Dwyer’s View: A Week Is a Long Time if You’re a Wallabies Supporter

Bob Dwyer November 19, 2012 46

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The Badger does the biz

They say that a week is a long time in politics. Judging by the complete turnaround in Australia’s performance this weekend in London, it’s a whole lot longer in rugby. Not that the Wallabies put on a super-class performance; they were good — but they were unrecognisable from the team that capitulated totally against France, just seven days before.

How did this happen? Well, for starters, I had said that they couldn’t win. Nothing is more certain to produce a performance from this Wallabies team. In fact, from now on, I am going to predict a thrashing each time they play a team of any quality at all.

Next, team selection was better. Some selections were forced or permitted, with injury or recovery playing the important part, others were form based, but the team looked better to me. Additionally, we had the sensible 5/3 split on the bench after the ludicrous situation last weekend with six forwards available to sub for the original starting eight.

Further, we used our bench to some positive effect, although Brett Sheehan once again was forced to sit throughout and watch Nick Phipps’s horror passing performance. Sheehan must wonder just how poor a player the Wallabies staff must rate him. I’d be confident that he’s thinking, ‘I can do a lot better than that!’ Not that Phipps is without qualities – he tackles well and often, covers excellently and he did make the excellent break for Cummins’s try — but he is devoid of most of the fundamentals required for quality scrum-half play.

Radike Samo, after a sterling cameo performance last weekend, also sat this one out. Maybe his reward for last week was a rest this weekend. But, beggars can’t be choosers and our bench front row got to contribute positively for a reasonable period.

From the personnel point of view, the biggest positive for me, even if was forced on our selectors, was that we had an inside centre who can threaten the line with good footwork and good acceleration. He even passes the ball sometimes. This was vital to our performance.

Kurtley Beale was also a lot better  — maybe Ben Tapuai gave him some options — and the possibility of the ‘pass’ option moved way up the list for our ball-carriers. In one fateful moment, just as the ball-carrier was loading up for a return bomb following receipt of Danny Care’s box-kick, the pass and counter-attack idea surfaced. I’m hoping that some vision and a loud voice was the cause, but whatever the reason, a try – and a good one at that – was the result.

From a performance point of view, there were two standouts. First, our scrum was very good and that won us the game. Ben Alexander did get popped once and was penalised, but that should have been a penalty to Australia. Vunipola (who looks good by the way) went in on a huge angle and up and under Alexander – I thought that it was a shorter and darker Bill Young reappearing after a sabbatical! Once the ref decided to come onto that side of the scrum, it didn’t look like happening again. (The ref’s assistant – otherwise known as the ‘free match ticket’ – was clearly asleep at the time.)

Next, and at last, we had numbers with body-position and leg-drive at the tackle contest and we gained considerable advantage in this phase. We would have had more advantage had the ref insisted that the England forwards retreat behind the off-side line with the Wallabies’ counter rucking. His failure here cost the Wallabies on two important occasions.

I wrote in my notes, at the end of the game, ‘Good Win’. I’ve seen England play better, but they are a side to be reckoned with. I’ve seen us play a whole lot worse – and quite recently! So we should breathe a sigh of relief and be reasonably happy.

 

I rate our players, as follows;

Claiming their spots

Six front-rowers were all good. Nearly time for a start for Stephen Moore; TPN looked very shaky at lineout time.

Sharpie was good, but not as good as his recent games – might be getting tired.

Timani was OK, but I’ve seen him more prominent. Needed the run.

Cliffy and Hooper both excellent – we will be a lesser team without Hooper. Selectors please note.

Dennis was also better, but I’m not sure he’s up to this level.

Phipps. Enough said.

Beale. OK, but not a natural fly-half. Better wider out with more room.

Tapuai. At last, an inside centre!

AAC. Our mainstay!

Ioane. Tried hard to get involved and contributed, but opportunities went to the other wing. Will be better and also needed the run.

Cummins. Rates with Samo for urgency and enthusiasm. Selectors should note that he was ‘very good’ at outside centre for the Force. Like Tapuai, has footwork and acceleration.

Barnes. Always worth a place in the squad, but I doubt that he will ever be considered for World XV selection. Reliable kicker – not foolproof, but reliable.

I’m a hell of a lot happier than I was this time last week, but we still have a long way to go. Let’s not confuse result with performance!

