The View From My Couch: Wallabies v. Pumas - Green and Gold Rugby

The View From My Couch: Wallabies v. Pumas

The View From My Couch: Wallabies v. Pumas

The Wallabies showed real spirit to turn the momentum around in the match against Argentina on Saturday and come from behind for their second win in a row.

Were the Wallabies lucky to win the match? No. Both teams had some luck with incidents missed in the lead up to a try and both teams had calls from the referees go against them. Did the Wallabies deserve to win the match? Yes. While they didn’t play as well as they can they fought just as hard as the Pumas and there’s no questioning the players’ desire.

Apart from the win there were some other positives. Kane Douglas was really good on debut and was my man of the match; the Wallabies’ lineout was much improved in both attack and defence; the scrum held up reasonably well; Digby Ioane was much more involved; Berrick Barnes was solid at fullback; Pat McCabe played his role well; Radike Samo and Adam Ashley-Cooper both again provided good forward momentum.

Nick Phipps and Quade Cooper had some good moments but both made a number of poor mistakes.

In the lineout the Wallabies persisted with their recent lineout tactic with eight of their 11 being short to get forward runners in midfield with the aim of getting first-phase ball over the gain line. The lineout calls, lifting and jumping were all much better – there was good variety in the jumpers used and pleasingly, all four jumpers were used with Douglas the option in the first lineout of the match. He’s the heaviest lock in the Wallabies squad so this showed that size is not a limiting factor when considering lineout selections. This was the only time he was used but it had the desired effect – the Pumas had to mark him through the rest of the match and that took some pressure off the other jumpers.

Overall the Wallabies won nine of their 11 lineouts (82 per cent). The statistics may say the Wallabies had 14 lineouts but three of those were quick lineouts, which have no relevance when analysing how the lineout performed.

The two lineouts the Wallabies didn’t win on their own throw were lost through issues with Tatafu Polota-Nau’s throwing. In the second he was correctly called for a not-straight throw; while not ideal that will happen from time to time so one poor throw from eleven is not a major issue.

However, in the first lineout he got wrong the problem was with his timing. The throw was to Samo at the front and in those circumstances a jump-throw needs to be used with the jumper going up first and the thrower then using a fast, flat throw to meet the jumper at the top of his arc. Polota-Nau threw the ball with Samo still on the ground and as a result the ball went over Samo’s outstretched hands before he could get up. This is a recurring problem with Polota-Nau and while the timing was only slightly off and the ball was not far away from Samo, this sort of basic error should not keep occurring at a professional level — especially when it costs the Wallabies a great attacking opportunity like it did this time.

The Wallabies’ defensive lineouts were much improved with a turnover won in two of the Argentineans’ lineouts. The Wallabies didn’t actually steal either of the two lineouts but they created pressure by competing for the ball in 78 per cent of defensive lineouts, and it’s no coincidence that the pressure the Wallabies applied helped to create turnovers in 22 per cent of the Pumas’ lineouts — the best result from the Wallabies for some time.

The Wallabies won ten of their 12 completed scrums (83 per cent) whereas the Pumas won all ten of theirs. On their own feed the Wallabies were dominant in two scrums and held steady on another eight – a combined 83 per cent. The Pumas dominated only two scrums on the Wallabies’ feed.

The Pumas were dominant in six of their ten completed scrums and held steady on another three for a combined 90 per cent. The Wallabies were dominant in one of the scrums fed by Argentina.

Overall the scrum performance was good, but the issues with Ben Alexander angling down on the engagement and going to ground were still apparent in the majority of scrums, and particularly in those that were reset.

Where the Wallabies really struggled was with their teamwork, in both defence and attack. Injuries forced some selection changes for this match and Pat McCabe’s return triggered another change in the midfield so it’s understandable that some combinations were a little rusty. But those factors don’t explain some of the disjointed play and the apparent lack of communication between players who have played many games together both for the Wallabies and their Super Rugby franchises.

As you’ll see in the accompanying video, in defence there were a number of occasions where the communication between players (if there was any) wasn’t working and the Pumas found holes in the Wallabies’ defensive line.

In attack Quade Cooper created opportunities that runners weren’t taking advantage of and when runners did present themselves as options the timing was often out. Yes, Cooper made some mistakes during the game and if those basic errors continue he’ll be under selection pressure, but the bigger issue is fixing the Wallabies’ dysfunctional combinations that you’ll see in the accompanying video — because, as you’ll also see, when players ran into the holes that were opening up the Wallabies looked quite good.

