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.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
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17 Responses to Over-achievers?

  1. Homer Paxton says:

    If he is at bath he is:
    1) cleaning up english rugby
    2) in over his head
    3) given it is England been left high and dry

  2. Ken Parish says:

    I don’t know Homer, but he’s certainly soft-soaping Eddie Jones while Australian rugby goes down the plughole.

  3. cs says:

    Yes Ken, I noticed and wondered about Knuckles spruiking for Eddie in Sunday’s paper. Now he seems to be on campaign to lower the bar. It’s like the way Australia always wins the Olympics on a population basis, in reverse. It’s rubbish of course. Lots of factors go into explaining the strength of the different rugby nations, apart from the basic number of registered players … and one of those factors is coaching.

    Eddie of course is a congenital bar lowerer. Who can forget the way he claimed victory just by getting into the last World Cup final – claiming that many reckoned the Wallabies would not make the semis (huh, Eddie? everyone I know said). I wish someone could dig out the interview he gave after being appointed coach (I googled and failed). In a quote many rugby supporters well remember, the Crazy One claimed the “Wallabies were ready to move up to another plane”. Just give us the old plane back Eddie, quick – or get outta here ya bum.

  4. cs says:

    At last, the rugby brains-trust has put Crazy Eddie on notice. Will this make him wake up to himself with his boring game plans, mad selections and insane subsitution policies? Hopefully. More likely, his low panic threshold will go even lower, and we can standby for the truely bizarre.


  5. Rafe says:

    Presumably the kiwis punch above their weight because there is less competition for playing talent from other codes. No aussi rules, and their soccer and league comps are weak. Anyway, we can beat the Irish at their own game.

  6. cs says:

    Nonsense Rafe. The idea that success is a straightforward function of the biggest playing pool is a hopelessly simplistically flawed formula. Aside from the Kiwis, look at the inverse experience of the Poms – they moved heaven and earth and massive amounts of money by the bucketload to finally win a World Cup (just), afterwhich they promptly collapsed into world easybeats (apart from us, we suspect – but Sunday morning will tell). All sorts of factors and complex relations are in play here, including, I dare repeat, the quality of coaching.

  7. Amanda says:

    Never mind, all that cash the govt is slinging at private schools will surely have the result of increasing the rugby pool. Just a matter of biding your time.

  8. Dave Ricardo says:

    Meh. These things are cyclical.

  9. cs says:

    Oooh. Amanda has gone class conscious on me. Hate that.

  10. Rafe says:

    The ecology of sporting success at the highest level is a truly fascinating topic.For example the Australian grade cricket competition has a long reputation of producing good competitors, by comparison with the English county comp where they play six days a week and used to get into lazy habits.

    Someone pointed out that very few private school lads end up in the national team (Paul Sheehan, the Chappels and Boonie come to mind) and one explanation is that a potential star in a private school at the age of 18 is playing in the school comp, dominating the game against boys while his counterpart in the state system is playing grade and getting tough and mean by playing against men.

    As an aside, what happened to the schoolboy union players who kept Farr Jones and Kearns out of the first XV?

  11. derrida derider says:

    Crazy Eddie’s gotta go, true. It doesn’t explain to me, though, why he hasn’t stuck to the Brumbies formula that got him the job anyway. Just get the bloody ball bloody quickly to your game-breaking backs. And don’t be afraid to put discreet hands in the ruck, stand offside, etc if that’s what is needed to do it.

    Maybe his problem is that Gregan can’t do anything quickly anymore – he’s a once-great player who should have retired a couple of years ago.

  12. dave says:


    Rafe’s point is a good one. the best footballers in Australia are divided between four (possibly five) sports. Have you seen NZ’s soccer team recently? Imagine having Andrew Johns strolling around the rugby union field wreaking havoc with his uncommon strength and bullet passes …

  13. cs says:

    Sorry, I don;t rate rafe’s point, as the pool i merely one of many factors that gointo the quality of the national team, and:

    “Imagine having Andrew Johns strolling around the rugby union field wreaking havoc with his uncommon strength and bullet passes …

    For a start, you can’t stroll in rugby, which presents major problems for most thugby league players – and is one reason why I’m very glad we didn’t waste good rugby money on another likely switch-over failure, as I suspect Johns would have been. The perpetual sequence of set plays that league turns on are just not in the game they play in heaven. The best candidates for switching are the outside backs, and even then they usually only work out if they switch when they are young (e.g. the Sailor problem).

  14. The Wobblies have been found out. The supremacy of the backs have made up for the massive weaknesses in the pack. Now the pack are just chasing shadows so the backs get no ball. Atrocious.

  15. cs says:

    That’s this week Russell. According to Eddie, this week we won if you “take the scrum out”. Last week we won if you take the “primary possession out”. Next week we might win if you “take the other team out”!

  16. kartiya says:

    ken, i suggest if we can’t out muscle them [doesn’t look as though we will for a while ], we had better out think, outstep and outrun them – all is not lost!!

  17. Amanda says:

    So this Whittaker thing.

    Anti-NSW scapegoat or what?

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