Bledisloe Blues

I’ll leave others to report on the match but wanted to say that the game and the result, while not unexpected, could have been made more interesting had the Australian coach been more constructive.

I say not unexpected because the world’s best attacking team vs the best defending team was always going to be a dour affair, especially after Gregan was spear-tackled by Sione Lauakai (one has to question if the PI player was put up to it by his Super 12 team mates) and the Wallaby’s forced to play a second string halfback. Although the pundits played down the significance of a missing Roff, I believe his absence was material.

I really didn’t think that the 5/8 position was as crucial as described by Ken while he was waxing lyrical about the potential for rugby league strategies to influence rugby union. That opinion was shattered on Saturday when “Australian flyhalf Stephen Larkham began the game in howling winds and pelting rain by kicking out on the full, a portent of what was to come from the Brumbies player, who spent most of the game on the back foot and had a poor match.” What would Chris Sheil have done immediately after the second or third bad kick ? Swapped Bernie and Matt Giteau of course. It was Giteau’s kick that led to the only Australian try. How many more opportunities could have been created off Giteau’s boot had he played in the pivot position ? Poor coaching I thought.

And as for Wendell Sailor, a more incompetent useless individual I have not seen in a test game. Who was supposed to be looking after Doug Howlett when he scored the only All Black try ? And who could not perform the most basic of rugby skills; catch and run, when the ball went to the wing the only time in the second half ? I don’t know how the selectors make their decisions but they have blundered big time by including Sailor in any test side.

I suspect that the All Blacks will win the second game easily, there is little to play for, a situation that could be rectified by having three game series to decide the Bledisloe Cup. Who cares who wins the tri-nations, indeed I really don’t get all that excited by the World Cup; but beating the All Blacks, that’s the most important thing in the rugby world!

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cs
cs
2021 years ago

Agree with all that Woodsy, bar the intro and conclusion. I don’t think the Blacks are any better in attack – or at least don’t have the backs to match the Wallabies: King Carlos and Clark in particular had poor games, and George would have better contained Marshall. In fact, I thought they were out of options and on the verge of cracking-up at the end of the first half – and would have, if we could have got some second half field position (which takes us back to the kicking game, alas). The wet weather (and the ref) favoured the Blacks, who have the most dominating forward pack (although we still pinched some line-outs, gave few turnovers, and didn’t lose any against the head … which again takes us back to our kicking game), and they played a smart 10 man game. Sans Sailor, man on man, only Umuga and Rococoko are ahead of their Wallaby opposites in the backs in my book, and Morts and Rathbone are not far behind.

As for the return bout, there is NEVER nothing to play for when you front the Blacks. It’ll be as hard fought as anything you’ll see on the rugby field, and if it’s dry, I expect the Wallabies to kick Black arse.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

“and Morts and Rathbone are not far behind.”

I agree on Mortlock, in fact I don’t reckon he stacks up worse than Umaga overall. But Rathbone is another matter. He did fine against the Poms, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer. He got smashed by the Pacific Islanders. I actually thought Wendell might be a better bet, but I’m finally forced to agree with Wayne and Chris. He’ll never be a top class rugby winger. When does Matt Rogers get back from injury? What other wing possibilities are there? there’s always Rogers at fullback and Roff on the wing, of course.

I agree Gregan will make all the difference when he’s back at half. But I’m not sure how Wayne manages simultaneously to deny the force of my RL 5/8 hypothesis while observing (correctly) that Larkham hasn’t got it when the chips are down. Maybe Giteau could be developed, but it needs someone with the technical and strategic skills to develop him. That’s where I thought Johns migh have come in, despite his age. I still reckon 5/8 is the key, and adapting RL gameplans is the other element. Chris might be right that the Wallabies will go better in the dry. But I remain to be convinced. I suspect that the All Blacks’ expansive RL-derived game will be even more obviously superior in those conditions. Let’s discuss it after the next game.

