Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons has hit back after a Herald column argued that the Aussies are lacking "genuine hard men" after the All Blacks' dominant victory in the second Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park.
The Wallabies went down to the All Blacks 27-7 on Sunday with the hosts having the better of the physical battle, following an underwhelming performance in the drawn first test in Wellington.
It continues a generation of hurt for the Australians at the Auckland venue, having not won there since 1986.
After the match, Gregor Paul wrote "the defining moment came just two minutes into the test at Eden Park when Dane Coles lingered after he made a pass and then decided to shove Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou and trigger a scrap".
"That one act of belligerence set the tone for the 80 minutes and had a huge impact on the test because clearly Tupou didn't like being singled out by such a deliberate act of aggression.
"Australia doesn't actually do genuine hard men."
Speaking on Wide World of Sports, FitzSimons fired back at Paul's claims, saying the Herald columnist was "not right".
"I am tragically proud of the fact that I'm the only Wallaby in 100 years who has been sent off the field against the All Blacks for violence. That's something isn't it? Doesn't that qualify for a hard man?" he said.
"He's not right.
"Because that Wallabies pack, particularly in that first game at Wellington, they actually hurt the All Blacks forward pack and were making metres all the way.
"We don't have guys that give away stupid penalties like I did. We've got a far more disciplined and controlled mob. But there's promise in this side."
However, FitzSimons did admit that the Eden Park result was "something of a correction" after the 16-16 draw in Wellington.
"It was a wonderful 16-all win that first test, but the worry was we weren't winning lineouts and we weren't winning scrums," he said.
"It's an oasis. If you go up against the best team in the world and you're on their home turf and you record a 16-all draw, it's a victory of sorts. I don't back off from that.
"But what happened at Eden Park, the good news is the scrums were better and the lineouts were better and we haven't seen that for years.
"The bad news were the turnovers and error rate. In 80 minutes there were I think 20 or 21 errors. So that was very sobering.
"But after the year that Australian rugby has come off, with no play to speak of, sacked administration, Raelene Castle is gone, a new coach [appointed] and all these guys going off to Europe, you wouldn't be surprised if the Wallabies lost by 30 or 40 points and just couldn't compete with the All Blacks.
"The news is it was a 16-all draw in the first game and in this one they were off by 20 or so points - but they were competitive, and that's something.
"Dave Rennie is off to a good start and there's material there to work with, of good players."
Despite FitzSimons' protestations, Paul's claims in the Herald column aren't based on nothing.
On top of the physical edge the All Blacks had, the Wallabies committed a hefty 21 turnovers while missing a total of 42 tackles, by no means helping their own cause.
More importantly, the Australian public seemed to agree with Paul's comments – with 84 per cent of the more than 8000 readers responding to a news.com.au poll agreeing that the Wallabies are "soft".
The third Bledisloe Cup test will be played on October 31 in Sydney, doubling as the opener to the revamped Rugby Championship, presents a do-or-die scenario for the Wallabies.
A win would make the fourth test a sudden-death match, while a loss would hand the All Blacks the Cup once again - a trophy they have held for the last 18 years.