The Wallabies: One Hand Tied Behind Their Backs - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Wallabies: One Hand Tied Behind Their Backs

The Wallabies: One Hand Tied Behind Their Backs

We all knew that the semi final against the All Blacks was going to be a massive challenge for the Wallabies. Their performance in the quarter-final against the Springboks was heroic and produced a win I’ll remember for a long time, but let’s face it — they didn’t play well enough in that game to have the All Blacks worried in the lead-up to the semi-final.

Since the first half of their pool game against Italy it’s been obvious there’s been something amiss with the Wallabies attack.  Sure, in the second half of that game they started to look like the attacking Wallabies we expect to see, but much of that had to do with a bit of capitulation by Italy. In the next game against Ireland they looked poor in attack and the way they attacked in the two romps against weak defensive lines of the USA and Russia was hardly convincing. In fact the second half against Russia was really bad.

I know that injuries, weather, referees’ calls and the performances of their opposition all had an impact on the Wallabies’ attack performance in the pool games, but largely the main source of concern was the performance of the Wallabies themselves.

While I know there are arguments for and against certain players being in the side and I believe some selections were wrong, my issues are not with the players available or selected. It’s with the attacking plans that are being used. Attack is just one part of the game, but my focus today is on that one part. I’ll add some comments tomorrow on defence plans and performance.

In no game in this Rugby World Cup where the Wallabies have faced a decent defence were they able to score a try, apart from the one that followed a fortunate turnover on the Springboks’ line. In the first game the Italians defended well in the first half and the Wallabies managed only two penalty goals. The second half against Italy was a little like the game against the USA where the defence the Wallabies faced was poor. In the second game the Irish restricted the Wallabies to two penalty goals in the whole match. Apart from that lucky try, the Springboks restricted the Wallabies to two penalty goals and against the All Blacks their return was one penalty goal and one drop goal.

In summary, in the seven halves of rugby where the Wallabies have faced a decent defence they’ve scored one try, seven penalty goals and one drop goal – a total of 29 points and an average of 4 points per half. Even against Russia, who fronted up in the second half, the Wallabies struggled to win the half.

Expecting the Wallabies to win with such meagre attack results is like asking a prize fighter to win with one arm tied behind his back. In fact, if you add problems with the lineout and scrum not providing clean ball to attack with, it’s more like the scene with the Black Knight in Monty Python’s  The Holy Grail — ‘come back here and I’ll bite your legs off!’

Some of you will say the Wallabies kicked far too much and thereby wasted good attacking ball. I agree that there was too much kicking but I don’t think the level of kicking was way out of proportion to what is should have been. In the game against the All Blacks the Wallabies kicked on 44% of occasions they had possession. As you can see from my article last week, that level was not a major departure from what the Wallabies have been doing in 2011. The All Blacks showed that a kicking game can actually be very attacking and kicked on 60% of occasions they had possession. I rated 64% of the Wallabies’ kicking as positive and 72% of the All Blacks’ kicking as positive, which is not a huge difference. It was an improvement for the Wallabies from 53% against the Springboks. The issues that really resulted in the All Blacks having a superior kicking game were a much better kick-chase performance and the fact that their catchers were much more secure than those of the Wallabies.

The best performances we’ve seen from the Wallabies have been those built on enthusiasm, adventure and an attacking philosophy. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll never win big matches if you rely solely on attack, and the stars of the Wallaby backline cannot shine if the forwards aren’t winning the ball from the opposition and then providing go forward for the team. But I believe that the purpose of all that hard work in tight is to provide an attacking platform — surely that’s the Wallaby way!  Even when kicking for field position I see that as a way of establishing a platform for the team to win possession back in the right area of the field to launch an attack raid.

Rugby fans all over the world (and even in New South Wales) have rejoiced at the attacking philosophy of the Reds over the last few years with Will Genia and Quade Cooper in the thick of their attack. It was Phil Mooney who started the attacking revolution at the Reds in 2009, then Ewen McKenzie came along in 2010 and turned an attacking team into a winning team.  But as Link is always quick to point out, there are a team of coaches behind the Reds’ success — particularly Matt Taylor and Jim McKay. Taylor is the defence coach (but his portfolio at the Reds covers a lot more than that) and we’ve had him on a couple of G&GR Podcasts in 2011.

