Austin's RWC2 Stats and Analysis – Wallabies v. Ireland - Green and Gold Rugby

Austin’s RWC2 Stats and Analysis – Wallabies v. Ireland

Austin’s RWC2 Stats and Analysis – Wallabies v. Ireland

What can statistics tell us about the Wallabies’ performance against Ireland on Saturday? You wouldn’t think much, would you?  We all know what was wrong, don’t we?

Let’s make a quick list of the problems for the Wallabies in this game:

  1. Ireland;
  2. poor lineout throwing;
  3. poor scrums;
  4. softness in the forwards;
  5. poor decision-making;
  6. lack of patience with the ball in hand;
  7. wasted ball through chip-kicks; and
  8. missing three key players.

Ireland were fantastic. They went out with a game plan and stuck to it. They completely outplayed the Wallabies and should be congratulated.  Having said that, come on Italy!

I hope you noticed that I left the referee out of this list because I just can’t agree with anyone who says the referee was terrible. Watching the game live I yelled at the TV twice when I thought the referee had got it wrong. Watching the replay back play by play I could list five occasions where he (or his assistants) definitely got it wrong and if anyone expects less than that, you need a robot to referee the game. Referees make mistakes, they always have and always will and in this game none of the mistakes changed the result. Unfortunately four of the five mistakes I listed went against the Wallabies but that’s the rub of the green – some games it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t.

I know there are others some of you might like to include but my point is we can make a list based on what we saw watching the game without the need for statistics, can’t we?

Maybe not. Here are some statements that might make you take a second look:

  1. Ben McCalman was the second-best performed forward for the Wallabies in terms of involvements and he was a lot more involved than in both games he started in the Tri Nations this year;
  2. the Wallabies needed to kick more; and
  3. there was little wrong with the Wallabies defence.

Ben McCalman

I don’t think you’ll find anyone who doesn’t agree that the loss of David Pocock hurt the Wallabies’ performance, but what’s that got to do with Ben McCalman?

In this game McCalman had an Involvement Rate of 0.58 — equal with James Horwill, and bettered only by Dan Vickerman with an Involvement Rate of 0.73.  Of course you want your No. 7 having a better rate than your starting locks but I’ll come back to that.

McCalman carried the ball 4 times in the game. Too low you may, say but David Pocock has been averaging only 6 carries per game in 2011! McCalman made 11 tackles in the game compared to Pocock’s average of 14 per game in 2011. He did have only 46 breakdown involvements ,compared to the 62 Pocock has been averaging per game in 2011.

Overall McCalman’s Involvement Rate of 0.58 is well down on Pocock’s average in 2011 of 0.85. But is that really comparing apples to apples? Pocock is one of the top No. 7s in the world, if not the best. McCalman is not a No. 7 and surely noone expected him to match Pocock’s phenomenal work rate.

How did McCalman do compared to his other games in 2011 where he’s started?  In the three games he’s started in this year at No. 8 he’s had an average Involvement Rate of 0.51.  He’s averaged 7 carries per game, 10 tackles per game and been involved in an average of 16 breakdowns per game. So in this game he carried the ball a little less (which you’d expect, playing No. 7 compared to No. 8), he’s made one less tackle than his average but nearly doubled his breakdown involvements from 16 to 31 in this game (and you’d want your No. 7 focusing on the breakdown more than a No. 8).

I’ve never heard anyone claim Ben McCalman is a dynamic player — he’s more a solid performer who gives his best in every game I’ve seen from him. That appears to be what we got this game: he was given the task of filling in for one of the world’s best No. 7s and lifted his performance from what he’s been doing all year.

So back to my original question: what has the loss of David Pocock got to do with Ben McCalman’s performance?  I say, very little. What’s it got to do with those who chose to go into a major tournament without a specialist No. 7 backup? Everything!

The Wallabies Should Have Kicked More

When the Wallabies played the All Blacks in the Tri Nations final in Brisbane they kicked to complete 43% of their possessions. With Will Genia and Quade Cooper directing the show they played the game using kicks to gain field position and place pressure on their opposition — a lot like that other Australian team that kicked more than any other team for the majority of the Super Rugby season and won a title based on that tactic.

Contrast that level of kicking to the Wallabies in their game against the All Blacks at Eden Park earlier in the Tri Nations when they kicked to complete just 29% of their possessions.

In fact, before the game against Ireland the Wallabies had lost two games this season and won four. In the games they’ve won they’ve kicked to end their possessions an average of 41% of the time. In the two games they’ve lost they’ve kicked on average 26% of the time (23% against Samoa and 29% against New Zealand).

There must be something about Eden Park because the Wallabies again kicked to end only 30% of their possessions against Ireland on Saturday. On numerous occasions they took the wrong decision to run the ball out of their territory rather than play for field position.

