Five years of Wallabies going nowhere
148 Have your say
Plenty of people are talking up the Wallabies on the back of a messy win over Argentina and an even messier draw with New Zealand to close out the domestic season in 2012.
Such reactions are misguided to say the least. It is just more of the same – the Wallabies have neither improved nor progressed in five years under coach Robbie Deans.
I’ll save the opinion-based observations (about selection, game plan, etc) for the comments section, here are the facts:
Since 1996, when Bob Dwyer retired and the professional era began in earnest, the Wallabies have played 211 tests, resulting in a 134-72-5 (win-loss-draw) record (or a 63.5% success rate), and played the All Blacks 46 times for a 14-31-1 record (30.4%).
Under Robbie Deans, the Wallabies are performing well below these averages.
Here are the historical results broken down by coach in the professional era:
Greg Smith (1996-1997), 19 matches as coach, 12-7 (63.1%), 0-5 against the All Blacks (0%)
Rod Macqueen (1997-2001), 43 matches as coach, 34-8-1 (79.0%), 5-2 against the All Blacks (71.4%)
Eddie Jones (2001-2005), 57 matches as coach, 33-23-1 (57.9%), 5-6 against the All Blacks (45.4%)
John Connolly (2006-2007), 25 matches as coach, 16-8-1 (64.0%), 1-4 against the All Blacks (20%)
Robbie Deans (2008-Present), 67 matches as coach, 39-26-2 (58.2%), 3-14-1 against the All Blacks (16.7%)
A stock line in support of Deans is always, “when Deans took over the Wallabies were number five in the world, now they are number two.” This is factually accurate, but just how much better are the Wallabies now than in 2007?
For starters, the Wallabies were ranked number two in the world under John Connolly going into the Rugby World Cup and only came out fifth due to exiting in the quarter finals, beaten by a lower ranked side.
Connolly had taken over the side from Eddie Jones, after they lost eight of their last nine matches. The turn-around he effected in two years is remarkable. The Wallabies in 2006 and 2007 with Connolly as coach won more often and more often against New Zealand than they have since.
In fact, on review, the 2011 Rugby World Cup performance is not as good as the third place finish would indicate. I do not understand how the unreleased ARU review resulted in a “pass mark”.
The only substantial difference between Connolly’s side in 2007 and Deans’ side in 2011 was that Stirling Mortlock missed his penalty kick in the quarter final, whereas James O’Connor made his.
In 2007, the Wallabies finished top of their pool beating Fiji, Wales, Japan and Canada. In 2011, the Wallabies could only manage second in their pool, losing to Ireland (and beating Italy, Russia and the USA).
In 2007, the Wallabies scored 30 tries in five matches, but only five against quality opposition (four against Wales and one against England). In 2011, the Wallabies scored only 25 tries in seven matches, although seven were against quality opposition (four in 20 superb minutes against Italy, one opportunistic try from turnover ball against South Africa, and an additional two tries against Wales in the third place playoff).
In 2007, the Wallabies conceded four tries in five matches (two to Wales and two to Fiji). In 2011, the Wallabies conceded seven tries in seven matches (three to Russia, one to the USA, one to New Zealand, and two more to Wales in third place playoff match).
When viewed in this light, the play of the Wallabies during the 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign was arguably worse than that of 2007, despite the end result.
This year, the once-feared Wallaby attack has now scored just 12 tries in 11 matches. While their effort in holding the All Blacks try-less for the first time 107 tests (since the 2004 Wallabies did it in Sydney) is commendable, the result in Brisbane also underlines the point that defence doesn’t win the match.
Deans has had more games in charge than any other Wallaby coach in the professional era (Bob Dwyer has had more overall but he coached in the amateur era and over two separate stints) and the team’s winning percentage under Deans is below 60%, despite the professional era average being 64% and despite the ARU setting Deans a 70-75% target when he was appointed.
For how much longer must we tolerate the Wallabies under-performing?
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