Wallabies 2010 Report Card - Green and Gold Rugby

Wallabies 2010 Report Card

Wallabies 2010 Report Card

Despite a very Australian backline trotting out for the Barbarians last weekend, another Wallaby international season has come to an end. How should we judge it?

The Nelson Mandela Plate

Mandela Plate - shiny, but lonely

Of course the most important criteria are matches won, trophies gained. On that front, it’s mixed news. Of the important silverware (the ones whose names I can remember) there’s no Bledisloe, Tri-Nations or Cook Cup to lay the table around the Mandela Plate.

On the win percentages, however, things are on the up; it stands at 60 per cent for 2010, up from 43 per cent in 2009. No doubt there’s plenty of headroom there, although had two more of those Giteau kicks gone between the sticks, the win rate could be up at 73 per cent.

Looking at try scoring overall, this year on average the Wallabies scored three tries a match, and let in two. Last year those figures were two tries scored and one conceded. Before decrying the Wallaby defence too much though, it’s worth noting that New Zealand’s conceded try averages for those two years are exactly the same as Australia’s (the only difference being that they on average scored four tries a match this year). So it would appear that this probably has more to do with the way the game is being played than the defensive frailties that Austin demonstrated in his latest post.

Clearly though, the Wallaby attack has improved. The seven try romp to finish the season at the Stade de France was no isolated incident. The Wallabies outscored the Boks 5 tries to 3 in Bloemfontein and the All Blacks 4:3 in Hong Kong. Figures from the spring tour show that New Zealand and Australia are in a different league from the rest of the world in terms of try-scoring ability — and this is with the Wallaby backline still improving and with some unanswered questions, like who is the first choice inside centre?

However, you don’t have to dig too deep in the team’s stats to identify the largest gaping hole in their performance. Below is the number of scrum penalties awarded against teams over the recent spring internationals, compared to the rest of the penalties they conceded in all other areas. What you’ll notice is that outside their scrum woes, the Wallabies had the equal best disciplinary record with France. The Wallaby scrum penalties, however, were only outdone by Fiji.

The price of a weak scrum is not just penalties, or even penalty tries and yellow cards, but the morale- and energy-sapping impact that can turn a match. It is undoubtedly still a huge cause for concern.

While one set piece struggled, another improved out of sight. Over the year the Wallabies won 88 per cent of their own line-out, while their opponents averaged 78 per cent. On the end of year tour they topped the own-ball completion rate table (again with 88 per cent) together with South Africa. This was up from the 74 per cent Australia had managed in the 2009 Tri-Nations.

In the first half of the season restarts were a problem; ceding possession in your own half is suicidal in the current form of the game. Against England in Sydney and then New Zealand in Melbourne the Wallabies gathered only 20 and 14 per cent of received restart kicks. However, by the spring tour, the retention rate had reached 94 per cent. On average this year they regained 10 per cent of their own kick-offs.

But what these numbers don’t talk about are the achievements of the Wallabies in 2010: the first Wallaby team to win on the High Veldt in more than 40 years, the only team to beat the All Blacks, a record score at home against the Six Nations champions France, and the regaining of second place in the world rankings.

The Bloem Bomber

More important than any history book entry though, was what that has meant mentally to the young team that’s achieved it. They can beat the two other best teams in the world in pressure situations, at the death. They can also turn a faltering tour around, and put away a top-tier side convincingly. These “deposits in belief” have been crucial to the squad’s development; they may not be “the daddy” yet, but they’re no longer the prison bitch.

As the team has developed, so have a number of individuals. What was so poignant in those dramatic wins in Bloemfontein and Honkers was that it wasn’t an old timer guiding the Wallabies home with a cool head, but two of the youngest prodigies in the team — Beale and O’Connor. A year ago these two, and others like Pocock and Cooper, were kids making cameos. This year they took roles in the global consciousness of the game — Beale and Pocock with IRB player of the year nominations, O’Connor with a starring role for the Barbarians. What will another year bring?

Using the Dwyer Theorem of requiring at least five World XV players to have a real shot at Bill, the Wallabies are moving toward an interesting position. For run-on places as of today’s date, I would put forward Moore, Sharpe, Elsom and Beale. So that’s four, with Pocock only edged out by Richie McCaw. Other players that we know either have been, or could be in the World team include Robinson, Genia, Palu and in recent years, Matt Giteau. So that’s eight or nibe players within coo-ee of a spot in the World XV.

Players that you can argue for and against, but most world coaches would love to have, include O’Connor, Cooper, Polota-Nau, Ashley-Cooper and Mitchell. Within a short amount of time, I believe each of these too can challenge for an outright spot.

