The depth of Australian rugby deserves analysis. It has been obvious to me for many years that Australian rugby lacks a provincial competition, which is another step in the ladder between Club and Super Rugby.
So often we see Australian franchises introducing players direct from club rugby who haven’t played anywhere near the tempo or the skill level required to succeed at this level.
There has been general consensus the Australian concept is good because it develops young players quickly. And on this, I agree.
It also has its casualties, and sometimes those casualties end up being the coach.
In New Zealand, we have two arms of development: the traditional NZRU competition structure and National Team development squads. And we also have IRANZ, which is seen as a stepping stone for players wanting to play professionally.
In other words, if you don’t make the small number of players taken in by the provincial academies around New Zealand, there is a second option to up-skill.
This has proved successful when we look at the results after 10 years of operation.
In the world’s most organized and developed rugby structure, we still find that an independent arm (IRANZ) now provides one third of all New Zealand’s provincial players. There is no doubt a structure similar to IRANZ is needed in Australia and I am surprised it hasn’t been established.
We have had a number of propositions which have gone nowhere.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question of whether Australia could expect to compete on a global basis with their talent pool split across three codes. This certainly stimulated a response about code-comparisons.
And fair enough.
Really my intention was to ask the question of whether Australia had enough players to be able to do this and still expect to succeed in the international arena.
It is interesting to note that in Australia, there is approximately the same number of registered senior players as there are in New Zealand, but they are not privy to the same development opportunities for both players and coaches alike.
This lack of real depth in Australian rugby won’t make the Wallabies any less competitive at national level, where the difference between the top players of both New Zealand and Australia is very little.
The victor on the international stage is more often the team with the best coaching combination and, on that note, beware of South Africa.
They have always had the player strength at international level, and now, for the first time, the Republic has four very competitive Super teams.
But the coaching and selection challenge remains their greatest impediment.