That 30% figure includes the four chip-kicks from Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale (two each) that all resulted in cheap turnovers of possession. Three of those kicks were from inside the Wallabies’ own half and set Ireland up to exert pressure on the Wallabies. Those chip kicks represented 31% of all the kicking the Wallabies did so it’s no wonder I only rated 46% of the Wallabies’ kicks as effective.

That kicking performance isn’t any way to win a crucial game in a big tournament. The kicking strategy the Wallabies needed to employ was right in front of them all along and they would have known it.

Why did they go away from the plan when in their last three games they’ve kicked 43% against South Africa, 43% against New Zealand and 41% against Italy? Either the coaches changed the game plan or the coaches failed to send the message out with the runners to get back to the plan and play for field position. Either way, the decision-makers  on the field should have worked out what they were doing wrong.

Wallabies Defence Was Not An Issue

The Wallabies missed only 15 tackles and completed 88% of their tackles.  Of the completed tackles I rated 19% dominant.

Compared to the 19 tackles missed, the 91% completion rate and the 18% dominant from the Tri Nations final against the All Blacks, there was nothing wrong with the Wallabies’ defence statistics against Ireland. Combined with the lack of attacking threats served up by Ireland, defence is not where we lost the game.

Involvement Rates

Whilst Ben McCalman lifted his Involvement Rate from his average this season (0.58 up from 0.51) most other forwards in the starting pack came in with lower Involvement Rates than their average for the games they’ve started in 2011:

  • Sekope Kepu was at 0.55 compared to his 2011 average before this game of 0.52.
  • Ben Alexander was at 0.47 compared to his 2011 average before this game of 0.62;
  • Tatafu Polata-Nau at 0.35 compared to Stephen Moore’s 2011 average of 0.63. Whilst it’s not a fair comparison for TPN to Moore who hasn’t had the injury dramas TPN has, the fact is the guy who’s been playing in the Wallabies’ No. 2 jumper has been doing nearly double the work that TPN did against Ireland.
  • Dan Vickerman lowered his from 1.05 to 0.73 in this game, which was still the best Involvement Rate and at an acceptable level compared to other rates from locks in 2011.
  • James Horwill was at 0.58 compared to his 2011 average before this game of 0.67.
  • Rocky Elsom was at 0.43 compared to his 2011 average before this game of 0.59.
  • Radike Samo was at 0.42 compared to his 2011 average before this game of 0.60. His Involvement rate has dropped from 0.78 in the Tri Nations final when he played 59 minutes to 0.45 against Italy when he played 80 minutes to 0.42 in this game when he played 74 minutes.  an someone please tell the coaches that he’s not an 80-minute player and that they should use the bench! What’s that — we have already told them? Well, why haven’t they listened?

In any other game we might have been able to cover one or two forwards dropping their Involvement Rate but in a game where we lost two of our best players on match day we needed everyone in the pack to step up to cover those losses; the fact they didn’t is the biggest reason we lost the game.

The Involvement Rates for all the Wallaby players are shown below.

Click on the icon in the column headings to sort the data.

Game MinsCarriesTotal Tackles MadeTotal Breakdown InvolvementsTotal InvolvementsInvolvement Rate
Sekope Kepu8011132440.55
Tatafu Polota-Nau806517280.35
Ben Alexander623719290.47
Dan Vickerman6241229450.73
James Horwill8081127460.58
Rocky Elsom723820310.43
Ben McCalman8041131460.58
Radike Samo746718310.42
Will Genia801121140.18
Quade Cooper801316200.25
Adam Ashley-Cooper80688220.28
Pat McCabe8071110280.35
Anthony Faingaa754614240.32
James O'Connor80349160.20
Kurtley Beale8011310240.30
Saia Faingaa
James Slipper1829110.61
Rob Simmons18218110.61
Scott Higginbotham61781.33
Wycliff Palu81781.00
Luke Burgess
Drew Mitchell5220.40