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2021 years ago

Must pay homage to our courage and commitment in defence. There was one onslaught after another, phase after phase, and then restart and all over again. That was really something.

For my two bobs, one of the big problems we are having is of course ball control. Getting the ball is part of that. It seems to me that our forwards are so highly drilled technically that they’ve removed themselves from a fundamental key to success: the pack hunt, pack “oneness”, pack unison of spirit. Teams which win consistently have this pack unison in spirit, where they are one, think as one, hunt, attack and defend as one, and we don’t have it. We have a team of highly skilled individuals acting in a highly drilled fashion as a highly skilled team. But the forward pack is not as one.

It’s a subtle point to see when it’s missing. When it’s not missing, the forward pack is quite invincible. The All Blacks are the past masters at wanting and living for this unison of spirit. It was not there for them, either, last night, but I think that’s more to do with the conditions, and that sloppiness made it less evident. It’ll be there I expect when we play them again.

My key concern for our Wallabies is that Eddie Jones is not an inspiring coach. I am very negative towards his style, actually. While he is a lovely guy obviously and has his heart in it, and he’s committed to the hilt, he does not possess that spiritual magic we need.

Our golden days under MacQueen were obtained I feel in very, very large part from Rod’s magical understanding of the player: not at an intellectual and analytical level as Eddie’s, but at a deep, inner, intuitive, spiritual level. Our team’s essential spirit is not cohesive, even though the boys are absolutely committed and clearly massively bonded and close. We are as cohesive “spiritually” as any international side of excellence, no doubt about it; but we don’t have that winning oneness that consistent winning teams have. I am not sure if I’m expressing this well, or capturing in words what is required to be captured in person, but I guess a way to illustrate what I’m saying is that the teams that are winning, and wrapped in winningness, “smell” of that spiritual oneness.

Last night, we required a forward pack which hunted, captured, stabilised, and attacked as one, thinking as one, feeling as one. Wet weather football is won and lost up front, entirely. In the dry, if your forwards are weak, you can rig it to rattle the opposition in other ways and emphasise your backline and restate the game style your way. But in the wet you don’t have those options. (If worst comes to very worst, you stick backs in your forward play to secure it, and go from there). You must secure ball and stabilise the play up front. Then, to win, you have to maul it forward. The forwards are closest to the advantage line, and they represent the least potential for error. You must turn the opposition around from the front. Once you achieve that in the wet, it is very hard to beat you.

Why didn’t we achieve that? Of course we didn’t have the ball. And as technical as we can get about this, my guts are telling me the forwards have run on mindsets and strategies, and not run (ie, run their experience in training and growing together and playing and evolving) on the fundamental pack hunt controlled killer oneness.

How is it rectified? It’s rectified by throwing away computers and so on, metaphorically at the very least, and recapturing that spiritual togetherness. Get away from rugby if you have to do it – that is, if you need to break the spell to restart and restructure. If so, do it through creative and thoughtful programs designed to harness and hold your team’s sense of oneness; that is, there’s no one set way to achieve it, it’s unique for each team. Then return it to the training paddock and take it to the field. I feel we are in need of something of this order, and we need a person who is not Eddie who can and will remould them as one.

Hate to say it, but I think while ever Eddie is there, we will be running second rate. We’ll win the press conferences, and our guys utter fuckingly beautiful commitment and courage and honour will hold us up, but we won’t ever be the team of champions, internationally, until the champion within each man is harnessed and held and honoured and then melded into oneness.

I just don’t think Eddie feels a champion. I think he knows and understands champion, sees champion, loves and delights and lives for champion, but does not speak or touch or move in any man’s “champion” self.

We have the players, and it can be done. I do not like to say it, but it won’t happen with Eddie.

Eddie did it with the Brumbies. He did it because the Brumbies fell into a realm he could operate happily and comfortably within. He did it because the team itself, starting with Brett Robinson achieved that spiritual champion oneness together. Eddie recognised that and allowed it to happen, and his ability to do it stops at that level.

