Wallabies Captain's Run - Green and Gold Rugby

Wallabies Captain’s Run

Wallabies Captain’s Run

The Wallabies had their last hit-out before the Bleidsloe Cup match tomorrow night in a Captain’s Run at Allianz Stadium, this morning.

At least that’s what they called it; Head Coach Michael Cheika was barking instructions as usual although Stephen Moore spent a long time with them at the end of practice.

A lot of time was spent on lineouts and restarts from the 22 and half-way–not giving away many secrets there.

There was some kicking practice at the end and you could see part of the reason why Cheika wanted Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell in his stable. They were the only ones who were kicking with their left feet – I mean, really kick.

When I asked Mitchell about it he said it would be useful to have a left foot and right foot option if he was at the back near Folau to help relieve the pressure, if needed. (You think, Drew?)

It was exciting to watch Michael Hooper and David Pocock working in tandem.

You have to admire the way Cheika has rotated a lot of players, relatively, in his three selection efforts in the Rugby Championship matches. Many of them were mooted in our Green and Gold forums but we never thought some would see the light of day, yet now we have the “Pooper” combo of Pocock and Hooper, that many of us wanted to see.

The Poopers and Izzy

Izzy and the Poopers

The presser

Stephen Moore and Drew Mitchell attended a press conference but didn’t give much away.

Moore said not to expect too much that was new in the Bledisloe match:

We’ve got a way that we want to play we’re trying to stick to; we’ve tried to buy into that in the last two tests and this is our next opportunity.

This is still early in the piece for us. We haven’t achieved anything yet; we’ve just got to keep our feet on the ground, keep our head down and keep working hard to get what we want.

On going for the lineout option instead of a penalty goal to tie the test against the Springboks:

We wanted to try to win the game, it’s as simple as that; so we went for the corner […] if it doesn’t come off you look like a bit of a mug but in that instance it luckily came off.

He said the Wallabies could do that again, depending on the situation.

Mitchell said if the Wallabies can stay on the same page for 80 minutes they should get the outcome they desire but they couldn’t go away from that plan because the All Blacks had punished them in the past when they did.

He admired the All Blacks in the way they react to changes in the game and even when players have to be replaced short-term through injury, or longer-term from the passing of the years, they stay on the cutting edge.

A scrum of media

A scrum of media

Other Snippets

• Wycliff Palu did not train as he will be playing for Manly tomorrow and had a day off.

• Sam Carter told me he should be right to play in two weeks.

• Kane Douglas is training as though he never left the country—and looks as fit as a trout.

• Being around Waratahs’ training a lot I’ve seen Kurtley Beale with his jersey off a few times and I’ve never seen him so buffed as now.

• Tatafu Polota-Nau was signing an autograph for a little bloke and he asked him who his favourite player was and the kid said enthusiastically – “Izzy”. Taf pouted and said, “What about me?” and then said he was only kidding. He’s great with the youngsters, is Taf.

"Who's your favourite player"

“Who’s your favourite player?”

• Talking of Folau – he got a decent looking drop-kick between the posts.

• Matt Toomua used to have a pop-gun kick when he played for Eastern Suburbs but he is hoofing it a long way now and can Nic White hoist his box kick high, or what?

• There was a drone at Allianz Stadium today; it didn’t look like a spy drone because it was all white, not all black—and it didn’t appear to have a silver fern logo on it.

Drone (smaller aircraft in middle) without silver fern

Drone (smaller aircraft in middle) without a silver fern

• There’s going to be a scrum record attempt at ANZ Stadium tomorrow but I reckon the scrum of reporters and camera crew was pretty big also.

• Steve Larkham looks like he could play tomorrow night. I sighed a bit when he wanted to send the ball to a player and dished out one of his long passes.

Bernard Foley - how will he kick?

Bernard Foley – how well will he kick at goal?

Five questions

• Will Giteau be able to compete against the bulk and long arms of Sonny Bill?

• Will the Wallaby goal kicking be decent?

• Will the scrum improve with Sio replacing Slipper?

•  Will Pocock be successful at no.8?

•  Will our bench rise to the occasion again?

Photos by Lee Grant

  • Patrick

    Great report, thanks!! I fully understand the sigh – at least you weren’t bobas who would have had a different response :)
    Glad to hear that there was some decent kicking going around, too.

