Is Kurtley a long term solution at Number 10?
Australia's Kurtley Beale, right, makes a catch as South Africa's captain Jean de Villiers, left, defends during their Rugby Championship at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo / Themba Hadebe)
The defensive strategy set against a team will largely be determined by the calibre and playing style of the opposition no 10.
It has been interesting to hear about Graham Henry’s disingenuous lauding of Quade Cooper’s skills. Indeed in this way Robbie Deans played into Henry’s hands in the last Rugby World Cup.
The one team that the All Blacks genuinely fear is the Wallabies, especially the Wallaby backs. Cooper had a lamentable Rugby World Cup, where the speed of the defence at this level (as opposed to the slower Super Rugby) reduced Cooper’s time and space, nullifying his passing game.
Henry got his preferred choice Wallaby 10 and the rest is history.
Berrick Barnes offered the European style/traditional play of a kicking no 10. This worked a treat against Wales, where the Wallabies out played Wales at their own game. This style is ineffective against the AB’s, who have no peer in counter attacking kicked ball.
It is less effective against the Springboks, especially when they choose to play a lateral game and counter attack kicked ball.
Henry, assisted the Argentine game plan against Cooper recently on the Gold Coast and again Cooper was found wanting, which in no small way contributed to Cooper’s lamentable “toxic environment” outburst.
Cooper at Test level has been found out and now is not sure if he wants to play for the Wallabies any more.
Left with no other choice, Deans selects the last 10 walking and slots in Beale against the Springboks. Beale shines in an awful team display where the Wallabies were literally and figuratively belted off the park.
This last weekend, against Argentina, the Wallabies second XV defied all pundits (including this one) and recorded a brave victory, with Beale again shining in a sloppy game played in intense humidity.
His deft execution off a set piece play to register the Wallabies only try, was sublime.
Beale gives the Wallabies go forward and ignites the back line in a way that has the opposition guessing. He makes it difficult for the Graham Henrys of this world to set a defensive game plan against him.
His game is truly multi dimensional, his defence is excellent and his intuitive feel for time and space is as good as it gets.
I look forward to when James O’Connor returns, preferably at 12, to provide not only an alternate first receiver which will keep the defence coaches guessing even more, but a deft ball runner to take better advantage on what Beale has to offer.
At the end of the day it is the forwards that win matches with the backs determining by how much. But the cleanout/commitment by the Wallabies in this last match against Argentina was excellent.
Let’s hope that from now the Wallaby forwards can deliver some consistency in this regard and continue to give the backs good front foot attacking ball, allowing Beale to do his thing.
Then we can watch the Wallabies run the ball.
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