I thought the Cooper–Barnes playmaker combination with Barnes coming up from fullback worked quite well. Cooper creates the opportunities the Wallabies need in attack – the alternative of a more conservative flyhalf in Barnes stifled the Wallabies’ attack too much for my liking. If Cooper is the flyhalf then the coaches need to start setting their game plans to suit his style and getting the ball runners to get into position to run into the holes he creates.

I believe the same starting side must be retained for the next match against South Africa. With the game against the Pumas under their belt and two weeks of training with the same team in place the Wallabies should start to function much better.

UPDATE: So much for that plan, with Quade Cooper now ruled out for the rest of the games in TRC.  My preference now is for Barnes back to flyhalf and Beale in at fullback.

[youtube id=”NpAJgA19wwM” width=”600″ height=”350″]

  • johnny-boy

    Why does the ARU put up with what Scott is regularly exposing to be keystone cops type coaching of the Wallabies ? Why why why why why ? Don’t they care ?

  • Willus

    Excellent analysis as usual Scott, seems like the problem with the lines that the backs are running is similar to the problems that they faced against Scotland in 2009.

  • The Battered Slav

    Pocock for 6, Hooper for 7.

    Yep, totally unrelated to the article, but whatever…didn’t seem to be anything further to add to it, and I’m in the mood for stirring!!!

  • Rusty

    Couldn’t agree more. It time for some stability so the combinations and confidence grow. Diggers is the only starting back line player from the first test against NZ. Whilst cooper makes some mistakes, it at least make the game interesting.

  • Pete

    Interested why TPN’s mistimed throw is viewed as “a basic error [that] should not keep occurring at a professional level” but the throw that wasn’t straight is brushed off in your analysis.

    TPN has a bad history of crooked throws; Moore is much more solid in this regard, I believe. Surely throwing in straight should be a basic skill for every hooker???

    • Scott Allen

      There’s no doubt that in my opinion Moore is the better lineout thrower – see my analysis for the series against Wales where I rated TPN with 57% of throws as good and Moore at 100%

      Of the 23 throws TPN had against Wales I rated 13 as good. Of the remaining 10 only 2 were not straight with the balance overthrown (2) and poor timing (6).

      The not straight lineout on Saturday was the first for TPN in TRC games so he has improved over this international season. As a result I don’t see this as the big issue.

      I see timing (where he has made no improvement) as being the bigger issue.

  • With Cooper out, let’s please exhaust all options before selecting Barnes anywhere near 10 or 12 again.

    • Scott Allen

      I don’t see any other options – I think Harris has played better at #12 than #10 for the Reds and Beale is so out of form that he shouldn’t play #10 until he regains some of that form so it would be Barnes for me.

      • me

        Although Quade didn’t have his greatest game on Saturaday it is still pretty obvious that his style of play at 10 will create many more options than Berricks.

        Beale offers a closer type of game at 10 than any of the other options ( not that there are many )and I’d rather risk losing in an attempt to keep some sort of continuity of game plan in attack rather than taking a step back.

        Beale at 10 and Barnes at 15 for me. And I hope Cheika uses Foley at 10 with Barnes at full back for the Tahs next season too.

      • Do you think Deans will only use Cooper or Barnes @ 10 for now because of form/injuries, or do you also see him going that way when Beale & O’Connor are back and available?
        I just cannot see the day where we will consistently beat the All Blacks with Barnes at 10 or 12, no matter how well our forwards play.

  • Brumby Runner

    Just announced that Cooper is out for the remainder of TRC. Probably means we won’t even be competitive in the remaining games. While Beale is unfit and out of sorts, there is no other flyhalf who can get an attack going.

    Worst case is Barnes goes back to 10. Rather see Foley given a go.

  • johnny-boy

    Some interesting questions for you Scott. Firstly, do you think it would be possible to coach the Wallabies to play an all round intelligent game ? Secondly, are you able to coach your Wests side to do some of things you advocate here ?

    • Scott Allen

      Yes, I think the current Wallaby players can play an all round intelligent game. It’s my view looking from the outside in that the messages they’re getting are confusing them.

      There’s nothing I’ve written about here that I haven’t coached players to do. However there’s not only one solution for most of these issues and different solutions suit different teams and different players. I don’t share all of the things I use in my current coaching position for obvious reasons.

      Factors as to which solution is best can include player capabilities, the team you’re playing and how they play, preparation time etc.

      All of the things I suggest are pretty basic and most coaches with a bit of experience will be aware of them. I don’t have some secret source of knowledge – what I know I’ve learnt from other coaches over time including from sessions I’ve attended with Robbie Deans.

