BLEDISLOE 3 PREVIEW - BRISBANE 21/10/2017 - Green and Gold Rugby
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BLEDISLOE 3 PREVIEW – BRISBANE 21/10/2017

BLEDISLOE 3 PREVIEW – BRISBANE 21/10/2017

The Bledisloe Cup may be locked away in Wellington for another summer but there’s still plenty to play for in Brisbane on Saturday night, not least places in the respective End of Year tour squads but mostly, of course, trans-Tasman bragging rights.

BLEDISLOE 1 & 2 RECAP

After shipping an unprecedented 40 points in the opening half in Sydney then staging a comeback to go down 34-54, the Wallabies went to Dunedin with the kiwi TAB offering $15 for them to win and a 28.5-point head start. To the amazement of most they rocketed out to 17-0 inside fifteen minutes, and lead 29-28 with under four minutes to play, causing some premature celebrations in the Fox studio, before suffering a heartbreaking last-minute 29-35 loss.

TEAM NEWS

The All Blacks preparation was dominated by concerns over Beauden Barrett. He left the field in Cape Town two weeks ago, did not return despite passing his HIA, and had reportedly been “seeing stars” and suffering headaches since.

Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder who also left the field against South Africa – needlessly injured after the All Blacks chose to play on well after the half-time siren – has undergone shoulder surgery. With Waisake Naholo in prime form in his last two Test outings, coach Steve Hansen chose not to call a replacement into the squad.

For the Wallabies the major concern was lock Rory Arnold who injured his knee in an NRC match last Sunday. Rookie Izack Rodda’s decision to have shoulder surgery further depleted the locking options available to Michael Cheika. On the plus side versatile back Karmichael Hunt rejoined the squad after time out with an ankle injury, though he was not selected for the match day 23.

Karmichael Hunt

Karmichael Hunt

After trading barbs in the lead up to both Bledisloe 1 & 2 (and numerous times prior), both Hansen and Cheika were unusually quiet, no doubt to the disappointment of rugby writers on both sides of The Ditch.

KEY PLAYERS

With established All Blacks props Owen Franks and Joe Moody lost to injury, the lesser-known Nepo Laulala and Kane Hames – who this time last year didn’t have a Super Rugby contract – have really stood up. Hames in particular has dominated his recent Argentine and South African opponents at scrum time and been strong around the park.

Barrett’s injury opens the door for Lima Sopoaga to start just his second Test after an impressive run-on debut against South Africa in 2015. He’s widely regarded as the steadiest, most classical of New Zealand’s current 5/8’s, which could prove crucial if, as predicted, it’s a wet night in Brisbane. He’s also a more consistent goal kicker than Barrett which, again, could be key if it’s tight.

Sopoaga with a shot at goal

Sopoaga with a shot at goal

For the Wallabies lock Adam Coleman continues to grow in stature with every start and is now someone around whom a Wallabies tight five can be built. Even the rotation of his locking partners – sometimes forced, other times seemingly almost on a whim – doesn’t seem to faze him. Comparisons are odious but greatness surely awaits the young man.

Israel Folau cops an astonishing amount of criticism on this and other sites but it’s worth noting that he’s now scored eleven tries in eight matches this year. He needs just seven more from up to six further outings to break the record mark of Japan’s Daisuke Ohata (2002) and All Black Joe Rokocoko (2003). His haul to date is already an Australian record, surpassing Lote Tuqiri’s ten in 2004.

The key match-up, however, may well be that between the number nines.

Many thought Will Genia’s best was a good few years behind him, but his recent firm has been outstanding and significantly it was him, not Cheika, who delivered a recent half-time spray in his capacity as vice-captain.

Aaron Smith isn’t quite back to his very best but isn’t far off – which he needs to be with his understudy TJ Perenara pushing him hard for the starting jersey – and with Barrett out becomes very much the senior pro in the backline.

PROSPECTS & PREDICTION

As we’ve seen already this year, both sides are capable of scoring a lot of points very quickly, but equally capable of leaking them almost as quickly. So far the All Blacks have twice managed to come out on the right side of that equation, but you get the feeling that Australia are well capable of coming out on top this time around.