We’re going to have to get Jim McKay, who’s the attack coach, on a podcast as well because I’m sure you’d all be fascinated to hear his philosophies on attack. Bob Dwyer is a big fan of his approach to attack and regularly makes reference to Jim’s expertise in his articles for G&GR. Some of Jim’s core beliefs include ‘the purpose of attack is to create a number of chances to score’ and ‘in attack you should have a go, back yourself and never give up as this is the Aussie way’.

If you look at the Reds attack it’s easy to see the application of those philosophies.

So what has happened to the Wallabies’ attack in this World Cup? Did Genia and Cooper decide to abandon the attack philosophies they spent most of the year working with? That seems unlikely to me.

When attacking close to the ruck the Wallabies seem to want to slow things down so they can get a pod of forwards organised before taking the ball. At the Reds Genia and Cooper know that quick ball is what drives their attack, so I doubt they are seeking a game built on slow ball.

There was a perfect example of the Wallabies’ approach in the game against the All Blacks on the weekend. In the last few minutes of the match, the Wallabies desperately needed to score a try, then win the kick-off and score again to try to force a draw and extra time (however unlikely that was). What I found most frustrating about that sequence was that we as spectators knew the urgency but the players didn’t seem to. I’ve seen comments in the forum this week putting the blame for this on Genia, but that ignores two facts: there is no point spinning the ball wide until some space has been created to attack; and  Genia only passes the ball wide when Cooper calls for it.

Watch the video below and you’ll see that Cooper doesn’t want the ball so Genia keeps calling the forwards to take the ball on again. You’ll also see that the speed of the forwards recycling the ball and going again is so slow that there is no pressure on the All Blacks defence and they just make the tackle, then have plenty of time to re-set their line — and as a result, no space ever opens up for the Wallabies to attack into. When eventually the Wallabies do move the ball wide, there is no space in the defensive line and when Adam Ashley-Cooper slips, a wave of All Blacks pounces and the ball is turned over. A warning: it’s painful to watch, particularly when the Wallabies are awarded the penalty and Genia has to wait for the forwards to get up off the ground.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lJG4f5uT6E[/youtube]

A similar thing happened in the first half when the Wallabies went through 12 phases with the forwards pounding away near the All Blacks’ line until Cooper called for the ball and took the drop goal option. Patience is one thing but just pounding away, doing the same thing phase after phase but making no ground against a side that is very good at the breakdown, doesn’t seem like much of a plan to me.

When the Wallabies do send the ball wide they also seem restricted in their approach. In their entire World Cup campaign to date the Wallaby backline has run just four first phase plays from scrums or lineouts:

  1. number 9 passing to number 10 who turns the ball inside to the blindside winger;
  2. numbers 12 and 13 starting close together but then with number 12 running an unders line towards the ball and number 13 running an overs line away from the ball with number 10 throwing a cut pass wide to number 13;
  3. number 9 passing to number 10 who turns the ball inside to the blindside winger; and
  4. number 9 passing to number 10 with numbers 12 and 13 running unders lines back towards the ball and number 10 passing behind them to numbers 11, 15 and 14 who formed a second line.

Now don’t all rush to your copies of the game footage to map out those plays for future use – they’re hardly something new and they didn’t produce much of a result anyway. In fact if there were a definition of ‘first phase attack play’ in the dictionary I doubt that an inside pass to the blindside winger would be included. But that’s it — that’s all the Wallabies have offered up in their six games at the World Cup.

Here are some examples of the Wallabies’ ineffective attack when they sent the ball wide in the game against the All Blacks.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXeArBf7Pfk[/youtube]

So it’s not only a lack of imagination with the Wallabies attack. It seems to be a lack of understanding of how you create space and how you take advantage of that space.

While there have been problems securing clean ball to attack with from some scrums and lineouts, there are many more occasions during the tournament where the Wallabies were in great position to launch an innovative attacking play and had clean ball to do so but still didn’t.

Again, it doesn’t seem logical to me that with players like Genia, Cooper and Digby Ioane from the Reds complemented by Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor, the players would decide on the field to restrict their attack like this.