In the international realm, though, he’s out of his depth in this regard. Or, he has gone too far and too strong down the analytical track and not stuck with the rawness forwards love and live for. And, or, he has too many support staff and the mediumship/focus that creates that champion-oneness is dissipated. But I just don’t think he’s up to it, himself.

That our guys are so utterly committed and courageous and full of team spirit is a higher testimony to their character, while ever the absolute central commitment to that champion-oneness – beyond all else – is missing.

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2021 years ago

(Poorly said, a lot of that, hope some of it makes sense. To clarify re the All Blacks, haven’t watched them since World Cup so not sure if they are in a state of redevelopment, imagine they are, if so, the conditions would have played a role in their cohesion. Otherwise, of course, conditions have nothing to do with it. Imagining also it will be dry when next we meet, and that their hunger to regain supremacy is strong, hence will see the pack hunt oneness again, fairly soon, I expect. Hard to imagine they won’t. Getting it consistently is also their need. MacQueen rightfully took it from them, and they’ve been looking for it since.)

cs
cs
2021 years ago

Hey, hey, hey .. a word for Bernie, who’s also copping it over at my place. Bernie had one bad day with the boot, OK, and as Woodsy says, Giteau should have taken the weight of him, but let’s not … what’s the opposite of one swallow doesn’t make a summer? When the chips are down … like … how could you type such words Ken and not be struck dead on the spot … I mean …

… suddenly we’ve travelled back in time, and it’s Saturday 30 October ’99, all of Australia’s collective stomach is in an almighty churn, millions more are watching, glued world-wide to one of the truly great matches going down to the wire, and 80 minutes have already gone and we’re deep into extra-time, and we’re in a semi-final against the Boks at Twickers, and the players are all nearly clinically dead from the combat, and the scores are locked 21-21, and we’re all fully occupied, trying to deny to ourselves that the Africans have the ascendency … and then, and then, when there never ever were so many chips so far down, and then, and then, and then, with Bok defenders swarming like possessed madmen from another age, and then, and then, and then … a certain fly-half decided that he would attempt the first drop-goal he’d ever attempted in all his carreer in international rugby … a drop-goal not in front of the posts, but from nearly 50 metres out. And the rest, as we say, is history, and Bernie was from that moment and ever after one of the game they play in heaven’s true immortals.

So don’t talk to me about Larkham, and chips, and down. Fair shake of the sav. The guy’s been playing the best rugby of his great career this year, and just three weeks ago put the sword to the world champions … and he has one bad kicking game under the worst conditions of the season, and you guys want to give him away … I had some more words, but I’m suddenly lost for them …

cs
cs
2021 years ago

Hey, hey, hey .. a word for Bernie, who’s also copping it over at my place. Bernie had one bad day with the boot, OK, and as Woodsy says, Giteau should have taken the weight of him, but let’s not … what’s the opposite of one swallow doesn’t make a summer? When the chips are down … like … how could you type such words Ken and not be struck dead on the spot … I mean …

… suddenly we’ve travelled back in time, and it’s Saturday 30 October ’99, all of Australia’s collective stomach is in an almighty churn, millions more are watching, glued world-wide to one of the truly great matches going down to the wire, and 80 minutes have already gone and we’re deep into extra-time, and we’re in a semi-final against the Boks at Twickers, and the players are all nearly clinically dead from the combat, and the scores are locked 21-21, and we’re all fully occupied, trying to deny to ourselves that the Africans have the ascendency … and then, and then, when there never ever were so many chips so far down, and then, and then, and then, with Bok defenders swarming like possessed madmen from another age, and then, and then, and then … a certain fly-half decided that he would attempt the first drop-goal he’d ever attempted in all his carreer in international rugby … a drop-goal not in front of the posts, but from nearly 50 metres out. And the rest, as we say, is history, and Bernie was from that moment and ever after one of the game they play in heaven’s true immortals.

