Monday’s rugby news has the Wallabies avoiding the media circus, more scrum talk, the haka questioned and Japan talking up their chances.
Wallabies wary of media
Stephen Larkham has commented that players within the 2011 World Cup effort in New Zealand cited media distraction as one of the biggest issues that faced the squad. Wallabies management has vowed that the type of distraction which clearly hampered Quade Cooper’s performance would not be allowed into the squad this time around.
“I think we will have learned a lot from that and make sure we get those distractions out of the way,” Larkham said. The Wallabies have appointed former Test hooker Adam Freier as the head of media management while Stephen Moore has taken the bulk of responsibility in dealing with the media since his return to the captaincy.
Scrum questions persist
Sir Clive Woodward has questioned Australia’s scrimmaging and goalkicking just before the World Cup, saying that these facets of the game will prevent the team from unlocking their potential at the tournament. “If the scrum goes backwards, the Wallabies’ whole game will fall apart,” he said, adding “I see three or four sets of props in England who’d get into the Wallabies squad.”
Woodward, who was the beneficiary of Jonny Wilkinson’s consistency during the 2003 World Cup win, also said that the uncertainty of the Wallaby kickers could very well cost the team in key matches. “A world-class goalkicker is the other element you need to win a World Cup, an 85-90 per cent man,” Woodward said.
The benefits of New Zealand’s haka have been brought into question, with the pre-match ritual being blamed for the team’s reputation as slow starters. The theory is that the adrenalin of the haka emotionally drains the All-Blacks before kick-off. Of their past 20 Tests, the All Blacks were behind on the board in 11 of them before a second half revival to win 17.
Scrum-half TJ Perenara admits the adrenalin from the haka often causes him problems in the early stages of a game. “I was making mistakes. Trying to do too much. Trying to make too many tackles, and in my position, you don’t make a lot of tackles,” he said.
Japan to show improvement
Eddie Jones has said that his team is sick of being patronized as part of their World Cup experience, as he constantly has to hear about his team’s ‘brave’ losses. “I haven’t spent the last four years so we can be treated like a joke,” he said. “We are not here to be a joke side, we are here to win games.”
Japan has not a match at the sport’s showcase event for 24 years, but have vastly improved recently. Japan will host the next Rugby World Cup in 2019 and national captain Michael Leitch has emphasized that it was important they put on a strong showing this time to get the Japanese public behind the team.