This match really looks like being the crux match of the Wallabies’ 2006 campaign. Perhaps if we do win here then the final Bledisloe will get all the headlines, and if the Boks get their act together then winning in the Republic has traditionally been a hurdle for Australian teams, but, especially after such dashed hopes in Christchurch, there is no surer litmus test of the ‘new Wallabies’, and our progress towards the RWC 2007, than beating the All Blacks in Australia.
If we can’t do it, we (or at least some of us such as yours truly) have been deluding ourselves, and this Wallaby team’s RWC hopes lie in a church and not on the training track. If we can, and against the All Black’s elusive first XV, then we know that we are genuine contenders it is worth remembering that neither we nor they will be at home in 14 months’ time.
Two things really have to improve: maintaining our own attacking continuity and breaking theirs. This is really all to do with the tackle making first up tackles and being first in support in defence, and offloading safely to early support in attack, as well as being first to the breakdown when an attacking player does go down.
On the bright side,
I think our scrum already has improved, and I think Blake on the bench (where I think he should start) will give us real legs in the second half. Ditto for our line-outs Paul was throwing pretty well, I thought, both in Christchurch and against South Africa. When you consider that the Boks actually pinched three NZ throws (albeit from the dropped Oliver to the dropped Jason Eaton) we can still reasonably expect to secure our own throws and challenge theirs. Add to that the excellent line-out try we scored in Christchurch, an identical chance that went begging and that they scored the crucial try on a line-out error, that’s already a very different looking match.
But ultimately there were any number of little things that would give a very different looking match, and frankly I am going to pick the same result I picked last time -here’s to hoping!
Just quickly on the backs, I tend to think that we have an edge here, but it certainly isn’t as big as I might have thought it was, and in the last test it was completely counterweighted by their backrow. Hopefully with Fava at no 8 and Elsom on the blindside we will be ourselves stronger at the breakdown, and hopefully the forwards get us a few more centimetres. But at the end of the day, like last time, this match will be won or lost in the contested ball where the forwards are paramount. If there is anything I would like to really see from our backs, it is making 100% sure of every contested ball. Ultimately it is far better to have a forward running the wide ball in attack than to have a winger defending the wide ball. And of course I would like to see first-up tackles especially on Leon MacDonald!
So I think Australia 36 20 NZ. Sorry about the lightweight analysis, but there are many other things in life J
S 14 supplement.
First, congratulations to Channel Ten on the RWC television rights, and hello to free-to-air S14 in Australia – if this is true, that is fantastic news, particularly for yours truly who spends test match Saturday afternoons either elsewhere or anxiously trying to tune the never-turned on telly! Also, it can only help the game’s penetration.
Secondly, it almost seems that as the more NSW players they drop, the better the Wallabies get. The current team features just two run-on players from undoubtedly Australia’s ‘deepest’ provincial side, and (probably) only three more on the bench (although I would argue in favour of Al Kanaar being on the bench even when Vickerman is fit, in the interests of having a reserve second-rower, and Palu is only one injury away from a bench spot). Now whilst it is great that McKenzie wants an ‘All Blacks-type culture’, the current All Blacks differ most markedly from the previous disappointing incarnation primarily in that the coach was sacked when they lost. I recommend that the NSW management group adopt that part of All Blacks culture, urgently, because no amount of deep foundations is going to hide the absence of anyone to stand on them.
Now NSW are going to benefit from Norton-Knight getting older, Valentine is very clever, I still remember reading about how Turinui is a natural born leader and future Wallabies captain, Elsom and Vickerman are obviously natural leaders, etc. But on the strength of the last two years, they clearly don’t have a clue how to win a really tough game of football. I’m going to come out right now and tip them to finish third amongst the Australian teams the season after next if McKenzie stays, because the Force are very much on the up, QLD under Jones will be not just determined but clever, and only the Brumbies remain a question mark with so much personnel changes.
Finally, why can’t we get rid of a South African team and a NZ team and add Argentina and a composite Pacific Islands team? Obviously for money reasons, but the strategic imperative is very strong. If NZ couldn’t face losing a team, even though a composite Islanders team would deprive them of a full team’s worth of players anyway, then we could always add a Japanese team to round out numbers.