Final observations for 2017 - Green and Gold Rugby

Final observations for 2017

Final observations for 2017

I tried to watch the entirety of the Scotland game, but turned off after 60 minutes. 

I’m not mad, but I do feel the need to put my thoughts in some form. I’ve waited a day, and the frustrations of Scotland are now past. I can now look back at the season as a whole, and what 2018 might hold. Here goes:

That sucked

On last week’s podcast we answered the question ‘how important is the Scotland game?’. And the answer I gave was ‘not particularly’. I would have probably settled for a close loss (unhappily), given the good performances we’d displayed over the last few months.

But man… that sucked. I thought we had laid the demons of the Sydney Bledisloe to rest, but it seems they are still there, bubbling away below the surface. It casts a horrible shadow on what was an OK season with a definite upward trajectory. It was a horrible, horrible display. However…

I’m still optimistic

We showed enough in the second two Bledisloes to make me believe this team can be good in 2018. We also showed enough in the first Bledisloe and the two Scotland games to make me believe we could be terrible in 2018. I’m going with the former.

Our challenge is consistency, as it always has been. We managed to capture something in the middle half of the year, after the first half of the Sydney Bledisloe. If we can extend that to a full calendar year next year then we could really make some gains.

But I need to repeat – last night was atrocious. It can’t happen again. From the early minutes we were never in the game. And when this team aren’t in the game, you can tell by how we come up in defence. Like the Sydney Bledisloe, every player in the line was doing something different. Guys out wide were flying up, but the men inside were hanging back. We didn’t look up and number up. We missed easy tackles. And conceded eight tries.

Remember Brisbane... please?

Remember Brisbane… please?

Crucial series

Our three games against Ireland next year loom as a referendum on this side, and on Michael Cheika. Ireland are a serious footy team, and could conceivably win the World Cup. A series loss is simply unacceptable.

We need to learn from our mid-year tests this year. The players weren’t fit enough? OK, so let’s ensure they are this year. It’s just not a viable excuse when you’re the Australian coach, and it won’t fly in 2018. We’ve been largely deprived of good wins at home, and a big series against Ireland is much-needed to show we are a realistic World Cup chance.

If we go down, then Cheika might have to as well. You feel like we’re a loss or two away from decision time. The lack of a viable alternative is working in his favour, but there is only so much the Australian public can tolerate.

Another reason to be optimistic…

We’ve got big names coming in

Israel Folau was obviously missed, but David Pocock has been as well. If he finds his best form it changes the way our team can operate in defence, winning turnovers and turning the heat back onto the opposition.

The other major inclusion next season will be Isi Naisarani. Learn to spell his last name, people, because you will be needing it next year. A backrow of Hooper/Pocock/Naisirani looks enticing, though it does present a few lineout issues. But throw Jack Dempsey back in, a more developed Ned Hanigan, Ben McCalman, Richard Hardwick (the forgotten man of Aussie rugby) and you have a nice supply of good quality backrowers.

Naisarani would look good in Wallaby gold

Naisarani would look good in Wallaby gold

Selection queries

Michael Cheika has pulled the wrong rein too many times on this EOYT for my liking. I’m out on Samu Kerevi. He’s a ballhog who misses too many tackles, stunting us in attack and defence. I have no idea why we’ve seen so little of Karmichael Hunt, after he was so good mid-year. Maybe he’s still carrying injury? I just don’t understand. He’s a rock in defence, can kick and distribute. It takes the pressure off Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale, especially in the face of a Scottish rush defence that Kerevi was woeful at dealing with.

The decision to pick Stephen Moore was also baffling, yet again robbing us a chance to blood Jordan Uelese. After bursting onto the scene we’ve barely seen him, and our team will be poorer for it next year. Squeak is a great servant, but so was Scott Fardy. One was unceremoniously booted, and the other given a farewell lap in an important test match. Go figure.

The most important man in Aussie rugby…

Adam Coleman. Our supply of test level locks isn’t great, and it’s been shown the last two weeks. Rob Simmons is fairly useless right now, and Blake Enever isn’t up to it yet. We sorely missed the dynamism Coleman provides, in all facets of the game.

No-one has stepped up to claim the spot as Coleman’s partner, and it will be intriguing to watch in Super Rugby next year if anyone makes the jump. It’s a key role for us in a World Cup.

Can Richie Arnold step up next year?

Can Richie Arnold step up next year?

Is it time?

I think it is, Australia. It’s time. It’s time for Bernard Foley to surrender the kicking tee. His kicking is just too unreliable. Yes he has good games, where he hits everything. But then he misses one from next to the posts. Or just wider. Or from 40m right in front. Reece Hodge isn’t a brilliant kicker either, but I just don’t trust Bernard anymore with place kicking.

I’d ensure a good kicking coach works hard in Super Rugby with Hodge, and see how he goes. Because I don’t think you can win a World Cup with Foley as your kicker.

Consistency is key

We cite the Ben Darwin Theory on our podcast all the time – that continuity in team and squad selection is so important in sport. And the case in point this year has been our front row. Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu should start for us in the World Cup, and they’ve all had brilliant years in gold (well… Sekope was having a brilliant year but then things went a bit awry). Our scrum has been largely stable, and they’ve all carried the ball really well. TPN’s lineout throwing is the best it’s ever been, too.

Food for thought

It’s a beautiful day, and you can’t mope too much. Our front row is as solid as it’s ever been, and we’ve got class players coming in to our second and back rows. We’ve got a settled backline that can score tries. We’ve shown we can beat the best in the world if we get up for it. The margins are tight, but there’s a bit to like about Australian rugby at the moment…

…just don’t look too hard at the ARU.

Or the Scotland game.



  • Unknown User

    Moore should have retired in 2015. What a waste of time that was. Moore and Simmons race each other to see who is the slowest.

    • Twoilms

      Ay, Taf said he regretted hanging around at the Tahs for so long because it stunted the development of younger hookers. No such sentiments from Moore who has been past it for at least the last 20 odd tests.

      Having said that he has been a great servant for the game and captained us well in the world cup.

      • Jason

        Reading between the lines, once Thorn was announced as the Reds Head Coach, Moore knew he wasn’t going to be starting like Stiles had him. It was only a matter of did Moore want to play off the bench for the year or do something else.

        PS the Reds forward pack for next year looks fucking World Class!

        • onlinesideline

          whos in it ?

        • Jason

          It’ll be Ready and Mafi.
          A few rumours around Ready not working out under Skiles was a part of the reason for his removal as head coach.
          The most curious part of it all was if you watched Ready the few times he did get to play for the Reds, he was pretty impressive, yet they were only the games that they didn’t want to send Moore overseas for etc.

        • McWarren

          Scott-Young is a flanker. Harry Hocking has potential when he bulks out a bit.

          Another young fella too watch is the QC flanker reserve Potgeiter. The lads a unit and quite mobile.

        • Jason

          Shit, I was thinking of Angus Blyth, not Scott-Yonug.

          But I really really rate Hockings — he’s only fucking 19! He’s in that Ned Hanigan situation right now where he’s just too small but he’s really really skilled and one of the best lineout jumpers going around at the moment.

          I haven’t seen enough of Potgieter to really say, but there is so much young talent in the Q-Country side.

        • idiot savant

          I think the worst thing Reds supporters can do is over inflate their chances and Thorns coaching at this point. There is young talent coming through no doubt, but Reds supporters should not expect to win the Aust conference this year or possibly even next. Thorn should be allowed to build a side for a tilt tin 3 years time.

          The Brumbies, Rebels and Tah packs will be more experienced. The Tahs have a Wallaby front row, back row & lock. The Brums have the best forward coach and have the most consistent pack and the Rebels have Coleman, Mafi, and he best of the Force.

          The Reds with Slipper, Ready, Tupou, Tui, Rodda, Wright, Timu, Higginbotham and Smith will give some cheek no doubt but let them develop without unrealistic expectations.

        • HK Red

          “Thorn should be allowed to build a side for a tilt tin 3 years time.”

          I would love to see some longevity and talent in the coaching box, and we may just get it. Reckon even if the first 12-24 mths aren’t stellar, the board might just be too scared of Brad to sack him.

        • Jason

          Yeah, I somewhat agree.
          I was onboard with keeping Stiles despite being unhappy with his coaching last year, just because there has been too much change in recent years.

          I do agree the whole of the Australian Conference will have gotten much much better — even Japan will be much better with all the local national players now eligible to play Super Rugby.

          But I think the biggest advantage the Reds will have over a lot of the other teams is the depth they have, Sam Talakai, Sef Fa’agase, and Kirwan Sanday could all be starting props (IIRC one of them is moving to Melbourne). In the second row you’ve got Rodda and Tui (likely both Wallabies next year) but beyond that you’ve got Angus Scott-Young and Harry Hockings who are scary good for 19 year olds and while he’s been playing poorly you can’t deny the experience of Kane Douglas. And then back row options for days! Caleb Timu, Liam Wright, and Adam Korczyk have all been in Wallabies camp; Reece Hewat and Tainui Ford have been impressive at NRC, and you can’t forget Michael Gunn.

          At every position they’ll have at least 2 really viable options. I agree they’ll need time to gel and come together. I think they can finish second in the Aussie Conference next year, but I wouldn’t expect them to, they are still too raw and do need time as you said.

          Mind you the team last year could have easily finished 2nd or 3rd in the Aussie Conference.

        • Brisneyland Local

          I agree. I am quietly opptimistic. But having been a Reds supporter for a long time I am a realist. Mind you if we get second next year I will be happy. we dont have to win it, just improve. that will be an advancing our position and our team enough for me. Then build on that improvement. I am not pinning everything on amiracle. Steady improvement. Unlike our Wallabies!

        • McWarren

          Korcyk, Gunn, Timu (NRC player of the year) hopefully, Sef Fagasee, Talaki, Tui. Can be added to that list. It’s a good pack squad, let’s just hope they gel and improve game on game.

        • Brumby Runner

          McW, I might be wrong but isn’t Talakai kitting out for the Rebels in 2018? And hasn’t Korczyk been banned for 2018 after signing in Japan?