Discussion

  • B-Rock

    Best performance of the year (not a high bar), both teams played with plenty of passion and enthusiasm.

    Barnes’ performance was underrated IMO, he did the little things very well, slotted into 10/12 to maintain allignment and kicked and defended well.

    As an aside, the wallabies must have been working on chip kick execution – I’ve never seen so many threatening chips in a game without QC – a good tactic on this occasion

  • mark conley

    When Douglas returns can he slot into the 5? alongside Timani.
    As has been said many a time before, Dennis, nice bloke but can’t play this level, Pocock to take over the 6?

    • Brumby Runner

      Scrum would be better, rucks would be better, lineout I’m not sure. Sure I saw Higginbotham in the Wallabies non-playing group. He starts in place of Dennis.Squeaky to start and captain and we’re getting close to the best team with the available players.

      • beeza

        Squeaks should start for sure! TPN would be a better impact player and would avoid so many head knocks. Not sure why Deans switched?

    • bill

      Simmons and Timani would be a better combo. If Simmo can become more consistent.

      Of course Hugh McMeniman is now available as well, there’s a scary thought for the opposition. I think a few springbok’s and all black’s mums would be ringing up and withdrawing their children, either that or demanding they come back on their shield or not at all.

  • Who Needs Melon

    I’ve just posted on another article on here but it’s pertinent to this one too: Yeah, who would have thought Tapuai should be given a shot? Oh, that’s right – every freakin one of us!!! There’s times when an ex coach, a thousand monkeys like myself and many other ex players and commentators might just be on to something.

    • Hannibal

      theres no question now hes got the goods to be a propper IC. We’ve been waiting a long time. Please Robbie dont now go and put him somewhere else out of position.

  • Pedro

    “Now that Cummins has proved a sturdy and enthusiastic winger, time to name him at 12. Moohaahaaha!” – overheard, Deans’ subterranean lair.

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

    Nice summation Bob and I find my self agreeing with the vast majority of it. And I also thought the Wallabies were in for another hiding. Glad to be proven wrong though.

    Taps & AAC at 12 & 13 seems such an obvious combo to your average punter. The question is why did it take an injury to McCabe for us to finally see it realised? Clearly Robbie needs help with selections and use of the bench. He is either thick or stubborn (perhaps both). Surely the Phipps learning on the job ‘work experience’ must be balanced with the idea of ‘what’s best for the team’, namely Brett Sheehan.

    Frankly I’m struggling to workout if we actually made a marked improvement or if England went backwards from the dominant display of ‘skills & balls’ that I witnessed a week prior. Probably a bit of both I suspect. Maybe it was as simple as England should have worn white instead of purple. Who knows?

    We all know that a team can only play as well as the opposition allows and I thought we (Wallabies) put the pressure on England for the majority of that test. And then (for reasons I can’t understand) we once again took the foot of the throat & reverted to aimlessly booting the ball away. It seems we are incapable of dispatching the wounded animal.

    Finally Sharpie commanded the troops to keep the ball in hand and we saw out the final minutes without the stupid kicking. This not only lead to a wonderful victory but it all caused many heart palpitations to cease as well.

    • Mart

      Yep centres are sorted.

      A pairing that should’ve been tested ages ago. Once again great vision from the national coach

    • idiot savant

      I thought the team looked leg weary or jet lagged or just plain down on energy against the French. That can happen over a long season. And the French really turned up so I think too much can be read into that performance. And in the scrums? Well we were overpowered but Nigel Owens was also in a mood. When the French went down first it was only a slip but when we went down it was a penalty. Same sort of mood he was in as the touch judge against the Poms where he ignored fake binding from the English breakaways and offside play and even who the ball came off when it went into touch.

      Australia can scrum well as they proved against the Poms but they lack consistent concentration.

      I thought you were hard on Barnes Bob. He made a huge difference in both defence and attack, never mind his kicking. Wingers see the ball when Barnes plays.

      And my man of the match is still McCabe. Made all the difference.

      • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

        savant – Maybe we were leg weary or maybe just maybe the French have turned a corner. I thought they were exceptional against us and the Argies. But will that convert to away for them?

        Scrums – There you go you see. Once you start talking scrums…….you lose me. I really would like to know more but when I watch the replays the expert commentators seem divided over what actually happened and was the penalty fair. So what chance for an old back like me to figure it out?

