Video Analysis: Wallabies Defence vs Wales

Video Analysis: Wallabies Defence v. Wales

Video Analysis: Wallabies Defence v. Wales

It might seem strange to focus on defence in such an open and exciting game but for any team wanting to win the World Cup defence is key, and the Wallabies seem to be developing an intelligent adaptable system.

Importantly the system allows individuals to make decisions based on outcome rather than “Will I make the tackle?”.

That point is important.

At elite level the made/missed stat is becoming less important. Of course it’s a useful workhorse-like stat. But England, Ireland and quite a few others base the bulk of their analysis on positive or negative outcomes.

For example if the missed tackle drives the attacker back to the cover defence, makes the attacker make a bad decision etc… it’s deemed a positive outcome. That’s why when we see Christian Leali’ifano shoot out of the line and miss his tackle on George North it’s not a problem.

The aim of this shooting is to make the defender turn back in, and shut down the overlap. Both Leali’ifano and Michael Hooper carry it out well.

Bernard Foley? Not so much, and James Slipper shows us why a prop should never chase a 10 across the pitch. In some ways this is similar to the system used by Saracens in their demolition of Clermont last April but probably closer to the system used by Ireland under Les Kiss.

What I really like is that the system seems to adapt to the scenario unfolding in front of the team. That empowers the individual to assess the situation and decide the appropriate defensive response. For example they will happily cede ground to isolate attackers when the ball is moved wide, but when confronted by punch groups they resort to getting their tackle line up quickly.

There is too much to put in a video, so I’ve focused on the shooters and the line speed of the Australian team. The first three examples demonstrate the system, but also highlight how individual errors impact on it, whereas the fourth illustrates what happens when the system is applied effectively as a unit.

You should also keep an eye out for the following:

  • line speed from the Wallabies
  • how one man leads the defence up
  • the excellent defensive work from Kuridrani and Leali’ifano, who seem to be responsible for running the system
  • how the Wallabies continually try to push the Welsh back to their heavier defenders
  • the impact small mistakes, like McMahon and Foleys make; there is almost no recovery option from them.

It’s early days though and while they have a long way to go the signs are very promising going forwards. The system is obviously evolving week by week, and it’s good that it adapted as the game went on, and from being slightly porous in the first half it locked the Welsh all but out in the second half when Australia took to the field with an obvious determination to put a stop to the Welsh attack.

  • Yabba88

    Fascinating stuff. The fact that a ‘missed’ tackle can have a positive outcome by turning a runner back inside, and/or cutting off the pass to an overlap is food for thought. The system is the thing, and the cooperation between team members. Good insights. I am learning all the time.

  • Brendan Hume

    Thanks for the analysis. The period after half time when Wales had their 15 phases was a great example of both how poor Wales were at this style of footy (no impact on the gain line and no options to have the defence guessing), but also the improvement in discipline of the Wallabies. Simmons on the 15th tackle could have been held in and penalised but moved very quickly to clear the ruck area, same happens with Faingaa, Slipper, Kepu during the build up.

    I also noticed during the match how hard the Wallabies were working to get around the back of the ruck to the area the ball was moving (often short side).

    The only thing I don’t like about the shooter defence is that it inevitably leaves the winger with a 2v1. AAC had no hope for the Cuthbert try. Good teams who can shift the ball or use support to overcome the shooter have a huge advantage.

    • Benjamin Ho

      Fully agree with this. Wales didn’t do too much in attack to trouble the defence in those 15 phases. Still, good to see discipline in not giving away a penalty. It will be interesting to see how this defence goes against a team like the All Blacks. IIRC, this shooter defence system was present in a similar form pre-Cheika and the Wallabies got burned often on the sidelines (sorry can’t provide evidence… just a recollection).