So to an overall rating for the Wallabies in 2010. Yes, there have been big disappointments: the losses to England, the 49 point pantsing in Melbourne at the hands of New Zealand. There are also still clear areas requiring attention. However, it’s impossible to say that this year has not been significant improvement over 2009, and that in some areas of the game they have been excellent.

Ultimately, the Wallabies are second in the world, and deserve to be.

Gagger’s 2010 rating: B

(Rating scale: A – excellent, B – Good, C – Average, D – Poor, E – Fail)

  • jay-c

    i am amazed at the consistency you guys are able keep putting out articles post season- i dont know of another rugby site that comes close
    great read and ‘good show gents’

    • thanks mate, plenty of off-season wanging to come too

      • Seb V

        Nice article, cant wait for the wallabies 2010 gagger video ;)

  • John Ortner

    An analysis well done. Yes, the scrum is a shocker, but we all hope it will become “competitive” next year and lets be honest…with THAT backline..that is all we really ever need! As a die hard Wallabies fans I would love to see our team do much better, but considering the improvements in the lineout and the view that the “best defence” is offence, I would say The Wallabies are track for the little cup next year!

    Best of luck, boys!

  • Bobas

    Whats amazing about the wallabies this year is its not just the younger blokes improving. Players like Sharpe and Mitchell have improved just as much as JOC, Pocock and Beale.

    Exciting times when your teams average age is about 23-24 and you’ve got players still getting better who are over 30.

    Mitchell has had an increadible year and would definately be in my world 15.

    • pants

      Mitchell really turned things around. After his shocker in Melbourne I thought he wasn’t up to standard but from then on he really seemed to step up. He even seems to have stopped the over the top celebrations when scoring tries that have in the past always come back to bite him when we’ve lost games at the death.

  • westy

    Imagine the 2010 Wallabies back line coupled with the 2009 Wallabies scrum. That sounds like a team the Darkness would be afraid of!

    I’m backing a return of form for the Bens in 2011. Good players might have poor form after injury but cant be kept down forever. In some ways it might actually have been good that the scrum got pantsed on the EOYT. (OMG am I sounding like Deans? “they’ll be better for that experience”)

    Remember this? Check out the scrum at the 3 minute mark…No reason we wont see this next year particularly with the return of Horwill, Palu etc.

    • CJP

      Strangely enough… Noriega was the scrum coach at the time! I didn’t realise that. I thought Foley was still in charge… but is the success on this tour down to Foley’s input before he left?
      Agree however that Horwill and Palu will make a massive differnce. Look at the power Palu puts into his packing sequence as he really drives his second rowers into the scrum. He will certainly add more impact to the scrum, so much so that if Pocock needs to be a little looser (as he hsas been) to break early and cover Cooper’s channel, this will be covered up by Rocky, Elsom and Palu’s power.

      Interesting however is Gits… the old crab cross field, find a mismatch then straighten after throwing the dummy. Why does this not work anymore and not suit the Wallabies? Simple. The standards of drift defence has improved massively over the last few years in international rugby and thus even props are more competent at defending out wide when caught there.
      As much as I like gits as a player, I do think his days are over in this Wallaby set up and sadly I fear he may even go before the WC due what I perceive may be a bit of an immature attitude…

      • Who Needs Melon

        And I think he has got just that little bit older and lost that explosive step and zing.

  • Scarfman

    We’ve lost twice in a row to England, and by a record margin!

    I can see it now. We get knocked out in the semis, we have zero silverware, but Robbie will be defended by those who believe that our team has massive potential. He had 4 years, people. Deliver some results, or shut up!

    • Bobas

      I fear our cricket team may just eclipse that record today.

    • Gnostic

      Well said Scarfy.

      For the good there was the bad, the areas of improvement are balanced by the areas of regression. So overall a pass mark. Just.

      Yes better than last year, but anything would be better than the shit sandwich we got last year, and that counts for virtually all the international games from all the teams.

      • A “pass” from Gnostic – Robbie should retire now!

  • Bullrush

    “For run-on places as of today’s date, I would put forward Moore, Sharpe, Elsom and Beale. So that’s four, with Pocock only edged out by Richie McCaw. Other players that we know either have been, or could be in the World team include Robinson, Genia, Palu and in recent years, Matt Giteau. So that’s 8 or 9 players within coo-ee of a spot in the World XV.”

    Moore wouldn’t be run on. Sharpe and Elsom might but it would be really, really tight. Beale could stake a decent claim based on his performances this year.

    Robinson will need a big off-season and Super season. Genia didn’t do much at all this year on the international stage and Palu has only really performed well against NH teams.

    Giteau in recent years has played at 1st-five where he’d be at best a distant second to Carter.

