Observations from the Wallabies’ loss
Full credit must be given to Samoa. They turned up with a game plan and executed it to near perfection.
Their set piece was robust, they attacked the collision with consistent aggression, applied constant pressure in defense for the full 80 minutes, and when opportunities arose, they got it to their danger men.
Regarding Australia, is this the loss they needed to have? The Australian rugby public certainly hopes so. It clearly highlighted that the mental preparation needs to be much better. Simply turning up and expecting to win because you are ranked No.2 is not good enough. This has happened a few times – one only need look at our loss to Scotland a few years back.
My observations of Australia from the game are as follows:
1. Our front row offered up almost nothing throughout the game at the breakdown. This work was left almost entirely to the backrow, and three against five-plus Samoan’s attacking with vigour was always going to come unstuck. The Wallabies always start the season a bit slow and their timing at the breakdown was off.
2. Second row. I thought Timani had an okay game in his first run-on appearance. Yes he dropped a few balls, but he imposed himself well in defense and I think he has a lot to offer the Wallaby squad (I have him a long way ahead of Mumm and just pipping Simmons for the fourth locking position for the World Cup squad).
It is evident that the second row needs to be properly balanced – you either have a wide runner (Sharpe/Timani) paired with a tight worker (Vickerman/Horwill) or you play two workers.
On what will be a wet pitch in New Zealand this year, I think teams like England/SA/NZ will play a very narrow direct game based on forward dominance. The Wallabies have a lethal back line but will need an A and B game if they are to compete against the above noted teams.
3. Leadership. I have no issue wth Elsom as captain. He leads by example and considering Deans and co have already made it completely clear he will lead the Wallabies at the World Cup, it makes this a moot point. What Elsom needs is leader’s around him who communicate.
What was evident was Genia’s leadership and direction when he came on. Rugby, especially at Test level, requires a lot of communication and Genia and Cooper are talkers. Expect a dramatic improvement this weekend with both players on the field. I also expect Faingaa to start at 12 as he offers a lot of communication.
3. Tactics/ specific players:
A. Giteau. For all the hype around him (much of it seems to be self believed) he has never delivered. Clear he cannot control a game and he is one dimensional in his running and ball play which made the Wallabies easy to pick off with heavy defense.
B. Davies. Speed is a great asset but you need more than that at Test level. Like Mitchell a few years ago, Davies lacks the strength to carry the ball into heavy contact and his defense was not great. O’Connor would have covered his man much better.
Expect a much improved performance this weekend as the Wallabies will simply focus on training, rather than all of the additional requirements that go with starting a Test season. Usually the Wallabies get two weeks before their first Test and there is a reason for that and it was evident on Sunday.
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