      • Brendan Hume

        I agree with your recollection. That’s the primary area that Folau should now be working on – his defensive positioning. If he’s reading that movement to the wing, the winger should be holding on the inside man and forcing the pass, with Folau coming into the line to shift the winger to the edge using the sideline as the 16th defender. Other than this, and his kicking, I think Folau has been outstanding but I get chills atm when the ball shifts to the edges.

      • teh Other Dave

        Agreed – especially if they can shift the ball wide quickly, which a disciplined, well-drilled team like NZ do so well..

  • Seb V

    So pretty much Foley is a horrible defender.

    • Shop

      Shooting out of the line was never on before Cuthbert’s try. They were short on numbers but there was plenty of space to jockey until cover came. I would have thought this should be instinctive for this level of player.

    • Realist271

      Yes he is.

  • Jack

    Outstanding stuff.

  • Matt_LHP

    great analysis, really appreciate seeing this level of detail

  • Digs

    There are few things that confuse me about this notion of the “shooter”, firstly I recall this defence being used by Link and Toomua in particular (as well as Hooper) being criticized for coming out of the line. Secondly, I’m not sure it serves much purpose other than to try and stop the ball getting out to an overlap. Surely the better defensive outcome would be for them to realign faster and “mirror” up rather than relying on rushing out of the line to stop an overlap. The last 15 phases example was a good example of this where the Wallabies maintained composure and lined up. Whereas the CLL example exposes a gap on the inside when CLL rushes out of the line and they were able to get over the gain line by some 20m.

    • Shop

      Another purpose is to rush the attacker into making a mistake.

    • ted

      agree – seems to take a potentially very large risk for not so much gain.
      A runner could coming around could easily come of the ball carriers shoulder into the gap the “shooter” has created

    • Brendan Hume

      Keeping the ball on the inside channels means more defenders, less space, less likely for a line break. Mirror defence/man on man has disadvantages as well – more passive/reactive. If Lilo hadn’t shot out of the line, the inside pass was still on as the hole hadn’t been covered by the defence moving to the short side.

      This style of defence with effective movement to cover the space on the outside can be very effective, I just think we lack that lateral movement when it goes wrong at the moment.

    • really good points and thanks for watching..

      I don’t think it’s right or wrong to do the shoot, I just wanted to illustrate they are and i’m honestly not sure on Link & previous systems as I only really started analysis on the Wallabies this Championship for G&GR, but you may well be right.

      For me the important thing is that, just as in attack they are adapting and making decisions to what is happening in front of them. Heads Up Rugby.

  • Michael Hassall

    Thanks for the analysis, it is interesting to see how the wallabies defensive system is working, and to reinforce that players have to make decisions or react to what is happening.

  • ted

    great work and throughly appreciative – however if we could offer/ask one piece of advice, it is quiet difficult to keep up with the text then picture, would you be able to place audio over the video instead?

    • Audio is difficult for me, as i have a terrible speech impediment known as an English accent. :)

      It’s something we’re looking into doing and it’s on the cards but at the moment it’s just not a possibility due to time, money and environment I do these in.

      Hopefully soon though.

  • RobC

    Thanks for the vid.

    Defence was definitely better on the 2nd half. Also the Welsh attack lost shape and depth by then too, I believe.

    The other main things to look at next week, is the depth. Also the scrum. A disappointing back step last week

  • Sape

    I would like to point out that about 4 minutes on the video, when Slipper is highlighted, its not totally his fault, he had an enormous space to cover there as McMahon was kinda far out and Carter wasnt putting too much effort to close the gap from inside. If Slipper stayed andwaited for roRoberts on the switch, Biggar would have had the gap.

    I dont know if its Phippses role in defence to guide the forwards, but if i was him there in that situation, i would have told Carter to move his ass faster.

    Nice analysis tough, only had time for 4min but need to watch it to the end later.

  • Drongo

    Great analysis mate. Thanks for that. Matt and the boys – i would love to see a similar analysis on the scrum penalty try. Was I alone in thinking that the Wallaby scrum was harshly adjudicated? Or am I being one-eyed?