    • Bobas

      And I lark-camed in my pants

  • brumby runner

    “He admired the All Blacks in the way they react to changes in the game and even when players have to be replaced short-term through injury, or longer-term from the passing of the years, they stay on the cutting edge.” – Drew Mitchell.

    Unfortunately the ABs don’t just stay at the cutting edge, they define it. Even when they bring players into the side, they are not content to keep them at that level. It seems to me that they put effort into then developing each and every one of them in new skills, so that you really don’t play the same team or same players in subsequent games, but the same players with additional skills which then reflect in a more highly skilled team and game plan. Example – Ma’a Nonu was always a hard attacking player with good step and defense. But over time he developed ball distributing skills and kicking skills. In the process he retained his initial skills and became a better player. Then take any of their forward pack. All good, test level players at their respective roles when they start, but along the way find support running skills, passing skills and high level handling skills that are uncommon in most other forward packs.

    Every time they step out in the black they seem all to grow additional legs, but I think that’s because they have developed new skills and attributes over time and they are consequently a better team playing better rugby, cutting edge rugby.

    I wish I could see a similar growth amongst our players over time. Perhaps Will Skelton is an example of an Aus player showing the development that comes from good, individual-specific coaching.

  • Nick

    Another quality article. Filled with optimism too! Love it. Can’t wait for tomorrow night.

  • Simon

    White is still banned from box kicking for the Wallabies.. It’s a career-length ban, after last time.

    • bad ass

      Even other half backs are banned based on what White did.

      • That’s a great throw-away line, but Phipps box-kicked several times in the Argentina game and the team has been open about developing more variation in their game for the RWC. I don’t think you’ll see too many tonight, though.

        • bad ass

          Yeah hawko, it is a good technique when executed once or twice in the right situation, and it keeps the defence guessing. But our half backs are just not very smart about how and when to do it. Every other nation in Rugby can do it well, so I don’t know how our half backs get to the Wallabies without having spent years perfecting the box kick (and the secret to making it work is where and when to do it, not just being able to boot it up into the sky whenever there is a spare second).

        • Who?

          It’s also down to the quality of our chase, which is still consistently not good enough.

        • bad ass


  • Who?

    I thought captain’s runs were meant to be private..? Our club had a team set up to go to the Boks’ captain’s run at Suncorp, but were banned by ‘Aussie’ security… That’s the explanation from Heyneke to our contact (he offered for our boys were welcome to visit at the hotel instead). The boys were shattered. Their dads had all taken a day off work to make the 2 hour drive in to Suncorp.

    • Lee Grant

      It was open to the ARU media with credentials only and some brought their kids.

      Photos of lineouts weren’t allowed.

      • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

        Are there guys with binoculars looking out for drones?
        Okay by all means limit the distractions, but seriously, in this day and age how ‘secure’ can anything like this really be?

  • Huw Tindall

    Is having a flat long fast pass like Larkham, Cooper, Beale and good old Andrew Johns etc possible to develop or is there some gene you need in your body like fast twitch muscle fibers or something? I find it hard to believe that we guys like Foley and Tommua can’t work on this. It’s such an asset and seems like a ‘skill’ rather than a ‘trait’.

    • Who?

      I haven’t seen Beale throw many balls that would compete with Larkham and Cooper… I think it’s technique, which is more natural to some than others. Just like some guys can drop kick beautifully and naturally, and others just can’t.
      An equally big issue, beyond the capacity to throw the ball, is the vision to know when to throw the long, flat ball. It’s not something every player has. I think Toomua could probably throw that long ball. Barnes had a decent pass. But Bernie’s skill was picking when Snorky was going to get through the line, or Giteau, Herbert, Little, Horan… It’s having options, and picking the right one. I don’t know that our 10’s have, generally speaking, had the opportunity to pick from multiple runners regularly enough recently. The option of a wide, inbound runner (Mortlock), a tight, drifting runner (Giteau), and inside ball to a hard charging winger (Ioane)… Too regularly, our runners don’t force singular tacklers to make difficult decisions. Which makes life tougher for our 10’s.

      • Bobas

        Larkhams skill was his accuracy despite running speed. Cooper has a very good stationary pass but can be more erratic when running at pace, something sevens will fix in no time. No one else mentioned comes close to those two.