Other Statistics

  1. Lineout throwing – the Wallabies lost two lineouts (both from TPN’s crooked throws) for an 80% success rate compared to Ireland’s 71% success rate. Unfortunately TPN’s throwing issues shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s looked at his past performances in this area. Given the time he’s spent in camp with the Wallabies since he recovered from his injuries I don’t understand how his success rate hasn’t been improved by the coaches (unless they haven’t had a specialist throwing coach working with him). It shows how much we missed Stephen Moore.
  2. Scrums – the Wallabies lost only one scrum on their feed for an 89% success rate compared to 100% for the Irish. This statistic definitely doesn’t reflect the pressure the Wallaby scrum was under and shows again how much we missed Stephen Moore.
  3. Breakdown – the Wallabies retained the ball 90% of the times they took it into the breakdown compared to 95% for the Irish. The biggest issue there was the possession lost in mauls. I listened to the New Zealand commentators calling this game and they talked about how this seemed to be a plan by the Irish and must have been something they had worked on this week. They obviously don’t read G&GR because Lee Grant warned us about this Irish tactic weeks ago when he described it as their ‘party trick’. After reading that article I took myself off to watch some recent Irish games and there it was, so surely the Wallabies knew what was coming and surely they practised how to rip to ground… although on the evidence in the game footage, maybe they didn’t practise it at all, or simply forgot what to do.
  4. Decision-making and Execution – the Wallabies lost 23% of their possession through lost ball. Some of that has to do with Quade’s decision-making when he tried to push passes that weren’t on, although with Quade you have to accept there will be a level of this in every game and take the good with the bad, it’s just unfortunate that in this game there was no good to offset the bad. The other notable loss of possession was when Anthony Faingaa threw that horrible pass forward and into touch when the Wallabies were hard on attack. That execution was really poor for a normally reliable player so was obviously more about the mental pressure.

That’s enough from me. Why don’t you click on the relevant icon below to see the full team or player statistics for the Wallabies and dissect the numbers yourself.

Nearly forgot — my MOTS Award (Man Of The Statistics) has to be Pat McCabe. Despite the two instances where he carried the ball too upright and it was lost in a maul, the amount of work he did wasn’t far away from some of the forwards and I rated 45% of his tackles as dominant.

  • redbull

    Outstanding once more Scott. Thanks for the data analysis.

    More Moore!
    Why choose TPN to start when Faingaa had more test minutes this year in what was obviously a crunch game? No one doubts he will come good but giving him the cold plunge was a bit harsh. Why leave Samo on the field for so long? I wonder if the coaches have live stats similar to what you have presented?

    Side note Ant Faingaa is now down with a stomach bug and must have taken the field under the weather. Has Susie changed sides and moved to Aukland?

    • The Rant

      agree on faiinga – he’s put the miles in this year with the reds and its THE crunch game and you put TPN who was so off the pace against canada 3 weeks ago that these stats are no surprise.

      Palu looked good, pity the game was gone – same with higgers – whats the point of being an ‘impact player’ when robbies coaching, same for mitchell.

      • Garry

        They have good involvement stats for the short time they were on, it would have been good to seem them have another 10 minutes. Although by Scott’s thinking it might not have mattered?

        I thought we’d trained the bench usage problem out of our coaches, back to school again for you(s).

    • Wallaby Fan 2011

      I Love stats but Scott can you look to do a more involved stat of:- impact on play.
      I know Ben Mac get involved alot in rucks but my main gripe with him is that involvment has no effect on the play. Also missed tackles I thought were a problem as well so if you know those figures that would be great.

      Thanks for the stats always a good read.

      • Austin

        Missed tackles are covered in the article above under the heading – Wallabies Defence Was Not An Issue and there is a section on defence in the stats report you can download.

        Stats can’t tell you everything – I could analyse every aspect of the game in much more detail but alas, not enough hours in the day so can’t give you a more detailed breakdown of involvements.

      • mark conley

        As i said in another thread you’ve got to watch the game again, McCalman did a lot, and as i said in another thread don’t list to a no-nothing NZ never-played-rugby commentator, he missed every time McCalman did something, as i said he ain’t no pocock but he was far from the worst forward in that match!

  • vidiot

    Thanks Austin, great reading as usual. You have quantified the feel of how the game drifted away from the wallabies beautifully and once again I find myself hoping one R Deans has similar quality analysis at his end.

    • The Rant

      The oldest squad at the Cup gave a a pretty simple yet emphatic lesson to the youngest squad in the cup…

      Question: Is Robbie the youngest coach? He seems to get schooled quite often…

  • Braveheart81

    Great analysis.

    For mine, the lack of effective kicking was a massive error. In wet conditions we should be kicking more for field position, not less.

    • Patrick

      I too was screaming at them to kick it to the shithouse, basically.

  • Thanks Scott, great write up as usual.

    Two observations I’d make that naturally aren’t the focus of these stats but probably bear mentioning –

    Firstly that Irish pressure on us at breakdown was nothing short of superb, as was their scum persistance, by which I mean them holding their form and power after the Wallabies had thought the scrum was done, you could almost hear the Wallabies thinking ‘god, it must be over by now’. Not sure higher work rates would have changed that, but does beg a question about the training regime.

    But what was perhaps more relevant to this analysis, re involvement rates – the Irish did a fantastic (dare I say it almost Samoan) job of slowing the game down with delaying tactics to optimise their game, restore precious energy for the breakdown fight, and keep the Wallabies off balance.

    Also rapt to see McCalman get recognition for lifting his game. I don’t think I have seen anyone criticise his efforts on G&GR, only Deans for his selections!