        • McWarren

          You might be right about Talaki, I didn’t hear the news of Korcyk. Still we’ve got some strong young loose forwards putting hands up and a few props. Marcus Vanzati is promising young prop slipping under the radar.

        • Brumby Runner

          My mistake on Korczyk. Was thinking of Magnay.

        • McWarren

          Yeah that’s a pity. I think Magnay is about ready take the next step.

  • Bay35Pablo

    “I’d ensure a good kicking coach works hard in Super Rugby with Hodge”
    A kicking coach? What a novel idea! I mean it’s not like we haven’t needed one for HOW MANY FARKING YEARS NOW?!?!?!?!
    Kicking? Nah, let’s practice some more of this “running rugby” we keep banging on about. Of course that practice doesn’t seem to pay dividends as we seem to keep MAKING BASIC FARKING MISTAKES!!!!
    Oh look, the All Blacks that we keep wanting to emulate, and the Poms who we keep saying we love to beat, clearly prioritise kicking because they have multiple blokes that can slot it regularly. BUT NAH WE DON”T NEED TO PRACTICE KICKING!!!!

    Not bitter. What the hell do they practice all day? Posting to Instagram?

  • Rebels3

    Im not out on Kerevi and don’t think he’s had a particularly bad game over the EOTY but him partnered with Kurindrani just simply doesn’t work. Its far too blunt and kills off our greatest attribute, which is our attacking creativity and flair. Surely must be one or the other, at the moment that ‘one’ goes to Kurindrani over Kerevi.

    For all those calling for Beale at fullback, i think you have seen his limitations there, especially under the high ball. It’s either 12 or the 23 jersey for him.

    Rob Simmons…………………. 80+ cap veteran…………….. let that sink in. Time to move on, he offers nothing in the field apart from line out. If you can’t be a chance of winning the collision in both attack and defense you don’t have much use in international rugby in 2017.

    Moore, hes been a great servant and i commend him for realising his time is up. But he isn’t capable of physically getting around the park anymore (due to his warrior like career). His non selection next year will improve the team.

    The most important facet an international forward needs in 2017 is winning the contact zone. It gets you over the gain line in attack and in defense provides valuable seconds for your team to reset and also drags opposition players into the tackle, for this reason we have carried numerous players this year that aren’t capable of doing this. Moore (once again such a warrior), Simmons (prob a world class lock in a different era) and Hannigan (there is a lot of potential but not upto it currently), these players are putting so much pressure on the remainder of the back to pick their game up, and if one or two can’t bring it for that week we get dominated.

    Agree with you Hugh on most of your calls.

    Next year i’d have



    • Brumby Runner

      Good thoughts there R3. But for the team next year, Naisarani won’t be eligible until during the RC I believe. Until then, Dempsey at 6, with others like Timu, RHP and Valetini in the squad to keep pressure on. At least for me, we should never again go into a test match with two of Hooper, McMahon and Pocock in the backrow. Pocock in form is a must and should be at No 7. Just leaves the No 8 spot to be filled. Maybe Holloway until Naisarani shows he’s up to test level and is eligible.

      I am hoping a breakout year by Duncan Paia’aua at 12 with the Reds will see him come into contention for the Wallabies’ 12 spot. He has the makings of being a very good attacking, creative player and can also tackle, unlike many of our current backline. Medium to long term replacement for Beale in my books.

      And we desperately need Christian Lealiifano to replace Foley permanently at No 10.

      Not sure Tupou is yet ready for the difficult No 3 spot either starting or on the bench. Expect Allan Alaalatoa to remain there with Kepu and maybe Vui next cab off the rank. Another player who should be in and around the squad to learn.

      • Simon

        I am okay with Hooper-McMahon but IMO it requires the other back rower to be a classic 6 – a good on-baller and also a genuine lineout option. We had one of those in Fardy but he fell foul of Cheika and there’s really nobody else to replace him. Hanigan, Dempsey etc bring the lineout but not the on-balling.

        Alternatively Hooper-Pocock works fine too but requires the other back rower to be a dedicated 8 who can jump and bend the line. Someone like Naisarani.

        I think it’s that lack of balance that is the problem. A well rounded backrow needs a fast athletic forward runner, a lineout option, a big line bender, and an on-baller. It doesn’t matter how you mix and match those skills in individual players, but the group as a whole needs to cover those four skills – and since there are only three players that means somebody needs to double up.

        • Rebels3

          I agree Simon, I don’t personally see any issue with Pocock and Hooper in the same team especially if the alternative backrower is a line out option. Generally the issue in the past with Pocock and Hooper we haven’t got any thrust from enough players in the front 5.

        • McWarren

          Something like 6. Higgers, 7. Pocock and 8 McMahon.

        • Simon

          Yep, that’ll do it. There are a few combinations IMO that cover all four bases. But we really need a couple more on-ball options in the back row. Not sure what happened, we used to have a lot of good on-ball flankers but with Fardy gone and Smith out of the picture it’s basically just Pocock.

        • McWarren

          Simon they’re there they just aren’t appreciated or hyped up. Even guys like Colby Faainga should be talked about as Wallaby squad material, but alas his work rate and on balling aren’t valued. Liam f’ing Gill had to leave the country for his skills to be appreciated, that and escaping the Reds coach and culture at the time.

        • Simon

          They’re there, but I’m not sure any of them are international quality yet. Colby was one of the Rebels’ best last year though. Richard Hardwick is another who is looking good on the ball.

          Don’t even get me started on Liam MF Gill. He definitely fills two of the roles I mentioned – strong on the ball and a sevens-style fast, agile loose forward. It’s criminal he was allowed to get away.

    • McWarren

      What about Hooper he never wins a contact in attack and unless he catches someone off guard or running high he doesn’t win the collision in defence either. He definitely works hard, covers ground and tackles a lot but doesn’t win collisions.

      • Rebels3

        Hooper isn’t that bad in contact as you suggest. He offers so much more than the eye picks up. His kick chase is incredible, resulting in many meters gained through his urgency. His line speed is incredibly valuable, his support play is key and his cover defense has saved many a try or at least pushed kicks out wide. I don’t know why so many don’t rate him as he is widely considered by those from other countries as one of if not the best 7 in the game.

        • McWarren

          All those things you mention as his positives are correct, but I think you get that from other 7’s as standard. Then guys like Pocock and Gill offer more in contact and at ruck time. Hooper does a lot more chasing of kicks but that’s because he isn’t attending to ruck duties. His chasing role should be filled by two wingers, a fullback, the kicker and every other team member not at the bottom of a ruck or cover for the return kick. His line speed is admirable and not to scoffed at, but when the bloke either side of him doesn’t react or isn’t as fast suddenly you’ve got exploitable gaps.

        • HK Red

          “he is widely considered by those from other countries as one of if not the best 7 in the game”
          Is he?? So rated a better 7 than Cane or O’Brien, or even Tipuric (who is an excellent 7 but got injured and now can’t unseat Navidi)???
          I think any nation saying Hooper is the world’s best 7 is in danger of poking a whole through their cheek with their tongue.

        • Rebels3

          Please don’t tell me you rate Tipuric above Hooper? They aren’t even in the same class. JT is a good player, but he isn’t near the player hooper is

        • HK Red

          I never said Tipuric was a better “player”, I rate Hooper as a world class “player”, but Tipuric plays the role of 7 better. Hooper’s also a better player than Toner, but Toner plays the 5 role better. No-one, considers Hooper to be the world’s best openside.

    • Who?

      The problem with Kerevi at 12 is threefold:
      1. Our 10 isn’t doing any playmaking.
      2. Our 11 is trying to do playmaking.
      3. Our 15 hasn’t been at his season-average level of playmaking.
      So our 12 is often receiving the ball off a bloke who contributes nothing to the guile of our attack and crashballing at 12 (because he’s often getting it almost simultaneously with the defence arriving), or out on the wing covering for Hodge going infield looking to play 10 (because he wants to play 10, and Cheika wants him as another 10). Cheika’s made our attack shuffle as much as our defence does, and then we wonder why everyone’s confused.
      It’s not Kerevi’s fault that the backline is unbalanced. It’s down to the bloke picking the team, and the fact that the playmakers aren’t actually making much play.
      In terms of Simmons, he’s hardly Robinson Crusoe in terms of not winning the gainline this tour. I thought he looked as good as almost anyone out there (anyone bar Kepu and Tupou). But we need to credit all three teams for their consistent, effective gang tackling. We never saw anyone go into contact one pass from the ruck without being met by a low tackler and a high tackler. The low tackler would look to stop momentum, the high tackler would look to hold up the ball carrier, or strip the ball. This is, I believe, an adaptation to the law changes that force tacklers to re-enter the breakdown through the gate (something that I believe didn’t need work), and the requirement for jackals to release the moment an attacker enters the tackle zone (something that wasn’t heavily policed during the Tests). I haven’t seen anyone else noting this defensive tactic, but it’s a very different approach to what the Wallabies have faced in TRC, or in June. In June, Scotland wanted us on the deck where their three pilferers could wreak havoc. In November, they tried to maul us. I still maintain Ireland are the kings of the Choke Tackle, but the other three Home Unions have their own technique (which isn’t a choke tackle) and they’re making great headway. Our coaches didn’t prepare for these NH adaptations near well enough.

  • Keith Butler

    What has happened to Rory Arnold? I saw him and Coleman paired in an international a year or so back and they were taking it in turns to punch holes in the midfield. A great performance from both and I thought that on that showing they would be locking the Aussie scrum for years to come. Put those two behind Sio, TPN and Kepu and have a better balanced back row and you’ve a very decent set of forwards.

    • Hugh Cavill

      Injured. For the last few months, anyway.

      • Brumby Runner

        Not true. He was dropped from the Wallabies after one marginal (not poor) effort. He was turning in good performances at the NRC. But once on the wrong side of Cheika, kiss any hope of consistent test paly out the window.

        • Hoss

          True & False, he was chastened and relegated to an NRC game for some work and fitness, it was in said NRC game that he injured his knee and gone for the year.

  • Joe Blow

    On the money for the most part Hugh.

