The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
Rugby

The Tuesday Top 5

Just get the ball, run towards the wing then either drop it or pass the ball to someone in the crowd.
The Tuesday Top 5

Welcome to the penultimate edition of the Tuesday Top 5. This week we try and lift our spirits by reminding ourselves that we won, but then let them fall again once we realise that it wasn’t exactly a convincing win against a weaker opposition. Anyway, the good, bad and ugly is back, we sort of recap the game and raise a few discussion points, check in with our old mate Stats, spy on the competition and fantasise about the perfect scrum.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – We finally recorded a W. I don’t think I really want to say more than that as it will start to drift away from being good into a blur between the bad and ugly. But there were some decent enough performances in amongst the fellas to stop us from being totally bummed out.

Bad – David Pocock suffering another neck injury (being described as just a stinger). He has had a really bad run and I am hoping this one isn’t too bad. But having said that, I desperately hope that the Wallaby coaches aren’t so desperate to play him against England that they rush him in. If he has the slightest twinge, discomfort, stiffness etc I would prefer he is rested. Yes, it could mean a big blow to our already shaky chances, but big picture. One game against England v his career.

Embed from Getty Images 

Ugly – I’m sorry. I don’t want to keep being negative, there is already so much of that around at the moment. But the reality is that the Wallabies, the way they play, the selections that seem to make little sense is doing damage to rugby in Australia. So many people are losing interest. We just keep getting dished up the same rubbish time and time again and fans are over it. Is there a game plan? Does it involve players running sideways? Do they practice basic skills in training until they are second nature? Do they have a Plan B or C incase Plan A doesn’t work? Is there a Plan A to begin with? If any of these things are happening, it isn’t showing during their matches. The Wallabies set up as a whole is my ugly.

What do we make of that?

Ok. We won. But what can we make of it? Was it a stellar performance that proved the recent losses were anomalies? In a word, no. Emphatically no. Yes, it was a win, but had the opposition been tougher it might just have easily been a loss.

Did we learn anything? Well we know for sure (most of knew before hand really) Foley is not a 12. Our basic skills are still well behind where they should be for a national team. Turnovers kill us, poor decision making (FFS, take the tackle. You don’t always need to go for the miracle offload) and lack of consistency.

The thing is, none of that is new information. We have been dealing up that sort of rubbish all year and almost all of that is mentioned after each and every game as things to work on. So clearly things aren’t changing there.

The positive? Our defence held. In fact, I keep seeing splashed around the place that this is the first time in 11 years that we have conceded less than 10 points in consecutive test matches.  Last year our defence was a mess, so that’s an improvement. (But the fact that one of those consecutive matches was a loss doesn’t really seem to make it all that meaningful.) So yes, our defence was better. But thank goodness for the referee or we could have been looking at a smaller margin. Rightly or wrongly, the Wallabies got lucky that it was called back. 

Embed from Getty Images   

Also there were some good individual performances. AAC played better than most were expecting him too. Should it be a concern that someone who has been away from the Wallabies for so long comes back, trains with them for a few weeks and is then close to being best on ground? Is AAC really that good or is there something seriously amiss that he can come back and outshine most of them?

But then there were some poor performances too. Am I alone in thinking that Israel Folau doesn’t look that interested? He was back in his favoured position, against a team that isn’t as strong as others we have played – he should have been tearing it up. But instead he was getting run down.

To be honest, I don’t think this game really told us anything useful. We will find out much more about where we are really at when we face England this week. England came within a point of beating New Zealand and beat South Africa by a point. And the last time they played Italy the score was 46-15. 

Some stats – just for the fun of it

Just out of interest – these serve no real purpose – here are some of the stats from the Wallabies matches since the start of the Rugby Championship.

Wallaby Stats

The numbers look a little all over the place, don’t they. We went from woeful tackling to fantastic tackling. No tries to tries a-plenty. No possession to an abundance of time with the ball. They are consistent in their inconsistency.

The one number that does remain relatively consistent, however, is the turnover conceded count. Around that 18-20 mark seems to be where we like to sit. Luckily we don’t play teams that like to score from turnover ball very often! Notice the numbers for two of the three games we have won? Fewer turnovers = better result. Who’d have thunk it. Against Italy we still gave away a heap of ball, but got the win as the Italians weren’t able to make us pay for our errors the way the All Blacks are.

