Just run in straight Waratahs! - Green and Gold Rugby
Analysis

Just run in straight Waratahs!

Just run in straight Waratahs!

In my first article I said that provincial Kiwi forwards look like veritable gods compared to their Wallabies counterparts, simply because they have mastered the draw and pass. Hyperbole aside, Saturday’s game between the NSW Waratahs and the Sunwolves provides a great example of how even the highest-paid player in Australia is inferior to amateur rugby players on the other side of the ditch in this regard.

Israel Folau scored two tries in the surprisingly tight match which came down to a missed drop goal, but this glosses over his attacking positional failures. His strengths in making solo linebreaks aside, when the break is not on for him he often makes life harder for the players outside of him. Let’s look at three examples from the Sunwolves game.

First example

The Waratahs have an attacking scrum in the 19th minute about 30 metres out from the Sunwolves line. It collapses (I look forward to reading Christian Tedge’s next analysis article as it seemed to me that Australia’s most-capped prop was consistently being monstered at scrum time) and Jake Gordon spots Folau and Newsome in a 2 on 2 situation with over 20m of space. He takes the quick tap and passes the ball to Folau, who is running sideways before he even receives it (below).

Tah Analysis image 1

Tah Analysis image 2

Folau takes the ball on the 15m line (above) and immediately sets about running at an almost 45-degree angle for the sideline, finally handing the ball to his winger on the 5m line (below).

Tah Analysis image 3

Folau has managed to discard the first tackler and create a 2 on 1, but he doesn’t draw the last defender before passing – largely because there is no room left. The sideline becomes an additional defender and Semisi Masirewa tackles Newsome (below), who throws a wild pass to keep the ball in play which creates a mess that culminates in a scrum.

Tah Analysis image 4

Second example

Another opportunity appears four minutes later (below). Alex Newsome and Karmichael Hunt are out wide (not pictured in this image), and there is no defender inside the 15m channel.

Tah Analysis image 5

Tah Analysis image 6

Folau takes the ball about 20m out with a 3 on 2 situation (above). The defence is sweeping over but it is still a 3 on 2 without taking into account potential offloads or tackle breaks.

Tah Analysis image 7

Unfortunately, Folau doesn’t commit the defender before passing and drifts further sideways than forwards, allowing the same man to tackle Newsome (below). Hunt is accounted for by the outside defender.

Tah Analysis image 8

A try is still scored because of Hunt managing to slip the tackle of Parker (number 10) and making a good offload when taken by the cover defence (number 2), but the issue is the failure of Israel Folau to run straight and commit defenders before shifting the ball. He is effectively shutting down opportunities that should be available to the outside backs.

Third example

The most obvious example occurred in the 25th minute. Curtis Rona’s head can just be seen at the bottom of the screen, indicating that there are 2 Waratahs and only 1 Sunwolf in the left half of the field. A clear overlap has been created by pressure on the right side of the field caused by a Hunt linebreak, and Kurtley Beale tosses Folau the ball almost in the lateral centre of the field (below).

Tah Analysis image 9

All Folau needs to do here is draw the man directly in front of him and then pass it to Dempsey, who will have a 2 on 1 situation with Rona against Masirewa. Instead, Folau runs sideways until he’s about 12m from the sidelines. Dempsey wasn’t expecting him to run sideways with such a clear overlap and ends up directly behind Folau (below). Despite this, Folau has drawn Masirewa and left Rona open in the 5m channel. If Folau were to pass to Rona, a try is almost guaranteed (unless Rona drops the ball over the tryline again).

Tah Analysis image 10

Instead, Folau tries some sort of unplanned switch play. He passes the ball back on the inside to Dempsey, who is taken easily by two Sunwolves tacklers. The unmarked Rona throws his arms up in disgust.

Tah Analysis Image 11

The rest of the game passes by without Folau receiving the ball in any similar situations. Often, he is cut out by Beale. He manages to score a fantastic try three minutes later after receiving a flat inside ball from Hunt, and there is no doubt that he is an incredible athlete, but as a fullback he is commonly positioned among the inside backs on attack and needs to be able to run straight and commit defenders to unlock his wingers.

It’s a bit cruel to pick on Folau as there are many Wallabies who suffer from the same affliction, and sometimes he receives the ball from Beale who has begun by running sideways himself. However he is the highest-paid player in Australia – possibly the world – and regardless of whether he earns his pay by taking high balls and leaving tacklers in the dust, his performance on Saturday is indicative of a problem in Australian rugby as a whole.

  • Justin Trollip

    Agree 100%…Izzy’s best position is wing cos the ball comes to him, whuch mitigates his poor work rate and he has to play in narrow spaces, where his footwork is so devastating.

    FYI – Dempsey was playing 8 yesterday

    • Cameron Rivett

      Of course he was – he was the best player wearing blue! Correction request sent.