    Scrum is obviously a big gaping hole but I also wonder whether QC will get better defensive over the Super season next year or if coaches will continue to ‘hide’ him. Interesting to see the much-vaunted Argentine scrum has one of the higher penalty counts.

    Maybe the refs don’t call penalties against certain teams as much on reputation as people think they do.

    • Bobas

      If you dont agree say why, “Moore wouldn’t be a run on” who would be the run on?

      and He said 8 or 9 within Cooeee, not 8 or 9 in the W15.

      • Bullrush

        I’d take Mealamu over Moore on the run-on this year.

        There’s a few teams could claim to have a number of players ‘within coo-ee’ of a World XV.
        None of the guys mentioned are clear-cut choices. Beale and Pocock probably stake the best claims.

        Pocock’s a bloody machine.

        • Bismark would be pretty close too. I reckon Mealamu is a bit old..

        • James

          Agree with most of that, but I think none of us objectively would actually pick Beale of Mils at 15???

        • Bullrush

          I wouldn’t personally pick him (and I’m honest enough to say that it’s probably because I’m a bit one-eyed) but as I said in my first reply – Beale could stake a decent claim based on his performances this year.

          If he was picked in a World XV, it would be hard to argue against it.

        • Garry

          Isn’t Hore the first pick hooker over Mealamu when fit? Would he be in the mix?

    • tim

      think you are just hopeful mate

  • BDiddy

    I’ll be interested to see how Gits goes in Super rugby next year – could it be Cooper’s play that is making Gits and to a lesser extent Barnes look a bit ordinary in attack?

    Seems to me like Cooper creates holes for straight running blokes like Faingaa and AAC to run into, whereas the smaller and more creative Gits and Barnes get cutout of the game.

    While I think Gits and Barnes are better all over players than Faingaa, do you pick him because he plays with Cooper better?

    • Groucho

      Our best backline performances by far this season have had Barnes outside Cooper.

      • Westo

        I had dinner with Giteau last week (nice name drop I know and to top it off I was sitting next to him all evening) and with the many questions I fired his way, a lot of his answers were flat at best. I could not help but think that this flat attitude off the pitch is transplanting itself onto the pitch.

        I hate to say it, but I truly think he has lost the fire, and his quick fire answer stating he is off to France next year 100% confirms that for me.

        Look, I think the guys a genius in some of the things he has done and I will always hold last Thursday night aloft with great fondness, but I am saddened by his demise.

        I sincerely hope that I am wrong

        • Hey, nice name drop and I gotta say your tale tallies with my gut on this.

          We had a certain French contributor allege on the weekend that Gits, Tom Carter and Adam Ashley-Cooper are also off to France next year to the same club. Hear anything to confirm the others?

        • BDiddy

          He might have been flat after a pretty crappy spring tour – I honestly hope he and Toomua have a blinder next Super 15 because a good Gits is good for the Wallabies.

          Plus I think if Toomua steps up again like he did last season then he might be shot at back up 10 for the World Cup – I think Barnes’ performances in the midweek matches didn’t show enough for him to claim the spot.

          I also hope the Brumbies play Alexander at the position he’s going to play for the Wallabies – if he’s going to play tighthead for the Wallabies then play him at tighthead for the Brumbies.

          It’ll be changeover time after the World Cup – no surprise if guys like Gits, Sharpe, even Elsom head over to Europe. It will be interesting to see how many of the younger guys get tempted by the cash and head over for a couple of years as well.

        • Westo

          Its funny you mentions AAC as he was also at the dinner. Pretty quiet chap, tight lipped and I guess in light of this kept his intentions that way. Though he did mention that they went to the ‘Church’ in Clapham (London) and had been on this piss since the French demolition – it was now Thursday. This could well be another reason why they were so flat.

          But I would bet the house that Gits is going.

          I asked a questions around the table about ‘Loyalty’ and what it means – seemingly this is a rare thing amounst players at the elite level, but obvioulsy strong in fans. Drew Mitchell said that clubs discard you once there done and players must seek further employment opportunities to better there standing. I guess that was the case for the Reds over the cours of the last decade and I think you will ifnd this IS the case post Wolrd Cup – business as usual.

          It was also amusing regards post rugby employment, as Bill Satchi (as in Satchi and Satchi) and the 2IC for Robert Walkers was there throwing cards around left right and centre. Its all about networking right.

  • Robson

    Great read Gags, but I am a bit dubious on the Dwyer theorem of World team players required to lift the RWC. Depends a bit on who is picking the team I would think.

    I’m also not convinced that a team has to be in a pre cup winning frame of mind to have any show. What I do think is that at some point a team needs to strike with a hot iron of winning performances and that could be right in the middle of the RWC competition itself. Although that may not have been the case in the past I still don’t think, for instance, that NZ’s current exceptional form gives them the nod. It may, however, give them odds on from a betting stance.

