AUSTRALIAN coach Ewen McKenzie is hoping to capture the "hearts and minds" of the central west when he brings the Wallabies to the region for a whirlwind, five-day tour on the eve of this year's Bledisloe Cup opener.
Dubbed the Bush2Bledisloe country road trip, McKenzie's Wallabies will land in Dubbo on Monday, August 4, before travelling to Orange and Bathurst over three days.
The tour will end in Penrith on Friday, August 8.
Fully aware rugby is the heartbeat of many regional centres, McKenzie said it's the Wallabies commitment to bring the game west.
"I know the team doesn't exist in a vacuum. We represent a lot of different hearts and minds and we've got to get out there and feel that passion and be part of it, engage those hearts and minds," McKenzie told the Central Western Daily on Thursday.
"There's a lot more to it than going from hotel room to hotel room and I want the team to experience that."
Looking to win back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002, McKenzie believes the importance of re-connecting with an area that's now the premier rugby region in Country NSW was a "pretty simple" decision.
"I'm a strong believer in a good connection with our fan base and I'm fully aware a lot of people travel a long way to come and watch us play," he added.
"As soon as there was an opportunity to reverse that I took it, and the lead-up to the Bledisloe was the perfect opportunity for us to do it."
Australian Rugby Union western region development manager Mark Debrincat called the move recognition for the support shown by the central west.
"It's really exciting for the region, for community rugby, grass roots rugby for our game out here. There's an opportunity to mix with the Wallabies if you're a five-year-old or if you're a 75-year-old," he said.
Still in the throngs of being finalised, Debrincat said the Wallabies will likely hold open training runs on each stop of the five-day tour.
There will be a chance for clubs, junior and senior, to also interact with the Wallabies while functions will be held each night.
One of the genuine stars of international rugby, Wallabies fullback Israel Folau was thrilled.
"It's a great concept that will help our preparation before taking on the All Blacks and will give us a chance to reward our regional supporters for their ongoing and passionate support," the dynamic fullback added.
Orange City Council's sports and recreation committee chair Jason Hamling said with rugby already in great shape in Orange, this visit had the potential to be a major shot in the arm for the sport.
"The fact both the senior and junior Central West sides could take out the country championships on the weekend shows there's a level of excellence amongst local players at present. The chance to watch how the Wallabies train at a local ground here in Orange the week before the Bledisloe could be a real eye-opener for players and fans of all ages," Hamling said.