      Whilst I’m guessing what game plans the Wallabies have been given, I can sympathise with coaches of any team who give players a game plan, practice that game plan and then have players run on the field and not implement the game plan. It happended to me this year and I’m sure it’ll happen again next year and beyond.

      When you can get players to execute your game plans and ideas (including those I write about here) the game looks easy.

      What’s the secret to getting players to always implement what you coach? I haven’t found that secret yet and I doubt anyone knows that answer.


    That’s a great comment on the drifting defence! I’ve often wondered why the Wallabies persisted with the lateral run across the field that’s so easy to predict and shutdown by the opposing team. It’s a simple rule of dynamics that once the other team is committed to a direction of play, its an easy strategy to cut back inside. Brilliant! So why don’t the Wallabies think of doing it!

    • Scott Allen

      That’s not a new concept – has been used for as long as I can remember. That’s the purpose of most switch moves.

      The Wallabies use a 10/12 switch like most teams and in the second half on Saturday they started to use it with either McCabe or Hooper switching inside Cooper to get in behind the drifting defenders.

      Why did it take until the second half to start using the tactic? Beats me – Cooper was set up for the type of play he used with Sharpe a number of times in the first half but there were no runners getting into position.

      It appears that the players only started implementing the tactic after the half time talk.

  • Mickeyb

    I couldn’t agree more that Cooper, on many occasions didn’t have players running onto the ball often enough or in numbers. There was a point where we just just passing them flat to get players up.

    He appears to be a confidence player and once isolated with the ball, without passing options, gets frustrated and lose his head.

    We have some great line breakers, but appears they’re either lazy or are not reading the plays. What’s happening here?!?

    • Touko

      Yes, you’re absolutely right. All those clips without attacking, straight runners and piss poor alignment were extremely disheartening.

      Watching the All Blacks this year, the contrast with the Wallabies is like night and day; unfortunately the Darkness are on the side of light. I wish the Wallabies could show the same urgency to get into position to present an attacking threat.

  • chasmac

    WRT the drift defense, Barnes was pillored in the match against the Boks for his chip kicks. His execution and decision making was poor but is it a legitimate tactic to counter a drift defense?
    I noticed AAC did not cut back in very often. I thought he needed to straighten the attack much more than he did.
    Real shame Cooper is ruled out. I feel that the backs are close to getting a few things right.

    • Scott Allen

      A grubber or chip kick is useful if the opposition are using a rush defence, coming straight up. In this case if you kick in behind them the defenders have to stop, turn 180 degrees and accelerate from a standing start to chase the ball. The attackers then have an advantage in momentum and speed in the chase for the ball.

      In a drift defence defenders are basically running towards the touch line so if you kick in behind them they only have to turn 90 degrees and can maintain momentum to chase faster. In addition the cover is normally running across field as well so are in good position to collect any chip or grubber kick.

      So, chip or grubber kicks are not the best way to break down a drift defence.

  • #2

    With phipps, I haven’t seen a replay, so this could just be poor live perception, but when watching the game, i thought it he did little to help the forwards with what was always a big challenge to make the advantage line against such an aggressive defence.

    The forwards seemed to be running on 45degree angles at the line, as well as not much surety with who was getting the ball. Although his passes seemed relatively good technically, the targeting of them seemed a bit off. Not getting his players moving forward. I feel that it is his job to straighten the forwards, although the habit of drifting in the forwards did help with his linebreak.

    I originally thought Quade was starting very static from the defence pressure, but became less and less sure it just wasn’t again poor forward movement coming from phipps. In that he wasn’t drawing quade forward with passes in front.

    Overall I wasn’t greatly impressed with him, as it seemed he threw good looking passes but didn’t really help with a game plan. The majority of things i’ve read so far seem to be praising him, was just wondering what I was missing?

  • Phil Brown

    Several years ago I was invoved in NSW schoolboy rugby where I maintained that Bernard Foley and Hamish Angus were the best half combinations in NSW schools. The selectors saw differently and Foley scrapped in as the second string 10 but Angus was overlooked at scrum half. I then coached Angus at the Rats and played him at 10 where he came up against Foley and I thought outplayed him but both were very good and were exceptional at unleishing their backlines. Years ago I was a teacher at the school where Matt Giteau honed his skills (I still think he is our best 10) and Eddie Jones gave him a go out of 1st grade Canberra comp and he didn’t disappoint!!! Give Foley and Hamish Angus a go they won’t disappoint. I have first hand experience in coaching Hamish Angus he is a young guy willing to learn and easy to coach…He did win the Catchpole medal…take him on the European tour and Super 15 teams you should look at signing him…both these 10’s will continue to improve and Foleys short stint at the 10 position at the Waratahs looked very impressive.