As mentioned last week, our average tries per game is pretty poor. 2.4 at present, a number that was helped hugely by the games against the Pumas and Italy. So while there are shouts about how great we are defensively at the moment, it doesn’t mean much if you can’t score the points to go with it.

How are our competitors travelling?

Our main Pool D rivals both had relatively easy games this week, against some of the tier 2 nations. Wales played Tonga, currently ranked 12th, and took out the match with a record score and winning margin, 74-24 after being level on 24-24 just after half time. The real test for Wales comes this weekend, when they meet South Africa. Definitely a match to keep an eye on.

Our other main competitor, Fiji, played another Pool D team in Uruguay. I think it’s safe to say that Uruguay won’t pose much of a threat at the World Cup (though I’m sure stranger things have happened) and they didn’t really look that competitive in this match, with Fiji running out winners 68-7. This weekend Fiji play France which will give us a better insight into how they are travelling at the moment. it will be interesting to see if they have improved since their loss to Scotland.

Embed from Getty Images

Probably the most awesome thing I have seen this year ….

This is the from the Brazil v Maori All Blacks match a couple of weeks ago. It has been doing the rounds, so you have probably seen it by now, but it is so awesome it deserves to be shown again!

  • adastra32

    FWIW I have a sneaking suspicion that Cheika will review the VT of the Eng v Jap Test and decide that the Japanese “off-load everything, everywhere and go wide asap” approach – which caused the experimental Eng team more than a few problems – will be the way to go.

    Of course, this will require excellent and very consistent WB handling technique for the whole team and game…..oh…wait a minute..

    • Geoffro

      The only vt he should be reviewing is Ireland v NZ

      • Custard Taht

        Why? The best way to beat the poms, actually any team, is to keep the ball in hand, go wide early and forget about earning the right to do so, by doing the hard yards up the middle. If there is nothing happening, either kick aimlessy to the opposition or put in a grubber or chip kick.
        That there, is the plan for world dominance.

        • Ed

          It has worked a treat this year…

        • Custard Taht

          You need to be patient, they are training well, trusting the processes and each other. It will click, and when it does, whoa, look out, shit will get real for the rest of the world, real quick.

        • adastra32

          “All is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.” Michael ‘Pangloss’ Cheika, 2018 (2017, 2016, 2015 (phew got lucky then)).

        • Geoffro

          Sorry , I forgot.All we need is to get the other sides on the program.

  • sambo6

    I’ve been very, very negative the past month or two…wishing, hoping, dreaming for the whole coaching team to fall on their sword.

    But in an effort to make some sense of this sh-tshow, im going to go easier on cheika in this post.

    If we all agree that cheika is just a motivator, then the decline of the team technically this year is a damning reflection on the assistant coaches. There’s so many problems with the side, I don’t think they can even identify all the issues, let alone come up with workable solutions!

    If I think back to the first Irish text this year. I remember thinking we looked pretty good (was I dreaming?) What the f has happened since then? Is it telling that we looked good with the players having spent the ‘least’ amount of time with this coaching team?

    I suspect it is. I reckon they got very simple instructions within the limited prep time we had. Then each week as a new ‘problem’ arose, the assistant coaches would come up with another solution/layer until the instructions/strategy has become a total patchwork quilt of ‘quick fixes’ and narrow focused solutions…such that it doesn’t form one coherent plan, and the players heads are filled with so much drivel, that it all just falls apart….

    This sort of thing is probably familiar to many of us in the real working world…when younger/inexperienced people get thrust into roles too early they often try to over complicate things, and ‘show all their knowledge’ in one go…and end up just lurching from crisis to crisis. Putting out fires, but never actually coming up with a fireproof plan.

    So I do think it’s the assistant caches who are way out of their depth here. but cheika is equally as culpable for indulging, supporting and rubber stamping their increasingly patched up game plans….

    Also…none of this begins to explain or excuse his ridiculous selection policies…which is a whole other kettle of fish.

    Unfort it’s gone so far that nothing short of a full cleanout is required

    • Patrick

      Nice work – shades of Mark Antony there, cause that’s one of the most damning comments I’ve read yet on Cheika!

      • sambo6

        Ha….I started of with the best of intentions…..

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Nice analysis mate. I’m not so sure you can forgive the head coach so easily. Personally the sooner the entire group is replaced the better. The legacy of poor games, shit selections, crap playing and losses will continue to taint Australian rugby for years. But it won’t even start to get better until they move on.

