Ireland 21 v 6 Australia, 19 November 2006, Dublin

(crossposted at sidelined)

I am almost too disappointed to write this. Frankly, what a waste of a game. I suggested before that the backline selection was illogical, and indeed two people who had never played together in the centres before turned out, against arguably the best centre pairing in the world, to be a liability not a magical superstar act. It did not need to be rocket science for Pete’s sake Larkham can play inside, or indeed anywhere, Gerrard had just had a really creative game at five-eighth and is a great kick in a game that was always going to involve lots of kicking, Mortlock is amongst the world’s best outsides, Tuquiri amongst the best wingers, Latham arguably the best fullback. Why didn’t they all play in those spots then?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? I am driven to profanity, although I will spare you it.

And the only thing that they have learned from that debacle is that playing Mortlock at inside is a dumb idea if nothing else, at least they learned the most obvious lesson. It is just a pity that, like a child burning himself on the stove, they actually had to learn it rather than merely understand it. Bringing Staniforth into inside is not in itself a bad idea, since he actually plays there, but begs the question why they bothered playing him on the wing when a) we have any number of wingers and b) he is clearly not a star international winger!

Of course our forwards were hammered as well, because the other pack was faster and much better organised we should have had George Smith on, since we really needed his intelligence if nothing else.

Well, you would have to be mad to back us for the World Cup now you might indeed fancy a flutter on the Irish, and the smart money is on the All Blacks, but even I do not rationally think we can win it now. If we do it will be a miracle.

On the other hand, we should still beat Scotland this weekend it will be a calamity if we do not. I will not be writing any more detailed a review than that, I am afraid.

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jim parker
jim parker
17 years ago

As an All Black supporter, I have learnt from bitter experience in recent years not to ever write off Australia. Having said that, there really is something horribly wrong with the Wallabies.

The ever quotable Campese was musing in the Irish press the other day that the reason was too much rugby. I had to laugh at that. If the Wallabies have any problem, it is a lack of top-drawer rugby. They spend half their life swanning around at Coffs Harbour, having massages and doing conditioning work.

I think Kiwi expat Spiro Zavos, writing in the SMH the other day, was also onto something when he said the ARU had lost control of the players, who now (like the ABC staff union) run the show for their own benefit.

I know, of course, that in criticising the Wallabies, any AB supporter leaves themselves open to the accusation ‘well at least we’ve won two World Cups. You blokes haven’t won it for 20 years’. But that’s a whole other story.

For now, these All Blacks are playing sublime rugby – and if (please God) fate smiles on them for once at the World Cup next year – they stand to be rank among the greatest sides of all time.

In the meantime, you downtrodden Wallaby fans could do worse than just appreciate watching the game as it should be played. Do yourselves a favour and get a friendly Kiwi to give you a DVD of the AB-France game at Lyon.

Fred Argy
Fred Argy
17 years ago

Patrick, do not despair. My son in law (a rugby expert) tells me that the Irish debacle was a one-off due to the dreadful conditions,some bad tactics and outstanding Irish play. If you look at all the other matches of recent monthsw, including our matches against the All Blacks, we could have won many more than we did with just an ounce or two of luck. So if our luck turns, we can still get that miracle.

derrida derider
derrida derider
17 years ago

Naah, Fred, we’re just not playing well enough. Our forwards, in particular, are just not up to standard – and in wet weather good backs can’t possibly compensate for underperforming forwards as they sometimes can on a fast track.

I do think the Wallabies have departed from the emphasis on mobility they used to have. We seem to want to get a massive, slow, SA-style or old-school English pack without having the tremendous technical skills that usually accompany that strategy. So we get all the drawbacks of that approach without the set-piece and wet-weather benefits.

The top Wallaby teams in the past put a lot more emphasis on an ultra-fit speedy pack that would be first to the breakdown, so as to either get quick ball to our backs or to isolate opposition ball-carriers. We’ve never had a great scrum, but that hasn’t stopped us winning in the past – especially in the last 20 minutes of the game when those giant packs are out on their feet.

17 years ago

There are some good points all round there. Firstly, Fred, your son is partly right, but the bad tactic principally at fault is the selection which I have criticised. Which ties into Jim being right about our past World Cups, in large part due to NZRU being a bunch of monkeys and the ARU being a fairly slick professional outfit (by non-US sports standards). Unfortunately ‘bad tactics’ like the selection policy on this tour suggest that the monkeys have (along with everyone else ha ha ha) jumped the tasman. If we are going to end up going to the World Cup with same old same old, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, then we still didn’t need to actually select same old on any of these tour matches because the whole point of same old is that they know how to play together. I have already gone into our selection policy.

All this whilst the ABs, as I have said before on this site, are setting the gold standard for team management.

Derrida, you are right, except we always had the likes of Finegan. Palu is probably worth it as a replacement, even though I am not a huge fan. However, as I said, we needed Smith on the field on Sunday. That said we did need to revamp our forward pack and the weight upfront seems to have been of some benefit.

Fred, you are also right that we can win, especially because we will always be better against NZ (who we meet in the semi-final, normally). But as ideologically blinded as I surely can be, I do try and be fairly rational. We aren’t in shape, and we need a lot to go right this S14 season to be in that shape. I would love it to happen and will never stop hoping, but I am not going to put any money on it.

PS Jim, the Lyon match was a crock.