    I tend to think that the most significant indication of RWC glory awaiting is the proliferation of maturing fresh talent. In that area Australia has the trump cards. Cooper, Beale, Pocock and O’Connor, almost a third of the team, have been a revelation of biblical proportions and they have only just begun their test careers. I personally had written Beale and Cooper off by the end of 2008; escpecially Beale. But they now form a quartet of the most talented players any international team could put on display – even though Carter would keep Cooper out of a World XV and McCaw would do the same to Pocock. Probably a couple of others would do the same to Beale at fullback and O’Connor on the wing.

    It’s true that the All Blacks have a wealth of talent, but it’s not the excitement machine that these four guys are. The other thing about the pool of potential AB talent is that it can’t get into the team, and that may well be the All Blacks archilles heel come next September. Who is Dan Carter’s backup? Mr Zero! Same for McCaw. And thereby hangs another very fragile rugby tale. The veterans in the AB side will all be a year older next year and although Richie has had a sensational year this year I feel he has been strongly motivated by the team’s less than average (by their standards) performances in 2009. I also think Carter is beginning to show a few tiny frayed edges. Take these two out of the All Black invincibility equation and you have a very different looking team.

    Anyway back to the Wallabies. Yes the scrum is an issue and a very important one. As much as I’ve lost a huge amount of faith in Deans as a master coach, I don’t think he will be blind to the implications this has going into a RWC year. It is not too late to fix things, but the Wallabies chances next year depend on them taking the right remedial action with the scrum NOW.

    Apart from all that there is a reason why we are No. 2 in the world and IMHO the gap between us and No. 1 is showing signs of casting a slightly slimmer shadow.

    • Groucho

      I love the term ‘biblical proportions’. Logically it means 2″ x 4″ x 6″.

    • LOL @ “It’s true that the All Blacks have a wealth of talent, but it’s not the excitement machine that these four guys are. The other thing about the pool of potential AB talent is that it can’t get into the team, and that may well be the All Blacks archilles heel come next September. Who is Dan Carter’s backup? Mr Zero! Same for McCaw. And thereby hangs another very fragile rugby tale.”

      How’s Hosea Gear, Ma’a Nonu, Sivivavtu, Keiran Read and Kaino for excitement? Throw in Ranger, SBW and Corey Jane and we’ve got more than enough ‘excitement’ to match BUT we also have more hard graft and mongrel as well. ‘Excitement’ also comes from big defense and huge hits – something not often in the Wallabies this year.

      And I’d suggest that most teams in the world would struggle for depth in a few positions eg. Braid is probably as close to McCaw as anyone in the Wallabies for Pocock. That’s what makes these guys superstars though….if there were more of them, they wouldn’t be so special.

      • Robson

        “How’s Hosea Gear, Ma’a Nonu, Sivivavtu, Keiran Read and Kaino for excitement? Throw in Ranger, SBW and Corey Jane and we’ve got more than enough ‘excitement’ to match ………..”

        All these guys are great Bullrush, no question, but the operative word in my statement was FRESH talent so you should read what is written before you start laughing. SBW is the only one who meets that criteria, but do you really think the old hands of either Nonu and Smith be superseded by him? And so far SBW hasn’t shown all that much. Maybe he wiil, maybe he won’t. We don’t know. Gear, Nonu, Sivi, Read, Kaino Ranger and Jane are indeed exciting, but the clutch of youngsters in the WBs I mentioned became exciting THIS year. Next year they will be that much better.

        Big hits and mongrel??? Yeah, you do have a point there mate, But we don’t want to forget either, that the two RWCs won by Australia so far were won by the some big doses of two other qualities – skill and cleverness.

        • Bullrush

          Here are Test caps before EOYT:

          Pocock – 25
          O’Connor – 23
          Cooper – 23
          Beale – 9

          ALL BLACKS:
          Jane – 20
          Read – 15
          Gear – 2
          SBW – 0

          Add some pretty exciting guys like –

          Messam – 5
          Whitelock – 8
          Ranger – 2 (I think)

          As well as Israel Dagg and Zac Guildford who would both have less than 10 caps each – FRESH won’t be a problem I think for the All Blacks. So I think it is still funny to claim the ABs don’t have fresh, exciting talent.

          Of course, in the mix of the All Blacks there are some experienced players with 60,70,80 and even 90-odd caps. So hopefully (fingers crossed) we also have the ‘skill and cleverness’ to be able to claim our 2nd RWC next year too.

          Please God….lol

        • Robson

          Messam and Whitelock? You’ve gotta be kidding. Good international players yes, exciting, no. Ranger? A biff and bash artist, but exciting? At provincial level yes, at international level hasn’t shown anything special. SBW? C’mon at least name someone who has done something in a major test match.