        • brumby runner

          That’s true. This won’t go down well with too many on this site, but the player who has the best ability to throw a lengthy pass and pick out the right running option from those available is Nic White.

        • Pedro

          Like you I hope White can redeem himself tonight. It’s sad that people can’t let go off the hate.

        • whig

          People can let go of the hate easy. Remember the hate Dean Mumm got on being picked in the squad? One awesome, barnstorming, skillful, try-scoring run later, and an error free cameo, and there’s nothing but love and general agreement at him being picked in the run on side.

        • Pedro

          Agreed I was one of the haters on that one. White has never had many opportunities though for someone of his ability and has generally been in the top 2or 3 half backs for Australia but has been injured at the worst times. I think against the all blacks any error is amplified.

        • Pedro

          Well that went better than I dared dream. Good call.

        • Who?

          Any chance he might’ve done that..? The final 10 points in a match where we won by 8, and Phipps had a shocker, ending with a YC…

        • Pedro


        • Who?

          If you’re talking 9. Don’t think he goes too well at 10! Kicking game’s big enough…
          Agree about his ability to find the right player from 9 – does it with great regularity.

        • Pedro

          I agree. Long, accurate passes while running at pace are the rarest skill. Toomua has that ability although not at the level of Steve and Quade.

        • Who?

          Quade’s running pass is excellent, we just haven’t seen it for a long time… Seriously, when was the last time he played behind regular front foot ball, or needed to give a massive pass on a breakout? The last one I can remember was the left to right pass (his non-preferred side) to AAC against the Boks, somewhere around 2010! Still one of the greatest pure passes I’ve ever seen, onto a 2Dads flying down the sideline. Pure pass as in, regardless of the outcome, it was technically excellent (i.e. it was long, so it had spin, and spun true and straight), and it was in front of the man who was able to run onto it without breaking stride.

      • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

        Spot On mate. Bernie strikes me as a student of the game and someone who may well play chess.
        What move and when seems equally important as how. I’m not convinced that there are too many who actually ‘think’ about the game like he did, and still does.
        Beale for example comes across as an off the cuff ‘I’m an X factor’ type. And Bernie seems almost the polar opposite, which brings predictability. That’s my take on it anyways.

        • Who?

          I don’t think Bernie was predictable. If he were, then all those great runners outside him never would’ve gone through so many holes. The defence would’ve predicted where the ball was going. And he never would’ve ghosted through the line so many times. I just think the runners outside Bernie were smart enough to realize that, if they put themselves in a position where the ball might come to them, then they’d better be ready for it to come to them! That was the problem with Quade’s ‘unpredictability’ in 2009-11. It was that he was consistently picking the right ball runner, but the ball runner was thinking they were just running a line, not acting as a genuine option. SO the ball would ping off their chest, as they ran into a hole. Clearly, the defence realized they weren’t a genuine option, so they’d drifted off the runner. But it’s not hard to catch a ball when it’s in the air for 10-20m!
          Beale’s a very different player to Bernie, and also to Quade. Beale creates with his feet. You don’t see him regularly looking for a 15+m pass. You also don’t see that from Foley. It’s just not their deal. Bernie and Quade are different to each other, but I think their vision is something they share.
          I really do get disappointed by the amount of times we see little to no guile in our runners. Support runners who have their hands down, not expecting the ball. Or just not there! I think it was a Bob Dwyer article a couple of years ago on here that pointed out how Conrad Smith created a try for the ABs by taking two small steps backwards and sticking up his hands. He realigned, and made himself an option. Which meant the stretched Aussie defence couldn’t drift past him, and the space outside was preserved – Conrad was cut out by the halfback, and the man outside went in easily.
          It’s the reason I get excited when I see a blindside winger not just wrap around to run the ball up, but also to be a decoy, hands up high ready to receive the ball. Too often we see our runners as one option against three defenders, rather than three runners at one defender.

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

          Just quickly as the pre-test chat is just started.
          My bad – There are of course 2 Bernie’s. I should have differentiated with Bernard as being predictable.
          I would never accuse Steve ‘Bernie’ Larkham as predictable. Quite the opposite.
          Sorry about that.

