Don’t get too excited about the Wallabies
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35-18. This score should bring pain to every Wallabies player involved in Australia’s journey in 2010, and inspire them towards glory in 2011.
What’s ironic about this score, of the game in which we succumbed to an inconsistent English side, is that we managed to upset a roaring All Blacks team only two weeks earlier (albeit in a dead rubber game).
Following that match, everyone was kicking up a fuss about how we were now ready to claim our third Web Ellis trophy, the most of any team in international trophy. Had these people not forgotten about their countless brain explosions and indignant losses since our quarter-final exit at the 2007 Rugby World Cup?
I care not to mention the fact we have not won the Tri-Nations since 2001, and the Bledisloe since 2002. We should not be gaining optimism from just one victory over a good team, but a string of wins against a number of contenders.
What this brings me to is the Wallabies’ 59-16 annihilation of France in their own backyard. Benn Robinson, Nathan Sharpe, Berrick Barnes, Adam-Ashley Cooper, Drew Mitchell and co. all starred in a game of two contrasting halves. Whilst the second is a reason for optimism, a half in which Australia scored 46 points; the first was perhaps the one that needs analysing the most.
The Wallabies scrum became their Achilles heel once again, to the point where a penalty try was conceded in the 30th minute. Even the slightest of scrummaging problems will turn around and bite us come World Cup time, as it did in the 2007 tournament when we were bundled out by, you guessed it, England.
This year, the men in gold won three games, lost one (not including a 15-6 loss to club side Leicester by our ‘B’ team) and were rather frustrating to watch. Earlier this year, in the annual Tri-Nations competition, we won two, and on more than one occasion were defeated not by the opposition, but ourselves.
Our painful 23-22 loss to the All Blacks in the final game in Sydney showed that in a one-team match, we’d be able to find a way to finish second.
There were also games in which we were never in the contest, e.g. a 49-28 loss in Melbourne which probably impacted the team’s morale for the rest of the campaign. Note the pattern: The men in black.
Sure, we are a good team, but not great. If the World Cup began tomorrow, we’d be lucky to make the semi-finals.
Taking a glance at the record of the New Zealand All Blacks, it is impossible to fathom why they haven’t won a World Cup in 23 years. For pundits to even consider the Aussies a World Cup chance must first look at the All Blacks’ record.
Their most recent game, an entertaining 37-25 dispatch of the Welsh, was a professional performance in which ball movement was fluid, the breakdown was won, and the forwards were in control.
One player who displayed the team attitude on the weekend was Jerome Kaino; he assisted his team in dictating the pace of the game, which in turn helped control possession, territory and gave the backs enough time and space to exhibit their silky skills or flyhalf Dan Carter to put the boot to ball, and peg the game back another 30 or so metres downfield.
Plus, an indication of the All Black’s quality is that there is no spot for Sonny Bill Williams in their star-studded line-up.
The Wallabies, who possess buckets of potential, have the ability to worry a team for 10 or so minutes, before becoming complacent or frustrated when the opposition begins to shut them down and slow down the flow of play.
The two options faced in these situations are what separate the Wallabies from winning teams such as New Zealand; the All Blacks keep chipping away with a true 15-man performance, and when something doesn’t work, they don’t overuse it and try to force the play, instead they analyse a situation and make the most of it.
Australia however, become frustrated and works as a team playing like 15 individuals, not 15 individuals playing like team.
Unfortunately, this is just one of many facets of rugby that the Wallabies fall behind in. So, in short, did they put together a World Cup, or any major trophy for that matter, winning performance against France?
The answer is an emphatic ‘no’.
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