Why are so many Wallabies injured?
Wallabies Will Genia passes from a scrum. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
The starting Wallabies XV for the most recent South African Test match was the following:
Robinson, Polota-Nau, Alexander, Sharpe, Douglas, Dennis, Hooper, Samo, Phipps, Beale, Ioane, Mccabe, Ashley-Cooper, Shipperley, Barnes
The first proposition of this article is that the team named would be beaten by the following:
Kepu, Moore, Palmer, Horwill, Timani, Higginbotham, Pocock, Palu, Genia, Cooper, Tomane, Lealiifano, O’Connor, Mitchell, Turner
All of these players are injured. Nor are they the only injured players and there could be a considerable debate as to which injured team should be selected in different circumstances.
Recent Wallabies such as Ben McCalman and Cooper Vuna, young talents such as Chris Sautia, senior figures who played last year such as Dan Vickerman and Rocky Elsom – all of these and more are part of the vast ward of crocked players who otherwise might be able to play.
This was all before Saturday’s match, when the injury calamity reached the point of farce, with so many further wounded that 14 men finished the match.
Of course it should be obvious from the strength of the shadow XV that it would be a miracle to beat top three quality international teams, but such is the hysteria of Robbie Deans’ detractors that reason and fairness are not so much pushed aside as trampled into atomic particles.
If Deans had access to the players concerned, a far more dangerous outfit could be assembled and probably the best for much of a decade. In theory therefore, a dramatic watershed could take place on the international field next season.
But doesn’t this suppose that the plague won’t return, perhaps with greater vengeance, to blight the Lions tour and Bledisloe Cup once more?
The question must now be asked why Australia is losing so many more players through injury than its two regular adversaries, who take part in the same tournaments?
Firstly, it should be made clear that most of these injuries occurred at state level, or if during Wallaby training or play they are largely recurrences of injuries suffered with the franchises. Though of course, the fanatical anti-Deans cult would delight in blaming them all on him.
One idea is that Australian franchises insist on heavy weight training to make up for a perceived or real lack of physicality with respect to their New Zealand or South African foes. Perhaps after being out-muscled, the instinctive response of the fitness gurus is to lift big.
Another is that there may be over-exertion across the board because of the tremendous challenges faced against New Zealand and South African Super Rugby teams, and that strain and a lack of confidence lead to physical tension and stress which, in turn, generate injuries.
Is it a general style of fitness training in Australian sport, maybe the mistake of applying training ideas better suited to one sport in another, given the choice of systems from two other broadly similar codes close to hand?
Perhaps coaches don’t rest or rotate players enough, and expect their best to carry match after match, something less necessary in New Zealand where the replacement is often as good as the starter.
These are all little more than tentative suggestions. The author has not fathomed the source of this epidemic. One thing is clear though, if the malady is not remedied next season, the Wallabies will need divine intervention to put a competitive team on the field again.
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