    I’m not sure that Hunt is the answer for the midfield as he’s has done nothing more than being solid in the mid year tests against mediocre opposition. Time will tell.
    Looking forward to seeing Naisarani but once again he will have to prove himself. We are too inconsistent in our performance and I think a lot of that comes down to coaching and captaincy. It has been a hall mark of the Cheika era. I hope the ARU have some viable alternatives in the back pocket because I cannot see us improving in this aspect under Cheika and Hooper. I would also consider Pocock to take over the captaincy in 2018. You really should not have the most carded player in test rugby leading your side.
    At full strength we will present an imposing side but we also need to perform when there are a few injuries.
    I too turned off the test at 60 minutes. It was one of the weakest test performances by the Wallabies in recent history. Very disappointing and the worst possible way to finish off a year.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Sorry Hugh, you are being far too gentle. The time has come and gone. Cheika has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Cheika has one way, he is not an old dog that can learn new tricks. He will not change his ways he will just bunker down and push harder, but in the same direction.
    And that is the problem. The direction is worng, the player selection is wrong, his style of leadership is wrong.
    He cant get the discipline he needs out of his players, or infact more than likely is contributing to their bad dicipline.
    Foley cant kick, and Foley cant play, he needs to go.
    Too many passengers in this team!

    • P00chie


    • Hugh Cavill

      Bit of an over-reaction there. A few issues in the side, but we’re hardly at the ‘sack them all’ stage.

      We beat the All Blacks about a month ago, off the back of a lengthy unbeaten streak. I don’t think the team is horribly broken as you suggest.

      • Garry

        Hugh, your blind optimism is admiral. But honestly, how bad must it get before enough is enough? You must have a lot of oil on your ducks back. My point of no return was reached months ago, but then perhaps I’m older than you and can remember rosier times.

        Nothing will change before the RWC, because we’re broke. Unless Cheika relinquishes (with out a payout) due to the weight of embarrassment. But if he’s not yet, probably never will.

        • Hugh Cavill

          What’s your plan then Garry? Who takes over as coach? Which key players are you dropping, and who are you bringing in?

        • onlinesideline

          you would need a lot of time to answer that question with the respect that it deserves mate. Could you really just whack out an answer in 1 or 2 paragraphs in an instant.

          A multi-point, strategic overview of that nature would take me a week to do it justice. And by not doing that doesnt mean he aint correct. Its just that we’ve all got jobs to do – – ahem.

        • Hugh Cavill

          No that’s a cop out. It’s one thing for people to rant about Cheika and Foley and Hooper and whoever else. But what are the alternatives? The answer is simple – there either aren’t any, or they are worse than what we have now.

          We don’t have a good coach waiting in the wings. Cheika is still the best we have. Same goes for Foley at 10. Same goes for Hooper as captain. The good thing is all three have shown themselves to be world class when they get it right. So we just have to hope they can summon that next year.

        • HK Red

          Hooper is a world class player, of that there is no doubt and he must be in the side. But he’s not a world class 7, nor a world class captain.

        • jamie

          Hooper has a world class workrate. When his workrate and impact align, he may be the very best player in the world, but they rarely do.

        • MungBean

          He reminds me of Nathan Long who played for Cronulla: all hair and body parts moving with great vigour, but with little effect

        • onlinesideline

          time restraints are a cop out ? Cmon, I dont know about you but to answer that question properly I would have to go through the whole Super Rugby roster and NRC and Shute Sheild and GPS and make a call as if I were the australin coach. I could do it but would have to think about properly.

          Foley the best we have and world class? Are you kidding me. I’ll leave it with you Hugh, we disagree mate.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Hope belongs to the religous and the social workers!
          It is not a mission task verb.
          Put plans in place and work to them!

        • Gnostic

          What is a Cop out is that every year you trot out the same lines supporting who ever is sitting in the seat Hugh. You did the same thing with Deans, the same with Hickey/Foley at the Tahs. The inability to produce any real critique is the real Cop out and the disguised derision against those who do offer that is your way. Brisneyland Local put the points quite succinctly that need to be addressed. Are these revelations? No. Bringing in Byrne was a great move, but it hasn’t paid dividends as yet, though there have been good signs, but in saying that other aspects you completely ignored such as defence (you do realise in giving you passing grade and optimistic outlook that the last two games have yielded worst ever loss margins and these are the continuation of the trend against both Tier 1 and 2 nations for 18 months?) and the discipline issues (a coach who acts like a petulant child and two matches which saw three yellows and a red to end a season which saw Hooper become the most yellow carded player in history.)

        • Hugh Cavill

          Thanks G. Always nice to hear from a happy reader!

        • jamie

          He has a point though. The wallabies keep dishing out the same shit, and as a result, we do.

          The standard, replace 2 players, change kicker, player comes back and we’ll be sweet inevitably never happens and we always get sucked in. Has happened for years, other than under Link’s tenure IMO. We showed genuine improvement under Link.

        • MungBean

          For some courtiers, there’s no establishment backside that isn’t kissable

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          While I do agree with that on Cheika, I’m not sure I agree about both Hooper and Foley. I personally don’t get Hooper. Heaps of enthusiasm, is everywhere on the field and puts in 100% every game BUT I just don’t see him being that effective at the 7 role. Hardly pilfers, never domintaes in the attack or defence, seems strangely missing in the dirty hard yards and yet pops up at times where you’d actually want a centre or wing to be there. I don’t think he’s a good captain. Too many silly kick not kick decisins at crucial times, doesn’t seem to get the team going in the right direction uner presure and seems to be so busy running around that no one is actually making the team decisions. I’d like to see Genia as captain or maybe Coleman. Foley has just got worse and there are 10’s around but they don’t seem to be given a chance to bring them on.

        • John Miller

          The “there’s no one else” argument constantly trotted out is completely disingenuous. There are always options. And whilst great coaches tend to be in gigs, open Tier 1 coaching roles see deck chairs shuffled and after hours phone calls made. Eddie Jones was unavailable when the England job came up. And speaking of Eddie and England, I’m not even worried about the coach being Australian – just the best available, globally.

        • idiot savant

          Im sure Lancaster or White have exit clauses that could see them available for June next year. Not that Cheika is going anywhere.

        • Dud Roodt

          haha, Lancaster? good one.

        • idiot savant

          You’re right Dud. Why would we ever choose a coach with a higher winning percentage who never coached a side to ship 50 points to Scotland.

        • Dud Roodt

          So it’s now literally just anyone but Cheika?
          Even the guy who couldn’t get his team, with more rugby players than any other country (by a considerably margin), more resources than any other nation, out of the pool in their own World Cup?
          Righto, I’ll admit it, you’ve lost me

        • idiot savant

          Dud. I feel your pain. But yes, sadly thats where we might be. I think Cheik is better than Lancaster but his record doesn’t really show it. You can argue that Lancaster should be way ahead etc for the reasons you articulate but England has always been way ahead in player numbers and resources but we have usually been way ahead of them on the field. I have been a Cheika fan, but Im becoming less than certain he is the way forward. The defence is an unholy mess. We are having bags of tries scored against us. And a sides ability to defend has always been a sign of unity of purpose. He had that – against Wales in the RWC for eg. But its gone. His chosen leaders go missing under pressure. His systems are so overwrought and complicated the players seem incapable of just playing football. Personally I think he is killing Foley with his endless experimentation in backline machinations. Now he could well be a genius who will lead us to the promised land. But he’s sure taking the long way around.

          But look, he has a great record as coach. He has the complete support of everyone above him. He will coach us to the RWC in Japan. Personally I think its a sad day when we all defend the coach on the grounds of ‘who else is there’ rather than on the basis of their brilliant coaching. I would just like to see more of the latter.

        • idiot savant

          There are some immediate alternatives that I would argue are not worse than we have now. Like a different game plan and defensive structure. Its not really about the players. This team have been together now for over 2 months. Indeed the core have been together in long camps since before the England series last year. They should be a well oiled machine with clear systems and strategies by now where everyone knows what they are doing. Instead I feel like i’m looking at Kevin Rudd’s office. Some brilliant players but perpetually in chaos with its leaders losing their shit under pressure. What absolutely flummoxes me is that we went into the England game undefeated in 7 matches having beaten the number 1 team in the world and should have played with absolute confidence. Yet when the pressure came on we played with uncertainty. As if the players dont really trust or fully understand the systems, are a bit shocked at the opposition’s game plan, and aren’t quite sure if they are in the right position, or who they should be passing to, or which man they should be marking, or what angle they should running….

          Im willing to concede that I dont know anything and that Cheika is a genius and this is all part of a master plan that is developing this team into the 2019 RWC winner. The return of Coleman, Pocock, Folau, and Demsey next year will certainly make a difference.

        • Adrian

          Good points idiot, including Rudd thingy.
          I agree with you, Hoss, Hugh and others that all isn’t lost, and that we aren’t necessarily as bad as we seem, ….sort of.

          I don’t want to rehash the game, and how/why we fell apart against an under-rated opponent.

          I would say that playing Moore was the height of arrogance, and did (IMO) effect the confidence of other players.

          I don’t want to rehash everything that’s been said, but agree that returning players Folau, Pocock, Coleman, Dempsey will make a huge difference. New guys like Tupou might come good, but it’s no certainty that Naisarani or emerging back rowers from NRC will deliver at test level. Let’s see.

          For next year, and beyond that I’d say:
          1. Our backline defence is too slow to turn and chase, irrespective of the pattern employed, or individual tackling skills. Too many big guys in backline defence. For now, Kerevi needs to be on bench
          2. Attack worked best with Beale at inside centre… better than with Hunt or Kerevi. For now, Hunt also to bench
          3. Place Kicking coach for Hodge, Foley, Beale, Hunt, with Hodge main kicker. Byrne to coach Hodge with linekicks
          4. Select back-up halfback from first 10 rounds of SR
          5.Mentor for Cheika
          6. Shrink for team (seriously)

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Adrian, agree with you 100% the AB’s brought in a shrink as part of the changes after they lost in the Qtr finals. McCaw and others will say it was one of the major changes to set them where they are now.

        • idiot savant

          Agree with all of this Adrian. Braam Van Straaten coached Barnes from an ok goal kicker to a very good goal kicker, mostly by Skype or video sent trough the internet. Not sure who is coaching Foley.