That said, though, there’s more than a hint that they lack the same absolute self-belief in their ability to overcome any points deficit, or close out a game in which they hold a slim lead, possessed by the All Blacks. We saw that most recently in Dunedin but on several other occasions in recent years.

In another high-scoring affair, All Blacks by eight.

Wallabies

15 Israel Folau, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio. Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Henry Speight

All Blacks

15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames. Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 David Havili.

Match Details

Date: Saturday, October 21
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:00 (AEST) 20:00 (ADST)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

  • jamie

    I got no idea who’s winning this one. I’m just going to watch and drink beer. Enjoy the rugby lads!

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      I don’t think that we are 50-50, but I think we are a lot closer than the bookies are giving us credit for. I would say we are at least 35-40%. Both teams are fairly young and inexperienced.

      The All Blacks have better players and are more confident; the Wallabies have played together as a team more and have thus been able to develop some combinations, and they have the home-crowd support and the game means more to them.

      Should be a cracker. Wish I was in Brisbane for it.

  • idiot savant

    Thanks Brent. I took a few things away from the last ABs match against the Boks. The ABs scored all their tries from against the play moments, charge downs, intercepts, and kick return counterattacks. They didn’t score from structured play. The Boks on the other hand did.

    The Boks defence was incredible given how many times they kicked the ball straight to the ABs who counter attacked and were only denied by great scrambling. I also liked the way the Boks wingers (particularly Leyds) got their outside shoulder outside their opponents and herded them infield. This cut off the ABs usually lethal wide play option and forced the attack back into the cover defence.

    I also liked the way the Boks occasionally reversed the play. I thought this allowed them to make some good metres because the ABs commit their defence so totally to the side they think the play is going.

    Of course the Boks great strength over the ball prevented the ABs from gaining that lethal momentum they are capable of.

    My takeaway for us is a few things. Keep ball in hand and don’t kick deep in the field of play. Their counter attack is too lethal. Having said that we also need to play the game outside our 22 so we will need exit kicking. Hodge should be drafted for this to kick it into the stands. Foley will only just clear the line allowing the ABs quick throw ins and counter attack. If to goes into the stands, they have to play structured football and we can match them there.

    Reverse the attack direction occasionally, which means Foley standing deeper on occasion. Our wingers should not show their opponents the touchline and should herd them infield to the cover defence. Be as physical as humanly possible over the ball. And of course try and not to beat ourselves with the cleverness of our defence strategy.

    Wallabies by 5. Go boys!

    • jamie

      Few problems with that.

      Foley doesn’t play deep.
      We don’t have any ruck presence.

      Other than that, love your work.

      • idiot savant

        I didn’t understand the deep kicking as a strategy against that counter attack. Pollard held on to it and ran straight while he was on and gave them less opportunities for a while. But the Boks tackling was superb.

        And I think Garces let the ABs get away with murder at the breakdown. Side entries allowed. On the last play, an AB stole the ball lying on the ground!

        I love Foley flat in attack but kicking from shallow positions is an accident waiting to happen. Well it has happened a few times!

        • Who?

          Against that back three, a good kicking game would actually be worth a shot. They’ve only got one kicker in the back field – Reiko and Waisake aren’t going to kick it back, so it all falls to DMac, and while he’s good, he’s still inexperienced at this level. It worries me when we have only one kicker in the back three (like this week – Hodge). So it’s equally true for them. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have anything in the same country as a good kicking game… :-(

        • jamie

          A 10-12-15 of Cooper-Toomua-Beale, with Hodge and Folau on wings, would be a hell of a kicking game…

          And really not that bad on attack or defence, honestly.

        • Who?

          If you really want that kicking backline, then you probably have to sub in DHP for Folau on the wing. Or bring home and play Jesse Mogg. And bring home White to play 9. Kick most teams off the park!
          And still not bad on attack – extra pace on the wing.

        • Max Raine

          folau can kick very well coming from afl

        • Who?

          He can kick well. It’s just that he takes a while to wind up, and AFL taught him always to find the man. He’s improving in not doing that, but AFL training clearly is to kick it to the man in space, which Folau’s done very well through his Rugby career. It’s just that, instead of it being an unmarked power forward, in Rugby it’s the opposition back three…

    • Brent Craig

      I don’t think you have to worry too much about them kicking too deep, other than Hodge (who somewhat nullifies the distance he gets by being not always avcurste) 20-30a seems to be their limit.