    • sarina

      Or go to nz and find somemore “harris”s with aus connections. Plenty good flyhalfs running around itm cup there

    • Brumby Runner

      In the absence of Nic White and Christian Lealifano with injuries, I would like to see players like Angus and Foley being given a go, and with Chris Tuatara-Morrison at 12 you would have the makings of an attacking backline.

  • Noisey

    Promote Ben Lucas to the bench if we are getting scratchy performances at 9 and 10, he can cover both and has shown that he can make an impact off the bench.

    • fin

      Wouyld love to see a 9 on the bench that could cover 10 and 15 like Lucas can, but he needs to be predominantly a 9 to get that gig and that means regular time in that position at superugby level. Which means Lucas needs to head somewhere he can do this.

  • Bill

    Informative post Scott, thanks, and nice to see you comment positively about Cooper unlike a lot of others. IMO I thought he went ok with the limited game time he’s had this year. Somehow I feel some of the WBs are maybe trying too hard( Beale, Cooper, Barnes) and perhaps need to just go back to enjoyng playing albeit a bit hard to do in an international. I’m sure the Reds of 2011 played like that. I gather you are a coach so you would know that if your players are down on confidence you need to spend time building them up again. Maybe Deans needs to ban the players from reading any media and perhaps the ARU should come out and say Deans is the coach until his contract expires. At the moment both Deans and the players are getting so much negative press they are damned if they do and damned i fthey don’t. Anyone who thought we could win the Bledisloe this year having to play the ABs in twice within a week needs to take a reality check.

  • Robson

    It seems to me that the ploys are being coached.

    But to ingrain them into solid game plan strategies which are executed with accuracy
    95 % of the time requires some “soul destroying” repitition on the training paddock; otherwise the players will perform exactly the way the Wallabies were shown to perform in the vid. Game plan strategies don’t necessarily work just because the coach has the team run through them half a dozen times in the days leading up to the test. Whatever lines the players are asked to run and when they are to run them needs to be welded into their brains so that they become second nature to them. Otherwise the result will be just what the video showed ie poor timing, indecision and confused cues.

    However, it is satisfying to see that there are actually some game plan strategies being infused into the overall mix.

  • NTA

    Samo was awful. Does not look at all fit and was erratic with ball in hand, though capable as always in defence.

    As for whether you blame TPN for basic errors – it takes more than 1 hooker to work a lineout. In the case of the ball going over Samo’s head, do you blame the throw? The jump? Or the lift?

    My rule is always: throwing to 2, go on the jump. Throwing to 4 or more, go on the throw. Therefore TPN has to take the hit for that one.

  • spectator

    What about Beale, Barnes McCabe as inside backs combo and AAC full-back?

    I’m assuming Beale is a similar fly half to Cooper here.

    Barnes will run the lines with the timing to synchronize rest of backline.

    McCabe’s strengths are maximised and while not s being such a big factor in calibrating rest of backline in this position. His passing game may not be the best in the game, but i don’t think that’s the prob. with him playing as a second in backline terms.

    AAC fulback, provides pretty much what Barnes does, but perhaps slightly better suited in some ways comparatively, with Barnes max. value being his timing & space value for backline gel at second for attack, as well as extra direction in presence as a 10 for Beale to have.

    • Deez

      Could work skills wise, but given where players are right now I think Deans will be much better off going with continuity with players in position in the centres (ie McCabe at 12, AAC at 13). Safe option would then be to play Barnes at 10 and Beale at 15, but I reckon our attack will be much more potent the other way around – higher risk, but keeps Barnes’ kicking from hand out of our attack and gets Beale’s flatter balls to our straightening runners.

      Now all we need is those ‘straightening runners’…

      • Devils Advocate

        I like your thoughts, I do not think Barnes is the answer at 10 however, not until he becomes more creative and gives up on the chip kicking crap.

        Beale also should be omitted until he loses weight and gets his pace back. He is just not himself at the moment. Don’t fix if it ain’t broken and the centres worked last week, so did the wings.

  • Devils Advocate

    A major problem for the Wallabies is the constant shuffling of the back line! Secret Agent Deans is always making changes. Barnes moving around, Beale is in and out (and 10kgs overweight) McCabe, Fa’ainga Harris etc. Last week the back line worked.

    McCabe AAC Shipperly Ioaine Barnes – it worked, the only change should be a SPECIALIST #10 to plug the injury gap. Bring in Harris, at least he is a specialist. If Barnes moves back and Beale at FB then I predict a loss to the Springboks


Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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