Australia v New Zealand, 29 July 2006, Match Preview

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.

Free-to-air S14

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.  

Waratahs

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.  

Random Point

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.    

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derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

“This is really all to do with the tackle

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

I can’t quite agree about the previous teams – the fin-de-siecle and 1991 teams you are probably referring to was second to none in lineouts and a very respectable scrummaging side. Only for the 1984 team do I think that is an argument, and they were pretty handy too.

Perversely, I do agree about these teams.

I think this just about nails it/ ‘

It all boils down to who will get the best quality possession and maybe here the Kiwis have an edge – at least in the scrums they do.

backin15
backin15
15 years ago

That was a great game, a game that could have been won by either side right up until the last few minutes. I’m surprised by the Australian media’s insistence that their team was not in the contest; they clearly were. The scrum remains a significant problem and the turnover ball count will be horrible to read however Australia probably dominated possession.

Still, I’m an unashamedly parochial kiwi and I loved the result which I thought was deserved. McCaw had possibly his best game ever. Carter was a little off the pace. Rocokoko’s try was something out of nothing (Collin’s pass was a beauty). However, the All Blacks will not be happy with the high number of missed/incomplete tackles.

In the end, this game went much as was expected, particularly in terms of the set pieces and the tackle ball, however it could so easily have confounded expectations had the Wallabies made a few passes.

woodsy
woodsy
15 years ago

No deep and meaningful analysis is required. It’s all about treasuring the ball. The turnover count was atrocious. And that was the difference, Richie played a blinder and Smithy was too busy trying to stop Collins from pulling his hair.

backin15
backin15
15 years ago

The hair pulling was a bit stupid.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

I suspect Collins had been hit hard already – he looked tender when he came off, and he’s supposed to be a hard player.
I agree with backin15, it is hard to think that Australia were ‘outclassed’, except perhaps by Rokocoko and McCaw – did he ever have a big game! I’d swap Carter and Mauger for him, in an instant.

But at the breakdown Australia did lack something – I suspect it is the DD’s economics coming home to roost (and my humble pie, luckily I’m greedy) – all the work on their scrums may be costing them some sharpness in the tackle. OTOH it might be simply that the Australians were running more ‘attacking’ lines and so exposing themselves more, whereas the Kiwis were playing more (generally) to recycle than actually break the line. Not a bad strategy, b ecause against any other team they would have eventualy broken the line just by recycling.

In all, we know now that we are nearly up there, but the ABs, and this is more like vomiting than eating humble pie, are a notch above us. They may be, indeed they surely are, the only ones, but that is scant consolation. Let’s hope we get on top next year.

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

Do you think that swapping Palu and Chisholm for Fava and Elsom (as some are touting) would make a positive difference at the breakdown? Personally I’ve liked what little I’ve seen of Palu (although I recall you have been less impressed, Patrick), although I have my doubts about Chisholm. But they certainly wouldn’t weaken either the scrum or lineout, so it might be worth experimenting with them to see if they can get to the breakdown quicker and imrpove rucks and mauls. Palu might improve the “go forward” in attack anyway, and would have to me more disciplined than Elsom. Any other selection ideas flowing from Saturday night? How important was Phil Waugh to Australia’s apparently somewhat imprtoved ball retention in the second half?

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

I think Palu is probably a pretty good player, but he hasn’t done anything to show that he his the answer to the Wallabies’ prayers – he isn’t even a certain starter for NSW!

I think Elsom is worth keeping, although I wouldn’t mind seeing Elsom and Chisholm, just because I get the jitters thinking about not having a second-row reserve :)

Ultimately Connolly decides and I think he is fixed on Elsom. Palu’s attraction seems to be that when we are really under the pump in the scrum, our otherwise pretty mobile (and very heavy) front-rowers aren’t able to carry much ball – see further last Saturday. But Sharpe and Vickerman both carried plenty of ball, as did Paul, and our scrum is only going to get better (and rarely going to be under such pressure – also note that Hayman and Woodcock were only slightly more visible around the ground).
Certainly, we used to have such ball-runners – last time we won the RWC we had both Finegan and Kefu!! So if Palu could play as a genuine n8, then I’d be happy to have him – Fava, in the toughest of conditions, didn’t stand out. But what I, and most of you, agree is the real problem is the breakdown, not the hit-ups, nor the line-out. So Chisholm on the bench, and maybe Elsom at blindside with Palu at eight? Or Elsom back to eight, where he was not bad, and Waugh to blindside?

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

and the videos

Every other team in the world will be watching some scintillating attacks (especially the ABs in the first half) coming to nothing and really wondering how they are going to score against these teams, not to mention stop them scoring!

martin english
15 years ago

I’m curious as to whether anyone else noticed that disparity in numbers ? I’m sure that that a lot of rucks and mauls had 6 or 8 Wallaby forward involved, while the ABs only had 3 or 4 forwards. I think was the point of the AB pick and drive – suck the Wallaby forwards – loosies and all – and leave people like Chris Jack, Richie McCaw &tc out in the open to terrorise maim and otherwise mess up the Wallby backline.

Of course, when the ball went wide, by the time the Wallaby forwards arrived, so often it had already been cleaned up and pinched by the ABs. The Wallaby tight five are rubbish, and making great players people like Smith and Gregan look like crap, and ruining the opportunities (and possibly the playing future) of newcomers like Fava.

Argyros
14 years ago

Interesting…