    Lastly if only one didn’t get a sense that yet again Vicks antagonised the ref we’d love his game.

    Thanks again, especially for the dominant tackle stats. Love em.

    • Dave

      I think the aussie scrum would go alot better if the whole 8 were pushing. I can’t remember how many times on Ireland’s feed that our whole backrow had their heads up watching for the ball to come out. We didn’t pressure their scrum enough on their own feed. That’s why BaaBaa’s frustrated spray was so apt as this was an area we seem to be perpetually fixing only to have it break again the following week. We have to be more consistent. Mind you towards the end of the game we almost came away with a couple of tightheads due to the fact we kept our heads down and pushed as a unit.
      A couple of scrum penalties went against us when they should have gone the other way (and to be fair there were a couple that were missed for Ireland as well) that directly resulted in shots at goal for the Irish. But the scrums are a mystery to the refs more than anyone else I think. The IRB seriously need to do something about this area of the game.

  • Thanks for the stats, Austin!

    I was keen to see how many tackles McCabe made compared to McCalman so am not surprised they both made 11, along with Horwill. Rocky made 8 and Samo 7. This is just inadequate for any backrow at any level – there’s no mongrel or hunger there.

    Contrast them to some others running around: Canadia’s backrow with Kleeburger, SA’s with Brussow, or Argentinian Leguizamon. Those blokes actually want to play rugby.

    When praised about his tackle rate, Kleeburger essentially said, ‘well, I’m a backrower, it’s my job’. There’s none of that workmanlike focus from the Aussie forwards, especially not from the backrow. No one wants to make the running, it’s just disgusting.

    For crying out loud, even the Namibian 7 and 8 were charging around the paddock, throwing themselves into everything. The 7 wasn’t so skillful, mind you, but his attitude was spot on. In fact, I don’t know even why you’re playing rugby if you aren’t out there to cause damage.

    Moore is our best forward, followed by Pocock. But any bloke wearing that gold jersey needs to just man up.

    Still cranky.

  • Lee Enfield

    You would have to think that Cooper/Genia were following the coaches directions. Those two had no problems kicking for territory and competition with the Reds and did so extremely well all season, heck they won the S15 doing it. I find it strange that the two players who orchestrated the Reds’ success at S15 level, have seemingly forgotten how to tactical kick at international level.
    My opinion is that they were told to run the ball, keep the pace of the game up to try and tire the old Irish legs and basically run the irish ragged. Problem is someone forgot to tell the Irish to play ball and the Irish made the game revolve around the set piece and forced stop start Rugby, which was more suitable for the conditions and right up the Irish alley.
    The Wallabies were unwilling or unable to change tactics and I think this is as a result of the Deans, play what is in front of you philosiphy.
    The thing I struggle with, is that Ewen McKenzie has given Robbie Deans the blueprint for success, Kick for territory, kick for competition when nothing is on, if the defensive line is broken, run it hard and support, support, support.
    It is good to have a plan, but as Murphy says, a plan is only good until first contact with the enemy. From there it is being able to improvise, adapt and overcome. This Wallabies team is brilliant when they have the initiative, but really struggle to regain the initiative when things aren’t going to plan.

    • Newter

      “These two had no problem kicking for territory and competition with the Reds”

      Interesting point. Ewen would be getting so much more out of this team you would have to think.

  • Pete

    Very interesting that McCalman was nearly our best, I didn’t sight him much all game. I wish he was carrying an extra 10kg of muscle! I wonder how effective those involvements were, or if I just blinked at all his good moments. I also thought TPN threw 3 crooked throws, and there was definitely an overthrow in there as well. Maybe didn’t watch this game as well as I thought I did!

    Also in Ant Fingers’ defence, his horrific forward pass may have had a lot to do with the weather, it looked like it slipped to me.

    Anyway, I still believe, the Wallabies will be under no illusions for the rest of the tournament, and surely having our two best forwards scratched on game day won’t happen again. Maybe they can use this as a lesson, no one else learnt anything from this game as to how to beat us and we all know the Wallabies can do better, cos they have done better. And now we’re the underdogs again, good stuff.

    • Scott Allen

      I also heard the commentators saying three crooked throws but there were only two. Sportsdata also recorded two.

      There was also an overthrow but McCabe regathered so it wasn’t lost.

      • Pete

        Ah ok, that’s probably where I got it from. Damn kiwis and their subliminal mind control.

      • MattyP

        Scott – isn’t that the problem with raw data though? An accidental overthrow that is regained by a center, even though your team keeps possession, is a mistake and should be treated as such. The whole team has set up for one play, and the ball ended up somewhere else. For mine, that play should be scored as an “error”, then a regain of possession by McCabe, because at the point of the overthrow it was a 50/50 ball.