          On the shrink thing, Andrew Ireland, the brains behind the Brisbane Lions premierships and the ongoing success of the Sydney Swans, employed Dr Phil Jauncey to the Lions to great effect. Matthews denied it of course because he thought he alone was responsible for everything but Jauncey proved invaluable in gelling radically different personalities by making them understand and tolerate each other. This is very important in the fabric of a team as it ensures trust (which appears to be a little shaky atm) on the field.

          I get the feeling that Cheika needs leaders who are the opposite of who he has chosen. He appears to have ‘yes men’. What he needs is footballers like Fardy or Pocock or Higginbotham (relax Im not suggesting he be picked) who look him in the eye and say “OK Cheik but why are we doing that?” When Cheik explains why, they can go back to the team and explain it because leaders have to sell the message. And sometimes in that exchange Cheik might change his mind when he gets the feedback from the player. Thats Mano-a Mano, which is what warriors need and respect in battle. Call me loco but the captains I respected weren’t yes men.

        • Who?

          But that questioning, asking, “Why?” (which Jake White describes as the key difference between a South African player and an Australian player, and which I believe was our strength – the fact we wanted to understand what we were doing), isn’t that what Cheika’s said to hate in a player..? A reason why blokes like Fardy, Higgers and Cooper were sidelined..?
          I completely agree about the best captains not being yes men. They were people who considered their position. Even Eales had to do that. Eddie Jones referenced the sacking of Bill Lawry after the 5-0 for England over Australia in 70/71. Ian Chappell still doesn’t know how to say yes!!! And he was the captain selected out of that debacle (one of only two Aussie cricket captains never to lose a series, along with Richie Benaud). Sadly, the powers that be won’t select anyone who looks vaguely like Chappelli even to the squad, let alone the starting XV, or the leadership group.
          Great point about the Lions, too. Anyone who was in Qld back then knows just how disparate those guys were. Michael Voss and Jason Ackermanis barely tolerated each other. Voss was like Hooper – the bloke who never stopped and did whatever his coach asked. Ackermanis was enigmatic and brilliant (could there be a better correlation for the caricature people have of Quade?). Voss didn’t understand Ackermanis, Ackermanis was immature and didn’t play well with Voss… But they did what no team before or since has done (three in a row).

        • subfreq

          Whole heartedly agree here. The AB’s prior to last world cup and even the great Australian cricket team that had Warne, Waugh, Hayden et al also used NZSAS and SASR training and mentoring to build the mental ability and cohesion as a group to function under extreme pressure.

          It seems an obvious area where this team(and coaches) need to evolve if they are going to achieve their potential.

        • onlinesideline

          height of arrogance, or height of stupidity ? Same stupid as playing Tui and Dempsey on a idiotic scheduled pointlesss game 1 week before a northern tour. He should have rested the whole starting 8, left Moore in OZ and played Ulsees on tour. Hes young and busting at the seams and has a rugby brain. Cheika not black and white enough, chaotic mind and our team reflects that.

        • McWarren

          I call bullshit Hugh. But firstly thanks for article and thumbs up for your ability to calm down within 48 hours of the drivel Cheika and his mates dished up.

          New Coach: Laurie Fisher, Stephen Larkham, Link, Jake White for a start.

          Defence coach: not Grey, try and entice Les Kiss.

          Attack coach: Larkham.

          Forwards: Drop Hooper and replace him with Pocock the best 7 in the world and a true leader of men. Get Liam Gill back for cover on the bench, if Pocock goes down we don’t have too completely change our game style to suit Hooper. Move Sean McMahon to 6, Higgers on the bench to cover 6 & 8, but also Nasairani, RHP, Dempsey, Holloway and Timani to 8. Hookers Taf, Latu, Ready and after a super season Uelese. Sio, Kepu starting props, Fagasee, Tupou, Faulkner, Cowan, Robertson to name a few. Locks we have Colman, Phillips, Arnold, Arnold, Carter yes Carter.

          Backs: Genia, Gordon, Tuttle, Ruru. COOPER is a better option at 10 while we wait for the like of Stewart to come of age, or give Jonno a run, he can pass both sides, tackle, kick and guide. Wingers? I like fast wingers so Naivalu, Perese, Koroibete, Peni and a quick scan of the NRC shows me about 4 other genuinely fast wingers. 12 is Hodge, Kerevi, Toomua, Hunt, Beale on the bench (he covers all but 2 backline positions). 13 Kuridrani, maybe Folau, the big Ginger from Qld who’s name I forget, and the other fella from the Force. Fullback DHP, maybe Hunt, maybe Folau, Banks.

          Play guys in position, if they are really good but still not the best in their position, well? Tough shit, if there’s no room on the bench you don’t get a cap.

          Value rugby brains and empowerment of players. Don’t pick one dimensional teams to play one dimensional game plans. Don’t dismiss time honoured rugby tactics and skills as not important or secondary, I’m thinking kicking and tackling.

          As a coach show leadership and live the values you expect the players to abide by. Give clear and cohesive directions to all players and don’t have untouchable favourites. And don’t talk in double speak and waffle when communicating with us the fans.

          Now I’ve just thrown that together in 5 minutes on the couch. Imagine the possibilities if a well trained team of business and sporting professionals took up the task.

        • Gun

          I agree with all you’ve said mate. I’ve also worked out that ‘Nard is called ice man because he melts when the heat is on.

        • HK Red

          Hahaha, that’s gold

        • HK Red

          “the big Ginger from Qld who’s name I forget,” – Campbell Magnay

        • Dud Roodt

          It’s funny how Bernie escapes all level of blame for coaching a Brumbies team who couldn’t score a try to save their lives, and has been attack coach for a Wallabies team who have also struggled to find the line. So Grey must go, but Bernie should be put forward for the top gig? huh?

          The guys you’ve suggested almost all to a tea have played well in the NRC. The fucking NRC! And supposedly they’re going to come into international football and take us to world cup glory?

          Also a very brave man to be the first coach to drop Michael Hooper. Ever.

          If Liam Gill was as great as everyone north of the border thinks he is, he would be the starting #7 for the Wallabies and would have 80 caps to his name. He isn’t.

        • McWarren

          I believe the team below after a two Wallaby camps, 3 June tests, 3 tests v the AB’s, 2 v the Boks, 2v Las Pumas, 1 v Japan, 1 v Wales and v 1 England in the space of 6 months would not have lost to fucking Scotland by a record score.


          Gill doesn’t have 80 caps because Aussie rugby is so easily conned by a player who every now and then pulls out a big play. We’re too fucking stupid to value the hard graft, the nitty gritty shift work that wins games, that means you don’t pathetically capitulate because the calls have gone against you and your only game plan isn’t working.

          And yes I’d be brave enough to drop Hooper, Beale, Foley, Folau and Phipps and replace them with Gill, Toomua, Cooper, Banks and Gordon. And if after 70 caps Liam Gill was still be ineffective as a 7 then I’d drop him. In fact I wouldn’t wait that long. I certainly wouldn’t pick Gill if I then had to pick other players out of position to compensate for his short comings in the position he was picked for.

          I also wouldn’t use the Wallabies tests to develop players who physically aren’t up to test standard.

          I kept Larkham because I think with the right cattle, that is, players who can pass off both hands, have speed and are capable of thinking on their feet, he could be a very good attack coach. Maybe if his backline play makers weren’t scattered to the four corners of the planet in defence he’d have some chance of gelling an attacking unit. FFS our most biggliest attacking dude can’t pass or kick or tackle or read the game, and we’ve got him slotted in as our custodian.

        • idiot savant

          Love your passion Mac. But cant help but think if this team was playing the same game plan, the result would have been the same. Perhaps a tighter on ball focus might have given Scotland less opportunity but these backs on the same defensive structures would have conceded plenty of points.

        • McWarren

          IS i should’ve been more comprehensive. I wouldn’t let my under 8 team play Cheika ball let alone my above selected Wallabies. I’d love to hand them to Link or Laurie and let them rip.

        • Who?

          I’ve been a significant critic of Larkham in the past, but he’s definitely had improvement in his results this year. That said, he’s still not perfect. We’ve got our 12 (Kerevi) spending half his time on the left wing covering for the left wing, as the left wing (Hodge) is trying to be a 3rd playmaker. I don’t know if that’s his decision or Cheika’s, but it’s leading to many complaints about Kerevi being a ball hog, when he’s playing on the wing or receiving obvious passes within 2 steps of the defensive line (how are you supposed to do anything bar crash forward when the defence is already on you?).

        • Dud Roodt

          Replace wallabies with reds and Queensland based NRC players: check

          Make horrifically underperforming Reds players magically beat rest of world: check.

          You’re wasted commenting mate! Ring the ARU and tell them you’ll take us to World Cup glory!

        • McWarren

          Stick with underperforming Tahs untouchables: Cheik

          Ignore all problems with the team because it exposes too many awkward questions: Cheik

          Run the Wallabies as badly as we run the ARU: Cheik

          Ignore the in form Tahs I’ve named above : Cheik

          Bury your head up the ass end of Mossman: Cheik

        • McWarren

          Dud all this anger because I have audacity to not like the way Michael Hooper plays? Ffs mate the team I named above has only 5 Reds in it 2 of which are in the squad. I was naming a team trying to use as few incumbents as possible to make a point. One tah is because most of the likely Tahs I’d pick are in the actual squad.

        • Dud Roodt

          To be honest mate, I didn’t mean that to come across as angry – apologies if it came across that way. I’ll admit it was snarky and sarcastic – so I’ll reign that in.

          To be honest I completely understand the frustrations of most Wallabies supporters – as I have them too. My wife thinks I’m fucking mental because when they lose as badly as they have in the past 2 weeks it affects my mood for the rest of the day.

          What I don’t like is what Hugh referred to on this weeks pod – there are genuinely people who comment regularly on here who seem to take joy in them losing so they can hammer Cheika and Hooper. There seem to be people who want us to fail so they can say “told you”. Others seem to think Link getting the arse was Cheika’s doing and that he deserves the same fate.