Combined with the fact that this is not something that happened in just one game, and incorporating the amount of kicking the Wallabies have done, I can only conclude that this restricted approach to attack must have been a plan imposed on them by the coach.

Why would any coach, let alone the coach of some of the most attacking players in world rugby, adopt this approach? I can think of three possible reasons:

  1. In a knockout tournament you need to play more conservatively and this is Test rugby, not Super Rugby, so defences are that much better, meaning innovative attacking plays won’t work. (What a shame we didn’t have at least some innovative plays as a Plan B that we could have tried when Plan A wasn’t working. I’d certainly prefer to see the Wallabies go down swinging with both arms than throwing short little jabs with only one arm.)
  2. The centre combinations the Wallabies have used in this tournament consisted of players who are more defensive, so the attack structure had to take that into account. I’ve got two problems with that idea: first, the Reds managed to attack quite well with one of those supposedly defensive centres (Anthony Faingaa) in their team; and second, the coach picked the centres, they were not imposed on him and were not all he had to work with.
  3. There may have been concern that without controls being imposed, Cooper might play too loose and free and the Wallabies might lose too much ball. That of course would ignore the fact that Cooper got the balance pretty much right this year for the Reds and he obviously plays better with some freedom to override the base attacking structure when he sees an opportunity. (And of course, if the coach really believed this was a risk, why select Cooper at number 10 in the first place?)

If the team was not attacking the way the coach wanted during a match, then surely he could have sent a message out with one of the runners or addressed it at half-time, and we would have seen a noticeable change. While the Wallabies started to move the ball a little more in the second half against the All Blacks, there was no significant change in what they were doing, which suggests to me that they were playing the way they had been instructed by the coach.

There is also the question of Cooper feeling the pressure of the expectations on him at the tournament, but I would have thought that any pressure he felt would have led to execution errors rather than going into his shell and restricting the attack.  Again, if this was an issue and Cooper was acting like a boa constrictor, isn’t it the coach’s job to relax him and restore his confidence?  And if that wasn’t working then why wasn’t a selection change made?

The Wallabies now seem to be almost totally reliant on counter-attack from Beale, Ioane, Cooper and O’Connor, which in my opinion leaves too much to chance.

I fear the life is being sucked out of the Wallabies’ attack but I hope we see signs of a spark this week against Wales. If we don’t, the patient may need major surgery.

  • Hooker59

    Agree with a majority of the article but should be remember that of the All Blacks, South Africa, Ireland and Italy only the All Blacks scored a try against the Wallabies. Sure the USA and Russia scored more tries against the Wallabies but how many did they score each of those games whereas Ireland (22-10) and Italy (27-10) didnot set the world on fire against the USA team.

  • Skip

    How would could a sharp, media savvy coach, well versed in the snakery of the NZ rugby scene, explain this crap to the media and disappointed fans? Maybe something like this.

    “we are very disappointed but we must try to see it in the bigger picture, this is a young side, building to something special, who have learnt a lot and will show the benefits for this experience. Set in context of where we are trying to take this side, we need to reflect and understand where we must improve…”

    Sigh.

  • Gus

    Enough with the analysis of attacking and are back line play … Australia has a major problem and that is that for the last 10 years we have missed having a good forward pack. We have some amazing individuals such as Pocock but the rest of them are a bunch of powder puffs !!!

    Look at the work rate of the AB’s tight five made Wallabies look like amateurs …. until you fix this and instill a culture in the Wallabies the same as the AB’s that honor not a privilege to wear the jumper and that the last time you wore the Wallabies jumper might have been your last then Wallabies aren’t going to win a WC or consistently beat the AB’s

    • Scott Allen

      Gus – no argument about the Wallaby forwards and let’s hope it get’s addressed after the review of performance.

      The point I’m making here is that going into this tournament the forwards were what they were – there were precious few alternatives left behind that could do much better.

      So we had to acknowledge that we had a weak left arm but at least we still had a decent right hook with our back line. But then someone decided to tie that right arm behind our back which made it even harder to compete.

      • Mart

        Notice that Simmons is young, and has come on as a substitute. So should be relatively fresh. He’s the last to get up

        • bill

          Simmons played well in the semi against the ABs. We could do with Hugh McMeniman being considered for selection though, he might only last 20 minutes, but it’d be 20 minutes to hang your hat on.