    • Garry

      “no one else learnt anything from this game as to how to beat us ”

      Its the same game plan exposed when the Poms worked it out against us last year. Slow the ruck ball down, or the WB’s will run riot.

      The Irish learnt it from the Poms and the Samoan games, and other coaches will have seen it, except ours.

      • Pete

        My point exactly, and it’s safe to say the ABs and Boks knew about it in our last game against them as well. I think there needs to be a level of compliance from our forwards for the gameplan to work. The issue is of course how often we’ve offered that up.

  • Rob

    Funny to see all the reds supporters on here making excuses for faingaa. It’s time to realise he just isn’t up to test rugby. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a decent super player but this is a big step up. This was backed up by last weeks statistics (1 tackle and 1 run). I’d be considering McCabe at 13 with barnes back to steady quade. Thoughts?

    • Blytherin

      I reckon that’d be better, but I’d possibly prefer to see AAC at Outside Centre. I’m very keen to see Barnes back in the side though.

      I don’t see McCabe as a test quality IC, but Barnes is. I also like the fact that Barnes and Cooper can swap positions in attack to create additional uncertainty.

      Even if we’d had the perfect backline against the Irish, I doubt it would have made much difference on the night. Our team, and especially our coaching staff were anihilated in the Smarts Department, and then their forwards completed the job on the field.

      • Rob

        Yeh I agree with that. Quade can’t handle being on the back foot with slow ball. It was amazing to see the difference in speed of ball between us and the Irish. We obviously suffered without pocock in this area as he is unbelievable at being a pest even when be doesnt come up with the ball.

        I also think it could be time to go back to AAC. I just wouldn’t mind giving McCabe one last crack as I think he is far better suited to 13 than 12 (can he even spell be word pass?) I do have fond memories of AAC hitting a flat QC ball at full pace to break through and run around the Muliaina and score in Hong Kong.

        I complete no brainer for me would also be to get Quade out of fullback in defence. He showed that he is not safe under the highball unlike Kurtley and in my opinion is not even comparable in counter attack (is there anyone better than KB when he puts on the gas rather than chipping). I’d stick quade out on the wing as hes a long way from defending at 10. I hate to say that the carter v cooper argument seems a bit ridiculous now.

        As disappointing as Saturday is. The RWC is far from over. And we have some recent success against the ABs and boks. So come on wallabies.

        • Garry

          We missed Pocock’s two or thee turnovers per game. And he’s usually the one on the bottom of a ruck helping our ruck ball.

        • Handles O Love

          Kurtely looks great running the ball back, but mainly because he hasn’t caught it. Quade takes the kick, and moves the ball outside the path of the chasers. IT is working well. One of only a few things.

          I don’t really care which one of AF or McCabe goes. Both are good, solid but limited players. We can carry one of them to give the mid0field starch, but not two. If Barnes comes in next game and goes alright, it might be curtains for both of them, as AAC will move in when Ioane or Mitchell is ready to play wing again.

    • Behind Enemy Lines

      I’m not sure I understand how Fainga’a isn’t up to it but McCabe is. In my book they’re both about the same and probably neither are up to standard at the moment.

    • Wallaby Fan 2011

      Rob, I was one of those Reds fans. But you are right. You can’t be inconsistant like he has been in the last two tests and expect to stay in the top team. That last no look pass that went 3 metres forward was the sealer for mind. McCabe however is not the answer at 13. He can tackle yes but geez in attack he is possible the worst back I have seen in years for running lines and support play. The Faingaa pass was a mile foward but if my memory serves me right McCabe was on his outside and was in front of him anyway. There are better centres across the park than the ones we have now. Stats are great but they don’t show what the individual actually did with that involvement. Eg. did we get a turnover with the dominant tackle, was the tackler effective in that turnover, a player at the breakdown, did they flop into the breakdown, just use their arms or make a real impact, slowing ball down a turnover, I mean the list could go on. Don’t get me wrong I like stats and they are important but only to a certain level.

      • Rob

        I’ve been swung. I agree. Neither centre is up to this level. Maybe we should revert to the barnes AAC combo that worked well against France last year. It’s a bit worrying that we seem to have no idea about our best centre pairing so close to quarters.

        • bill

          I disagree, Faingaa is quality at in centre. re that forward pass yeah mistakes happen get over it. He’s miles better than McCabe as a centre, which isn’t saying much. It would be nice to see him at in centre instead of getting a chill at oc. Rob Horne should probably get a look in at oc. Tapui should come in for McCabe.

          I can’t see this coaching crew changing horses mid race though.

          McCabe like McCalman is a victim of tricky coaching at the moment. They may have the physical tools but you can’t fast track some of the skills they need just by throwing them in the deepend and wishing for it..

        • Blytherin

          Hi Rob, I slightly disagree too.