          Jane, Read and Gear – especially Gear are definitely in the “excitment” zone. As for Zac G and Israel D – seemingly not wanted on voyage. Not to say that they haven’t got potential, which I think they certainly have, but the three wise men don’t seem to see it that way at the moment.

          BR you are left with three definite “E” class fresh young players. On the question of being “young” they have an average age higher than Pocock, O’Connor, Beale and Cooper.

          History indicates that the All Blacks tend to have skill and cleverness desert them during RWC pressure matches. If they meet the Wallabies in the 2011 final, I know who my money will be on to produce something especially clever and skilful to take the match out, and it’s not the All Blacks.

        • Bullrush

          If ‘excitement’ for you can only be found in the backs then definitely strike-off Messam and Whitelock. Whitelock showed some real promise and skill on the EOYT and Messam (coming from a specialist 7’s background) may just be starting to come good on the potential he’s shown for the last 3-4 years. He always been pretty good with ball-in-hand. Rene Ranger is excitement in a bottle. He’s a guy who can make something happen almost anytime he touches the ball. He’s only had about 2 Tests but if he has another blinder of a Super season then he could be a bolter for the RWC.

          You changed from ‘Fresh’ to ‘Young’ – I can’t be bothered looking at their individual ages (because using their average age can be mis-leading) but who cares about a year or two.

          History also shows that skill and cleverness have rarely been the qualities that win the RWC final. (Interestingly enough, the final that produced the most tries – and argueably the most excitement- was in 1987….which we won). If it comes to grinding an opponent down, desperate stubborn defense, kicking your penalties and finishing the opportunities that come your way, I know who my money will be on.

          Oh let’s face it – no matter what, we both know who our respective monies will be on…lol

        • Robson

          ” If it comes to grinding an opponent down, desperate stubborn defense, kicking your penalties and finishing the opportunities that come your way, I know who my money will be on.”

          You must have lost some money at Cardiff in 2007 then BR.

        • Bullrush

          ” If it comes to grinding an opponent down, desperate stubborn defense, kicking your penalties and finishing the opportunities that come your way, I know who my money will be on.”

          “You must have lost some money at Cardiff in 2007 then BR.”

          Only as much as you probably lost an the cleverness and skillfullness of the Wallabies against England :)

          Unfortunately, kicking penalties relies on the ref actually calling them. Hence why any complaints of favouritism of the refs or P. O’Brien towards the All Blacks are always met by me with complete and total disregard.

        • Robson

          Well the Wallabies weren’t too clever or skillful against England, but as I wasn’t a betting man then I didn’t lose a cent.

          “Unfortunately, kicking penalties relies on the ref actually calling them. Hence why any complaints of favouritism of the refs or P. O’Brien towards the All Blacks are always met by me with complete and total disregard.”

          Me too, but the ref doesn’t stop teams from electing to have a drop kick at goal does he?

        • tim

          so will the AB’s mate, they havent peaked yet either

  • chequebalance

    I think the biggest problem we have had this year is dropped ball and other silly little errors. Without them the amount of scrums we have is limited anyway. i know this come from trying to play expansive free flowing football but nothing annoys me more then a move after 8 phases that ends with a dropped ball. Fix this we have a shot at Bill.

    • Groucho

      I don’t mind the dropped ball. We’re playing high risk rugby.

      We’ll be fine anyway with our first choice scrum and all the props in form. Slipper will force Alexander to the bench methinks. That gives:



      I would back that as good enough to win Bill

      • chequebalance

        It’s all good to be saying when we get back our full pack and our props find form we will be fine, the problem is there is no guarantees that any player will not be injured and that all players will be in form. You may as well say if we were a better team we would win more games. Saying that I agree with your team. Will be keen to see how Vickerman goes on the comeback as well.

    • Swat

      You can’t just ignore the scrum and hope for less handling errors though. The RWC will be in NZ (read: shit weather) and I think it’s been said before about the french game that how long was it going to be until they started to deliberately knock the ball on to get scrums and then win penalties against us. So no, It’s not going to be dropped ball after 8 phases that kills us, with our backs 8 quick phases would see us in over the line many a time. It’s the scrum, there is a reason why people keep banging on about it.

      • Patrick

        There’s a rule for deliberate knock-on, it’s called penalty and yellow card.

        • tim

          you cant prove it mate, players wont make it obvious

      • Nutta

        I am seriously worried about opponents deliberate playing for scrums. Not blatent knock-ons which are clearly yellow-card, but opponents going to scrum whenever and wherever possible plus perhaps some “unfortunate fumbles” when in a difficult/isolated/opportunistic positions would put us in a seriously compromised position.

