Australia v New Zealand, 8 July 2006, Match Preview

Well, although for family reasons I am obliged to say that the soccer world cup is far from over, nothing stops me from pointing out that a) it is stating the obvious to say that the refereeing in that game is an absurd relic of the pre-television age, b) I would rather watch the Novotel Australian Schools Championship, especially when NSW I loses to QLD II and QLD I lose to NSW II, and c) who cares anyway when there is a Bledisloe Cup to win?
 

I don’t actually have much to say about this game, since I have already said it when talking about Ireland, except how much I am looking forward to it!   Clearly, as every man and his dog seems to be saying, the three-quarters will be very important and Muliana will have his work cut out for him and then some.   But so what, important as that is, both this battle and the war will be won up front, both in the set-pieces and the breakdowns.  Everyone knows that, which is why no-one seems to be talking about it anymore.

Set-Pieces
There, on the strength of three largely inconclusive matches, Australia look stronger than I (for one) would have dared believe six months ago.  Whether they are or not, well, that is what those black-dressed snowmen are about to tell us.   If we really are that much better, then Tana Umaga couldn’t save the All Blacks let alone Mils Muliana.  If we aren’t, then it probably won’t matter who play three-quarters or anywhere else past there.   If we fall somewhere inbetween that much better and not that much better, then it will come down to the backs, and there is a lot more than just the three-quarters to play for.  
 

Backs
There is George Gregan, first, who in my opinion benefits enormously from an occasionally few minutes on the bench, vs Byron Kelleher.   The problem for Kelleher is that his biggest asset is being big and strong, but Gregan is probably the biggest-defending half-back in the world. If, however, Kelleher does get on top of Gregan then Cordingley, with his direct-running aggressive game, would be about the best possible person to bring on.  The beauty is, he’s on the bench J.
 

Secondly there is what the backline purists must really be looking forward to, the greatest current fly-half versus the best current fly-half for, unbelievably, the first time.   My tip?   Australia doesn’t play that way anymore –   if we get our game in order, it is just as often Gregan, Smith or Rogers who stands in at first receiver so it isn’t really as much a question of who is the better fly-half as who is the better meneur du jeu (leader of the game), and I tip Larkham, surrounded by Gregan, Mortlock and Latham, to have an unfair advantage over Carter.  If Carter does come out on top, it will be a phenomenal performance by him, and a credit to him, and, I suspect, the NZ back-row.
 

Thirdly there is the outer backs, with NZ having flashier runners, imho, but Australia having ‘harder’ runners, who have also been in better form lately.  So there too I prefer Australia.  Which just emphasizes how much it will come down to the battle up front, both in the set-pieces and the breakdowns.  
 

Breakdowns
I guess I just don’t know whilst I feel that it will be a great, but even, match in the set-pieces, here I just don’t know.  What I do know is that a) this has been easily our weakest area recently, b) this is NZ’s classic strength in the era of Richie McCaw, and c) this is going to be a really crucial part of Saturday’s game.  Of course, if we actually lose the scrums, it will hardly matter, but if we are at least competitive there as I am sure we will be, it matters a lot.  If we do lose, touch wood, I think it will be here.  
 

Well, there are my few, slightly disjointed, thoughts.   Fwiw, I’ll go out on a limb and say Australia 36 20 NZ.  After all, I am hopelessly and irremediably biased”¦

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mick
15 years ago

Aaaargh!!!! It isn’t televised here in Austria!!!! Aaaarrggghh!!!!

tigtog
15 years ago

I think it’ll be closer than that, but I’m tipping the Wallabies by a nose.

Trackback.

Aidan
Aidan
15 years ago

Nice preview Patrick.

As many were tipping Mils is in there at centre. I know the forward battle is where the game will be won and lost, it is salutory from an AB supporter’s point of view to recall the WC semi where Macdonald, out of position, at centre was made to look a right goose by Stirling. Mils is a better centre than Macdonald, and a better fullback too, but still, worrying.

I saw a report that quoted Mitchell saying that the Aus front row had to target Hayman, that Sheridan had the better of him. Pffft! Sheridan is a man mountain and he looked ok, but couldn’t hack the pace. The amazing thing about Hayman is he is an 80 minute man. A massive lump of granite that roars around the pitch. You can waste alot of energy attacking a lump of granite. Just ask Sheridan. I reckon the Wallabies should (and will), look to clear the scrum as quickly as they can. We’ll see.