  • The Rant

    great article and again – spot on the money.

    Aussie success is opitimised by great backs tries and setmoves that we can pull from anywhere – despite not having the best forward platform in front of them. The kicking option in these last 2 games has not been used positively – it’s been a defence/get out of a difficult area mechanism, usually when we are not going anywhere and the opposition is set. The blacks kicked well on front foot and turnover ball which had us scrambling. We have 2 or 3 good platforms in the blacks half where we ran a crash ball to 12/13, both of which good over the advantage line and on the very next play genia would grubber for the corners. No pressure. Possession wasted, no confidence. This tactic combined with a centre pairing that couldnt confuse a backline of props had the centre piece of australian rugby – attack – hamstrung from the start. Injuries have played a part this year – but watch the 2010 backline highlights GAGR posted and then look at what we’ve seen in 2011???? Mitchell and Beale were a loss – Barnes should have been starting.

    Deans is the attack coach, so surely he’s fallen way sure of a pass mark. But he has the excuse that we are builduing to 2015, which is why he created a team that as Skip quotes above says ”this is a young side, building to something special, who have learnt a lot and will show the benefits for this experience. Set in context of where we are trying to take this side, we need to reflect and understand where we must improve…”

    I thought we hired him to win the 2011 cup?

  • Patrick

    Scott I love your work, I really do, and I agree absolutely with what you’ve said here and even your response to Gus who’s overreacting just a tad, but just thought I’d let you know there is no f***en way I’m watching those videos.

  • Gnostic

    Great article once again Scott. Thank you.

    To address a previous post, the forwards are what they were for sure, but they would have been much better if form players were picked, uninjured players picked, and of course they were played in position. Selections form a large part if not most of the reason the forwards struggled.

    There will be many who will say that hindsight is great……….. I would just like to say to them that many here have posted on these very problems for the last three years. Even before the Centre Pairing change these very issues were apparent to many, it was just the less restrictive centre pairings used prior to the RWC allowed the X players freedom, who you rightly point out score or set up all the Wallaby tries. Given that fact how easy for a defensive coach to look at the Wallabies and shut down those X’s.

  • Garry

    scott,

    thanks for confirming something that I couldn’t explain.

    During the Cup, it really did feel that we were playing at a lower level than during the 3N’s. I couldn’t recall our backline constructing one decent attack during the three tough games. Even Diggers gallant charge to the line seemed to come from hunger and agression (perhaps out of frustration) rather than something constructed.

    Just me, or did others feel the same?

    • RedsHappy

      Garry, and Scott also:

      To your varied points and confirming Scott’s analysis: there was virtually no evidence in the RWC of any form of coherent, well planned and practiced, and ultimately well coached, Wallaby back line or attack plays either from set piece, or from broken play. The type of disciplines and moves McKay has bought to the Reds were almost entirely absent.

      If anyone can helpfully contradict this massively disappointing contention, please post consistent video evidence.

      This situation emanates from the fact that, unlike Link, Deans has _never_ seen the need for a dedicated back line and attack coach, especially one of independent mind and strong credentials in such a role at Test level. He himself would oversight this crucial area of play via directions to his come-and-go assistant ‘skills coaches’. This year, Deans himself has explicitly been this specialist coach. From Scott’s polite analysis, the results of this overarching self-confidence of Deans – though wholly misplaced – are there for all to see, via the stats, the attack results in points, and other data you quote.

      • Gnostic

        Even if Deans accepted the need for a specialist back coach RH would he accept the required input into selection. Case in point Pato Noriega V Foley. I have been led to believe that Foley left when he was unable to have a say in who he would get for forward/scrum duties. Pato replaces him and he obviously has no input into picking his troops for the scrum.

        If Jim McKay, Tim Lane et al were a specialist backs coach for the Wallabies what could they have done with the selection mess, would they have a say in the backline players? Would Deans have accepted input into the overall game plan?

  • Behind Enemy Lines

    Scott, great analysis. Surely the subtle difference between first phase play 1 and 3 should have been enough to create doubts in the All Blacks minds.