          I reckon they both have strong points, and are clearly good team players and strong defenders. But they’re both a bit one dimensional so I don’t think you can have both in the run-on team.

          In fact, going a step further I’m not sure it’s that great to have either of them with AAC in the centres, who is also in my mind a bit one-dimensional and has the passing subtlety of an under 8yr old.

          I also have a big question about what is happening tactically with use of the centres. We’re very predictable and our opposition know that the threat isnt going to come from there. Cooper obviously takes a fair bit of blames for this, but Deans must share in the blame too.

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  • Graeme

    How many scrums, ours and theirs did we get penalised? In the second half it almost seemed that every scrum was a certain penalty against Kepu.

  • Graeme

    So many of the problems seemed to be down to coaching.

    The kicking tactic certainly must have been called by Deans, or if not he should be ragging Genia and Cooper for not keeping to the gameplan.

    Lack of number 7.

    Playing Samo the full 80 minutes despite his age and fitness.

    6-9 points behind with the clock running down and Deans persists with a very defensive backline (McCabe, Fa’ainger, AAC) instead of moving AAC in one spot and bring on Mitchell to run against the tired defense. If Deans wanted to cotton-wool Mitchell he shouldn’t have been on the reserve bench. And with the chances of topping our pool and having an easier run to the finals slipping from our grip he absolutely had to be brought on more than 4 minutes from the end.

    Cooper and more particularly Beale giving away simple possession by very low percentage chip kicks and trying to turn every half break into a try instead of recycling. I say Beale more than Cooper, because Coopers game seems to thrive off the x-factor. Beale on the otherhand I think has become a bit to affected by the occasional success of his chip kicks and is now trying them even when there is patently nothing on. Also he has been run into touch a couple of times in the past few games trying to turn a break into a try, instead of just opting to play it safe, recycle and hope for a score in the next phases. This to me is a coaching issue, it is all good and what to play whats in front of you, but their has to be some mentorship and instruction from the top to cut out these types of silly decisions. I would assume at this level all players should be watching videos of themselves and critically analysing the decisions they made, but since the bad decisions happen week upon week I doubt this.

    As someone else said, the Irish obviously did their research well. They marked McCabe as a relatively small guy who always runs the crash ball and stands very upright when he runs, and targetted him with the choke tackle. How much analysis did we do on the opposition backs when our own half back didn’t even know the names of the opposition players. I find it hard to believe that he had spent any time going over potential weaknesses or strengths of the players he would be playmaking against without even being able to name them.

    The continuous use of the short drop-out when it has repeatedly not worked and left us under huge pressure, especially when done from the 22. Maybe this was Quades idea, but again responsibility has to go back to the coach.

    Does JON have a clause in Deans contract that it can be rescinded if we don’t even make it throught the quarter’s, which at this rate is looking very likely. We have a coach in Link who has shown himself capable of bringing out the best in his players, who has managed to vary his gameplan week-in, week-out to countered oppositions strengths and exploit their weaknesses, and who is prepared to admit mistakes and change (eg. When he brought in a specialist open-side in Beau Robinson after experimenting with 3 locks).

    And my final thought, Deans comment after the game on the world cup in general “At no point did we presume we’d be successful”. Well what have we spent the past 4 years “building” for?

  • Duncher

    What I noticed from the game was that our forwards seemed almost lethargic, I guess that’s reflected in their involvement rates. Obviously on our own ball it was fine, but defensively we certainly threw a LOT more players into the breakdown against the Italians AND ABs AND Saffas in previous games.

    It seems to me that there is a string correlation between the Wallabies defensive breakdown work and our ability to win. So the question is, why aren’t we competing harder on their ball?

    With all these lessons Dingo keeps telling us we’re learning I’m surprised we aren’t the smartest team on the planet.

    Still hats off to those plucky Irish.

    All in all, great game, even if we did get spat out the wrong end of it.

  • Handles O Love

    I will take the bait Scott.

    I love your stats, and the great analysis, but what they don’t tell you is when McCalman was arriving at the breakdown. I agree with you that it isn’t his fault that he isn’t Pocock, but somebody had to be first to the breakdown and get tehir body over the ball.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Pocock would have turned at least 30% of those dominant tackels into turnovers. As it was, Ireland turned us over twice as often as we turned them. We had nobody getting there in time. This is why I am angry that SF didn’t get a run, either first – if I was pulling the strings, or at least in the last 30 minutes when TPN was out on his feet. SF does get over the footy and contest. I can’t believe that the scrum could have gone any worse if he came on.