So don’t talk to me about Larkham, and chips, and down. Fair shake of the sav. The guy’s been playing the best rugby of his great career this year, and just three weeks ago put the sword to the world champions … and he has one bad kicking game under the worst conditions of the season, and you guys want to give him away … I had some more words, but I’m suddenly lost for them …

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2021 years ago

Absolutely right, Chris. Larkham’s problems were a direct reflection of the forward pack’s lack of stability and “indomitability”. All the problems and deficiencies gelled at the point of five-eight.

Tim Horan commented that Larkham should have slipped it to Giteau, and taken that pressure off, which he should have. However, why he didn’t indicates a further problem, and not one to do with Larkham. He would have if that were a solid option.

In the wet, the backs where normally are the pretty boys, all of a sudden become the obvious losers. Likewise, they shine when the forwards have done their job.

We lost it up front.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Chris,

If you read my comment again, you’ll see that the “one swallow doesn’t make a summer” line referred to Rathbone not Larkham. I agree Larkham has been a tower of strength for the Wallabies. I also agree that probably any 5/8 would have struggled behind a beaten (but gutsy) pack. But I still think we need a new generation 5/8 if we’re going to get on top of NZ. I also agree with Peter that, as far as the forwards go, it’s a matter of killer instinct and truly hunting as a pack (although there’s probably more to it – I’m not really expert enough about forward technique to diagnose what all the problems might have been apart from “killer instinct”).

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2021 years ago

Ken, Chris will no doubt address the point you raise with him, just following on with the ‘hunting as a pack’ thing.. and because I’m rugby mad so any chance to live I’m there! Thanks or the opportunity.

And this may have something to do with Wayne’s original comment; may not.

The “pack” is exactly that, it’s a pack. What’s happened is that our coaching team (led by Eddie as I’m aware) has individualised it, broken it up. Each man’s role and style, and their opponents have been broken up and analyzed exceedingly well; perhaps better than any other playing nation. There seems to be the idea though that the more you break it up and analyze it the more effective it will be; but it is only winningly effective if it acts as a unit.

In fact, the process of breaking the unit up to make each individual role more effective, as a focus of development, actually harms its essential oneness. It’s a matter of where the coaching focus is.

My point with MacQueen is that he focused on the ‘champion’ within each player, and all his decisions and actions as a coach, every relationship he built, all of it, grew from that ‘champion’, ‘winning’ point. The natural flow of human spirit towards group success picks up and binds the individual requirements of each player’s role as part of that process. This is different from breaking up the roles and focusing on them in order to develop a successful cohesion.
The latter is deceptive for all, because it feels so sensible and brilliant and effective all the way except when it counts: on the paddock when something else is needed. Our boys’ natural courage and honour is carrying Eddie.

Since Eddie has taken over, he’s looked upon the Australian team as a team of chessmen. This one goes with this, relates well with that, not with that, this compilation is good for ten minutes before half time, then we put on this man, etc.

Think, also, what message that sends to the depths of our boys’ psyche. It’s in those depths that games of intensity are won or lost.

Right up until moments before the World Cup, he was still trying different combinations. As though once he got the individual combination right, all else would happen! And that different combinations for different occasions (opposing teams) would provide the winning answer! No wonder Wayne is not that keen on the World Cup, Eddie did not capture and mould our national spirit in that team (though our boys did themselves; but therein is the missing key to our success).

You can win with players of less personal skill if they become part of a greater whole! Indeed, the very nature of rugby is that it provides the perfect arena in which this can come to the fore in any player!

When a team is as one, the opposition know it. They feel it. In the situation of opposing it, you are not only facing each man’s will to win, you are facing the magical but very unnerving occasion where there seems to be ten forwards against you. This opens up opportunities far more than the analytical breaking-up focus on it will ever do.

The killer comes from knowing you have that oneness.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Peter,

I haven’t observed Eddie Jones up close as a coach. But from what can be seen from the outside (chopping and changing team makeup and positions etc), it looks like your diagnosis is probably correct.