    • Scott Allen

      I guess we’ll never know because the Wallabies used no first phase backs moves against the Springboks or the All Blacks. They tried three against Italy and one against Ireland!

      • Behind Enemy Lines

        All jokes aside, it is simply astounding that a Wallabies team could play that badly, and the coach not be hauled over the coals for it by the ARU.

        I’m not big on conspiracy theory’s but with all the analysis pointing to severe coaching deficiencies there is some doubt building in my mind.

      • Mart

        Back to the cross field running we had in that Scotland game. This time there’s no Git’s or Cross to blame. And we’ve got a straight runner at 12, WTF is going on.

        No phases, no structure. And our coach is meant to be one of the most experienced backs coaches going around.

        The backs haven’t scored a try for what, 3 games?

  • JJM

    Great article…. We have always struggled for parity in the forwards, bug when we gave got that our backs gave always been mote inventive than others…. All that seems lost under the current regime…. Surely time for change!

    • Blytherin

      I second that.

  • JJM

    Great article…. We have always struggled for parity in the forwards, bug when we gave got that our backs gave always been more inventive than others…. All that seems lost under the current regime…. Surely time for change!

    • Blytherin

      Yep, I second that, too.

  • JJM

    Great article…. We have always struggled for parity in the forwards, but when we have our backs have always been more inventive than others…. All that seems lost under the current regime…. Surely time for change!

    • Blytherin

      And that too. :-)

  • Robson

    An exactingly intelligent summary of the Wallabies world cup campaign. Brilliant, congratulations Scott.

    I began to think early in the round robin phase that the Wallabies looked like they were being suffocated and by the end of that match against the South Africans I was pretty sure that was the case.

    Ground zero and game plan zero.

    There are just so many basic plays that the Wallabies back line could have employed profitably with O’Connor, Ioane, Cooper and Beale in the mix (like a simple loop around, a “scissors” between wing and OC centre), simple stuff but very effective at creating a line break. But alas nothing happened at all. I didn’t look at the videos because I took your warning to heart. No sense in beating your head against a concrete wall when it is still hurting.

    • MattyP

      It would have to be a dummy scissors. The classic scissors requires basic passing skills.

      • Spaldo

        I would not trust our centres to run with scissors

        • Spaldo

          Horne would injure himself with kindergarden scissors, while Gits and AAC would stab the coach

        • Robson

          Gits might and so might Rocky and Sharpie and maybe Higgers, but the latter three wouldn’t get handed any scissors because they’re not supposed to play on the wings, well in theory anyway.

        • Garry

          Gits passion for running towads the sideline makes him a perfect candidate to initiate a scissors run.

          Wait Gits,… not every time.

  • jimmydubs

    1 and 3 are the same. sounds about right there was that little variety.

  • a.fox-russell

    Not nearly as concise or insightful as Scott’s analysis, but does anyone feel that another way to look at us coming up short overall in the tournament is back to our inability to string consistent performances together?

    It seems to take an enourmous effort for us to build up to a good performance (SAF last year, Hong Kong, Paris, Brisbane, Boks in the quarters) after which we just seem to relax again, with a feeling of “well that should keep everyone happy again for a while”, only to gradually decline again till our next do-or-die match. Maybe the youth of some of the guys has something to do with it.

    We’re the champion “on-our-day” team, as in, can beat anyone if we’re actually up for it and the stars align.

    Apologies, I’m aware this is a useless post, am just venting.

    Back to the subject of attack, I think Scott’s point could be no better illustrated than by my personal favourite try of the last 12 months by the Wobblies…….I think vs France, off a lineout, inside ball from I think Cooper to O’Connor, breaks the line with fullback to beat, quick pass back outside to AAC who scores. That was fukin sublime.

  • TerribleTowel

    Can we please just get Scott some job in a coaching capacity with the Wallabies? I’m not even kidding here, the man is immense.

    • Patrick

      Absolutely.

  • Bullrush

    Scott,

    I think you’ve under-estimated the AB defense in that second clip. You haven’t taken into consideration that the All Blacks play a very good sliding defense. While Samo and McCabe look like they’re free, there is actually cover coming across to take care of them.