  • MungBean

    Harder to pick than a broken snoz

  • Simon Powell

    We have a 7 that doesn’t want to scavenge. A 9 that telegraphs his box kicks. A 10 that hides on the wing in defense. A 12 that hides on the other wing in defense and a 15 that just refuses to tackle. I think that its remarkable that we get as close as we do to the All Blacks.

    • Braveheart81

      Hooper won more turnovers in the Rugby Championship than Cane and Todd who split the games at 7 for the All Blacks. The two top turnover winners in the Rugby Championship were hookers and the third ranked was a halfback (Perenara). Hooper was 4th.

      • jamie

        I don’t think it’s turnovers most criticise, it’s his never slowing the ball down mindset. Hooper might turn over a lot of ball and pick his moments brilliantly but he doesn’t slow down ball.

        • Braveheart81

          That is clearly a team tactic that we largely stand off defensive breakdowns unless there looks like an opportunity to win a turnover or seriously disrupt the ball. Hooper contests more defensive breakdowns than the rest of our forward pack. Argentina is probably contesting defensive breakdowns harder than any of the teams and they shipped way more points than anyone else. South Africa contest pretty hard too and they also conceded more points than us.

          When we have someone back like Pocock who is the best in the world at it, I agree we should go harder at the breakdown. Right now though, I think we are better served keeping our defensive line intact.

          I don’t think there is a lot of correlation right now in rugby between investing players to the breakdown to try and slow the ball down and success. You may slow the ball down but you leave less players in your defensive line.

        • Simon

          Yeah, Hooper’s clearly been working hard on his breakdown, and I’ve been impressed by his progress. There is obviously a conscious effort going on to improve that aspect of his openside game. With Pocock and Fardy with him it wasn’t such a big deal, but with McMahon and Hanigan it’s a very different story.

          Standing off rucks unless there is a pilfer chance is in vogue at the moment globally. It seems to work, but there’s surely a time and place for classic slowing down the ball which seems to be lacking from the current setup. Making metres in attack these days generally comes from repeated quick ball, not allowing the line to get set on successive phases. I think if you find that happening to you, it’s time to go hard at the breakdown for just one or two phases and try and break that momentum, and give your defence a chance to get set.

          Hodgson’s the classic Australian slow-the-ball player I reckon, he’d be pretty useful to mentor guys like Hanigan and Dempsey, and even McMahon and Hooper. He might not be super keen on helping out the ARU right now, though…

        • Who?

          I’d argue that SA did better contesting and disrupting defensive breakdowns than the Pumas. We had very little front foot ball against them compared to the Pumas. Our two draws were, for mine, created off the back of that inability to get front foot ball. Because the difference in our attack against SA compared to Argentina is staggering.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Hooper has NEVER been effective at slowing down opposition ball, it just isn’t his strength.

          The biggest issue with Hooper is how little he contributes to attacking rucks and ensuring multi-phase possession. Scott Allen wrote an article on it on the other site.

          Our players should be good enough at recognising when to slow down opposition ball and when to reset the defensive line. It shouldn’t be a one or the other decision.

          Hooper is the best 7 that we have right now (McMahon is poor at the breakdown too), but the breakdown is the weakest part of our game currently, along with backline defence. I wish Hooper would contribute more to attacking rucks.

        • Braveheart81

          I suggest you watch the test in South Africa again. Hooper’s work at attacking breakdowns is outstanding. His accuracy with cleanouts is fantastic. His work all season ensuring we retain possession (mostly on the left side of the field which is his zone) is excellent.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          If it is a straight up choice between trusting Scott Allen’s analysis (which happens to coincide with my own observations) and your own, I will go with Scott’s.

        • Braveheart81

          Which article mate? I have looked through his recent ones and can’t find one criticising Hooper’s attacking breakdown work.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies
        • Braveheart81

          Hooper plays on the left side of the field in attack. That’s the area where he is meant to control the breakdown. Just about every team in World Rugby plays their forwards in pods/zones. I find it bizarre if Scott actually thinks Hooper should cover the entire field and follow every ruck and that the method of forward pods is wrong. The specific rucks he points out as issues were not in Hooper’s area of the field and other players failed with their cleanout work.

