Analysis: Wallabies v Ireland - Green and Gold Rugby

Analysis: Wallabies v Ireland

Analysis: Wallabies v Ireland

Wallaby supporters would hardly have been filled with confidence for the upcoming Tr-Nations by the performance against Ireland.

The Wallabies had 145 phases from the 50 times they commenced a possession sequence.  Yet they were only able to make five line breaks and score two tries (one of which was an intercept). 

The Irish had 82 phases from the 42 times they commenced a possession sequence yet they were only able to make two line breaks and scored no tries.  Hardly entertaining rugby!

Click on the relevant graphics to download either the Team Statistics or Player Statistics.

The scrum was better than against England or was it just that the Irish scrum wasn’t as good at the English scrum?  Hard to know but I think on balance there has been some improvement over the last two games.  The lineout was good, winning 100% of Wallaby ball and taking three lineouts from Ireland.

The defence of both sides contributed to the lack of attacking effectiveness but both sides kicked away a lot of ball.  The Wallabies kicked 27 times from the 50 possession sequences they commenced and lost the ball 11 times.  It’s very hard to build any continuity with those sorts of numbers.

The Wallabies missed 10 tackles of the 68 they attempted – an 85% success rate.  Only 16% of the tackles made were dominant, which is down from an average of about 28% over the first three games this season.

The back line has just about come to a spluttering halt and the combination of Cooper and Giteau is not working at all.  The Wallabies would have known going into the match that Ireland’s defence would be well organised yet the only options the back line had were a) hope Quade can dance his way through; b) turn the ball back to a runner coming inside; or c) just pass the ball through the hands until the ball had travelled the width of the field and there was no space left.  The backline didn’t attempt a single starter play to split the Irish defence!

I went to Wallabies training last week and watched the lowest intensity back line training session I’ve ever seen and I seriously mean from Under 11’s to other international teams.  The only thing Robbie Deans and Richard Graham had them practicing was turning the ball inside to a runner, all done at half pace.  The guy I was standing with and I were perplexed and I made the comment at the time that the complexity of the session looked like something you’d run through with a schoolboy team where the players had never met and need to just need to get to know each other.  Then I thought, a) they’re not running anything in public and are saving their starter plays for a private session; and b) what do I know compared to Robbie Deans?  Then as I sat watching the game footage earlier today I realised that they back line played exactly the way they trained!

I’m not advocating and overly complex style of play but the approach used by the Wallabies aginst the Irish clearly didn’t work and it certainly won’t work in the Tri-Nations.  Or, is Robbie foxing and is going to bring out something special and make me eat my hat?

Watching the game again, Elsom and Pocock were heavily involved.  Although we didn’t measure breakdown involvements this week, those two made one third of all tackles made by the team and had 18 carries between them.  Brown, Mumm and Chisolm were either missing in action or ineffective and the absence of Sharpe was very noticeable.  Given how quiet Brown and Chisolm were I don’t understand why Robbie Deans didn’t bring Hodgson and Chapman on for the last twenty minutes.  Hodgson has shown he can handle this level and would have added some spark and taken some of the workload off Elsom and Pocock.  It was also a perfect opportunity to find out if Chapman can handle this level and I can’t see how he could of been any worse that Chisolm.

Quade Cooper’s defence hasn’t improved and I expect the Springboks and All Blacks are going to be sending a lot of traffic his way.

Drew Micthell had a poor game and unfortunately he’s had too many poor games recently to be retained in the starting fifteen.

  • Watson

    A few points:

    1. Robbie’s not foxing. The backline used a great play to score a try against England in the 2nd Test – remember the scissor-esque decoy of Giteau and Ioane behind Quade, leading to Giteau’s try? If they were happy to be video-analysed by the Boks and All Blacks then, why not now? I get the feeling Robbie wanted Matt Giteau to fail so that he could drop him.

    2. Matt Hodgson should be a Wallaby. He’s a big-hearted player, competes intensely in every game and with intelligence. But he isn’t a ball carrier like Richard Brown. The solution is to move Elsom out of his tackle/clean out role and into a Jerry Collins/Schalk Burger role which he always did so well for the Tahs. Hodgson can do the dirty work.