  • Red Kev

    All this breakdown proves to my mind is that statistics are not an accurate reflection of the game. McCabe was almost the worst-performed back on the field against Ireland – he was just pipped for the honour by A.Fainga’a.
    I will freely admit that I did not tape the game nor watch it with a notepad like you seem to have but I have never rated McCabe and did concentrate on his game to prove to myself that he was poor (and that Deans was making the wrong call).
    I clearly remember his first five carries (these are all in the first half after which I stopped paying attention instead focussing my displeasure at Deans and his unwillingness to use the bench).
    McCabe carry no.1 – Ireland hold him up in the tackle, form a maul and claim the turnover.
    McCabe carry no.2 – He gets to ground but is swamped at the breakdown and Ireland pilfer the ball in the ruck.
    McCabe carry no.3 – McCabe is on the wing instead of in the 12 channel, he evades the first tackle before going to ground (just short of or just over the advantage line I’m not sure which) and the Wallabies retain possession.
    McCabe carry no.4 – He’s too high in contact again trying to run a 12-channel crash ball, Ireland hold him up, form a maul and claim the turnover.
    McCabe carry no.5 – Australia are on attack and have the advantage, McCabe runs into the defence, Ireland hold him up, form a maul and the referee blows his whistle calling play back as Australia have gained no advantage.
    That’s 5 carries for 4 turnovers (or 4 carries for 3 turnovers if you don’t count the advantage that is called back). Yet your statistics have him playing well. I don’t think so.

  • Red Kev

    The statistical analysis I would really like to see is one of Robbie Deans’ use of the bench. I don’t have all his 50 games taped (I should look into doing this in future) but I don’t doubt someone will have them.
    Timing of substitutions (it is a firm opinion of mine that unless a player is playing so well that you can’t justify subbing them, all bench players should be on the field before the 65 minute mark – having less than 15 minutes game time is a waste).
    Difference between timing of substitutions in games when the Wallabies are winning compared to games they are losing.

    What the Ireland game proved to me (I’ve suspected it for a long time) is that Deans doesn’t know how to utilise his bench. Reserves can provide changes in game momentum (i.e. impact) when losing; they can ensure sustained pressure in play when winning – rugby matches are won with 22 men, not 15.
    The Irish backrow was giving the Wallabies backrow of Elsom-McCalman-Samo a pasting; Deans has 2 loose forwards in Higginbotham (who has been the form Australian loose forward of 2011) and Palu (Australia’s only genuine enforcer in the mould of Jerry Collins, Rodney So’oialo and Jerome Kaino – even if he is coming back from injury) sitting on the bench; Deans doesn’t bring them on until the last 10 minutes of the match. That’s terrible tactical coaching.

    • Wallaby Fan 2011

      Kev I remember a similar problem I think in ’09 when Australia lost he never used his bench until right at the end and the public were up in arms. It makes you wonder if sometimes he loses focus and forgets?

      • Funk

        If he loses focus and forgets, then what the hell are Nuci and Big Jim doing sitting beside him….(“want another pie, Dingo?….can I get you another beer, Dingo?”)???

  • Dave

    Great analysis as usual Austin. I watched the game again last night and was surprised att our defensive effectiveness. However the inclusion of Barnes (or another ball player) at 12 is almost a necessity to take some pressure off Cooper. Cooper was constantly pressured by the rushing Irish defense. And yet there were no other ball players giving him options. Where was JOC? Why wasn’t he slotting in at 12 every now and again to help Quade out? It seem to me that JOC in these circumstances could play a more active role than just sitting out on the wing.

    I rate McCabe, I just wish he had more to his game. Maybe this will develop. His commitment can’t be questioned. He is obviously there primarily to run hard and dominate tackles. He’s exceptionally good at both but evidently his going into a group contact needs work. He got caught out by Ireland’s clutch tackling (is that that we’re calling it?) twice, and almost a third but the ref playing advantage saved him. What was encouraging though was how disappointed he was in himself for letting that happen. While Barnes’ defensive work can’t be questioned he obviously doesn’t hit as hard as McCabe. Otherwise, isn’t this tactic or something like it a no brainer?
    Ant had a bit of a shocker. Shame. Once again his defensive work was sound, however his general play succumbed to Ireland’s pressure.

    Austin, do you do stats on kick offs? On initial viewing it seems that our kick off retention was far less effective than normal. It seemed to me that a previous problem that we had somwehat remedied has once again returned to plague the Wallabies.

    • Austin

      Dave – the restart stats are the first section in the Team Statistics report you can download.

      Wallabies received the ball 3 times from Irish kickoffs and retained 100% of those.

      Wallabies kicked off to the Irish 6 times – the Irish retained 5 and their winger put a foot into touch once, so we got a lineout.

  • bill

    it is very unfair to pick on a guy played out of position. Watching the game I thought two things about McCalman, he is getting through a deal of work and plenty of involvement, but like Sharpie in his last test the quality of involvement was very ordinary. At least Sharpie was able to lift his performance and do some very good things as the game went on, Benny was pretty well ….it was poor.