  • GregT

    Oz forwards rarely win the contact. We don’t muscle up, so the only way over the gain line is sleight of hand (inside pass, dummy, snipe). No go forward, no real attacking opportunities.

  • PB

    Are the wallabies the new French?

    • Robson

      Their coach might be speaking French to them, or even Greek.

      • Garry

        Robert DeDingo’s waiting…..talking Italian.

    • andyq

      yes.

  • andyq

    and this is the general problem, isn’t it. I kept waiting for the well planned and executed backline moves that we’d been practising to be unleashed when we needed more than individual effort.

    and it didn’t exist.

    so the question is… what were they even doing at training if they weren’t learning and practising any set plays?

    • Garry

      From the footage that we see of their training, it comprises 4 man catch and pass drills, ….all the time

  • Skippy

    Alot has been said recently about the talent Deans has at his disposal and the ‘golden generation’ of Australian players. And it got me thinking.

    During the game I think Rod Kafer made a point about AAC liking to run down the left side of the field as his preferred option. And I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to AAC’s great tries over the last 2-3 seasons and Kafer is right! AAc likes to get the ball from his right, stick it under his left arm and palm off with his right hand as he runs. Now maybe I’m being harsh because AAC is a consistent performer but seriously is this the best we can do in this country? Produce a centre who is only able to run down the left hand side channel??? Is that the extent of our ‘best’ players ability? Why has Deans etc not developed these boys and focussed on weaknesses?

    Watching the game again I took note of when AAC got the ball. Every time he got it from his left and ran down the right hand side of the field he had nothing. It was embarassing.

    How come Digby still is absolutely rubbish at passing? How come McCabe can’t pass? Why can’t Quade tackle?

    Why are the basics so poor?

    And so I started to think about how ‘good’ really are these boys?

    And it begs the question how many would you pick today based on form (not potential) in a Wallaby 15 of the last 15 years? 10 years? Maybe even 5 years?

    Dare I say… probably none. And for me that puts it all in perspective. We’ve got a long way to go and 2015 is our more likely WC chance.

    Forgive me saying this because I’m not a Deans fan but just maybe…maybe… he knows how limited this crop of players are and he got the most out of them given their limitations? Given the limited options he had at his disposal?

    Maybe he didn’t want Quade to defend at 15 but had to put him there because QLD did and Deans didn’t have a choice because it was too late come the test season to try and teach Quade to defend whreas if he had of been doing it all super 15 season?

    Maybe Deans knew that once Benn Robinson went, TPN and Palu and Mitchell and Horne were crocked, that he had run out of time, the substitutes were not of the same standard etc and with those players went Australia’ best chance to win the WC?

    Just food for thought. but all this doesn’t excuse the lack of basic skills, the restarts, the scrum, the loss of backline moves in Aus rugby and so on does it?

    • Garry

      But let’s not forget that during the S15 comp, these players had those skills in spades.

      Of course another possibility is that the franchises had a professional coaching setup, where the players were aware to the game plan, and their individual role in it. And within that, I doubt that the basic skills training would have been overlooked.

  • Duncher

    Just seems to me as though for us to perform near our best (which it must be said is bloody good to watch and very effective at breaking down defenses) we need all the planets to align. The ref needs to be sympathetic, the weather to our liking, the grass short enough to suit a running game, our temperament to be spot on…

    It just shits me. Can’t rely on external factors, go out and impose YOUR will on the game.

    I’m so disheartened right now.

  • skerr

    I am wondering if to much was made of the reds super 14 title to soon. What was the honest justification of all the hype for Aus leading into the cup??? Sure there are good young players coming up, but there are in other countries to, you don’t hear NZ carry on about there rising stars like we do!! & they smoked us.

    NZ & SA were both focused on the “CUP” this year & were willing to sacrifice the tri nations to prepare for that 1 goal, NZ showed up to 1 game in NZ & SA showed up to bugger all, Deans knew this & threw his all @ it.

    • Scotty in Devon

      Actually you DO hear NZ carrying on about thier rising stars ad infinitum!! The difference is that due to it being the countries national sport, they have increadible depth. So thier kiddies grow up in the provincial game and are often battle hardened by the time they pull on the black jersey. Ours just have to sink or swim.