        Sadly, without re-hashing ALL the stuff discussed about our scrum before (binds, timing, positioning, players, coaching, 8/5/3man, blah blah blah) – I see very little that points to actual rectification of a dead-set, fair-dinkum, formidable Australian Team Scrum before Bill Time.

        Thus my nightmare is crap weather with lots of scrums exacerbated by dumb-arsed reffing and some “unfortunate tactics” leading to a shit-load of yellow cards, 3 pointers and Penalty tries against us. God forbid – do we really think an opponent would actually do something totally smart and deliberately targets our weakness? (Christ knows I would…)

        Our guys are good. But can we really expect to win crunch games knowing we are giving away (say) 10/13/17pts before the kick-off?


      • chequebalance

        I am definitly not saying to ignor the scrum and just concentrate on handling, I guess it did come across a bit like that. I have just gotten used to scrums not going our way so I may be a bit more critical of other areas that are hurting us. I for one like watching attack minded football and when it goes right it is awsome to watch, but I can’t just say well they are trying to get it right so it’s ok if they drop it occasionally. New Zealand play attacking football as well and average a try more a game then us, this is because they have less errors and more consistancy and this makes them rightfully the best team in the world. Oh they have a decent scrum to. ; )

  • The Rant

    Scrum penalties have killed us this year, whether it be by yellow cards, keeping other teams in the game, giving up attacking ball, or just sapping us mentally.

    What I can’t understand about scrums is why they become full arm penalties and even less why they become yellow cards. Penalties are for cheating. From my point of view, we are getting penalised and sent off for being ‘not as good’.

    If the other scrum is better and stronger our scrum won’t be able to stay up – it is just about impossible to hold the shape of the scrum after the other team had pushed through, especially now that the hit is as hard as it has become – and sure that team should get rewarded for that and for me that should be a short-arm – is it cheating to go down under that pressure? Are you cheating by being outmuscled and outplayed?

    Is it cheating:
    – If you miss a tackle cos the other player pushed you off?
    – If you don’t jump as high as the other guy in the lineout?
    – If you are not a fast as the other guy
    – If you can’t kick as far as the other team
    – ????
    Or are you just not as good?

    If you make a dominant tackle and drive them back and get defensive go forward becoming a ruck you get awarded possesion, but it is not a penalty. Why is the same in a scrum suddenly cheating?

    This is my issue without evening touching the already well-pointed out issues regarding the fact that refs don’t know what they are penalising most of the time – they just see one team is better and penalise the other guys…thats the reality of being ‘not as good’

    • Groucho

      The Rant, I think the error in your logic is to assert that penalties are only for cheating.

      Scrum collapses are an example of a penalty that is other than for cheating. The purpose of the penalty is to redress the disadvantage that you’ve caused the other team, by not giving them the opportunity to drive your scrum back, all the way to the try line if they are good enough.

      It’s in the laws. Unfortunately, if you collapse the scrum, whether deliberately or by force, you can be penalised.

      The real problem is that referees don’t really know who collapsed a scrum.

      • The Rant

        Fair enough re: cheating.
        You could also replace the headline above my other examples of play with ‘Should it be a penalty when…’

        ”It’s in the laws. Unfortunately, if you collapse the scrum, whether deliberately or by force, you can be penalised.”
        – this is my issue, that it is the law. Also that we don’t ‘collaspe’ a scrum as an action, but the scrum does collaspe as a result the other team is smashing you apart. If we intentionally try to collaspe it then fair enough for me – but I don’t think we intentionally do that cos we are do busy getting smashed!

        It is not realistically possible for a scrum to hold together while being pushed back all the way to the tryline(be that 5m/25m or 90m).

        Of course none of this would be a problem if we just manned up.

  • Skip

    Just want to say thanks for a fantastic year of articles, podcasts, videos and stats, all with world class analysis that puts a lot of hacks, especially those over the dutch, in the shade – I know it all takes a lot of time and commitment. Guys like you must give Rupert Murdoch nightmares about charging for internet news as this site is the best out there.

    • Swat

      Don’t give them ideas…. but yes, you should all buy stubby coolers to keep these guys going

    • Thanks Skip. Uncle Rupe and his chequebook know where to find us.

      In the meantime I like Swat’s suggestion below!

  • Groucho

    Looking back, this year has featured many a long debate between optimists and pessimists, via the proxy of Robbie Deans’ coaching. Optimists have been painted as pro-Deans and pessimists have been painted as anti-Deans. As with all things, there is a grain of truth in both.

    I’m an optimist. I thought we were having quite a good year, all things considered, until we lost at Twickenham, which hurt. Then my spirits were restored in France.

    But, as Gagger pointed out, had those two errant goal kicks gone right then we would have a genuinely good year: 2:2 vs. the NZRT, a win on the high veldt, and just the one sad ‘n bad loss against the pasty-whites in Twickenham to blot the copy book.

