I think “defence” is about the structure of the defensive line, line speed and the performance of the team as a whole, whereas “tackling” is what the individuals in the team do.
No matter how well a team’s defence is working, if the individuals aren’t tackling well, the opposition are going to put points on you. The same applies if the individuals are tackling well but the defence is poorly organised.
I thought the Wallabies defence improved the further the EOYT went on. One factor in that improvement would be a drop in the quality of the opposition compared to the first game against New Zealand but I think the addition of a defence coach must have also helped.
All three tries the All Blacks scored in Hong Kong were the result of issues with the Wallabies structure – the first when the Wallabies defence at the edge of the ruck on their own line was non-existent and the other two where the Wallabies ended up with front rowers defending at the end of their backline, which created mismatches.
Of the five remaining tries oppositions scored against the Wallabies in the tests on tour, three were from a scrum close to the line – one each to Wales and Italy when the Wallabies missed tackles and one penalty try to France. That left the two tries against England and either of those tries should have been allowed as I discussed in my review after the England game.
All five line breaks the All Blacks made in the first match of the tour were issues with the defence and occurred in the #13 channel – of course two of those had front rowers in the #13 channel which led to the tries mentioned above.
Wales only made two line breaks in their match, with one coming from a turnover at the ruck and the other from a good offload. Neither were as a result of issues with the defence.
Of the 9 line breaks England made, 6 were from turnover ball where the Wallabies didn’t react quickly enough, 1 was a result of poor tackling on a kick chase, 1 was a poor tackling effort in the #10 channel and one was an issue with the defence where Benn Robinson found himself on the end of the line facing a five on one situation.
Italy only made the one line break, which was the result of the Wallabies failing to catch a high ball from the Italians.
France managed 2 line breaks, one as the result of a good offload and the other as a result of an issue with the Wallabies defence where France ended up with a good overlap out wide.
Overall, the Wallabies looked to have opposition attacks covered during the European leg of the tour, except for a big issue with defending turnover ball against England. The Wallabies’ line speed appeared much better throughout the tour than earlier in 2010.
In terms of dominant tackles, 21 percent of the Wallabies tackles were dominant on the EOYT compared to 22 percent for the whole season, so there was no major difference in this area.
One of the major differences in the Wallabies’ defence was the shift to move Quade Cooper out of the line after his poor tackling performances early on the tour. In all games on tour Quade was in the #10 position for all opposition set pieces but on subsequent phases things changed as the tour went on. In the game against New Zealand in Hong Kong, he was in the front line of defence 75 percent of subsequent phases. That seems about the right sort of percentage for a flyhalf because most teams have their #10 covering kicks, particularly when defending in the opposition half. After the England game there was a noticeable change – against Italy Quade was in the front line of defence 64 percent of the time and against France it was down to 46 percent.
When we look at the phases where Quade was in the front line of defence against New Zealand, Quade was in what I’d consider a typical #10 position 91 percent of the time. Against Italy, that reduced to 43 percent and against France it was down to 41 percent.
That is clearly a change in structure made by the coaches to emulate some of what the Reds did in the 2010 Super 14. It has clearly worked because in the games against New Zealand and England Quade was called on to make 23 tackles and missed 13 for a 44 percent success rate whereas in the games against Italy and France he was only called on to make 11 tackles and he made 10 for a success rate of 91%. The move is a logical one and although we’ll never know for sure who drove the change, it also seems logical that Phil Blake must have played a major role in the decision. I hope the Wallabies retain a specialist defence coach in 2011.
In terms of tackling, Quade ended up with a tackle success rate of 60 percent for 2010, which was the lowest of all 34 players who got on the field this year. There were a couple of 100 percent players but they achieved that with very little playing time. The leading defender of those that has substantial game time, both in terms of numbers of tackles made and tackle success rate, was David Pococok with 245 tackles at a success rate of 98 percent!
The most dominant tacklers of those that had reasonable game time were Rob Simmons at 38 percent, Nathan Sharpe, Saia Faingaa and Dean Mumm at 35 percent and Ben Daley at 33 percent. Of the forwards, Mark Chisolm at only 9 percent dominant tackles wasn’t very dominant at all! In the backs Adam Ashley-Cooper achieved 20 percent dominant tackles whilst Lachlan Turner also achieved that same percentage from a lot less game time. Luke Burgess was next best at 18 percent with a number of back line players at 17 percent including Kurtley Beale.
Lachlan Turner with a 100 percent tackle success rate was best of the backs in this area with Will Genia next best at 89 percent. Quade Cooper, Rob Horne and Kurtley Beale filled the bottom three slots in the backline with their tackle success rates.
I’ve also included another measure looking at the ratio of tackles made to minutes played. Matt Hodgson only played 57 minutes but achieved a ratio of 0.35. As you’d expect David Pocock was prominent at 0.21 and James Slipper at 0.18 was a good result. Anthony Faingaa, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia and Luke Burgess led the backs with ratios of 0.11 to 0.14. Of course statistics like this don’t always reveal the true story of what players were doing in defence but over the full season it’ certainly interesting to see the differences between players.
Here are the results for the Wallabies tackling in 2010 – we’ll start looking at other areas next week.
|Player||Minutes Played||Total Tackles Made||Tackles Made to Minutes Played Ratio||Dominant Tackles||Dominant Tackle %||Tackles Missed||Successful Tackle %|