There’s been lot’s of discussion about what’s going wrong with the Wallabies attack. This video looks at a few examples that, not surprisingly, confirms what has been said on this site over the last few days.
Running The Wrong Angles
Clip 1 – From turnover ball Wallabies have a 4 v 3 situation with Giteau, Cooper, Cross and Mitchell in the line ready to attack. The Scots know they’re in trouble and start backing away to buy time for cover to arrive. As soon as the Wallabies see this they must run straight at their opponent to force him to commit so he can’t slide across field anymore. Simple hands across the backline with the three players inside running straight at their opponent should leave Mitchell free with some room to move. Giteau runs straight but passes early allowing his defender to start sliding across field. Worse still he throws a cut out pass to Cross and we’re down to a 2 v 2. Cross gets the ball on the 15m line and runs 15m forward but across field so he ends up within 2m of touch. Scots slide across and Mitchell has to come inside as 3 Scots have now converged. Instead of taking the ball in and recycling, Cross throws a loose pass inside which goes straight to a Scotish player.
Clip 2 – Turnover ball again and we start with a 6 v 5. Smith at first receiver opts to pass to Giteau straight away. Ideally Chisolm would work hard off the ball and run forward as a decoy to hold up some of the inside defence but he doesn’t. Giteau runs across field and passes early to Cooper. That allows the defenders from Smith and Giteau to slide onto Cooper. Cooper also runs sideways but is fast enough to get outside a defender re-establishing a 4 v 3 when he passes to AAC. Unfortunately the pass is another cut out so the numerical advantage is lost again. AAC needs to straighten to hold up the sliding defence and give Hynes some room but he also runs across field forcing Hynes to come back inside straight back into the sliding defence. From the resulting breakdown the ball is turned over.
Clip 3 – We start with a 6 v 5. Giteau at first receiver has Mitchell inside who can act as a decoy to hold up the inside defenders. Giteau starts his run going across field but when he gets the ball he goes straight across field. The inside defenders no longer have to worry about Mitchell as he’s clearly not going to get the ball so slide with Giteau. By the time Giteau passes to Cooper Scotland have covered across field in defence to bring the equation back to 4 v 4. Cooper also runs across field and outside him Cross is running the same line. AAC offers the straight run but when Cooper turns the ball inside to him he runs straight into the sliding defence. Ruck forms and Scotland have both sides of the ruck pretty well covered. Direction is reversed and forwards punch the ball forward to suck defenders in. They do it well and combined with quick ball, Genia finds Cross on the 15m line with Mitchell in space outside him. If Cross straightens and engages the defence he can pass to Mitchell who has some room to move. Instead Cross runs on an out angle allowing Scotland to slide so that when Mitchell gets the ball he has less than 5m to work in and is tackled into touch.
Clip 4 – When Palu passes to Smith we have a 5 v 4 (and the 4 Scots are not in a very cohesive line). Smith passes straight away to Giteau so we have preserved a 4 v 3 still with a staggered defensive line in front. Scots defensive line is back peddling and now is the perfect time for Giteau to take them on. However he throws a cut out pass to Cross which takes away the advantage as it’s now 2 v 2 but it’s still a staggered defensive line so when Cross receives the ball 25m from touch, Mitchell has space in front of him. Initially Cross straightens which is good because it puts the defensive line in two minds. Cross identifies this and as soon as the Scotish #14 turns his back, Cross runs into the hole behind him. Unfortunately this also takes space away from Mitchell so when Cross passes to him, there is very little room to move. The problem here was not the line Cross ran, it was the cut out pass that Giteau threw which allowed the defence to slide and take the space that Mitchell ultimately needed.
Clip 5 – Whether the pass is forward or not (and I believe it was), the backs are again running sideways and there is absolutely no need to throw the cut out pass.
The common theme in these clips is that 10, 12 and 13 are all running the same angle – across field. This takes space from the wingers and #15 on the outside. It also makes it easy for the defence to slide across. Sometimes it’s necessary for some cross field running to get to holes but then the ball carrier needs to straighten to accentuate the hole and have a runner also straighten into the hole. Changing the angle between the ball carrier and the runner is one of the most effective ways to break the line. The other common theme is the cut out pass. If space is identified out wide that does not necessarily mean just getting the ball wide as quickly as possible. Modern defences are too good for this tactic to beat them. I read Bob Dwyer’s comments in the last few days that the cut out pass needs to be banned by the coach to stop wasting opportunities. I agree but surely the Wallaby coach doesn’t have to treat the best players we currently have like you might treat players in a schoolboy side – or maybe he does!
