The Wallabies must believe they can win
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Is it the end of the line for Robbie Deans?
“We’re clicking,” were the encouraging words from the normally reserved Wallaby coach Robbie Deans yesterday, when he previewed tonight’s blockbuster clash with the All Blacks.
Encouraging because I’m not entirely convinced the Wallabies believe they can win. The thought, then the sight, of that black jersey with the silver fern has a numbing effect on the confidence of this Wallaby squad.
Losing 12 of the 15 meetings against the men-in-black on the Deans watch, including a record-breaking 10 losses on the trot, is proof enough.
Not like the 1984 Wallabies, nor the 1991 and 1999 versions. All three had a deep feeling of invincibility about them, including beating the All Blacks. And they proved it where it counted against all-comers.
The 1984 Wallabies, coached by Alan Jones and skippered by Andy Slack, won Australia’s only Grand Slam by beating England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and regained the Bledisloe Cup.
Jones’ record – 30 Tests, 21 wins, 8 losses, and a draw – 70% win rate.
The 1991 Wallabies, coached by Bobby Dwyer and led by Nick Farr-Jones, won the World Cup and the Bledisloe.
Dwyer’s record – 73 Tests, 46 wins, 25 losses, and two draws – 63%.
And the 1999 Wallabies, coached by Rod Macqueen and captained by John Eales, also won the World Cup, and Bledisloe, but added the Tri-Nations, and virtually the same team beat the British and Irish Lions 2-1 for an historic victory in 2001. Those two wins ended Maqueen’s stellar international career.
Macqueen’s record – 43 Tests, 34 wins, 8 losses, and a draw – 79%.
An invincible belief was certainly the secret to success in all three eras. Contrast those stats with Deans’ career record with the Wallabies of 60 games, 36 wins, 23 losses, and a draw for 60%.
That’s not suggesting Deans is an inferior coach, not for one second. You don’t win five Super titles if you are a dud coach. What his stats are saying is the Wallabies are a hot and cold unit, and the players must answer for that inconsistency.
Tonight the Wallabies can lift their confidence immeasurably if they hit the All Blacks with everything, including the kitchen sink, in the first 20 minutes.
And that can’t be achieved by kicking away possession. Only ball-in-hand and attack, attack, attack, converting territory into points, preferably with a couple of tries.
A lead of 12 points-plus at quarter time would be the ants’ pants. If a raucous 80,000 home crowd can’t inspire the Wallabies, then they are not doing justice to the coveted gold jersey.
The All Blacks are the undisputed number one team in the world, and great front-runners. But they are vulnerable chasing, that’s why they must be hammered early, and be constantly pressured for the rest of the 80 minutes.
We know skipper David Pocock will do just that, he knows no other way. But he must get the full support of the Wallaby pack at scrum, ruck, and maul time, especially the front row of Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, and Sekope Kepu.
Meanwhile, he must also be able to rely on midfielders Anthony Fainga’a and Rob Horne to keep the super talents of All Black centres Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nono in check, and give Wallaby match-winners Digby Ioane and Kurtley Beale plenty of room to move to strut their spectacular stuff.
Sure it’s a big ask, but what must be done to beat the best.
Otherwise, with the second of the three Bledisloe Cup matches at hoodoo Eden Park next Saturday, where the All Blacks haven’t been beaten for 18 years and 28 internationals, the Wallaby Bledisloe campaign could be shot to ribbons in the first week to increase the drought to 11 years.
Making tonight the night when the Wallabies must stand up to be counted.
So click Wallabies.
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