    • Patrick

      yes please – every dirty minute of the whole scrum sequence starting with the scrum before the whole thing.

    • Rugby_Union

      I loved the scrum battle-but I am feeling distinctly pissed off. Wales popped up twice and wheeled the scrum deliberately. Should have been penalized-or at least had the feed turned over.

      It was so bloody obvious they were running it around. I have no idea what Joubert was looking at…

      • Patrick

        Yes but leaving aside the skulduggery:

        1) our scrum immediately before the schemozzle was weak;
        2) Joubert already has his preconceptions and unfortunately the weak scrum played into them; and
        3) As Wales walked us around, Skelton then simply slipped off Kepu (as far as I could see) and that was all she wrote.

        but I would love to see this analysed in more detail but someone who knows better what they are talking about!!

        • RobC


          There was a major turnaround in the WB scrum after England, starting with intent, performance, then attitude:
          – Oz dominanted both scrum and loose scrum throughout the rest of EOYT and France June 2014.
          – Quite a few SA and Arg fans thought WBs cheated etc during this year’s tests in Perth, Gold Coast and JBurg.
          – But in the end, the results spoke for themselves. As long as Slipper and Kepu were up front, and Big Kev, Simmons Carter Fardy were behind.
          – Hooper has been an incessant meerkater. The penalty try in Eden Park was one of many examples

          WB scrum after England last year was top shelf:
          – The big let down were the replacements.
          – All the way through until / except Mendoza.
          – Then did good again in Lang Park. WBs dismantled ABs scrum

          It went backwards last week. The turning point was the penalty conceded when the WB pack was backpeddled. It was before the lineout kick, which preceded the time when the George North was held up over the line:
          – Before that moment, it was 50/50. But once you are backpeddled on an 8 vs 8, the ref is going to punish you, irrespective if your opponent infringes.
          – Its important for WB scrums to make a strong statement, until all lingering doubts are eradicated

          After last week weekend, that wound has reopened, and will fester if not addressed in the way that EM, Blades and team leadership did.

        • Patrick

          I agree with all that, except that with Fardy in second row we were shite.

        • RobC

          I believe Fardy was a factor, but not the critical issue.

          There were three imo:
          – Sean Mac selection at six
          – Fresh Welsh props before the scrum penalties
          – Skelton scrum effectiveness

          Despite missing Fardy, other stalwart WB locks can still push v well:
          – We still have three good pushers in the middle.
          – Simmons is also one of the strongest lock scrummagers around – not just in Oz
          – Carter and Big Kev are also v strong, durable and technically competent.

          As I opined last week, the big thing to watch was McMahon behind Slipper:
          – He’s a full 2 stones lighter than Fardy.
          – He still did well considering the weight disparity and..
          – The Oz scrum held up and pushed well until that critical moment

          We backpeddled when Skelton came on:
          – His scrumming was a topic on this week’s Roar
          – Some opined that fresh Welsh props came on vs Slips and Kepu was a big factor. Yes, imo it was a factor
          – But those two have faced fresh props vs Pumas and Boks and do well in the first couple of engagements
          – They generally were pulled off the field when they were blowing badly

          The telling sign is that the WB props held up the scrum well, whilst retreating:
          – but there was no push from behind. Hence the back-peddling.
          – You will notice Skelton’s angle, shape and position were poor, thus no power
          – After those scrums and penalty try, both Slips and Kepu were worn out

          But last weekend: Mostly its the coach’s decision to put two small outside flankers on either side of the scrum.

          But there was a fourth and biggest issue:
          – Cheika’s decision to put in a openside flanker at six, instead of putting a 3rd lock in (I believe we’re out of blindside flankers)
          – Then putting Skelton in at scrum
          – To me, it was a sign that Cheika didn’t consider the scrum as a serious endeavour
          – Same mistake EM made in TRC 2013, and subsequently restructured the WBs development around it.