Your diagnosis of Rod McQueen certainly is. I played for Warringah Green Rats at the same time as McQueen, albeit in lower grades. His qualities as a player were precisely the ones you describe – guts, determination, indomitable team spirit, killer instinct. No doubt he always had that, but it was fostered and developed when Tony “Slaggy” Miller came to Warringah as coach, and turned it from a struggling newly-promoted first division team into a winning combination. Again, what Miller taught (to lower grades as well) was the stuff you describe so eloquently. That was McQueen’s major formative influence as a player, and it’s what he later refined and took to ACT Brumbies and then the Wallabies as a coach.

Jones, on the other hand, was a hooker with the phenomenally successful Randwick teams of the same era (1970s). From memory, I think he would have played much of his rugby under Bob Dwyer as coach. I have no personal knowledge of Dwyer as a coach either, but I suspect he was pretty much the same sort of calculating, cerebral type as Jones. That sort of style worked extraordinarily well in the lesser intensity of club rugby, and with the awesome individual talents that Randwick always seemed to have at its disposal. But, as you say, it lacks that additional essential element when you reach the absolute highest level of international rugby.

I wonder whether it’s possible to have an assistant coach or team psychologist to instil that team spirit, commitment, killer instinct stuff that Jones apparently can’t convey. It would only be possible (if at all) if Jones could be persuaded to settle on a top team and show consistent confidence in it while it develops that oneness and killer instinct.

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2021 years ago

How wonderful it must have been to have been with Slaggy Miller in those days, Ken. His influence shines far and wide. You are talking giants there, and long will those forces live. (You seem to think like a five-eight, by the way…)

Slaggy’s name was “mentioned” by a die-for-you prop I knew once, who did his definitive time at Manly, and who’s influence no doubt to this day remains at the forefront all that tough old champion’s doing, still.

My understanding of MacQueen is that he himself grew as a man, as a team-man and as a champion, and this I feel is a tremendous achievement, apart from what he has given.

The way I read it is that you can have an analytical coach, an intellectual type coach, as long as the leadership is in the team. This leadership can come in the form of a designated leader of appropriate character, or a non-designate whose presence achieves it, or in fact from the rare occasion of a general air of same by more than one.

Usually, to my observation, however, the analytical coach is offset by the spiritual leadership of a particular player of the day.

Guys like Poidevin would have to be mentioned in terms of Dwyer’s watch.

Alan Jones’ analysis had the onfield spiritual leadership of FarknJones.

Conversely, MacQueen had John Eales, where the roles were in a way slightly reversed. MacQueen provided the spiritual power, Eales delegated and disseminated that power on the field.

Today, we don’t have it. This comes to my criticism of Gregan. I do not wish to take anything away from him, in any area, at all. Yet there is something about him which is more like the Capaccino Captain, the Corporate Captain, than there is the other. I know it may seem unfair on account of Gregan’s tremendous courage. But I just don’t get the feeling that he is in the boys bones, certainly not enough. We’re just a peg short of what is needed to be World Champion material with Eddie’s analysis and Gregan’s captaincy in combination.

We need a “mongrel” captain with Eddie there, not an eloquent one, no matter how courageous.

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2021 years ago

(Might’ve been Jeff Sayle as Randwick coach then.. ?)

Habib
2021 years ago

Perhaps a comment from a Queenslander may balance things slightly- the Wallabies did not miss George Gregan’s step before passing or his half-smart back-hand passes that every bugger in the world knows now- Chris Whittaker may be a NSW boyo, but he is the form halfback. The conditions were perfect for the filthy Kiwis, and they played them to their advantage; the referee blew the pea out of the whistle, but only it seems on Wallaby infractions- the usual All Black camp-offside-and-see-when -we-get-pinged was in force, and never penalised. Wendell should not have been in the side, and proved so. As to the lack of Joe Roff, when the best attacking fullback in the world can’t get clean ball, why have a pensioner?