          Watch the second Springboks test and look at some of Hooper’s cleanouts. He’s probably the best in the team at it.

          It has been a huge problem for Hanigan and he was certainly at fault a number of times this season. Too often he has been too close to the ball runner than he can’t put an effective hit on the defender.

        • idiot savant

          I agree that Hooper appears to be making a real effort to change the way he plays at the breakdown. I have noticed him ball following more as the year has gone on. We are definitely a better side when he does it. Ball following is what opensides used to do a lot more of. Poideven and Wilson did it to great effect. I think the 1.3.3.1 system and its variants is a more modern invention. That said, McCaw and now Cane seem to be everywhere.

        • first time long time

          But for the 4 games prior to that his breakdown work was poor which is the norm.
          You can’t use the aberration as proof he is good at the breakdown.
          Thankfully Hooper has other strengths because the breakdown isn’t one of them

        • Braveheart81

          I disagree completely. When looking at our attacking breakdowns I think Hooper is consistently our best player. He has the most involvements match to match and I think his accuracy is better than anyone else in the side.

          Most people want him to contest more defensive breakdowns to try and steal the ball more and I don’t disagree there. That said, he created more turnovers than any of the other backrowers in the Rugby Championship.

        • jamie

          I see both good and bad points to it mate. If we play a hard, accurate rushing defence with powerful defenders (i.e not just serviceable like foley and Beale) then we can shut them down before those missing numbers in the D Line become liabilities.

          Certainly, I think the Reds would’ve shipped more points had it not been for G Smith slowing down so much Ball this year. Alas, he was the most penalised player too.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          The All Blacks are the most penalised team. And all of the New Zealand SR teams were in the negative in penalties committed (i.e. they conceded more penalties over the season than their opponents conceded against them).

          Conceding penalties was a strategy by the Brumbies in 2013 also when they made the final under Jake White. Mowen conceded that penalty at the end of the second Lions test just on the edge of Halfpenny’s range and it won us the test. I’m fairly certain that it was on purpose—a gamble that paid off.

  • As one of the people that criticises Folau from time to time, but I like to think praises him too, I think both sides are justified. In attack he’s a massive threat. But he seems to go awol for sections of the game and his kicking game is not great for a full-back.

    They’re not desirable features in a full-back and it’s why people talk about it not being his ideal position. If you move him into a position where he’s not expected to kick as often and where he touches the ball more often so he couldn’t go awol, would you see an improvement in those aspects of his game, without reducing his attacking prowess? We don’t know of course, but it’s a fair question to ask.

    • jamie

      So, wing? ;-)

      better question is why does he go AWOL? Fitness? Mental? Just not that interested?

      • I wonder if he’d be better at outside centre? More touches of the ball and more involvement…

        Obviously I don’t know him, and I can’t really comment on why he goes AWOL. Although he’s been playing union for a number of years now, I wonder if it’s a league convert thing? He notices something that triggers the wrong habit, the wrong set of memories and pattern of behaviour and trots off the wrong way. As full back taking three or four steps in the wrong direction at the wrong time can look like you’re AWOL (and get exploited by teams with an alert back line).

        At 13 you have to pay attention, and your cues are more about being the right distance from the player inside, so you’re more likely to be in every play… plus lack of a kicking game is less of an issue. You often have a “defensive captain” role, which might suit his seniority and help if there’s a mental component, and if you think back a bit, some attacking greats have worn the 13 shirt, even in the last 5 years, for other countries so it can work in the modern game – it shouldn’t stifle his positives.

        The “wrong trigger” thing seems to have caused Gatland to switch from Priestland to Biggar at 10 a few years ago. I don’t remember if it was Ireland or Scotland now but, repeatedly, Wales were set up for a passing/running play, the opposition would do something and Priestland would kick and there would be no chase because no one was expecting it. Wales got hammered. He saw a shirt (I think it was green) in the “wrong” place and it triggered a “I must kick” reaction, even though no one else was ready, and the ball was gone before he could control the instinct. Career over.

  • Tomthusiasm

    Just heard that Matt Todd is out with a groin injury, Ardie Savea to replace him on the bench.