  • Brumby Runner

    Bob, I agree entirely with your summation. It was a most enjoyable contest but not necessarily a performance from either team that would have you feeling confident against better teams. Still, there were some heartening moments in the Wallabies’ performance. The kick return that led to the try, the organised chase of grubber and chip kicks on a couple of occasions, the line breaks and off loading by Tapuai. Haven’t seen any of these aspects in previous games this year or last. Can only think some of the players are taking matters into their own hands. Long may it last.

  • Johnny-boy

    It’s worth mentioning some sympathy for Pat McCabe who has a neck injury that may put him out of most of the Super season. After his previous shoulder injuries we may be seeing the signs of the folly of using a relatively small back as a crash ball dummy. It mirrors the foolishness in continuing to keep pushing players regularly being knocked out.

  • Jay-c

    “Defending cummins would be the worst- You know what he’s going to do… And you know that it’s going to hurt” a friends brilliant line regarding cummins

  • Simon_Sez

    The ARU should introduce the 50 Test Rule: if a player has played more than 50 tests for Australia they have earned the right to play anywhere in the world and still be considered for selection to play for Australia. This will increase Australia’s pool of talent overnight and more competition for test positions. This would also make Robbie Deans’ job a lot easier as he could have used Matt Giteau (93 tests) on the bench in Paris to spark the back line.

    • http://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/ Matt Rowley

      I like it

    • bill

      except that Giteau got dumped by Deans before he went overseas. Worth a discussion though.

    • Brumby Runner

      If it resulted in George Smith being selected again, and allowed him to retake his rightful spot as the most capped Wallaby forward, I would go along with it.

  • Garry

    Two areas have not improved in the Deans era. Our restart receives and our lineouts. If we could secure 90% of our receives and lineout throws (and attack some of the opposition’s) with the extra possession, we may well win 30% more games, and Deans may have hung onto his position.

    In a way, I’m glad he’s a poor coach across the board, rather than just in some areas.

    • beeza

      Line outs were ok when the throw was straight, but we did not attack their’s at all as far as I saw. Perhaps this was in expectation of the rolling maul – not sure?

      • Westo

        Speaking of lineouts, TPN needs to sort himself out. I do like the way he carries with meters made, but can someone coach him to go into the collision with perhaps two hands to secure the ball because he must have fumble at least 5 times across the last few games.

        • Garry

          TPN to no.6?

  • sph45

    I’m not completely convinced about all the criticism of Phipps. I just watched the first half of the test again and think Phipps service was, on the whole, very good. There was one very poor pass at Beale’s feet when we were hot on attack – and it’s hard not to let that colour any judgement. Another poor pass because of a messy breakdown and some interference from the men in pink. And I remember an awful one in the second half where he passed to Gill, who was standing still on our tryline. These aren’t good, particularly as they were in critical attacking or defensive positions. Nevertheless, most of Phipps passes are quick and accurate and he doesn’t hover over the ball as long as Genia often does. Thoughts?

    • Bobby

      Sph, his pass is flat yes, but inconsistent, he walks with the ball and thinks with ball in hand rather when he running to get to the ball. He also passes at the player instead of in front of him which puts a slight stint in every attacking play. He doesn’t control the forwards enough when they seem to get this we must pick and drive for 100 metres or until we get penalised mentality, he just isn’t a test quality and I like Bob feel for Brett Sheehan.

      On a side note.

      Who thinks that Touchies (I refuse to call them assistant refs) this year have been invisible. I am thinking it has to be a directive by the IRB Ref boss because they are just plain appaling. Hands in rucks, outside backs well offside, players holdings players, players running into players milking penaties and the pièce de résistance
      not being able to see if a ball goes over a bloody cross bar. WHAT GAME ARE THEY WATCHING??

      • bill

        We want a decent middle ground don’t we, there’s been a few before who’ve been positively “I’m ready for my closeup Mr Hitchcock”, not mentioning names George Ayoub.

        • A. Fox-Russell

          Agree….I think if anything I would like to see them less involved. If it’s something like Dennis being held back on the scrum when France scored off the back, sure I want it pulled up. But that’s just having it my way.

          On balance, I wanna see less whistle blowing. I think the refs overall do an OK job officiating a difficult and relatively complicated game. I get as frustrated as the next guy at crap decisions, but frankly I would prefer to have a free-flowing game with decisions ON BALANCE evenly spread for both sides, than have poncy little touchies pointing their camp little flags out at any 0.5-second-too-late tackle that they deem a good opportunity to get on camera.