          My frustrations with the never ending hatred for Hooper mainly revolves around the fact that he is considered by his teammates, coaches, and opposition to be one of the best players on earth, and yet some people on here would make you think he’s not fit to strap the boots on in 4th grade subbies rugby.

          I think there is a perception among many that if there was a “traditional” 7 on the park we would be getting 20 pilfers a game. The simple fact of the matter is that isn’t the way the game is now – particularly with the stupid new rules we now play under. His work rate, tackle stats, support play and general effect on a game are almost unsurpassed in world rugby (in my opinion)

        • McWarren

          Thanks Dud, and apologies in return.

          Keeping this quick because it’s time both of us returned to our normal lives for a while.

          I don’t hate any of Cheika, Hooper etc. I certainly i my rugby reservations about them and lots of others. But I try not too make it personal, I don’t have anything personal against any of them. I certainly have criticised Cheika recently about his behaviour, but I’ll stand by that.

          I never wish for a Wallaby loss for the I told you so value. Sometimes I lose the enthusiasm to get excited, but by kick off I’m raring too go. I was nearly kissing Foley on the tv when put those kicks through a few weeks ago to set up tries.

          I don’t blame Cheika for links demise. I suspect it was more to do with Link than anyone else. But I still think Link is a better coach.

          My opinion of Hoopers style of 7 play dates back to 2013 & 14. Long before the rule changes. The positives listed above are true, but imo that’s a 7’s job and he isn’t unique in that sense. In fact I think he over does it at times with his line speed leaving gaps and his outside defence vulnerable. But that might be Grey? Anyway enough, we disagree.

          Merry Xmas mate and happy new year. I’m signing off for the year. I need a break.

        • Seaweed

          Value rugby brains. DHP at fullback. It’s a lot to hope for but thanks for the post.

        • Parker

          Muggleton to replace Grey

        • Patrick

          OK, I would do this:
          1. Pick three kickers who can get 90% or have the potential. Include them in the squad and at least one of them starts every week, in their preferred position. Rest of team gets selected around them – in the end Australian rugby would have been much better to keep Brock James, for example.
          2. Genia or McMahon to captain until Pocock returns. Then Pocock.
          3. Grey goes.
          4. Cheika ceases selecting. He can sit on a panel but he must be outnumbered. If he doesn’t like it he quits and Larkham takes over with White and Link as technical consultants.

        • From NooZealand

          And Laurie, let’s not forget Laurie.

        • Patrick

          Finally someone with something positive to say! ;) Of course Laurie, give him a crack at 2018 through to the RWC, he can only be an improvement!

          Don’t know how I forgot him, thanks heaps.

        • Seaweed

          Surely NooZuland?

        • Dud Roodt

          Bernie will save the day. Luckily he had no ill effects on this wallabies team (just because he’s Bernie), it’s those other two that wreak all the havoc

        • dru

          Hugh it is a decent question. I expect that something better may not eventuate, but it’s not a good thing.

          You have drawn a line following the Ireland series. I think you are being very tolerant, but answer this, if Cheika fails against Italy, how do you propose to go forward with your line in the sand? “WHo takes over as coach” will still need answering.

          We need to be testing alternatives. Now.

          BTW – nice piece. Tough job following up after Scotland.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          mate, that’s it in a nutshell. The issue next year isn’t to replace Cheika, but something needs to be done to stop the same problems coming up again and again. Some of the points above are absolutely spot on. Why Gray is allowed to stay is beyond me, he has done nothing for the team except show them how to leak tries. Cheika is a great motivator and displays a lot of passions, however this year in particular has shown that tactically he is pretty inept and his selections are way off the mark. He needs help but unless he looks in a mirror and admits it there will be no change.From my perspective there is still far too much state influence and bias in the Wallabies. People are not held accountable for their actions and the management seem to be too proud to admit they have made mistakes. I think a lot needs to change or in 2019 you will be defending a qtr knockout

        • From NooZealand

          From Kiwi to Kiwi for a good Australian team, thank you for your comments.

        • Seaweed


      • Brisneyland Local

        I dont think the team is Hugh. There are a core of players that should stay. But our defensive coach should go. Immediately. Cheika should go but there is no logical replacement so we may have no option. The beating the AB’s was a statistical anomally. God we alomost last to Italy, and the Ba Ba’s. we did lose to England and Scotland. We couldnt beat Sotuh Africa. A draw is a loss in my book. Even if it was a few issues, which I disagree with, the fact is that they are the same issues over and over again. We are not improving. we are about the same. Since we lost to Scotland a year ago, materially we have not improved.
        – Playing players out of position has proven not to work, ditch it.
        – Our defensive plan is not working.
        – Our discipline is getting worse.
        – we cant kick.
        – Our 9 is intermittent.
        – Our 10 is shit and has been for a long while.
        – Our forward pack lacks the intensity.
        – Our continually high penalty count is not due to the re’s it is due to us.
        Sorry Hugh these arent minor issues, they are major issues. They are embedded, and will take a major shift in direction to unfuck them.
        Cheika is a one dimensional coach! He can only do the ‘siege’ mentality thing. I gaurantee you if we stay with Cheika and Grey we will be lucky to make it through the pool stages.
        What makes it worse is that there is no real stand out replacement. So we are really up the creek with out a paddle.
        But hey, that is only my opinion. But I am not on my own in thinking it.

        • onlinesideline

          Mate, I agree with you 100%. Its sooo off people just dont realise how off it really is or how could it could be too. Its the issues you mentioned and more TBH.You are just sratching the surface. Its our whole style of play, the approach to each individual task, the lack of true pack nous. I would love to hear what the ppl with rugby brains in this country are saying behind closed doors. Macqueen, Dwyer, Laurier Fisher. What happended to Dwyers commentary on GGR ?

        • Brisneyland Local

          I agree. I have a Kiwi mate here at work who used to play NPC. He has a much better rugby brain than I. The points he raises are very insightful, and I learn from it. Would love to hear from them. But they are all being very quiet!

        • mark conley

          “… I would love to hear what the ppl with rugby brains in this country are saying behind closed doors. Macqueen, Dwyer, Laurier Fisher. What happended to Dwyers commentary on GGR ?”
          I’ll second that proposal sir

        • HK Red

          ” the fact is that they are the same issues over and over again. We are not improving” – in a nutshell

        • Brisneyland Local

          Thanks mate!

        • Who?

          Hey mate, there’s one point I think you’ve got a LITTLE bit wrong… The penalty count. We had a very disciplined performance in the SH. The penalty count only skyrocketed when we went north. And I can’t help but feel that’s off the back of the coaching staff’s shortcomings in planning to adapt to the new laws (which I’ve probably mentioned I believe were completely unnecessary and are a significant mistake). So I don’t know that the penalty issues are as consistent as they feel (and they feel atrocious, after three consecutive bad weeks), and I don’t think they’re necessarily off the back of poor attitude from the coach (as many have said elsewhere – though I’m not saying his attitude helps), but I do think it’s still a coaching failure.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Thats interesting. I must admit I was a little loose with my terminology. Penalties and free kicks I kind of lumped in together! But that is very interesting that we were more disciplined at home then away!

        • jamie

          Reckon it has something to do with the pressure the NH teams put us under, and the new law changes?

        • Who?

          That’s what I said – the NH teams had adapted, and we were completely unprepared for their adaptation to the new laws. We should have been able to see from the Premiership games that they were gang tackling and looking to hold up the ball carrier, rather than get them on the ground (as the Scots did in June). But no…
          Of course, that doesn’t excuse every penalty (like Beale’s two YC’s, Hooper’s YC, Kepu’s Red (which I’ll note wasn’t a shoulder charge, given his left arm wrapped – it was ‘only’ high)). But it doesn’t help.
          So where it might be slated to Cheika’s lack of respect for referees (and I do feel he gets a slightly rough deal here – no one agrees with every call a referee makes, not even other referees!), I think it’s more a failure of analysis and outright coaching than psychology.

      • Julius

        “We beat the All Blacks about a month ago;;;”

        There’s your problem. You made a big deal out of something that wasn’t. The ABs had a No.10 starting only his second test…nearly two years after his first, no Retallick, Moody, Franks… in a dead rubber. Even then it took an intercept try do do it.

      • Simon

        IMO, the improvement we’ve displayed recently is almost entirely Mick Byrne’s effect. The basic skills are improving (albeit in fits and starts) which is allowing us to hold the ball long enough to score tries. The problem isn’t that the team is horribly broken, on the contrary it should be one of the best in the world given the calibre of players available. The problem is that it’s a one-dimensional side with glaring weaknesses that Tier 1 opposition are exploiting.

        Defence is still very poor and tactically we are outplayed and out-thought pretty much every match. And when things turn against us we tend to fall apart. Record losses against both England and Scotland and the first time we’ve ever conceded 50 points to a NH side. The most frustrating thing about this loss was that according to Tucker’s article today, the Wallabies spoke at half time about how to deal with Kepu’s loss and were told to hold onto the ball and prevent the game getting too loose. That lasted for the first five minutes of the second half and then they resorted to their usual Hail Mary passes and dropped balls that achieved nothing except turning over possession in broken play to a team with excellent, fast backs and an inevitable overlap.

        It’s absolutely unforgiveable for the team to be so inflexible, and that just has Cheika’s stamp all over it.

        • Patrick

          Agree entirely. Absolutely incapable of adapting their gameplan let alone taking stock mid-match, realising that it isn’t working, and changing the game plan. Not just Cheika’s fault, Hooper’s as well.

      • Who?

        Hugh, the team isn’t broken, but the administration, the support staff and the fans are.
        The administration, we all know how useless they are. We’d be better off with FIFA coming in and running us at present, because there’s very little positive in the way of administration happening at senior levels in this country.
        The support staff – the coaches – are, because they’re clearly deluded with some of the continued selections, non-selections and tactics they’re following.
        And the supporters are broken, because a good number of us have started behaving like soccer fans and talking about ‘unbeaten runs’ rather than acknowledging that we’ve only ever previously discussed winning streaks! Forget anything on the field, that really does say everything about our desperation, about where our hopes and expectations lie.

      • Patrick

        That depends. If you think 3rd or 4th best is as good as we can be, no nothing is the problem.

