have that time where the younger team needs to play together for a number of seasons. Just have faith and it will be good."
He said the Wallabies needed to find a way to win the breakdowns if they were to beat New Zealand.
"[New Zealand] get front-foot ball and ... to beat them you've got to meet that collision and win the gain line and we've got the guys to do that."