          Just my 2 cents.

  • bill

    I wouldn’t look at this game being the rebirth of common sense as far as our centre pairing goes, Robbie’s making noises about how important McCabe is and how he’ll be back. Bit of a contrast to his postmatch musings about Cooper.

    Guess it’s over to Taps and the boys to make themselves indispensable.

    • ‘BoutBloodyTime

      I really feel for McCabe, now suffering a neck fracture & wish him a speedy recovery…BUT, even though he has put his body on the line time & again, the enforced change to put Taps in his rightful position at 12 has to show Deans that it’s much better to have a backline running at holes than crash ball running that potentially prematurely ends a guy’s career & leaves him with a massive risk of long term problems after his playing days are over.

      The Wallabies are historically renowned for their intelligent play, especially in the back line. That style of play was not only effective but pretty to watch, even with the rust in the machine & poor execution at times. Long may the new 12/13 combination last!

  • Mark

    Well said. Tapui’s performances in recent weeks illustrate why people are so keen to get rid of Deans. Every mug punter in Australia could see for 18 months that Rob Horne offers nothing as a test level centre and the Wallabies and NSW backlines have sufferred because of it. It takes an 18 month trial period of him delivering nothing and ultimately an injury before Deans picks the bloke who should have been there since day 1. How is Deans the only guy in Australia that is surprised that we play better with a centre who can pass and play creatively?

    • bill

      Horne or McCabe? Horne can pass, McCabe has some issues. Horne has as well, but it’s probably easier to coach those than the ones McCabe has.

  • Red Kev

    Bob – solid gold sir!
    This comment “otherwise known as the ‘free match ticket’” ranks with the best I’ve seen anywhere.
    I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the ARU’s zero top-up offer to Quade Cooper.

  • bill

    I don’t think Cummins can replace AAC at OC at present,though personally I think he’s better there than the wing, as we have better wingers, Shipp’s, Vuna, Mitchell, JO’C, presumably Speight. He should enjoy the moment and work his arse off next season to demand a place, like McCabe he’s not got great hands, he’s better than Pat though in that regard.

    He’s certainly shown some decent improvement at the force, more than I thought he had for sure. But at test level…his hands need improvement, and his workrate.

    • Brumby Runner

      Bill, you lost me completely at Vuna.

  • Johnny-boy

    A quick summary of Quade Coopers replacement ;
    4:30 min – pointless kick
    18 min – fumbles ball
    26 min – 2 missed tackles
    39 min – missed tackle
    55 min – fell off tackle
    59 min – failed to fund touch on kick
    61 min – pointless kick
    67 min – threw intercepted pass
    70 min pointless kick
    71 min pointless kick
    78 min – failed to pass to open backline – got crunched in tackle
    All hail our saviour Kurtley.

  • Johnny-boy

    And despite having predicted a 10-15 point win for the Wallabies, I don’t think I have ever
    seen a national sporting team being death ridden by so many of it’s own supporters because of it’s bumbling foreign coach.

    If the ARU is convinced this is a great way to maintain or grow the popularity of rugby in
    Australia they are not very bright

  • bill

    Just how shit are the ARU, Cooper is offered an incentive only contract. Robbie seems to be on A FUCKING DISINCENTIVE ONLY CONTRACT!!!!

    They better be committed to picking Cooper every game he is available or they’re going to go down as the greatest bunch of dickwads in the history of rugby. Wlliam Webb Ellis picked up the ball, the genius’s at the ARU seem more inclined to drop it at every opportunity bureaucratically possible.

    • Westo

      Bill, I know your post will be edited by the morning (I live in the UK so have the privilege to comment), but you are so spot on. This is unforgiving to a player base that is struggling with numbers. First Gits and now Coops. How do we let these potentially generational players go? Unforgivable!

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  • Nabley

    I would not have considered Phipps in my squad before the International season, but he made Cummins try and he did it easily. There is something there to work with Bob.

  • Queenslander

    this might sound ungrateful as I like winning as much as the next guy but England attacked, declined kicks at goal , rumbled the ball up, countered from kicks and their prob was they kept screwing it up at critical points. Thought we were lucky to get away with it and I don’t give a rats if the grubbers and chips worked this time, they are a craven option and should be banned from our tactics

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