        If you think that we should be able to win matches like Bled II and England and RSA I and II (let’s not mention Scotland), then a lot is badly broken, as indeed summed up by everyone else:
        1. the coach
        2. the captain
        3. the kicker

        One could also say the bizarre sky blue daddy’s boy selections but this could be just a factor of point 1.

        • Dud Roodt

          While I am forever an optimist when it comes to the Wallabies, I think we honestly need to ask ourselves the question – are we capable of being a top 2 team in the world?

          All signs at the moment point to: probably not.

          We have 5 of the worst teams in Super Rugby, and yet somehow, we’re meant to grab enough players from those 5 teams to beat players from the 5 best teams in the same competition?

          We have less rugby players than;

          – England
          – South Africa
          – France
          – US
          – Ireland
          – NZ
          – Japan
          – Argentina
          – even fucking Sri Lanka

          Yet we’re meant to beat all of them to be top 1-2?

          We have a governing body teetering on financial ruin and hovering just above the poverty line (and have been for many many years), and we’re meant to compete with the money of the RFU, FRU, IRU?

          We’re the only country in the world with 4 major football codes is competition, and we fall right at the bottom of that list of 4 in every major metric.

          Maybe Cheika is ringing the best out of a pretty average bunch (this isn’t to say I don’t think we have some of the finest rugby players on earth), and when one player gets injured, we’re resorting to players who wouldn’t be playing ITM Cup in NZ – and yet they’re meant to compete.

        • McWarren

          Which is exactly why we need to be smarter than what the current Wallaby setup is offering. We always punched above weight because we were clever. Can you say this Coach, his choice of captain or the ARU are clever?

  • Pearcewreck

    Nice write up Hugh.
    Our inconsistency is a big problem.
    Eng, Ire & NZ are just consistently good,
    We seem to be becoming like SA & Fra, just no consistency.
    How can we go from beating NZ a month ago, to conceding 50 to Scotland??

    • Brisneyland Local

      Easy because we pick the wrong players in the wrong positions.
      Our defensive plan is actually buiit around protecting players that cant defend rather than actually defending.
      Our coaches are not up to it.
      Our dicipline is crap! we cant kick!
      That is how.

  • Patrick

    Or the current coach or the current captain or the current kicker.

    We aren’t going anywhere until all of those three jobs are being handled by someone else.

    • idiot savant

      Then we arent going anywhere till 2020.

      • Patrick


        • idiot savant

          Although it occurred to me that if we all cancelled our Foxtel subscriptions in protest, he’d be gone tomorrow. (Foxtel might even pay out his contract!)

        • McWarren

          Already done it. It’s been hours now and my determination to stand by my decision is waning. It’s the Norwegian figure skating championships I’ll miss the most.

  • P00chie

    Did Foley just stop practicing kicking after winning the Super Rugby championship a few years ago? He’s never been the same.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      He doesn’t need to mate. Safest job in world rugby with no one chasing for his spot

  • P00chie

    Good, balanced piece not giving into the knee-jerk hysteria prevalent here.

    I would be slightly more concerned about our mental collapses in the face of adversity though. Hopefully a good captain/leader (Pocock) will rectify this

    • The Jackal

      My exact thoughts. It has been alarming our collapse in the second half against Scotland & final 10 mins against England. Is it the sign of a long season coming to an end or something worse?

    • joy

      Hunger should be a major selection criteria.

      • McWarren

        Joy you’re being hysterical

  • Alister Smith

    Thanks for the article Hugh, I enjoyed it and thought it was a decent wrap up. I just wanted to pick up on one of your points with regards to combinations and “Ben Darwin Theory”. We had tried the Kerevi/Kuradrani combination before but had ditched in favour of the “two play maker approach”. I am not sure why the selectors/coaching staff went back to K/K arrangement. I expected, having settled on a style of play, that they would have kept Beale and Foley together and looked at alternative 15’s. We have some great depth in that position with DHP (currently injured of course), Hunt, and the young bloke from the Brumbies. The Foley/Beale arrangement had worked well for the Waratahs and in our run of wins/draws. Perhaps they were looking to see if there was another way we could play on this tour but, on the evidence, I dont think its worked. I am looking forward (already) to next season to see what emerges out of Super Rugby and to see who else may arrive in that player maker role – either a reinvigorated QC or a fit and healthy Lealifano could potentially fill the 10/12 positions but there may be another new bloke to emerge.

    • Brumby Runner

      Duncan Paia’aua looks to have what it takes to play 10 or 12 at test level. He can break the defense himself, set up support players to make a break and, mercy of all mercies, he can tackle. Had he been groomed as a back up to Foley over the test seasons this year, he just might now have the experience and smarts to take over. But Cheika has made it blindingly obvious that there is no-one to replace or even challenge his favoutite Foley.

      • idiot savant

        Cheika has 3 number 10s. Foley, Hodge and Beale. He thinks they are better than anyone else going around in Australia and he will train them all in that position until the RWC. He doesn’t need anybody else.

        • McWarren

          You’re right because he sees a 10’s role as simply pushing the ball onto the 12. He doesn’t understand or appreciate the intricacies of the position. Or the value a quality or even capable 10 could bring to a team.

        • Brumby Runner

          But he’s not about to replace Foley with either of them, no matter how poorly Foley plays or how ineffective he is in running the rest of the backline. Actually, he really sees both Beale and Hodge as No 12s playing outside Foley.

  • Geoffwho

    I think the way the team has dropped their bundle over the last couple of weeks, when things got a little tough, is a very bad sign. We seem to have accepted that some players can be inconsistent and flaky, while others are pushed out. We seem to have accepted that our coach doesn’t have a plan b and gets “out-coached”. We seem to have accepted that each week there will be head scratcher selections. We seem to have accepted that we are going to hide players in defense. We seem to have accepted that kicking is a 50/50 proposition. We seem to have accepted that more losses than wins on Spring tour is a reality now.

    I can’t see this turning around unless it comes from a change in Cheika, as Rugby Australia ain’t going to move him on.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Good points Geoffwho!
      But most of us havnt accepted it, we have to tolerate it.
      There is a difference!

    • HK Red

      As a group they looked frustrated and dejected when things are going against them. I just can’t help but think there are bigger issues in the changing room. A bit of infighting and frustration with each other, with the results, with the general setup.
      It’s not helped when there is no clear consistency in selection and being awarded a Wallabies jersey does not seem to be based on a meritocratic approach.

  • Brumby Runner

    Hugh, I’m with you on your initial contention that there is reason to be optimistic about 2018, but disagree on some of the detail.

    Our first challenge is to be more consistent but imo the underlying reasons for our inconsistency have been poor player selections and poor game plans, essentially the misfiring defense systems in place. I agree about the selection of Moore keeping Uelese out and hindering him getting game time and experience.

    But the same criticism should be directed towards the continual selections of Simmons and Hanigan as well. Apart from lineout calling Rob Simmons is a virtual passenger in all games. Surely, it’s not too hard to have someone call simple lineouts where the ball goes directly to the nominated catcher. Just need to have three good jumping options and would probably make the throwers job a hell of a lot easier as well. The advantage of knowing where and when the ball is going should be enough to ensure most lineouts are successful. Hanigan is eager, about the only good thing that can be said about him at this level. Certainly, Cheika goofed by not keeping Fardy around the team and his obstinacy in the face of repeated poor performances by Hanigan only did his reputation as coach harm. Of course Dempsey would have continued to play 6 if he hadn’t been injured but it took a bit too long for him to displace Hanigan in the first place. While Dempsey was injured, I’d have liked to have seen Holloway or almost anyone else with a bit of strength in contact to be tried at 6. Maybe Matt Philip.

    The second row will certainly be strengthened by Coleman’s return. However, Rory Arnold was showing signs of being the best partner to Coleman until one marginal (not poor) effort put him in Cheika’s bad books and we didn’t get to see him again. It really has been a similar story with Lopeti Timani and Cheika too. No apparent effort to keep them in and around the squad and to work with them to improve where they are thought to have issues. No, just drop them and leave them in the wilderness until another crisis occurs and there are no other options left to go with. And I disagree with your comment re Blake Enever. In both his appearances he has topped or been near the top for both tackles made and rucks hit. If that isn’t what a lock should be doing, then please enlighten me.

    For 2018 and the RWC, the backrow cannot consist of two of Hooper, McMahon and Pocock. They are very different players but with similar impacts. They are all work horses, and excellent defenders in their individual ways. But the backrow is out of balance with two of them there at the same time.

    In the backs, if Foley is not there for his kicking, then he doesn’t warrant being there at all. Hunt has been terrible in his recent appearances. Missing more tackles than he’s been making. Hodge is not a winger. Start him at 15 if he’s needed for his boot. But most importantly, get rid of Nathan Grey and his abysmal defensive plans immediately.

    Sadly, I don’t think many of these issues will be addressed while Cheika is head coach, so I am anticipating a very poor series against Ireland next year. It will be too late then for Cheika or anyone else to make a difference for the RWC I’m afraid. This year should have been the make or break for Cheika, and he should go based on his results. Next year is just too late.

    • Simon

      That’s the most baffling part of Cheika’s coaching to me – how some players (who mysteriously nearly all wear sky blue) are given so much leeway while others are given one chance then dropped and with no way back. Timani, Higgers, Arnold this year, guys like Lance and Morahan last year. Even McMahon had to wait for Pocock to take a break and then we suddenly find out that when he’s given time he’s actually one of the best players on the team.

      When Cheika is forced to select somebody he doesn’t want to due to injury, he doesn’t even give them a chance to prove themselves. Like Faulkner this test – Cheika left him on the bench until something like the 71st minute and left Sio’s tired legs out there to try and shore up the scrum for Tupou’s first appearance. He did the same thing with Frisby last year, in three tests in June the guy played about 11 minutes in total while Phipps was out on his feet and England stole all three matches. So much for the Finishers.

      • jamie

        Don’t forget Cooper. He was on fire in the June series. Every time he was on our attack looked far more lethal.

        • Simon

          Let’s hope he brings that form to the Reds in 2018!