      The S15 aint easy to win, and the Reds went from cellar dwellers to winners in a couple of years. Somethings going up there in bannanaland, and its good.

  • Yossarian

    Picking up on the ‘attack’ ideas….I note this morning that Jeremy Guscott in England has called for a new ‘attacking coach’ for England’s backs…a certain Darren Lockyer!!! That’ll go down well.

  • Seven

    I just hope we see some all out attack/tries against Wales that has been missing all RWC

  • hannibal

    Great analysis Scott but its worth pointing out that Dean’s philosphy always has been just to create pressure in defence and “win the collisions” and then profit from your opponent’s mistakes. Structured attack from set piece is a secondary priority in this system and hasn’t featured much even in our Tri Nations victories before the world cup.

    For example, the Suncorp winning margin really came down to a single (lucky?) try by DK after he palmed off an injured Thomson with an injured McCaw also too slow to react. Structured atttack was not part of it nor even that victory really. I’m willing to wager that if you analyse all tries scored by the wallabies in the Tri Nations series, at least half came within 7 phases after a turnover against the run of posession. Sound familiar – thats been the Crusader’s mojo for years and its why Deans loves fast feet on the outside and favours defensive centres who can hit and create that pressure across the park.

    Take this philosophy forward into the world cup where our forwards are shown up by just about every team we faced and no wonder we scored so few tries. Our forwards didnt measure up, their pressure was ineffective and created fewer mistakes by our opponents. The SA game was the only one where it worked – just. But we couldnt strong it together for 2 performances in a row.

    What I’m trying to point out here is that Deans’ philosophy works fine when you have the best forward pack in the comp (a la Crusaders’ 5 titles under Deans). When they’re middling (worst?) like we have it falls flat on its face as we saw on Sunday.

    So theres two ways we can go:

    Option 1: Develop a better bloody forward pack (which I favour) who doesnt get intimidated and outmuscled 2 out of 3 games. Dean’s coaching and philosophy I believe would work then. So would any other coaches also so to me this is the answer.

    Option 2: Yet again admit as the ARU has done for years that we’ll never have a top 2 forward pack and therefore swap to another, more cunning, coach (a la Link) who can, game by game, conceive of new strategies to win with powder puffs. Risk: international teams adjust quickly and a single coach only has just so many cunning plans up his sleeves to paper over cracks.

    Of course, Option 2 coupled with Option 1 (prioritising the developing of a great forward pack) would be unbeatable – but thats the All Blacks isnt it!.

    • Austin

      Hannibal

      I’m for option 3 but I don’t want to sacrifice what is a pretty good backline until we develop a good forward pack.

      You are correct on the lack of backline plays in all of 2011. I’ve written a number of times over the last three years bemoaning the decline of this type of play. I can understand that if you try something and it doesn’t work, you try something else.

      My issue is that more often than not when the Wallabies try a first phase play it works – think 2010 v England in Sydney and 2010 v France in Paris – they worked brilliantly but then we see nothing like them again. Instead we’ve tried the Deans way fully in 2011 and it hasn’t worked but then we haven’t tried some first phase plays (even just to take away the predictability).

      • hannibal

        Austin, we are in absolute agreement that change must be the way of the future and any change that leads to more points is great change! Theres so much that can be improved with this team its actually amazing we’re already #2 in the world. Imagine the possibilities.

        I guess I for one don’t believe that its the end of the world if Deans remains coach like many fans (see the recent poll). But I do think he needs to be prodded to find new ways to win along the journey of player development that is already happening. I guess thats what you are also saying.

        A 55% win rate cant be tolerated. Maybe its not just the players who need development!

        • bill

          Well he needs to let his team play some rugby. From what I’ve seen he thinks we just have to get quick phase ball and we score. That’s the only reason i can see for the complete abondonment of first phase plays this tournament, which is bizarre when you look at the french game last year where it got kicked off by a great first phase play. Mind you relying on first phase attack can be problematic as well.

          I don’t know, every time i see Robbie talk I get filled with confidence and respect for him, but every time I saw us play this tournament I wanted him gone.

          Shit selections. Shit game plan, shit execution of aforementioned.

  • George

    I think Robbie and the team will be a lot better for this WC.