      • sambo6

        Agreed. I think I was trying too hard to be nice….it was an error:)

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Pretty impressive actually

    • Custard Taht

      This takes too much culpability away from Cheika. The assistants are the ones being asked to create an oil paint masterpiece when Cheika gives them crayons.
      It would be hard to have a good attack with Foley at 10 and Beale at 12, or Toomau at 10 and Foley at 12. It would also be hard to create a good defence having to hide your 10 and 12, as well as having other poor defenders in the backline.
      Not defending the assistants, but they should not be scapegoated for Cheikas failings.

    • If Cheika is just a motivator, then he is in the wrong job, and/or he is doing it wrong.

      You’ve pointed out his ridiculous selection policies. If he’s just a motivator, he should stop selecting the team, or take input from his assistant coaches so they can have a team that will do what they are asking. Likewise, he should step back, let the assistants develop a strategy and implement it with the players of their choice, and step in on match day and rev them up. I remember a comment, I think it was from Larkham, that he often didn’t know who was playing and where until the official team announcement. While I’m not defending Larkham’s results, I do wonder how you’re supposed to develop and implement a test quality back line and attack with that little time each week?

      Assuming that’s accurate, and widespread, that sounds like Cheika isn’t trusting his assistants to do the jobs he appointed them to do. Now, maybe he’s right – the results aren’t there – in which case he should sack them and get new ones in, or he’s got no idea about his own limitations and isn’t giving his assistants a chance to do their jobs. Without being inside it’s impossible to say.

      I would agree, however, a full cleanout is what’s needed.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks MST. Another great post. It must be hard to try and find the enthusiasm for this when there is so much crap play to work with.
    I rewatched the game and a couple of points hit me in no particular order
    – AAC looked how an Australian test player should look against Italy. Smart move on his part not coming in until the harder games against NZ and the Boks.
    – yep Foley is crap at 12, not that much better at 10 for me but really the Super teams haven’t helped the cause by employing 10’s that aren’t eligible for Australia or haven’t taken control.
    – the players who looked good should have still looked better than they did. This was Italy FFS. The poor decision making, poor skills and lack of ability to open the game up was crap.

    Good luck for next weekend. I’m recording the game but not going to waste my sleep getting up to watch the shit being dribbled out by this team.

  • John Tynan

    Thanks MST. In response to “Why does AAC look good…” I’d put forward experience.
    In the absence of decent strategy and coaching, he actually has experience and rugby instincts to rely on which Folau doesn’t, and Koroibete’s have been watered down from time in League.
    Kerevi knows enough to run straight and hard, which slightly offset Foley’s awful running lines and/or shovelled passes and/or the MASSIVE depth they played behind the ad-line – always a sign of poor form or uncertainty when you need to buy yourself time via depth.

    • Geoffro

      Don’t know about AAC and had to eat my words a bit.He played ok in his first outing back and must give him some credit for that.It’s pretty certain now he’ll get a run against the poms and if he puts in a good performance I’ll be the first to congratulate him.(see some Kiwis are calling for Nonu to be brought back so …..)

      • John Tynan

        I was in much the same boat – just a little slice of humble pie.

  • A Dingo Stole My Rugby

    I reckon it says a lot about our current state and deservedly low world ranking, that our three wins this year have been against:
    (1) An Ireland team that rested about half of it regular starters, including a few of their talismans;
    (2) An Argentina side that looked like putting 50 past us until they stopped trying and we played about 15 minutes of good rugby;
    (3) A rubbish Italian team that was pretty much devoid of winning ideas.
    Then again, Cheika would probably take the Trumpian view and give himself an A+ for this year.

    • Geoffro

      Don’t forget SA , they’re a fairly hot and cold side though seem to be progressing a bit better than us

  • GeorgiaSatellite

    Thanks MST. I do enjoy your analyses. Just a note about Pocock: “One game against England v his career.” I’d venture to change the last bit to “his life” (look what’s happened to Horne).

    Also, you didn’t mention our other Pool D rivals, Georgia. I watched them beat Samoa, but can report that they don’t appear to be much of a threat. Apart from Lobzhaniidze, they don’t have the rugby nous/ability to think outside the box. However, they do have a helluva scrum and have just brought in Graham Rowntree as forwards coach, so who knows? Could be an interesting RWC match-up against Fiji, and if one of Fiji or Georgia knocks either Australia or Wales over, well…

    The Lelos play Tonga this week, so perhaps another indicator after facing Wales.

Rugby

Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

More in Rugby