    And here’s a thing. We wouldn’t have had to play any better to have achieved that good result, just kicked two more goals. But if we had done it, then peoples’ perceptions of how we played would have been quite different.

    Funny old thing, perceptions.

    • JD

      Er, yes. And it would have been 3-1 again if our lot had kicked just one goal. 4-0 nil if our boys had kicked one and your misses remained the same.

      If , if , if.

      • Groucho

        You’ve missed my point, which is that an analysis of how a team has performed should be based on its play, not the game tally.

    • Garry

      …..And of course disregarding the oppositions missed kicks at goals.

      I can remember not so long ago that I hated the way that SA would give away professional fouls in their own 22 (and 3 points), rather than a try, just to get field position back, (and often a try). Back then, we were an attacking side with our priority scoring tries. That is how we attempted to win games, with tries. Ahhh, remember the days.

      Contrast that with where we are now. As soon as we get a penalty within 60 yards of the line we have a shot. Probably because we’ve bombed so many tries through fumbled last passes that we’ve lost confidence in ability, and now resort to the 3 point attempt.

      I may be pessimistic about Dingo’s potential, but if reliance on penalties in preference to tries, is our direction, then we will lose penalty shootouts with the Steyns and the Wilkinsens.

      F*ck the penalty attempt, let’s kick into the corner and keep the hand on the jugular.

      • Groucho

        Again, I wasn’t claiming that we had a good year because we could have won more games. Precisely the opposite. I’m saying that the game count is a misleading counter of how well a team has played.

        • JD

          Really? I think it’s a pretty good measure myself. It might not work well for a single game but across a seson it’s pretty accurate I’d say.

        • Langthorne

          I think that over a number of games the results of those games are a pretty good indicator of how well a team has played relative to other teams. Good teams tend to win a lot, shit teams tend not to, average ones somewhere in between.

    • Robson

      I’m beginning to think that when the team played well they did so in spite of Deans. When they didn’t play so well, it was because of him. Cynical?? Maybe.

      I think, however, he’s promoted an ideaology about the game of rugby that hasn’t been well articulated. Nobody would argue that Deans doesn’t know his rugby, but sometimes I seriously wonder if many of the players grasped his meaning firmly enough to bring their lights up in the performances they put out on the park.

      • Garry

        Good point.

        So he may have great ideas, but lacks the ability to pass on that information effectively to a group of professional sportsmen who have his undivided attention for a period of three years.

        But isn’t that a core skill requirement for any coach/teacher?

        Robson, I too came to your first conclusion some time ago. Again, this team feels is full of potential champions, but constantly feels like an ocean liner with no-one steering. BobD may be right about having X number of ‘first pick world 15′ in your squad to win the WC. But all that comes to diddly squat if your coaches haven’t the skill set to mold / shape / direct, to get the best from them.

      • Groucho

        Yes, that’s quite a good argument.

        The team playing badly is evidence of poor coaching.

        The team playing well is evidence of poor coaching.

    • Nabley

      Groucho, I have said before and I say again, goals are the icing and not the cake. A missed penalty could well have been a missed kick for the corner, or the loss of a scrum. Sure it may make the scoreborad look better, but it does not mean the players played better.

  • Great article Gagger, puts it all in perspective nicely.

    For me the biggest concern is losing scrums on our own ball. With the lineout strength perhaps we’re better off taking a shortarm and punting it to compete in good field position. Certainly when we manage to win the ball at the scrum we seem to often punt it anyway..

  • Gallagher

    As highlighted in the vid above, posted by westy, its pretty clear to me where our scrum issue lies… The vid shows EVERYONE pushing, we had our scrum sorted last year, with good scrum performaces against the big scrumming teams such as Boks, Wales, All Blacks, England. Our stock dont all push like the begeezes! I cant remember exactly when it was, but someone posted here a vid some time ago on our scrum woes, and every scrum bar one folded or disintegrated, guess, the only difference is you didnt see Rocky, Pocock or Brown lifting their head early and disengaging frompushing, its simple!!

    Bring back the scrum agression and commitment of Palu and Horwil, and mark my words, our scrum will be sorted next year!

    • Groucho

      I am very disappointed that Noriega and the lads haven’t cottoned onto this ‘push’ thing.

  • Red Rooster

    While the success rate was 60% it is hard to argue that it could have been 73% if Giteau had not missed two kicks. If Beale and O’Conner had missed two significant kicks the winning % would be below 50% – Swings and roundabouts and not a valuable argument for this type of article

  • Nabley

    Gagger, You have to be joking about Elsom being a World XV player? He has only turned in two good games this year. The outside backs are exciting, but the weakness as shown against England was getting the ball out to them. Besides the forward weakness in winning or being penalised out of the ball, there is a weakness in the inside backs. It starts with Genia who has never been able to show the same levels of skill in the Gold as he has in the Red. But the worst part is Carlos Cooper. We all know what Carlos cost the ABs in 2003, are the Wallabies prepared for the same fate.