Lineouts are a key area the Wallabies will be looking for an edge. This is the bit that gives me the heebies.

Kelleher isn’t as good now as he has been in the past, but he is ok. Tends to overdo the kicking.

Larkham and Carter are both great players, but very different. IMO Larkham is a better front foot player, racing on to quality ball, putting the fear of Dog into the bloke marking him, with the option of runners inside and out. Peerless. Wet, cold, tactical kicking sort of game where the support runners are not coming at speed? Not so hot. The Wallabies have a bunch of players who are good punters of the ball, Latham, Gerrard, Rogers, but they are not all close to the action and in a high pressure match you can’t always get a mate to do your kicking for you.

Carter is a better tactical kicker and has an all round game that he actually uses in pressure situations. If it is close alot will depend on the conditions I reckon.

Breakdown is a test of the tall timber philosophy of Connolly. Smith can look after himself, but if he has to look after Rodney as well as Richie, that may be too much to ask. Rocky has been high profile but can he do some scrounging as well?

Can’t wait!

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

That bit about Carter and Larkham suonds about right, Aidan, except that if the conditions are so bad, Gerrard and Rogers will be first receiver in the defensive plays. And I’d look for the Wallabies to try at least a couple of ball-in-hand attacks from deep – even if only to ensure that NZ’s counterattacking back three (er, both of them) is handicapped by not daring to leave the tackle line even when we have the feed/throw in our 22.

I can’t wait, I feel like a schoolboy – I hope I’m not feeling like a silly one tonight :)

Lin
Lin
15 years ago

Bugger, eh! Thirty-two-12 is a fair thrashing, isn’t it?

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Now I realise everyone’s feeling understandably depressed and traumatised. But I wasn’t able to watch yesterday’s Bledisloe, so I’m relying on Patrick et al for an erudite summary of exactly what went wrong, and more importantly what can be done to improve the Wallabies’ competitiveness against the ABs. Would it be enough to bring in Rodney Blake to the front row and Jeremy Paul at hooker? Scott Fava in place of Elsom? What about reverting to one part of Eddie Jones’ strategy and selecting Phil Waugh on the bench, to be substituted early in the second half as the bigger backrowers start to slow down, in order to bolster Australia’s ball retention at the breakdown (which was certainly our biggest problem against both England and Ireland)?

Any other selection changes that would help? Tactical changes? Or is the AB pack simply in a class of its own whatever we do? I doubt that that could be true, but it certainly sounds as if the difference in class yeterday was pretty wide, and not just when Elsom was in the sin bin.

martin english
15 years ago

To be honest, it’s very hard to determine how well the Wallaby backs went. Tuqiri’s try resulted from a typically brilliant piece of play by Latham, but apart from that, the backs had bugger all to go on.

The pack had a lot of spirit, as witnessed by Fava’s try almost straight after McCaw’s try – i’ll come back to those in a second – but they were pretty well outplayed across the board. The loose forwards Elsom and Chisholm just don’t have the smarts / guile to pinch the ball like McCaw (and George Smith at his best) can, let alone the speed to get there first anyway. I think playing in a loosing pack was too frustrating for Smith – people have been shot for less heinous crimes than that silly chip kick in defence – but when he kept his head he did some wonderfull ‘sleight-of-hand’ at the ruck and maul. Unfortunately, he was out on his own most of the time – In fact he was up there with McCaw for much of the game, but by comparison, there were some mauls with All Black props arriving before the other Wallaby loosies.

As a died in the wool All Black supporter, both those trys I referred to earlier have me a bit confused… In the first case, Rokocoko and Larkham are fighting for posession on the line, McCaw is the next one on the scene and knocks the ball from out of Larkham’s hands and in the process driving all three over the line. Almost simulatneously everyone else (including the ref) arrives, the first three and the ball are buried. The hand on the ball was probably an All Black hand (based on the fact that it was wrapped in black tape). My question, and it applies to Fava’s try as well, is when was the hand first on the ball ? If the ruck had formed and there were hands on the ball BEFORE the try line, its a penalty to the defence. Maybe I need to view it with a stopwatch – If they were still tackles rather than rucks, then it’s OK….

All in all, (as a died in the wool All Black supporter), the jury is still out on the AB backs, but the forwards are harder faster and more solid than any other unit (except maybe an All Black B team) going round.

PS regarding the ‘new’ Kapa o Pango haka, this is from an NZRFU press release
“While the haka