          But it can all be fixed – even Skelton. The improvement in Paddy Ryan’s form during the NRC was a good example. Among others.

          In any case, WBs won. So the game ended well. It will be interesting to see what WBs does this weekend.

          btw I believe if / when the Tahs’ concentrate on it. They would have an invincible SR scrum. They are already proving their power in the loose.

        • Patrick

          OK now we are getting a little mixed up. My comment about Fardy was a negative one about his impact when he switched to second row in the rugby championship, and he completely crumbled despite considerable experience there.

          Sean McMahon for my money is a perfectly good 6 in the scrum. I’d be happy to be proven wrong here, and goodness knows others know more about scrums than me(!) but I’ve never yet seen a scrum where I was particularly concerned about his input. His side of the scrum collapses, but he looks to maintain his position and it is straight through Skelton that the hole is created:

          I think in the end we agree that Australia’s biggest problem against Wales was Skelton’s input or lack thereof. And I definitely agree that he can be coached to perform better, and I have no doubt that he will be.

          I do suspect however that if you repeated your comment about Cheika’s priorities to his face you’d have less of a face left!!

        • RobC

          I’d be v happy to repeat the same opinion to his face, np. Its based on observation, coachs/staff statements, research. Not malace or bias. I’ll also be happily be corrected here. But Im a little too old for shirt fronting.

          Fardy. Im pretty sure he played and scrummaged at six on all six games. Or did I miss something? Was it re the Eden Park penalty try conceded?

          imo Sean Mac is too light to push to create forward momentum esp against NH teams:
          – Unless the goal is to ‘survive’ scrums, which is a bad idea for WBs
          – Especially with a 96kg flanker on one side, and 100kg flanker on the other – and a full 8 pushing against them.
          – Fardy’s strength and weight was key to resisting the Pumas low scrum and pushing through AB and SB scrums.

          Thanks for the vid which was around 64′:
          – On the that scrum. Slipper, Simmons Hooper tries to assert themselves, and pushes forward before the feed.
          – It was steadied after. So the line is already skewered against Kepu
          – When the ball feed, Welsh TH and his pod push right through Kepu Skelton SeanMac.
          – But that was academic. By the time the Welsh were scrummaging at the 5m 5′ earlier, WBs scrum needed to either clearly hold/push through or – get punished.

          The critical penalty was around 58′. But before that:
          – 50′ ref tells Kepu and Fingers. They are on notice for hinging. Then a solid scrum (Skelton’s first)
          – 53′ Welsh LHP concedes a hinging penalty. Not a happy chappy. He and Hibbard are then subbed off few min after
          – 58′ finally both sides hold up. And the Welsh push right through both sides.
          – Hooper meerkating right through it. Skelton and Sean Mc on the other side also back peddling.
          – After that WBs were DEAD MEAT in the ref and crowd’s view.

          From memory: until that game, for a good part of the last 12 months (for WBs), Kepu has not hinged. This includes against the ultra-low bajadita. Slipper 1.5 times in Lang Park, and he was nursing a bad leg by then.

        • Patrick

          I agrée about the props, i’m certainly not blaming them! I’m not convinced that we can’t play two light flankers, In fact I think that is crap. England iirc won a RWC with Hill (108 or five kgs more than McMahon and Back (Never more than 100kgs so five less than Hooper), so my theory is that flankers need to work on their technique not their pie-eating.

          I acknowledge that Hooper is not a great example of scrum technique though, but I’m not sure there is anything wrong with McMahon, at least not based on the evidence to date.

          My references to Fardy are to when we received a yellow card to Simmons and he moved to the second row, I don’t have a problem with his push from flanker but the second row definitely needs a tighter technique.

        • RobC

          Scrums in 2003 is ancient history. It was all about the hit, flankers did not push. They hardly even bound:
          – The English flankers were helped greatly having the huge tight five, an average weight of around 120kegs.
          – WBs tight five were around 110kg avg
          – WBs flankers then were around 95/100kg

          Flankers today are much, much larger. And today’s scrum is an 8 man push. The lottery days of old is gone.

