How can the Wallabies beat the All Blacks on Saturday?
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The Roar’s rugby experts have put their heads together to see if they can find a way that the Wallabies can defeat the mighty All Blacks.
Roar expert Spiro Zavos, on playing smart rugby with a winning mentality:
The longer answer involves things like a game plan that exploits the weaknesses (if any) of the All Blacks and, more importantly, the strengths of the Wallabies.
That strength I would suggest revolves around the knowledge that last season at Brisbane the Wallabies blew the All Blacks out of the match in the first half.
The All Blacks had no answer to the very fast game played by the Wallabies, the accurate chip kicking and the concentration on running the big Wallaby loose forwards (especially Radike Samo) down the middle of the field.
Then in the next Test, the semi-final of the 2011 RWC, the Wallabies were comfortably beaten because they couldn’t get their big runners attacking the All Blacks halves and because the Wallabies didn’t believe that they could win the match in the cauldron of Eden Park.
You would think, that playing at home at ANZ Stadium will give the Wallabies a huge lift. The arena will a sea of gold. The referee, Alain Rolland, will be under no illusion if the All Blacks get up to any nonsense (and even when they don’t).
The confidence of having a home crowd behind them should put sting and pace into the way the Wallabies play.
As the ARU have been spruiking in support of the Wallabies and as a reference to the Eden Park match: ‘This time they’re not playing at home.’
One aspect of the preparation that is encouraging for Wallaby supporters is that Andrew Blades, the scrum coach, is determined to have his pack scrum efficiently and legally. And he is confident that the pack is up to this challenge against an All Black pack that is probably the best scrummaging unit (we haven’t seen the Pumas yet) in world rugby.
The All Blacks, like the Crusaders, often use their scrumpower to kill off opposition attacking situations and to get kickable penalties to win tight matches. It is very important then that Nathan Sharpe and Sitaleki Timani pick up their scrumming powerright from the beginning of the match.
As the Wallabies know, international referees have decidedfor some time that the Wallabies have an inferior scrumming pack. Whenever a scrum collapses, the penalty is almost always against them. Good scrums right from the beginning of the match could go a long way to ensuring a Wallabies victory.
The Wallaby players have been talking a lot about restricting the number of turnovers they give the All Blacks. Hopefully, this attitude doesn’t indicate an unwillingness to run the ball at the team in black.
In my view, teams playing the All Blacks try to be careful about making mistakes. They don’t challenge the All Blacks enough with the ball in hand. And because of this, they don’t get the All Blacks out of their comfort zone.
And, again hopefully, the desire not to make mistakes should not be the reason for the Wallabies kicking away the ball to the All Blacks, in the hope they’ll make mistakes. If the big All Blacks mid-field centre pairing get good ball, the smaller Wallabies will be in trouble. So keep the ball in hand Wallabies whenever you get possession.
One final point. The All Blacks are always more comfortable when they are leading. They build on leads. But if they are behind, they often get nervous and start to rush things and make mistakes. So it is imperative for the Wallabies to start well, something they did at Brisbane but not at Eden Park.
If this means have an early field goal or two, then go for it. Points on the board is what matters against the All Blacks.
In the end, belief is the key factor.
The Wallabies have to have a deep belief that they can defeat the All Blacks. And this belief has to be maintained (as it will conversely by the All Blacks) right up to the final whistle.
In the great days of Wallaby dominance over the All Blacks, when Rod Macqueen was the coach, a number of the Bledisloe Cup Tests were won by the Wallabies right on the siren because the team believed in itself; that somehow it would find a way to win. The All Blacks are famous for this self-belief.
Belief in their destiny must be an 80-minute plus engine during the game for the Wallabies. This belief should be based on a shrewd game plan (the way the Reds played against the Chiefs points the way), discipline and a mental and physical strength.
As the life skills coaches are always preaching, you have to dare to win.
Roar expert Brett McKay with his thoughts on exploiting some potential weaknesses:
Robbie Deans spoke in my interview about needing to engage the defence, and how playing too laterally at Eden Park – twice as it turned out – cost the Wallabies in matches last year.
The selection of a Fainga’a-Horne midfield suggests that there won’t be lot of subtlety about the Wallabies’ attack either, though I’m not sure I’d be volunteering to charge at Sonny Bill Williams and/or Ma’a Nonu.
But there is something of an opportunity in the All Blacks midfield, even if it’s ever so slight. Williams, Nonu, and Dan Carter all played Super Rugby for different sides this year, and likewise, Nonu didn’t play in the June Tests at all, while Carter didn’t play the third. he combination between the three could be a bit scratchy.
And there’s maybe a bit of straw-clutching in this, but it’s an opportunity the Wallabies should at least explore.
Nonu could rush up in defence when playing inside centre, because Conrad Smith would hold the defensive alignment behind him. Nonu is playing 13, a somewhat unfamiliar position, and what is regarded as the most difficult defensive channel. He won’t be able to defend the same way he does when wearing 12.
The Wallabies should explore any possible hesitations in defence between Carter and Williams, and likewise, between Williams and Nonu. This will mean clever use of option runners off both Berrick Barnes and Anthony Fainga’a, and it can’t just be Digby Ioane all the time.
Adam Ashley-Cooper needs to present here, and the running games of Scott Higginbotham and Dave Dennis need to be utilised, too.
There’s a small window that’s slightly open here for the Wallabies. But even the smallest opening can let in a ray of light.
Roar expert Paul Cully, currently residing in New Zealand, contributes his thoughts:
How to beat the All Blacks
- Challenge the lineout. The All Blacks have lost some height and spring with the selection of Liam Messam ahead of Victor Vito and Adam Thomson, so it narrows their options a little. Kieran Read is the man they will often look to, so the Wallabies must put up some jumpers to disrupt their ball. They have the men to do it – Sharpe, Higginbotham and Dennis are all big men with aerial ability. If you can’t steal their ball at least make it messy for Bledisloe debutant Aaron Smith.
- Recognise your weaknesses. Good scrum ball for the Wallabies is the ball that Genia feeds between the legs of the second-rowers and gets it away before the inevitable All Blacks pressure comes on. The Wallabies are going to have to be smart rather than confrontational in this area. It has always been the hallmark of their best sides. Embrace it.
- Isolate Nonu. Defending at No.13 is a challenge. Even the best get beaten from time to time. Nonu is a rugged tackler but there are mistakes in him at No.13. It is in his nature to come out of the line looking for heavy contact so make a virtue of that. There is enough pace and footwork in the Wallabies’ back line to test him in an unfamiliar position.
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