No Understanding Between Players
Clip 6 – When Giteau receives the ball from Smith at first receiver (again) there’s not much on. He has Moore outside him as an option to crash the ball forward but Cooper and Cross seem to be hanging back to see what Giteau does. Giteau clearly knows what he’s going to do. He obviously spotted a gap out wide before he got the ball and came up with a plan. When he receives the ball he does not hesitate – he kicks to the space immediately, which would have been a great option if there was a Wallaby winger out there. What this shows is there is no understanding between the backs as Cooper and Cross had no idea it was on. If we were playing what’s in front of us, Giteau would have looked up, seen no-one else had the same idea and given it to Moore to cart up so he could sweep around and get set for the next phase. Instead we are left watching Giteau blasting Cross for not reading his mind.
Clip 7 – Cooper at first receiver gets us started by running sideways and Giteau receives the ball going sideways. Cross sees he’s running out of space so cuts inside. Whether he should have stayed wide or cut inside is a 50/50 call and in a split second he makes a decision. Giteau doesn’t even seem to think this is an option so passes the ball outside to where he expected Cross to be. You would think they had never played together! How many times must that same situation have come up playing for the Force or running against opposition at Force or Wallaby training?
It’s hard to get combinations firing really well when players like Barnes and Ioane are out injured but the reality is they’ve had weeks of training and playing on this tour to at least develop some understanding.
Taking The Wrong Decisions
Clip 8 – This is exactly the situation Bob Dwyer made comment on on this site last week. When Giteau gets the ball we have a 4 v 3 and are in good field position. The Scots have numbers back expecting the kick, so now’s the time to run. Giteau obviously didn’t see it that way and kicks for the line. Technically it’s a good kick and gains ground but tactically? We’ve given the ball back to the opposition who from the lineout kick the ball back to halfway where we started with the ball. Within one phase, we’ve made no gain at all. Had we mixed it up a bit and run the ball in situations like this, who knows?
Clip 9 – Having failed to make any impact during the first half someone obviously raised the option of grubber kicks for the second half because now we start a pattern of wasting good attacking ball by putting in speculative grubber kicks at times when the back line should be backing themselves. This time it’s Giteau and it’s a poorly executed kick which is easily cleared by Scotland.
Clip 10 – This time it’s Cooper with the grubber kick. It appears there is no faith so they’ll just start trying things.
Clip 11 – Again it’s Cooper with the grubber kick when there was a good opportunity to keep the ball in hand and set up for the next phase.
Clip 12 – This time it’s Mitchell who although he had no immediate support and was running out of room could have cut back inside to where two forwards are getting into position to secure the ball at the breakdown and go again. Instead Mitchell just kicks it away with no chasers who could have scored and cover already back for Scotland.
Soft turnovers of possession like these must have riled the forwards who did a good job all night to give us a massive share of possession. There needs to be some respect developed for the ball.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Clip 13 – Here Giteau again runs across field but it’s not an aimless run. He’s identified a hole and has a runner aiming for the hole. He has to run across field to get the ball to Moore as he hits the hole. It’s a pretty simple concept well executed here – quick stop the clip before Moore crosses the line and complicates it again!
Clip 14 – Although it’s his only touch of the game O’Connor also runs across field but again it’s for a purpose. He knows with his speed he can get around the man into the hole he’s seen. Importantly once he’s through the hole he straightens up to maximise the hole.
Clip 15 – We’re in extra time but finally once he’s got the ball Giteau straightens and as a result he increase the hole for Cross. Cross also straightens, runs into the hole and it’s a very simple try.
Basic stuff – runners change angles to run into holes and the ball carrier does their bit by straightening to hold the defender out of the hole.
Where to From Here?
Change the selections? I think our best back line would be Genia at #9, Barnes at #10, Giteau at #12, Ioane at #13, Mitchell and Hynes on the wings and AAC at #15. I’m assuming we won’t see Mortlock again in a Wallabies jumper and I wouldn’t be altogether opposed to AAC at #13, Ioane on the wing and Mitchell at #15. However, I think AAC can become a great #15 and he should be left there to develop. For me the same goes with Ioane at #13. In a perfect world, Cooper and O’Connor would be bench players.
This week I don’t think mass changes will be a benefit. I’d love to see Giteau moved to #12 or given a rest to see if that helps. I also think Cooper’s blown his chances and should be dropped. However, we’ve got no Barnes this week so I think we need to keep Giteau at #10. I’d give O’Connor a run at #12 and assuming Ioane is right bring him back to #13. No change in the back three for me. That would maintain some continuity and combinations in the starting back line. Cooper would go out of the squad as would Burgess for me as I thought he was terrible on Saturday and I can’t see a future for him as a Wallaby. I’d leave Cross on the bench and as long as they play reasonably against Cardiff I’d give Toomua and Kingi a run on the bench.
I’m sure Deans has been working on discipline and identifying opportunities with the back line but it’s hard to see how things will change much within a week. For me the easiest thing to change is to let them play what they see in front of them with two overriding rules that must be followed at all times – no kicking once we have the ball inside the opposiiton half; and no cut out passes. If they can master those two simple things and keep the ball in hand I think we’d see immediate improvement.