    4. We know Robbie will never play a forward in the backline, so Elsom won’t be standing there. But he’d be quite successful as a battering ram in tight, as Mose Tuiali’i was for Robbie’s Crusaders. He just needs a defined role, to pick up the ball at pace, charge forward and win the collision. If he did it a dozen times a game we’d be sweet.

    • Bobas

      I agree with dropping Brown for Elsom.

      Should also drop Dean Mumm as well.

      We need Larkham as the Wallabies backline coach, he didn’t have anything physically better than any other player, yet seemed to always come up with the goods.

      • Andrew

        Good call on Hodgson, we really need quick recycle at the breakdown if we have any chance of downing the Boks and AB’s, but this just doesn’t fall to your flankers. The problem here is across the entire forward pack in terms of being able to beat their opp number to breakdown and clean out particularly in the final 15 mins. Watch Brad Thorn for the AB’s – he kills himself to get to every ruck and clean out. You couldn’t say the same for Chisholm, Mumm or Sharpe at that stage of the game

      • Who Needs Melon

        Ken Oath good call on Hodgson. I just don’t understand why we’ve left most of our bench untouched for some of these games. If someone’s not cutting the mustard, hoik them! Then start the other guy next game (assuming he goes better).

        • Bobas

          was amazing how genia plays out a game with a broken hand when burgess had a blinder the week before?

    • Mart

      Spot on Watson!
      You’d get more work out of Hodgson/ Pocock and elsom at 8.
      More effective than Brown. He offers nothing in a big ball carrier so whats the difference in having 2 nuggets.

    • Joe_Mac

      Completely agree Watson.

      At least again the blacks, Hodgson will be a welcomed add to the team. Against the Boks I think we need to increase the size of our pack so maybe you run
      6 Higgingbotham
      7 Pocock
      8 Elsom

  • Who Needs Melon

    Then as I sat watching the game footage earlier today I realised that they back line played exactly the way they trained!

    Including the ‘half pace’ bit?

    • Austin

      Of the 23 times the Wallaby backline used the ball in the game (without forwards in the line) there were 13 occasions where I consider they were at half pace.

      A number of those resulted from poor passes from Burgess taking away the momentum, a number from Cooper dancing (where Giteau had to wait for Cooper to distribute) but the other occassions they seemed not to have a plan.

      I’m not advocating a helter skelter approach but I think there needs to be more bodies in motion at pace to attract the defence.

  • GregT

    The Wallaby backs might deserve a rocket or two but things won’t turn around on a regular basis until forward strength improves. The inability to break the line reflects the loss of players like Palu, Ioane TPN. Sure, Mitchell had a shocker and Giteau looks petulant and vaguely disinterested from time to time, but the backs are OK. Just need a tight five that plays forcefully — not only winning set piece but thudding across the line in attack. Elsom is too busy doing the filth the second row should be doing to get a chance to make an impact. Brown has had his chance — just ain’t there at the moment. Even if the injuries blunt the Wallaby attack, they have to be more direct in attack and quicker playing the ball at the breakdown whether it’s pick n drive or spreading it. The horror of resetting the line for a boofhead to carry it up has returned at the expense of grabbing the pill and getting on with it.

  • Slim 293

    I noticed Sharpe was missing because our scrum did so much better without him.

    Sharpe trucks the ball up quite a bit and is certainly a better lineout option than many of the locks in the current squad…

    BUT… he’s just absolutely abysmal in the scrum and I don’t know if the Wallabies can have a competitive scrum with him in there as he does absolutely no pushing…

    Going into the RWC I’m sure he’ll be a member of the squad but I don’t think we can rely on him to be a starting XV kind of player… we need to get somebody like Douglas up to speed and hope others such as Horwill and Kimlin can come back in good form…

    There is talk about Vickerman returning but I am skeptical as he won’t be playing in the Super 15 and has gone a few years without top flight rugby…

    • JJJ

      Condemning Sharpe based on how the Wallaby scrum did without him compared to how they did with him is misleading. Ireland have far and away the worst scrum in Europe these days. Whereas England always have a decent scrum.