      • Punter

        Excellent point Who? Don’t forget Bernie played all of his jnr rugby at halfback so would have honed is long ball there. But you are absolutely right. it is not just about the skill but about when to apply it. Bob Dwyer goes beserk at long passes as he does not think they are effective (think Spencer RWC 2003). But they do have a place… and like any skill it is about application. I also think we do not see it as much as the game has evolved. Now it is popular to have a rush defender popping out of the defensive line (it is less attractive) to shut it down.

      • Graeme

        I wish I could double thumbs up you. Bernie was never an x-factor player. Individually I wouldn’t say he was anything above average. His skill was that he made everyone around him look twice as good. There is nothing more frustrating in the backs than when you can see there is a player defensively out of position, leaving a gap, but the playmaker doesn’t. Bernies skill was his uncanny ability to work out exactly who was the best positioned to cross the gain line and then throw a pinpoint accurate pass such that they would receive it on the chest running at the exactly right angle.

    • Sape

      It is something you drink from your mamas titties, much like running. That being said every skill is trainable, but I doubt Will Skelton would ever throw passes as good as Cooper or Larkham even if he trained it 24/7.

      The best athletes usually train alot on their spare time as youngsters, do more than just one sport and learning by watching is also important.

      I dont know how familiar you are with football players but Zlatan Ibrahimovic states in his book that when he was a kid he used to watch videos over and over again of great players performing yinks and tricks and then he would go out and would not stop before he perfected the same moved, this is propably what the great rugby players also have done when they were kids.

      • bad ass

        Agreed. Like Bradman with his cricket stump in the yard, there’s plenty of work over years developing those types of skills.

    • Bobas

      It can be trained. But testing a new technique in rugby is like standing in the middle of a 15 lane freeway and not knowing which way your meant to go.

    • bad ass

      It takes years of practice and conditioning. People with those passing skills were likely playing footy, touch, passing with mates in the yard or at the beach or whatever when not playing rugby in years gone by. Can’t do it in a couple of seasons.

    • Duh

      If it was 100% learnable, then we would all play for the Wallabies. It’s both, of course.

    • Aron

      I’d propose that it is a skill mostly developed. Bernie is a deep thinker who would have fine-tuned his body mechanics to throw those passes. Passing was one of the better aspects of my game simply because of the hours invested visualising/adjusting whilst throwing the ball against the wall in the backyard as a kid.

  • Bobas

    What I wouldn’t give to see another Larkham full pace left to righter hit the winger on the chest.

    • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

      Well get down to training then. Word is he still has it.

      • bad ass

        Yes,….or watch Quade.

  • Graeme

    Of your five questions the Giteau va SBW one is interesting. Giteau is a bloody good tackler, but because he is small he tackles around the legs, not ball-and-all tackles. Giteau’s technique allows the player a bit of time to off-load which Is a gift to SBW. This might not be an issue, the players either side of Giteau will be assuming they’ll have to tackle the offloadee, but it still is dangerous. Toomua might have been a safer option defensively.

    • Ben

      When tackling Williams or Read (or any other premier offloader), your priority still has to be bringing your man down and if that means living with some offloads, fine, as long as the guys on either side of you are doing the job. Check out the NZ game v Wales last year, SBW made about 5 handling errors trying to offload so it involves risk for the attacking team too.

  • Canuckruck

    I still think that the best 10-12 combination will be Cooper – Toomua. I don’t think that Foley – Giteau is going cut it sadly. Lots of heart and skill in Foley and Giteau, but I think Carter – SBW are going to trump Foley Giteau. Carter’s skill and decision making beats Foley, and worried that SBW’s size, direct running and offloading is going to beat Gits.

    Looking forward to the Pooper, love the breakdown turnover potential, but worried about the dynamic 8 man running.

    I hope we’re going to see Cooper Toomua again.

    I’ll still be getting up at 0400 in Canada to watch the game!

  • Feels good ! I’m very keen to see the SBW/Gits battle at 12. and also how the Pooper works against the larger counter parts in the AB’s. Go the Wallabies !!

  • Gilbert

    I loved it when Bernie dropped kicked the ball to kick the Boks out in 99. Love that man..


Voted most valuable member of the G&GR Forum since records began - Ed.

More in Rugby