          Actually my point isn’t about the props. WBs starting props have been the best props in SH this year – except maybe Ayerza. This weekend will be telling.

          Its about the guys behind them. Locks and flankers. Yes agree its about technique. And until Oct last year, no WB scrum pushed properly as eight.

          Last weekend, it devolved:
          – Binds and angle from SeanMc 13′ was bad on Kepu’s first drop/hinge.
          – But he was on the other side of the cam on most of other scrums.
          – Hooper bind and push (most scrums) were absolutely terrible.
          – Especially compared to Lydiate and SamWar technique, who btw are around 22kg heavier than their counterparts

        • Guest


        • RobC


        • RobC


        • RobC

          Ah thought so. The Eden Park penalty try. There were three problems with that:

          – Firstly, it was seven WBs vs eight ABs, on AB feed.
          – Secondly, Charles (sorry not Chibba) missed a heartbeat on the ASmiths feed. And missed a slim opportunity to front food his pack on A Smiths feed. Or at least an early push
          – So WBs were immediately backpeddled instead. Thus finally nobody could have stopped that try. Good technique still though by WBs – well except one player.

          If I recall Bob Dwyer (or someone) complained Fardy was terrible, did not bind etc.:
          – You will find that Palu was the culprit, angled at around 45+degrees and no push effect.
          – But anyway, nothing would have stopped it, as I mentioned above.
          – Except maybe Palu could have helped Fardy hold up Slipper and concede a pushover try, instead of a penalty try

          After the scrum was 8 v 8. WBs were awarded by the ref again in further engagement – buy our supposed nemesis: Romain Poite

        • RobC

          You’ll also find the original scrum penalty was conceded on 7 v 8, which led to McCaw being held up over the time

          In that original scrum penalty, it was a WB feed. But Charles was too slow to hook the ball. Phipps feed also not good. And the WBs were backfooted, backpeddled and lost possession / penalised

        • Rugby_Union

          Maybe i will have to watch a reply-but my feeling was that the scrums were quite even up till the show down on the line-then as you point out Joubert gets it into his head that aussies can’t scrum.

  • TouchFinderGeneral

    And my education continues. Guys, can we have a whip round to get Graeme’s speech impediment sorted out so we can take it all into the next ball and space dimension?

  • Tim

    Great analysis – thanks

  • USARugger

    Awesome video in every way. I think Wales were a good “test run” for the defensive system given the way they have been running their attack under Gatland.

    I’ll be very keen to see how well the pattern holds against Ireland, who I expect to throw a bit more variation at the Wallabies than the Welsh did.

  • Billy Bob Vanderwaal

    Thanks for doing the work on this, it’s great that GAGR continues with these articles and analysis and I appreciate them immensely.
    Is this defensive system something that the Brumbies run (why Leali’ifano & Kuridrani are able to execute it so well)? Do the Waratahs and Reds? I’m not asking to bash any team, but curious why Foley might have difficulty with it if the Waratahs run it, which I would assume (admittedly, maybe incorrectly) since Cheika is the coach. I’m sure there’s some “getting used to each other” period of time that affects performance as well.

    • haven’t really thought about it, but might very well be… most international systems are a natural extension of the domestic teams.

      I just kind of assumed it would be enforce at the Tah’s because Grey is the Defence coach for the Wallabies.

      I think the thing with Foley is just poor communication between Hooper and him at that point, and tiredness… hence two bad decisions in such close proximity, in that he kicked the ball away then made a poor defensive decision.

  • Jkb

    Glorious analysis. Made my day. Cheers.


an Englishman living in France, Graeme runs the Rugby Analysis website He coaches in his spare time, is an IRB qualified coach and you can catch him on twitter lazily re-tweeting other peoples comments.

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