      • Slim 293

        His poor scrummaging has been evident throughout his career…

        Against England and Fiji it was obvious that there was not enough support behind our TH… Fiji…

        Sharpe cannot be in the starting XV if the Wallabies want to have a competitive scrum because he’s useless…

  • Patrick

    Watching the game again, Elsom and Pocock were heavily involved… Brown, Mumm and Chisolm were either missing in action or ineffective and the absence of Sharpe was very noticeable.

    I hope you didn’t have to watch it again to see this.

    • Austin

      I did actually.

      The first time I watched the game live at the ground I was focusing on what the back line was doing and the intereaction between Gits and Rocky.

      Then watching it on the video I saw what was going on in the tight.

  • Joe Blow

    On the second viewing it was even more apparent how much tight work both Elsom and Poccock were doing.
    We need a tight 5 that will do their job and allow our loosies to be more effective.
    I’m not suggesting that our backrow should be seagulling but they should have the opportunity to play a little wider when the opportunity presents itself.
    The return of Robinson and Moore will help a lot but neither Chis or Mumm are test standard in the second row. Bring in Simmons, Douglas or preferably Van Humphries. Won’t happen because of his age but he would help a lot and has earned a shot at it.
    Is Deans trying to kill Pocock?
    That was the second test in a row when he was exhausted after giving 150% for 60 minutes. Hodgson was the form backrower in Australia in the S14 and would have added a lot when Pocock was tiring.
    We need more beef in the back row.
    Higges in at 6 or 8 and Elsom to play the other.

    • Austin

      If you saw the video Mr Timms put up on the Forum regarding the spat between Gits and Rocky, you can also see how much Rocky was sucking it in after 34 mins in the first half.

      You’re right – that’s two weeks in a row where Pocock was cramping up.

      Daly and Faingaa were active but Ma’afu has been a passenger around the field.

      In my view that makes 4 of the 8 (Mumm, Chisolm, Brown and Ma’afu) that were not pulling their weight. Makes it really tough on the other 4.

      • GregT

        It’s not so much they’re not putting in .. i think it’s more of a case of them not being up to it, or at least the task they need to perform at test level in this side. They don’t have the bulk or penetration through the middle of the ruck to impose themselves on the opposition, so they spend their time running into brick walls, as it were. Exhibit one is Rocky who’s always in too tight getting smacked around when he should be standing two passes wider running at the Toby Floods of the world. (he did the same with the Brumbies, trying to make up for their lack of bulk and go forward). Mumm works hard but is too small for a second rower (without a monster second row partner). The current front row are workhorses but they go nowhere — Brown at the back is a key ..if he was going over the top of people in attack the rest would likely fall in place, but he’s been a dud.
        The added problemo is they don’t have any size in the backline either. That wouldn’t be such an issue if the forwards had already straightened the attack in getting over the gain line, but instead the backs are playing on the back foot and going laterally — when they have to straighten they don’t have a monster (cept Ioane when fit) to do it for them.
        … Ah, I feel better now

      • RedsHappy

        Those 4 poor performers have been obviously so for some time now. As has been highlighted, their poor performance magnifies other problems and stresses for the whole team. ‘Negative leverage’.

        Deans should have used the Ireland Test to replace them and try the alternatives available, even if there were risks. We knew Ireland where at their weakest with injuries etc at Suncorp. We knew we had SA to face in 4 weeks.

        He did not. He is by such inaction shown not to be the consistent ‘developer and promoter on form’ as per the PR output.

        In fact, the evidence increases of a hesitant mix of a coach who ‘promotes’ certain players, yet refuses to demount others when required, or when ‘the window’ is right to do so.

  • Thomas

    Next time you do a individual players stats could you include the number of dominant carriers, passive carries and weak carries
    Dominant- got past the gain line
    Passive- No gain, no loss
    Weak- Driven back loss of meters

  • Lance Free

    Rocky at 8 and Higgo at 6. Does anyone know what Higgo’s injury situation is? Haven’t seen him feature in club rugby yet.

    • Joe Blow

      The week of the second pommy test it was reported that he was in contact with Deans and was 2 weeks away from playing.
      He remains untried at test level. If he is fit and has a game or two under his belt I would guess that Deans might play him off the bench in Brisbane.
      To be fair to Dick Brown, he has been very busy in the tests this year. Unfortunately he plays like a second 7 when we need someone bigger and more damaging in the mould of Cliffy Palu.


Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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