    • idiot savant

      I think there is every chance that Ireland will send a development team to build depth for the RWC, so its possible that we can win that series. But pray Sean O’Brien is not coming. He was the lynchpin of the Lions performance against the ABs. And with Folau back at 15, Beale will go to 12 which will help Foley enormously. Pocock’s return will at last give us some over the ball presence and Coleman and Demsey some go forward. So, I think we could do ok next year. The Southern Hemisphere sides dont play the kick and pressure game which unravels Cheika’s game plan so I think we can paper over the cracks next year. But I agree with you that unless Cheika makes changes to the way we play, we may be in for a shock at the RWC.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I’m not so sure mate. This trip will be Ireland’s chance to really settle the team for RWC in 19 and I wouldn’t mind betting they send the best team they can so all the combinations can get settled and work together. It’ll also be a chance get some confidence together just before the RWC

        • idiot savant

          Not sure either! I think its their last chance to experiment because they will have to settle their side by the 6 nations which will be their last tournament before the RWC.

        • Haz

          I don’t think they need to do that much experimenting though. Schmidt has brought a lot of players through so there’s already depth there

      • Haz

        No way Ireland sends a development team imo. Schmidt will send everything he’s got and go for a 3-0 as that would be a big boost for them heading into the World Cup year

        • Patrick

          They’ll shit it in the way things stand. We really have all our chips on Pocock and Folau.

      • McWarren

        I think the Irish second stringers will trouble this Wallaby team.

      • Ulrich

        Beware the Irish,

        They play a brutally physical game with extremely clever play in the way they tackle, the way they manage the breakdown, their kick-chase & up and unders etc. I think they will go with a slightly experimental squad (not fully) and continue with it halfway into the 6 nations before introducing what they believe to be their best side for the latter half to produce some momentum.

        In so doing keeping the entire squad fresh.

      • pointman888

        Why does Foley need all this help people keep mentioning. Seriously…..if you play an actual playmaker at 10 you don’t need to squeeze one in elsewhere. When it’s Quade he’s expected to win every game and never make a mistake….ever! With Foleys poor form and every possable player combination In other struggling areas tested this year…there is absolutely zero reasoning why Quade hasnt been used this year. At worst we would have something else for the opposition to worry about. Structures in the backline would be fine as there’s plenty of reds anyway. Cheika is stuborn and is grinding the wallabies into a 1 dimensional team!

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I don’t think consistency is the issue. I think it’s more that they know what to do but when they get pressured they make poor decisions and this has the effect of being inconsistent. Too much old school harden up and get some mongrel and not enough calm thinking and clear decisions during the game

    • Wallabrumby

      Well said BR entirely agree on these points

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Hugh, A great write up and good to see some positives amongst the despair. You are 100% correct it is not all bad and despite some really bad results there has been some improvements. A couple of points I think are important.
    I think Arnold is the natural partner for Coleman. No one else has been able to bring what he does at his best. Cheika needs to work out how to bring this out more consistently.
    No matter who you have at 8, if you play both Hooper and Pocock the loose forwards will always be out of balance. Unsure of the answer as by making Hooper the captain he has to start so maybe the rest of the loosies needs to change.
    If Foley is to remain, he needs to show that he has actually improved, including learning to tackle, pass to the right and be able to kick. If that doesn’t happen then he should go.
    There needs to be some serious development at 9 & 10 as these positions are the biggest weakness in the team and if depth isn’t found the chances of the Wallabies getting past the Qtrs in Japan will diminish.
    Front row is good and there is depth being built there. The team is showing some definite improvements but I’m not sure consistency is the requirement. I’d like to see better decisions under pressure, better passing and catching and much much better kicking.

  • Hoss

    Good write-up big Hugh and kudos for removing the anger so soon after the heinous crimes were committed.

    Maybe in a moment of quiet reflection, a few stiff single malts and of melancholy reflection i will draw up a ‘T’ bar and list positives and negatives on opposite sides and arrive with the positives in front – maybe, or more likely it will be ‘tied’ and i will again ponder – what exactly did we achieve in 2017 ?

    I acknowledge the building depth in the forwards, but counter that with the alarming lack of depth at 9 & 10 (before you Queenslander’s start screaming QC – have a Bex and a lie down) and we have possibly left ourselves short of time to grow that depth.

    Our defence system remains to my eye, entirely broken, our mental frailties bubble just below the surface, our selections – chaotic. For mine Cheika wants to surround himself with the bright shiny new toys, but surely you need to be the best at YOUR position to be picked for the Wallabies ? Not the second best 13 who plays 11, or the best 7 who plays 8 or the best 8 who plays 6, the best 12 who plays 15 and on and on and on.

    How are we supposed to play as a cohesive unit when the selectors are the ones ‘fracturing’ the chess pieces ??

    Some tough calls need to be made over off-season, international careers culled and for any chance of success a settled 30-35 must be stuck with for 18 in the run-up. Communicate that to us fans, show support to those 35 and let them harden and learn – because if 2018 is more of 2017 then, well, we are completely fucked.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Nice write up Hoss. But it is hard not to be angry and dissapointed when we have the same dross thrown at us again an again. But if any of my employees were like the Wallabies I would have fired them long ago! And I bet you would have too.
      You only get sooooo many chanes and retraining before you are written off as a bad investment!

      • Hoss

        hire slow, fire early.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Absolutely. Couldnt agree with you more.
          Looks like you and I went to the same “Old School” way!

    • idiot savant

      Small point Hoss. ‘selectors’ is plural. Im pretty sure in the Wallabies case, its singular.

    • Ulrich

      Whilst slightly off-topic,

      This weekend the Boks will pretty much have 3 full-backs in the back three and some would argue another playing 13. A 13 playing 12. I believe this is our 9th (or 11th) loose trio combination of the year. 7s play 6, 6 play 8, 8 plays 7, 7 plays 8. A #5 lock playing 7. Perhaps there’s something Cheika and Coetzee know which we don’t.

      Or it’s simply a reality that both the Boks and Wallabies lack test-quality players. That may be sort of understandable for Australia, but is a sad indictment of the state of our rugby over here.

  • Cornchips

    I didn’t stay up to watch the game (not paying for Foxtel), I stayed for the England game and that didn’t sell the Scottish game to me.

    Then I saw the score.

    Then I looked at the highlights to decide if I should watch.

    Then in the highlights I saw Simmonds walking to ‘try’ catch a Scottish man who had just broken the line.

    I didn’t watch any more than that. Didn’t need to.

    • Hoss

      Says a lot about attitude CC – Blake Enever chased the whole way and made a brave effort – Simmo clocked off early ………..

      • HK Red

        He looked winded or injured in that chase. He was trying, but it just wasn’t coming together.

        • Brumby Runner

          Winded, injured or just plain lazy, he should have been pulled at that very moment. Mysteriously, Enever, the one who never gave up the chase, who topped the tackle count and the ruck involvements, was replaced very soon after. Go figure. Rob has never been test match standard but is one of Cheika;s golden haired boys.

        • HK Red

          Agreed, same as Foley, Beale and a bunch of other Wallatahs.

    • McWarren

      Mate I’d really like to find out what was wrong with him. He looked injured or somehow hindered. For all the criticisms of Simmons normally, his work ethic and commitment is normally in question.

      • Dud Roodt

        I think I’ve seen a few times over the years Simmons just give up when someone makes half a break. His bread and butter seems to be tackling right next to the ruck and as long as the attacker has the decency not to try and step

        • Gipetto

          Dear ARU stooges, The locks did not lose that game for the Wallabies. Tupou was on the field for a long time and the playmakers could not find a way to give him the ball. Foley has little or no talent as an on-field organiser. Beale is little more than an impact player who should spend most of the game on the bench. Paia’aua or Cooper would have done a better job at #10 at least in the second half. Kocaine Hunt added little.

        • Dud Roodt

          Ah yes, anyone who thinks Rob Simmons is useless is a stooge.
          It’s funny how when Coleman plays well we can credit a win largely to him, but if his replacement plays poorly it the loss has got nothing to do with him.
          Of course no one believes he is solely to blame, but he contributed!

        • Gipetto
  • MG

    Does Matt Toomua qualify for the wallabies?

    Looking at the “Giteau’s Law” – Minimum 7 seasons at Super rugby level
    Doesn’t Matt Toomua not qualify because he started at the Brumbies in 2008 and finished in 2016?

    • jamie

      Think it’s 7 seasons AND 60 caps.

      • MG

        cheers, the wording is very vague and I can’t seem to find anything formally on the net.

  • Wallabrumby

    Some great points Hugh. Throughout the Scotland game the two biggest thing that kept me fuming was selections and defence. Attitude was there at times, but you could tell they were over it.

    – Kerevi – hit the nail on the head there. The Wales game was enough for me to see the dynamic of our attach and defence change.
    – Hodge – great consistent player, but not sure if he is a winger. Out and out speed and positioning not there. Would like to see him at 15 or in closer.
    – Genia – needed a break, was off his game last 2 tests, had a very good season, but the last 2 games he cost us a bit. Why didn’t Cheika blood Powell in one of the games?
    – Hooper – not a captain. Need him there though, he is too good not to play starting.
    – Foley – no pressure on his position he seems a bit complacent. For such a normally consistent player, this year he has been very inconsistent!
    – Simmons – I just dont get it. Someone show me that footage of him walking towards the Scottish winger again and I will explode.

    Defence – wow, unravels like a ball of yarn when the tempo pick up.

    All in all I think Cheika has some great things happening and I have faith in him as long as he 1. fixes the defence (NG might need to go) and 2. get rid of any preconceived notions of players and pick on form please.

  • Fatflanker

    Thanks for the write-up Hugh. I think 2017 has reinforced Cheika’s comparative weaknesses and strengths. He’s is not a strong tactician; he’s not a good communicator; he’s massively emotional and he appears to be overly loyal to non-performers.

    On the face of it he should have no business coaching the Humpty Doo Swampdogs, let alone a Tier 1 international team. That said, he appears to have not lost the change room; he’s largely addressed the longest weeping sore of Australian rugby, the scrum, and he’s certainly advanced our depth.

