Former Queensland rugby coach John Connolly comprehensively demonstrated yesterday why it’s lucky he was never made Wallabies coach. Connolly reckons the Australian rugby team and/or its coach shouldn’t be criticised for the current record run of test losses:
But Connolly, now coaching Bath in the Zurich Premiership in England, said critics should recognise that Australia had overachieved on the world stage and couldn’t compete with other top nations for playing depth.
The Wallabies had been blessed with an overabundance of once-in-a-generation players such as John Eales and Tim Horan when they picked up two World Cups in the 1990s, Connolly said.
The Queenslander also questioned whether Australian playing stocks would be as rich again.
“As far as where we are on the rugby stage, we’ve punched above our weight for a long time,” Connolly said.
In one sense, Connolly is right. As this article of uncertain provenance notes:
The ordinary recreational player is rugby’s bedrock, professionalization notwithstanding. Among the 94 countries that belong to the IRB as of 2003 (see the appendix), England has the most registered players, with 640,000; then South Africa with 430,000, France with 250,000, and Australia, Japan, and New Zealand with 130,000.
You might then regard it as unsurprising that France and South Africa are above Australia on current IRB rankings (although thankfully England is still one spot lower, at least until after next weekend’s test). But the fallacy in that approach is demonstrated by noting that New Zealand is still on top of the rankings, despite having a total player strength almost identical to Australia’s. So Eddie Jones can run but he can’t hide.