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      Can’t say I’m happy about this. I actually rate Todd as the best 7 in NZ (better than Cane, in my opinion), but I fear Savea much more as a finisher off the bench than I do Todd.

      • I think it’s really close between Todd and Cane. Todd looks good on the pitch, busier than Cane somehow. Then you see the stats for the work Cane has done and, assuming they’re not lying, it’s “wow, he really did all that work?” Cane was NZ’s highest tackler for example in the RC, despite not playing in all the matches… and only a couple behind Hooper, who did. But Savea coming on late is just painful, yes.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yeah, fair call, Eloise. Largely depends on what you want your 7 to do, eh?

          Savea is the most athletic of the three, but the most mercurial and least proficient of the three; Cane is the least athletic, but a fantastic gain-line tackler, the most consistent in what he does and the most disciplined; Todd to me seems the most balanced, more athletic than Cane and more consistent and technically proficient than Savea + best at the breakdown.

          All three are good options though.

        • I would probably pick Cane most of the time. With Retallick, Whitelock, Read and Squire/Kaino/Fifita, plus Coles of course, it’s not like the AB are lacking for physicality and ball carriers, and Cane can do the linking soft hands stuff and the make the turnovers and make those tackles so reliably. With Retallick out, I might be tempted to pick Todd over him at the moment. He’s no slouch in any of those departments and he does give them a bit more physicality if they need it.

          Honestly, I think Savea should be encouraged to skill up as an 8 and understudy Read (not that thankless a task, Read is prone to the odd knock) and cover across the back row. He’s not the best player, probably not the second best player in any of the back row positions for New Zealand. But he’s played OK at 8 for them, he plays well enough to have started at 7 and you’d think he’s got the physicality to play OK at 6.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          That’s a fair argument. I think the thing that really tips it in Cane’s favour is that he is VC and a lot of time and energy has been invested in him. His leadership is important.

          I’ve heard Savea moving to 8 suggested before but the problem for me is twofold.

          First, the All Blacks aren’t going to be willing to compromise their line out, and that means 4 jumpers—ideally all of them primary targets—and Savea just isn’t, is too short.

          Second, and leading from this, back-rows are getting bigger, not smaller. And already I think that Savea’s smaller size is what is keeping him from perhaps moving Cane on. I’ve heard that NZRU want Savea to add 5-7kg. I just don’t think he will ever be big enough for a number 8 if he is struggling to get big enough to play 7.

          I think Savea’s time in the sun will come, however. I don’t think Cane will be able to hold him off forever. He’s the only player I’ve ever seen singlehandedly keep Pocock out of a game in the 2015 SR semifinal.

          That being said you could be right, and perhaps he will surprise me and end up as a number 8 :)

        • Sorry for the delay, I have to work sometimes.

          All true. He can’t do much about the height, but 2 locks plus Cane/Todd + Squire/Fifita/Barrett (Scott is it? I’ve lost track of them all) on the flanks would give the All Blacks four good targets. In McCaw’s final two or three years he was the AB primary lineout catcher, or one of the top few, and Read hardly caught a ball, because he was lifting McCaw – the coaching staff aren’t bothered by what number you’re wearing when you jump, just having an effective lineout.

          Although the AB coaches want him to bulk up, he’s a devastating runner as is, and his problem in the tackle is not how dominant he is (either way), it’s that he misses too many. That can improve, and by and large it has – he tends to be a bit quick off the side of the scrum (I will leave it for others to say he unbinds too soon and is offside or he’s just fast, he’s an open side and they ALL play right on that line all the time at the top level) which leaves a gap that gets exploited and that he can’t change direction fast enough to fill. At Super Rugby level that’s not always an issue, at international level it nearly always is.

          I think 7 is his best position, and if he gets used to the speed of international 9’s and cures that overcommitment problem he will really challenge for the top spot with his ball carrying and offloading ability. But he’s one of the few loose forwards I really think has the talent (if not necessarily the classic physique) to cover all three back row positions, at least off the bench. And that’s a pretty valuable skillset to have too.

      • Tomthusiasm

        Changes the ABs tactics, 2nd half

  • Garry

    Woohoo, breakout the dominance clock.

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