    The reality is Cheika is going no-where between now and 2020. I’m broadly confident we can still make a real fist of the RWC in 2019 and push on from there but some changes have to occur. The most pressing issue, besides his temper, is the defence. Grey has to go – his systems are just too complicated and exploitable, (I loved him as a player, I really did, but he can’t be carried any further).

  • Jimmydubs

    Foley should be stripped of:
    -Goal kicking
    -Clearance kicking
    -Kicking for touch
    -Passing under pressure
    -Tackling in the frontline
    -Most of the playmaking (seriously it’s only Beale doing much)

    He can still hang about for the odd bit of magic that he shows every few games…

    Is something starting to not make sense?

    • jamie

      I can’t remember who said it, but one commenter said Cheik’s gameplan just requires a shovel at 10. Not a creator, just someone to pass the ball to the actual playmaker outside of him.

      • Who?

        Adrian. Says it regularly. :-)

  • Andy

    I agree with some points in the article and there are positives to take into next year. But 2 glaring negatives that won’t go away. Defense is still appalling and so is decision making, especially under pressure.

    Historically, those 2 things literally decide how well you do in world cups. The best defensive team usually wins it. And more often than not, they are the smartest team.

    Although the players on the roster have undisputed talent there are too many that lack these 2 elements that create successful teams. It’s unfortunate, but until this/these issues are resolved we will will continue to have a team the shoots hot and cold more often than a celebrity sexual assualt allegation.

  • Mike Thompson

    I feel like the main point is missed.

    Cheika’s only knows how to coach one way. He requires blood and guts forwards (Potgieter, TPN, Coleman) plus some worker bees who try hard (Hooper, McMahoan) and then someone like Folau/Beale in the backline to sprinkle some pixy dust

    When his blood and guts players are out injured, it all falls apart, and his teams look clueless. There’s no plan B. There’s only one way to win. Just look at his NSW team after Potgieter and Douglas went? It was pretty hopeless and Cheika was unable to turn it around.

    The failures earlier in the year reflect the lack of blood and guts players, as do the failures at the end of the year.

    So, if Cheika has the right kind of player mix, he’s okay. His strategy works. This year we saw that against the All Blacks in the dead rubber. He had the right player mix and it worked a treat. Even in the 2nd ABs test – that was a fine performance. But if he doesn’t have a Coleman and a TPN, he’s a bit lost. If he’s coaching a team which can’t establish authority through the middle,that’s the end of it. The energy is missing. They appear limp. The defence drops off. The attack gets a little one out. There’s not a lot of flexibility. You never marvel at how clever the Wallabies are under Cheika. Never.

    Someone like Link on the other hand, has strategies which play to the strength of his playing group. He bends to his playing group, not the other way around. He finds a way to get the best out of a flake like Cooper. He cares about skill transfer and making the worst player in the team better. He is just a significantly more sophisticated coach. He has a plan B, and C, depending on opposition.

    Also, Cheika shows a certain mental fragility in the coaches box. He gets pretty unhinged and doesn’t show a lot of resilience. His teams likewise seem to collapse when things don’t go their way. How many times now have we seen them drop their bundle in embarrassing ways.

    So I guess, in summary, I’m saying that Cheika is a one dimensional. If he has particular players available, it looks good. If not, it looks bad. There’s not a lot in between.

    • Tommy Brady

      Very interesting points. I think a consistent characteristic of Michael Cheika Wallaby sides is their inability to absorb pressure under stress. You jam Cheika’s Wallabies at their end of the field and wait for the mental frailties to unfold. The wayward kick, the untidy carry, the loose pass under pressure. Then you assault a very inadequate international defensive pattern and exploit a soft underbelly in the white hot heat of test match rugby.

      This year Cheika’s Wallabies had 50 points put on them in 50 minutes in Bledisloe I, blew a 17 point lead in Bledisloe II, collapsed against England in London and frankly gave up on Saturday in Edinburgh. They are capable and threatening when play is rolling for them. They are neither astute enough or tough enough when it is not. In cricket terms they are a flat track bully who beat up poor sides but struggle to beat good sides.

    • Brisneyland Local

      That is a really good point of view. A great read!

    • jamie

      Potgeiter won the Tahs the 2014 championship just about off his own back. No doubt about it for me.

    • Seaweed

      Yes, thanks Mike, no plan B, never has been. It’s why the Force were the Waratah’s bogey team and Scotland are the Wallabies. Change of cattle required at the top; this has been going on ever since Dingo had the team. It’s getting very tiring. ARU or whatever they’re called now should go to pasture now. It’s the honourable thing to do.

    • HK Red

      Totally agree Mike, the difference between Link and Cheika is chalk and cheese in this regard. Link had multiple game plans customised to each opponent. The Reds would play wild and fast one week, slow hard up the middle the next. It was effective and it showed the clinical analysis that went into dissecting not just the opposition, but the talent available within his own team and how best to utilise them. This is something that Cheika appears utterly incapable of doing.

  • Dorothy Ball

    Thanks Hugh. Further to the ‘Selection Queries’ part: when you’re without impact players like Folau, Coleman, Dempsey (and the casualty list goes on), how can you pick a paper tiger like Moore has become? I think Squeak did himself a massive injustice even going on the tour – should’ve called stumps after the last Bled.

  • Bobas

    Steve Smith to partner Coleman in lock.

    • Alister Smith

      limitations at scrum time and may unbalance the scrum but should be easy to lift at line out time and has good hands. Certainly he would have a good attitude and be world class at sledging the opposition

  • mikado

    Good article Hugh!

    The WR rankings tell a pretty accurate story I think. Australia in third, not far behind England, and not far ahead of Ireland and SA. It’s to the credit of Aussie Rugby that there’s such dissatisfaction about weaknesses in the team, as that points to high standards and high ambitions, but to my mind it’s not yet panic stations for the Wallabies.

    In defence of Michael Cheika:
    – Aussie rugby lacks top class locks (even Coleman, who is very good, is not quite up there with the likes of Retallick and Etzebeth), the front row is adequate rather than great, and the back row lacks an in-form big hitter. There’s also evidently no perfect solution at 10. (For next season, Lealiifano might be the answer at 10 and the back row should be much stronger.)
    – It’s not easy to chop and change players in any international team, but Australia relies more than any on its best-in-class first phase strike plays and a complex defensive rearrangement. That makes it particularly difficult to accommodate change even if a particular player is below their best.
    – Australia probably didn’t get a lot of luck this year (in particular the England game – win that and the season looks quite different).
    – Stuff about biggest loosing margins or most points shipped are pretty irrelevant. Current refereeing interpretation favours point-scoring. There’s no comparison with ten years ago, let alone thirty.
    – As Hugh points out, there’s a lack of really strong alternatives to Cheika. Even if he’s making mistakes, it’s not obvious who would be better.

    I think Aussie Rugby is on a pretty good trajectory towards the next RWC. The backs are excellent and the pack is looking promising except at lock.

    • McWarren

      ‘I think Aussie Rugby is on a pretty good trajectory towards the next RWC. The backs are excellent and the pack is looking promising….’

      I wish I lived in your world Mikado.

  • Who?

    Hugh, you’ve had a whinge about Samu as a ball hog. I think that’s harsh. I think it’s quite ridiculous that he’s spending so much time on the wing. That’s because Cheika’s using Hodge as a third playmaker. Have a look at how much time across the Wales/England/Scotland games Hodge spent on his wing in attack, compared to how much time he spent in the midfield. That saw Samu push to the wing a lot. When there’s someone outside him, he’s generally looking to transfer the ball, except when that player’s going to be smashed. I’ve just watched the Scotland game, he had a few opportunities to set up Koroibete. But they were horrible opportunities – 1 on 2’s, where if Samu gave the pass at the moment of the tackle (which he was looking at doing, going off the direction of his head and hands), Marika would’ve been going into contact in a gang tackle within 2 steps of receiving the ball and with no one on his tail to clean out. Samu’s defence isn’t perfect (he wasn’t the only Wallaby making poor misses, though), but his distribution – being played as a half crashballing 12, half wing – isn’t anything to complain about.

  • Nick

    Great stuff Hugh.

  • Robert

    From the outset let me say, I’m a passionate rugby supporter. Really passionate. I don’t pretend to have the insight that many who comment or contribute to this page have. In a way, that makes it easier to say that I represent the rugby public.

    So I have to say, how are we better than this time last year. Draws against an underperforming SA, a near miss in Bled 2 and a win in Bled 3 and Wales. I’m not counting Japan.
    Are we better? I don’t see it. A draw and near miss are not a win.
    We are lucky to have a few truly international grade players in Folau and Pocock but who else would make an AB team?
    All the talk of the future is premised on these 2 players playing to their potential, and not being injured. Talk about no plan B. There’s hardly a plan A.
    Yet a team can be a champion team without champion (cliche but true) but that requires culture and training. Link did it with the Reds in 2011. Canny selection and clever tactics that changed according to his opponent.
    Watching the Scotland match, I knew in the first 10 minutes we would lose. The team was sluggish, the Scots targeted our first receiver – man they were so fast or marginally offside- and mistakes flowed. Did we play deeper? No. We still played flat and we’re pressured. Did we play for territory. No we kicked back to their best attacking players.
    Is this the players not heeding the game plan or the game plan was shite.
    As I said, I don’t have the acumen or the inside knowledge to have answers. But I can see issues that make me less than optimistic about the future. Particularly if future success is linked to 2 players.

  • A bit of cathartic end of year ramblings.

    Cheik isn’t a Rugby mastermind (in the vein of Eddie with Japan/England or Townsend with Scotland) if he were Foley wouldn’t have kicked for touch once Hodge secured his spot. He excels at getting the best out of skilled players. Unfortunately for him, we have a generation of players who throughout school & club had their intuition structured out of them. It’s a bit of a sorry state as (if true) it’s systemic & can’t be solved at the national level without painstaking work at all levels of coaching.

    As for the ARU… Rugby Australia… whatever. It’s all been said by thousands before. Some head honchos have left, some others will step in and say the right things and we’ll just have to sit back and hope they repair this ship instead of continue to bail water.

    I bloody love this game so here’s to a better 2018!


Can't write, can't play. Tahs and Wallabies.

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