Brian Smith's Analysis - Speed Kills - Green and Gold Rugby

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Speed Kills

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Speed Kills

It’s rare that the All Blacks are held to one try on New Zealand soil but that’s exactly what happen in their clash with the Springboks. It was also the case for the Wallabies in their match against the Pumas. In fact all four teams involved in The Rugby Championship on the weekend were held to one try a piece.

It seems the defence is outperforming attack and this is likely to be the case in the later stages of the World Cup. However there is one key ingredient that is almost too hard to defend and that is speed. In this analysis we’ll have a look at three tries with one thing in common – SPEED!

All Blacks – Barrett’s Speed

New Zealand’s try came from a Springbok turnover late in the first half.

Everyone knows the Kiwis are red hot on turnover attack and this clip is a great illustration of their counter attack principals.

Aaron¬†Smith is the master of turnover attack. He uses the cues “V-Up” which means the defensive line works to get width and depth off the turnover ruck or tackle. Once you’ve set the width and depth the key is to shift the ball to space.

In this instance it was Sonny Bill Williams passing to Beauden Barrett not a bad combination, meaning the Springboks had to jockey in defence. They were numbers down and Blitzing was not a smart option. In the end it was Barrett’s speed that created the try.

Springboks – Kolbe’s Speed

It’s ironic that the Springboks would score on the same edge to draw the match.

This time it was from multiphase attack with Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux running a nice block play to create space for Cheslin Kolbe and he in turn put up a Hail Mary chip for Herschel Jantjies to score. To be fair there are enough All Blacks on their feet to shut this play down but that was not to be.

South Africa’s performance will have rattled the All Black cage a little and gives hope to the Wallabies for the Test Match in Perth.

Wallabies – Koroibete’s Speed

Everyone loves to see tries scored from strike plays and this play from the Wallabies is a real peach.

The play is designed to split the Pumas centres by first locking down their inside centre (Jeronimo de la Fuente) using Tevita Kuridrani running a hard line. Samu Kerevi then plays out the back of that shape attracting the Pumas outside centre (Matias Moroni) and creating a hole for Marika Koroibete to explode through.

Once again the key ingredient is speed. The Wallabies support lines off the linebreak are excellent even if the last pass was a little behind Reece Hodge.


As the World Cup draws near coaches and selectors all over the world will be picking midfields with great defensive qualities. After all most people would agree that defence wins trophies.

However, as the selectors start to work out their starting back three players the smart ones will be looking for game breakers. Players that can turn a game in a moment. These game breakers usually have one thing in common – SPEED!

  • Huw Tindall

    Thanks for the insight again Brian! Always appreciated. If speed is key would you say that puts Hodge’s wing spot at risk or does his versatility and cannon of a boot save him?

    • Brian Smith

      Hey Huw, as you know most teams will defend with 2 x fullbacks so Hodge can catch highballs but he does not own “jet shoes”. I’d be more inclined to run the Crusaders type combination putting the 10 in the backfield with the 15 in defence and get more speed on the wings. That’s only my opinion.

      • numpty

        Brian, do you not think Banks could very much fulfill this role? I think he has been hard done for with the minutes he’s played so far for the WBs. I hope he is picked to start in bled2 ideally at 15, but i’ll settle for him on the wing as well. He plays this role of speedster inserting himself into the game at key points for the brumbies so well. On top of this, he does this within a direct playing style off the 9 which the WBs are now running. The likes of he and Kerevi running off the 9 around the ruck and down the blindside would surely strike fear into the opposition. two pacemen in Banks and Marika is surely better than 1.

        • Brian Smith

          Numpty, I’m with you. Try scoring wingers are gold…think Melbourne Storm or Crusaders. Speed is hard to defend. However if you pick 2 x flyers you need to also cover off their defence and kick return roles. Banks would have more speed than Hodge plus he has all the fullback skills so it’s hard to see why he’s not getting a crack.

        • numpty

          Couldn’t agree more, all the upsides with few downsides in my opinion. Although I still do not like putting a fb in a specialist wing role its better than nothing. Would’ve like to have seen speight get a run, doesn’t have the game breaking ability you speak of but is a complete specialist winger, does the little things well. A back three of Speight, MK and Banks would be worth a shot considering CLL and White/Genia also have good boots. But I don’t think we will get the chance to see if it would work.

  • Who?

    There’s irony, Brian, that this is the title of your article a week after we fielded one of the slowest back three combinations to wear Wallaby Gold since the 2015 RWC (where our outside backs were slower than average, and where we didn’t score down the wings with the exception of Giteau’s final try in the England game).
    Guile and option taking are huge in that Wallaby try. There’s not many guys in Australia who could sell that inside ball and then shift it out to Marika that well. And it’s great to see the regular TK unders line taken off the 10, instead of the 9, and being only one option, rather than being a ‘dumb’ one out run taken off the 9 as is too often the case. Instead of asking defenders to tackle (which they’re usually capable of doing), we fixed them and asked them to make a decision, something we don’t do often enough.

  • Nutta

    I’m probably not on my Pat Malone when questioning the continuing infatuation of Oz rugby with jack-of-all tradesmen in the Fairies as opposed to specialists. We also seem to suffer a bit in the Pigs but not to the same degree.

    Historically folk have always shuffled about to fill the need or to take advantage of a gap. The best example was probably Lynagh and his movements around the likes of Ella and Lloyd Walker and more recently by the diversity of Giteau in covering 9/10/12. However for me the point of trouble was when we took the worlds best 15 (Matt Burke) and shifted him to 13 to make way for another pretty good 15 (Latham) because then we started down this ‘general tradesman’ path we have never really recovered from to the point we now don’t know what to do with Reece Hodge. What it has meant is that wingers especially went from specialists to ‘that will do’ all-to-often just to get some random bloke into a team. It’s almost as bad as during the middle 00’s and early teens when we threw 1 or 3 jerseys at fat back-rowers because “Ah well, scrums only last about 8 sec anyway’. Look where that landed us.

    Give me a pair of dead-set wingers who beat defenders either by speed or power or both over a backline generalist any day of the week.

    • Mica

      Agree as long as those wingers can defend too!!

      • Nutta

        I recall when Joe Roff was just about the best defender in the Wobbly side esp given he had to cover Knox

    • I am hoping Jordan Petaia, Carmichael Hunt, Sefa Naivalu and Irae Simone will be looked at seriously considered for the World Cup squad. Also Pete Samu.

      Hunt may be the ideal Inside Centre to Kerevi. Petaia for sure BUT he has not played much this year. I appreciate Simone may be considered a bit raw yet but he will be something special.

    • Keith Butler

      Hit nail on head. OK to have a utility player on the pine but we need to select players for their specific roles. Hodge is the prime example. Locks playing at 6 again a failure. But who decides, the player (very difficult call to make) or the coach?

      • Nutta

        Depends who you ask. If you ask admin or a drug tester then a player has complete autonomy over themselves. But we all know a player will do whatever the coach wants as that gets them a spot…

  • OnTheBurst

    Surely Speight and Naivalu should be in the reckoning still.

    Hodge has a great boot but is not express fast, nor is Maddocks or JOC. Feels like we are putting all our speed hopes on Marika’s shoulders.


Brian Smith is a rare breed who has both played and coached international rugby and doesn't mind telling it as he sees it. He's currently putting his Oxford degree to good use teaching Commerce and coaching rugby at the Scots College, Sydney.

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