    Maybe Robbie and the brains trust are right in saying the refs aren’t rewarding genuine opensides but bugger me if genuine opensides still aren’t worth their weight in gold because whether they turnover the ruck ball or not they will pressure the opposition ruck. And there was a signal lack of that from McCalman.

    Liam Gill is our next classiest openside but It’s arguable that beau or hodgo are better options for hard headed performance.

    Personally I’d go with Gill, but any of those three should be replacing Benny.

    Robbie should have dragged benny Mc and put either ant/saia fiangaa or Higginbotham in at openside then brought Mitchell on. Poor coaching.

    Taf was pretty ineffective as well. Overall a very dissappointing display, all credit to Ire, I’m not disrespecting them by focussing on us, we don’t controll the opposition performance, we controll our performance, It’s about time we did that or we’re gone.

    I actually thought our halves did ok as far as tactical kicking went, but they need to say f*ck the gameplan and start ditching that shit crash ball only play, get something in there that will put the oppo in two minds instead of just one.

  • Wayne Cameron

    Great analysis and some key assumptions. My problem is with involvements is how effective they were. Vickermann is obviously effective and that can be seen by anyone as he missiles himself into rucks. The number of carries a ball runner has tells little, but getting over the advantage line is a statistic all the coaches are keen on. Ben McCallmans 4 charges were innefective. And also using the statistic of “involvements” Beal had the lowest, but he was more effective than anyone in the backline at going forward.
    The criticism of Tatafu at hooker is flawed. He is a victim of Australia’s lack of dept in all positions. He was crucified by the Warratahs in the Super season and went into the last game carrying three serious injuries (which is has only just fully recovered from). This was his first game time and he tired in the second half when the scrum really imploded. He was not up for 80 minutes and the illness of Moore caught out the selectors. The reason for playing him for the full 80 minutes and not bringing on Fainga is obvious – he can’t scrum against northern hemisphere packs. Proved against the English last time. The coach would gladly have brought him on for 15 to 20 minutes if Australia was leading by 10, but not when we were having trouble with our scrum. The problem is simple. We have picked a team to reward Queensland’s win in the Super final by including the wrong hooker to play World Cup against champion scrummaging teams like the underatted Ireland. Tatafu was sacrificed and criticised by the same poor selection process that did not pick a back up No. 7 for Pocock. Australia will depart from the World Cup because of its lack of depth and the failure of selectors to give credit to the “different” scrummaging techniques of Northern Hemisphere teams. You can’t just train to “contain” the All Black and Boks’ scrums and think you are home. That’s the beauty of diversity in Rugby.

    • Red Kev

      QUOTE “The criticism of Tatafu at hooker is flawed” END QUOTE
      Not really, or only in the sense that Deans should be criticised for not substituting. You say S.Fainga’a can’t scrum against NH teams – TPN was walking before half time, he was completely out of energy, packing a scrum is hard work and while I agree S.Fainga’a is not the strongest scrummager he’d still do a lot better than an exhausted TPN.

      I maintain Ireland didn’t play that well. It was only 15-6. Australia could have won that with a coach who (a) used his bench, (b) fired up his team and read it the riot act at halftime, and (c) used his damn bench (yes I said it twice).

  • Blytherin

    Thank you Scott for doing this terrific analysis.

    One question I have though, is what impact on involvement rate is there when a match is as slow and stop start as this one? I would have thought the number of potential involvements would have been right down. Do you have stats for total number of breakdowns and minutes when the ball is in play?

    • Austin

      Number of breakdowns has more impact given an average of about 170 per game compared to 80 minutes but both measures have an impact.

      The ball in play time and number of breakdowns against ireland was around 25% down on other games in 2011.

      Unfortunately a bit of time involved to record these numbers for the period each player was on the field so although I’ve looked at it, it was a one-off.

      • Blytherin

        Without wishing to defend our forwards too much, it’s interesting if the total number of (potential) involvements was down close to 25% on the 2011 average.

        If you hypothetically adjust the number of total involvements up (total involvements/0.75), then you find the forwards were close to their 2011 averages. Eg Kefu goes from 0.55 to 0.73; Vickerman goes from 0.60 to 0.97; McCalman goes from 0.58 to 0.77 (which is getting towards Pocock levels).

        Of course even that doesn’t get them off the hook though, because it doesn’t take into account the quality of their involvements…

  • Nipper

    If anyone listens to the Ruggamatrix podcast regularly, they would have heard Les Kiss discussing the Irish defensive tactic of holding up the ballcarrier instead of bringing him to ground.

    So, I knew that, you knew that, Lee Grant knew that, the listeners of RuggaMatrix knew that… why didn’t the Wallabies know that?

    Surely it came up and was discussed in preparation for the match – did they just forget how to deal with it?


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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