      • Bobas

        instead of cameron rivett can you change your name to can of rivet and use this avatar? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/92e89cbb45398750aeba275439670cb5e8e43701cb2b9da7f64ee0efa5f94ac5.png

        • Brisneyland Local

          MAte you are firing on all 8 this week!

        • Bobas

          It’s been a good week for Aus rugby. Reds look battle hardened and almost pulled off a famous win, Tahs looked shit and still won (Latu is being post match red carded), Brumbies didn’t have a poor player after being rattled by the Rebels who are now my sons team as he’s a local boy.

        • Greg

          do you have a link to the video of the action cited?

        • Bobas
        • Greg

          Thanks.
          Really? It doesn’t look like a Moody/Beale effort.

        • Hoss

          They must have something else – he shouldn’t even get cited on that evidence.

        • Cameron Rivett

          But Ed Quirk was injured by it which obviously means he must have done something wrong (see the red card against Sio Tomkinson for injuring Brodie Retallick last week).

        • Hoss

          On that basis then who ever heard Brian’s neck in round 1 should get ‘the chair’ – injury can’t be the basis for a citing.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Yep it is a win win for everyone except Tahs fansa. But hey thats a win for me too! ;-)

        • Hoss

          Wait, what ?

        • Brisneyland Local

          Yeah baby!

        • Hoss
        • Brisneyland Local

          Splitter!

  • Gun

    You really have to wonder who is responsible for the high performance contract work at RA.
    The Brumbies look to have dropped formula rugby (it’s deep in the Oz DNA, the legacy of Macqueen, Jones and White), the reds fundamentals and spirit were excellent and the Rebs looked good. The Waratahs looked like last years waratahs. No progress and yet the establishment see some of these players as the spine of the premiere team. The fans don’t see it.

    • Bernie Chan

      Two of the highest paid Wallabies retained on long term contracts tying them to the TAHs…
      Foley, Beale and Folau tend to drift sideways too often, and only Hunt runs the straight line…though as the author observed, the players on the inside steal the space from the side man, making the defender’s task easier.

    • Bobas

      Not sure, Larkham is the national high performance coach advisor. So he advises Tim Walsh, our only high performance coach.

  • Greg
    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      Cully is a strange mix of basic, intelligent common sense and the ravings of an imbecile. For a long time he spoke of how Foley compared favourably to Barrett, for example. I’m not saying he is an imbecile, only that at the very least he has some blind sports. Hard to get a read on him, except to say that perhaps he knows he’s employed by a Sydney paper.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      He lost me with Folau at 15 and Foley at 10

    • Cameron Rivett

      Paul Cully is the only SMH rugby journo I read since Greg Growden retired (though it seems he’s coming back?), but you still have to take him with a grain of salt.

      • Huw Tindall

        Growden went off to ESPN rather than retire but kept writing the same inflammatory click bait over there.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Nice analysis Cameron, you’ve nailed this but unfortunately for you that means you are now on the SMH and Fox Sport blacklist. It’s interesting that so many people see this in both Folau and Beale when neither Gibson nor Cheika do.
    I am hoping the pressure from the Brumbies, Reds and Rebels along with Johnson and O’Connor create some change but I think it’ll be too late for this year.

    • Cameron Rivett

      Time to pile our hopes upon the next coach and the next 4 year cycle.

    • Ed

      Thanks Cameron.
      Agree KRL about Cameron being placed in the dock.
      Folau is a phenomenal athlete and does some aspects of the game bloody well. However, he doesn’t seem to bust his guts when he is not near the play. Take the Moondogs first try – Spanners, Jethro and Gilbert are busting to get back to attempt to put pressure on their opponents. Folau looks to be jogging back.

    • Bobas

      He just needs to post under an alias. I’ve suggested one already.

  • dsb

    I did not see anything that would convince me to select current Waratahs into a Wallaby side. Overall poor effort.

    • Mitch T Gray

      Maybe Hunt?

      • Cameron Rivett

        I would only consider Hunt and Dempsey based on the first two weeks of Super Rugby.

      • dsb

        Perhaps a maybe?

  • Greg

    Nice analysis Cameron.

    Does anyone have Mr Gibson’s email address?

  • Bixbyvegas

    Something is up. Foley, Beale and Folau are good players and have had great games for Aus and great seasons in SR. Yes past glory shouldnt gaurentee a place, but man it seems like these 3 particularly Beale have lost their mojo. Be as critical as you like, but im thinking these 3 humans know how to play good footy and have done since they were kids. Maybe it’s burnout. I’d hope there is more going on to crack this problem than game analysis.

    • Cameron Rivett

      I think it’s just early in the season – international players in particular tend to start slow and peak towards the middle of the year. Hopefully the bye this weekend will give them time to focus their minds and start ramping things up a bit.

  • skip

    Considering his mahusive salary, it’s perfectly fair to single Folau out.