    Graham Henry made some shocking decisions during the 2007 WC, his ‘rest and rotation’ policy fucked them big time and was a huge factor in NZ’s loss in the quarters. There was HUGE pressure to assign Deans but instead the NZRU reassigned Henry and he went on to have the most consistent All Blacks side ever and one that looks like it will win the WC. The core group of this All Black squad have failed twice at previous WC and that burning desire to win has been simmering for 8 years.

    Its been a better result than last time, they beat the defending champions and made it to the semis and I think the Wallabies now have that burning desire and hopefully Deans has learnt a lot. Giving him the boot now would not be productive. The Lions tour will tell us weather or not he has strengthened the obvious weaknesses in this young Wallaby side.

    • Garry

      George,

      how much punishment can you take? You’re what we need in our front five.

      Can’t share your beliefs, nor the views that this was a great AB side on the weekend (and I’m old enough to say that). The consistant performance of the AB’s over the last 4 years is closely tied to our own underperformance. We haven’t performed consistantly well enough to worry them which made them appear mightier, but there have been times when cracks have appeared, and truely, the veneer looked thin.

      I beleive now, as I have in the past, that time will not improve the Deans WB’s. Just embarrass us fans more,

      • Bullrush

        The AB team of the past 4 years has beaten all comers both home and away. SA were ranked No.1 in the world afetr their 2007 RWC win until Aug 2008. From then on, NZ has been ranked No.1 except for a 4 month period in 2009. For the best part of the last 4 years, this AB team has maintained their exceptional record. To try and discredit that, and this team, by linking it to Australia’s poor performance is ridiculous.

        • Garry

          It is a great record granted.

          But since professionalism, it is not uncommon for the NZ side to sweep away all (except now and then France), with the only teams to occassionally beat them being Saffers and WB’s. Just saying that if the Deans WB’s had have put a few more wins over this side, I’m betting some cracks would have appeared, coaches given a few more grey hairs, players rotated more, and the side under more pressure. There have been some red hot AB sides in the last 20 years. and without regularly beating them (tips hat to coaches) they would have been far more reviered.

          My take on the current NZ mob was not meant to denigrate thier performance, But the mountain sure looks high from down here.

        • Bullrush

          “But the mountain sure looks high from down here.” LOL

          I like that line. I’m gonna steal it and use it at some stage this weekend!!

    • Bullrush

      The only thing you forget George is that this isn’t Robbie’s first time at the dance either. He was there in 2003. Assistant coach, yes….but from all reports, a very influential and strong assistant coach.

  • Rightside

    Agree with Patrick…fuck watching those videos

  • Nighteyes

    Everyones entitles to an opinion here’s mine.

    Change the rules before the game turns into Gridiron, nobody wants to watch half crouched runs from a standing start , one metre from the opposition.

    Rugby has turned into a game of “red rover, one meter apart” with every official having a different interpretation of the rules.

    Worst call of the WC… the Welsh sendoff,

    Second worst call….the sendoff penalty !!

    Never thought I’d say “cricket is a more interesting game to watch these days !!”

  • Warrick Todd

    I think the gap between the All Blacks and Wallabies in 2003 was wider yet we managed to defeat them in the semi and took a superior England to extra time in the final. Home ground may have played some part but Eddy Jones was/is a superb tactician…just ask Jake White.

    • bill

      Eddy was a c*nt. Tactics, in his prescence is just another name for cheating. he had all the ethical standards of a serial killer in rugby terms. I’d rather a hundred Robbie Deans and getting rolled by the poms every november than see him in charge again.

    • styles

      Wtf!!!! Jones was an extremely hard worker but tactician!!?? How is dispensing with scrum training fullstop in the process sullying our national reputation in this respet for a decade and picking miniature three openside backrows (sorry for the reminder melon), tactical brilliance? My mum could have coached that Bokke side to rwc 2007 glory given that draw and the cattle.

  • As a certain Wallabies half back told the All Blacks four years ago,”Four more years!” Probably take this Australian side another eight years, Quade Cooper is supposedly going to league when his contract runs out at the end of 2012.. Sydney Roosters with SBW?

    • bill

      Doesn’t sound as funny when you’re speaking it sloppy seconds mate.

All Blacks
@ScottA_

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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