  • Linus

    Thanks again for the more balanced views on rugby, if I never read another article bemoaning how Australia is crap or alternatively, how they are now the best in the world after one game, I’ll be a happy man.

    I would paint my self an optimist who see’s better ahead, ie no quarter final flameout against England. The scrum will be better, and that the smarts will beat the farts everytime.

  • Funk

    Thanks Gagger great work, I really hope that a couple of the other Australian props out there really push the Bens’ for a spot next year, I’m grumblingly able to accept that them coming back from injuries and with differing scrum stock are probably the reason for the appalling scrum this year, but hopefully the likes of Rodzilla, Fairbrother, Weeks, Holmes can really step up next year to put some pressure on the Bens, so we can get the best out of them and hopefully see the scrum back to where it was at the end of 2009.
    I’m also really looking forward to seeing Digby force his way back into the Wallaby starting line up, with his inside runs and angles added to the back line…watch out. Some of those short little balls from Sanchez hitting Digs on the chest were pretty awsome for the reds.
    Hopefully the Wallabies can get rid of this 2 steps forward and 1 step back crap, that has been affecting them for the last couple of years!

    • Garry

      We just need the selection panel to take the blinkers off, and get their cajoles out.

      • Groucho

        You mean cojones, I think. A cajole is a waterproof jacket.

        • Garry


          Spanish is not my first language, but I’ve been known to speak a little Greek form time.


        • Funk

          Although it was a bit wet on the EOYT so I’m sure some waterproof jackets were brought out.

        • Garry

          Our piggies weren’t hard enough to require a rubber jonny.

  • Langthorne

    and a 25% sucess rate against the ABs is an improvement for Robbie too (although his success against them is still amongst the worst for a Wallaby coach). A clean sweep of the Tri Nations, Bledisloe Cup and World Cup should fix that of course.

    • Robson

      It might also fix Robbie’s employment prospects from 2012 to 2015.

  • Joel

    You are seriously putting Moore ahead of Bismark? Sharpe ahead of Thorn? Rocky ahead of Juan Smith? Genia ahead of Fourie du Preez?

    Just for interests sake let’s do a World XV article of players from 2010. Come find mine on greenandgoldrugby.co.za

    Let the banter begin!

    • BRING IT!

      Bismark and Du Preez have barely played this year, Juan Smith only a little more and yeah, Rocky’s better, Thorne isn’t a line-out lock

      I’ll be over to GAGR.za shortly!

  • Reds Fan 2011

    I am still very suspect on our Wingers. I know they can attack (really what good winger can’t especially with the quick service they get from their inside backs, just look at the reds) BUT their defence is a real question. Mitchell just goes missing some times. You have the opposition 14 running down his wing and you can’t find our number 11 anywhere until its too late or they made 20- 40 metres. O’ Connor to me is not a winger, to be honest I didn’t think he had the toe to begin with but he proved me wrong when he burnt Shane Williams, its his placement again in defensive is haphazard and at times in attack he is the same. To me he could do what he is doing in attack from 12 better than 14. He knows the position and defensively knows what to do. Who would you replace them with I hear you ask? This may be biased but the obvious choice is Digby Ioane and Peter Hynes. Both sound under the high ball (unlike Mitchell & O’Connor) and defensively a lot better in that position (Ioane has improved for my mind out sight compared to a couple of years ago). Just my thoughts!

  • sesenta y cuatro

    Elsom, Sharpe, Moore, Beale?

    Now, this has gone too far.

    I won’t deny the class of anyone of the above mentioned; they are simply outstanding. But to call them world-XV players is just getting ahead of yourself.

    How mant locks do you reckon SA or Ireland for that matter could find to match Sharpe?
    Elsom’s a player I’ve got a lot of respect for, but this one has not been his best season and I think he has yet to reach the level he reached before he left to Ireland.
    Moore… Even the POM hooker gave him a good lesson. He cannot be called world-class.
    Beale, he’s a wonderful player, getting better every game. But he still lacks experience. He’s had his blunders and that’s not something you would ask of your world-XV fullback.

    Now, where does all this end? To this point: The fact is that the Wallabies are better as a team than they are individual by individual. The Dwyer’s theorem is rubbish and the Wallabies World Cup credentials rely on the above fact. Just get a consistent kicker, make sure your “Bens” find 2009’s propping form and your team for 2011 looks pretty good.

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Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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