  • Andy

    It’s all called decision making. Footy IQ. One of Folau’s only weaknesses but a major one. It’s why he is a shit defender at 15. Because he is rugby dumb. Hence why he should be the guy on the wing in the last pic. He just needs to finish which he is great at doing.

  • Huw Tindall

    Nice analysis Cameron and bang on!

    The only two strong arguments I see for keeping Izzy at 15 is his aerial work (best in the world) and it allows him to come into the line on both left and right sides of the field. At 14 it’ll be much harder to inject himself into the line on both sides of the field. The question is does this outweigh his lack of rugby nous? At Super Level I think it does, at Test level the question is harder to answer as the team won’t rely on Folau as much to break the line and create opportunities.

    Ultimately it’s a bit frustrating as Izzy is clearly world class (the records are hard to deny) but he would be all time great if he just fixed up a couple areas of his game – namely defense, kicking and left to right passing. Doesn’t need to be world class just serviceable to round out his game. He is getting on but never too old to learn and after the Canes game it did seem Izzy was getting better at defensive kick positioning and his own return punts. Will wait and see how this season progresses.

  • dane

    2nd to this Folau is injecting himself too infrequently. I placed a bet before the match Folau to score 2 tries – so I was eager to see him get his hands on the ball. At least 4 times in the first half, I saw the tahs on attack shift the ball left. Issy nowhere to be seen. The tahs then go right – all the way to the wing and still no Folau in the line. I’ve no idea where he was.

    • Cameron Rivett

      As I was rewatching the match to create the screenshots you see in the article, I felt this way too. Folau is cut out by Beale more than he receives the ball, and often he ends up in a ruck because the man next to him has taken the ball into contact. Even more than that, he is often on the wrong side of the field when the ball spins from sideline to sideline. I’m hoping he’s just trying to take it easy because it’s still early in the season and it’s a World Cup year.

  • Nutta

    Re scrum – I may be wrong but I thought the issue was coming through the young red-head Tarts 1 (Johnson-Holmes?). They were shifting off him. He couldn’t stop it because he couldn’t throw enough impact to make them stay. This made them simply roll-up on Kepu so whilst it was Kepu who was folding, not a man alive would have been able to bear that pressure.

    Dempsey. The guy solidifies as the Wobbly6. I reckon McCaffery from the Donkeys is the best option at 8. That will surely put the pressure on Cheks to finally dispense with Pooper and either halve it out between them or bench the $5million man (yeh, that will happen…).

    Izzy – I’ll keep saying it until I’m dead. He is a winger. A right winger. Great to see he is also less of a whinger this year too.

    • Fatflanker

      Nicely spotted re Kepu.

  • Greg Truman

    Folau is just fine. Why, in an analysis of a(nother) game when the Waratahs forwards were murdered, thus forcing the team to play on back foot again, do we choose to focus on perceived shortcomings of the best players in the team who have nothing to do with that conspicuous structural fault in the performance? The Waratahs have an underpowered backrow and a shitty second row. They pick a fine no 6 as an 8 and continue to perpetuate the myth that Michael Hooper is an effective starting 7. Holloway isn’t a second rower and Simmons–while a great positive in the lineout–isn’t a force in tight.

    They will draw and pass more effectively when they start doing the filthy stuff right.

    • Gipetto

      Simmons is great; he tackles around the legs and doesn’t get held up with poor body height, he draws defenders recycles the ball quickly and reliably and he can play well for 80 minutes. The Tahs were shit before Simmons arrived. Simmons is one of the few Tahs who does his job properly

    • Cameron Rivett

      I stated this in the article – I’m using Folau as an example. Too many Wallabies cannot run straight and commit defenders properly. Karmichael Hunt was the undisputed best back for the Tahs solely because he ran forwards whenever he got the ball.

      While I agree they have a weak second row, I’m not sure I agree about the back row. At Super Rugby level, the likely Wallaby combination of Dempsey and Hooper should be strong.

  • Jason

    I think it’s pretty obvious the Wallabies don’t have a realistic chance of winning the 2019 RWC. At this point of the season Karmichael is the only Waratah putting his hand up at the moment. Brumbies, Reds and Rebels are showing A LOT more and you could probably make a World Cup Squad from those teams alone.

    But ~~Rugby Australia~~ Cheika are too heavily invested in the Waratahs (both financially and emotionally) so we’ll never see them not picked under the current administration (both board and coach) change their sky blue stripes.

    • Cameron Rivett

      My articles are often critical but I think it is too easy to be pessimistic regarding the Wallabies’ chances. On 10 June last year we could look back and say that we had beaten Ireland and the All Blacks (the best teams in the world) in our most recent games against them. The World Cup only has ~4 games that matter, and some are harder than others, so it’s really up to the same team that beat NZ to turn up on the day.

Analysis

Somehow still a Wallabies fan. Enjoys brainstorming ideas on how to fix Australian rugby. Waratahs/North Sydney/Country Eagles supporter. Ex-Kiwi with just a touch of love left for the Highlanders and Otago.

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