Wallabies must keep winning after responding to fans’ message

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Australia's full back Berrick Barnes. AFP PHOTO/ADRIAN DENNIS

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    Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the Wallabies’ 20-14 win over the flying purple people-eaters at Twickenham was that there were signs that the Wallabies might just be getting at least some of the messages coming from disgruntled supporters at home and abroad.

    After the Wallabies were correctly pilloried by all and sundry for their lacklustre display against France, it’s great to be reading credit where it’s properly due.

    However, I’ll first get a quick word on England’s kit out of the way.

    I’d only just given them a rap for letting their new supplier, Canterbury, go back to the traditional England white jersey and shorts and navy socks kit.

    After France’s new retro-styled adidas strip as well, it seemed the rugby world was going back to their roots (if you’ll ignore the All Blacks finally relenting on a sponsor).

    But “Regal Purple” is just a horrendous step back to the dark old days of made-for-marketing, like anthracite, and black in New Zealand.

    This was supposed to be a clash at the home of rugby between centuries-old colonial rivals, and we, as supporters and lovers of the game, deserved better than something more suited to a tired Wiggle. All jibes that I’ve read so far have been well made and are well deserved.

    But I digress…

    All last week, commentators, journos, bloggers, pundits, and rarely-pleased ex-pat former players were lining up to have their two cents on what went wrong in France, and very little of it was wide of the mark.

    Andrew Logan spoke of the need in rugby “to win the contest at the collision point,” and overall, I’d say that if the Wallabies didn’t ‘win’ the collision, they certainly contested it a whole lot better than they did in Paris just a week before.

    There were numerous examples of gold jerseys breaking the first tackle, and with that came a better second phase game in which the Wallabies’ eight offloads found support more often than has been the case in recent outings.

    In fact, the Wallabies’ support game was much improved, and there were noticeably more bodies in motion.

    As Nick Cummins went over for his try, you could see Kurtley Beale and Sitaleki Timani hovering in the background supporting the break-maker Nick Phipps, which in turn meant some of the covering defenders had to keep half and eye on them, too.

    On the rare occasion that the Wallabies made a break in Paris, or for most of The Rugby Championship, the man in the clear often fought a lone battle.

    The plaudits for Ben Tapuai in his first outing at inside centre have rightly flowed, and he certainly played a major part in creating the “line-bend, a point from which the team can attack on the front foot” that ‘Loges’ required of a no. 12 last week.

    Again, the supporting bodies in motion and improved second phase play meant that Australia were much better equipped to take advantage of Tapuai’s good work.

    One of David Lord’s ‘musts’ on Saturday was that “Wingers [Digby] Ioane and Nick Cummins must be given ball in hand with time and space, and not have to go searching for it,” and again, I reckon the Wallabies got this right.

    It’s true that Ioane didn’t have the same impact that Cummins did, but the fact that both were regularly utilised as option runners meant that there was another dimension to the Australian attack.

    Cummins was superb, for the record, and with every run I couldn’t help but think he’s going to be so much more dangerous in Super Rugby next season.

    Nick Phipps was much better than his previous outing, and there hasn’t been and won’t be anywhere near as much gnashing of teeth that Brett Sheehan was again relegated to the role formerly mastered by Chris Whittaker. Phipps’ passing game still had its moments, but his decision-making looked better and he showed great vision to make the space in the lead-up to Cummins’ maiden Test try.

    David Campese’s now-famous comment, that “Robbie Deans is destroying Australian rugby” is never going to be forgotten by just one win.

    The major difference between the Wallabies’ display against England and most showings this year, is that while the game plan (and I use the word loosely) looked largely the same, the much-improved execution and basic skills of the players provided the platform for the win.

    We may never know if this was a coaching or player-led advance, but the acknowledgement should be made regardless.

    After being pantsed in Paris, I thought the Wallaby tight-five were excellent, and more than held their own against the English scrum that had (or was given) an expectation of 2005-vintage dominance.

    It was nice to see former England International, Paul Ackford, writing in The Telegraph that their ability to “rebuild their scrummage and breakdown work, to play with real passion and imagination was praiseworthy indeed.”

    Ackford’s ratings of the Ben(n)s Alexander and Robinson were only topped by the perfect ten he afforded Man of the Match, Michael Hooper, for whom he effused, “..had an extraordinary match in attack and defence. His work at the breakdown was exemplary and … [his] decision-making was spot on. He knew precisely when and how to apply the pressure without conceding penalties in dangerous positions.”

    Beale and Berrick Barnes both had solid games, too, and appeared to feed off each other pretty well throughout. Barnes might not be quite as good a goal-kicker as Mike Harris, but I think he makes a better makeshift fullback.

    The Wallaby defence in that last half hour was just something else, and highlighted the very character of the men that Deans has never doubted, if sometimes to a fault.

    Once again, though, I find myself saying as I have done often in my time on The Roar, that the Wallabies cannot be judged on their last game now, but on their next.

    The Wallabies have often found the Azzuri to be a tough opponent at home, perhaps most famously when Quade Cooper announced himself on the international stage in 2008.

    With Italy coming off a 42-10 loss at the hands of New Zealand in Rome, they will be primed for another shot at the hot-and-cold Wallabies, and certainly the Australians cannot afford to lift the foot. A win in Florence will provide immense confidence as they head to Cardiff and chase eight straight wins against Wales.

    More importantly, the Wallabies now have a chance to show they’re not always hot and cold, and are capable of stringing wins together. The thing about consistency, as another favourite saying goes, is that you have to do it all the time.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (113)

    • November 20th 2012 @ 3:47am
      HardData said | November 20th 2012 @ 3:47am | ! Report

      Nice one Brett

      You celebrate Hooper’s perfect Ten, although he cannot effect much turnover ball, is no use at a line-out, does not knock any one back in the tackle, nor can take the ball up to the line with venom (yes he can run into a gap only).

      Is this the same English commentator that said NZ Rugby about three years ago was history?

      Question?

      What do you get from a PoCock & Hooper marriage?

      Answer:

      Richie McCaw plus a line-out option thrown in free of charge!!!!!!!!!!!

      • November 20th 2012 @ 8:05am
        soapit` said | November 20th 2012 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        mccaw and hooper respective running games are different beasts.

      • Roar Guru

        November 20th 2012 @ 1:41pm
        Hoy said | November 20th 2012 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

        I actually think though Hooper doesn’t bounce people around, his leg drive would be very beneficial if a few other players had it as well. He always makes ground with the ball, even in contact.

      • November 20th 2012 @ 2:48pm
        Renee Matey said | November 20th 2012 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

        Question?

        What do you get from a PoCock & Hooper marriage?

        That would be a Pooper.

        Or maybe a Hocock.

    • Roar Guru

      November 20th 2012 @ 3:59am
      Poth Ale said | November 20th 2012 @ 3:59am | ! Report

      “Wallabies must keep winning after responding to fans’ message”

      Bugger the fans. Walllabies must keep winning for themselves. Worry about the fans later.

      • November 20th 2012 @ 4:49am
        HardData said | November 20th 2012 @ 4:49am | ! Report

        How do the Wallabies keep winning for themselves when almost 1/2 their first choice team are foreign born?

      • Columnist

        November 20th 2012 @ 7:51am
        Brett McKay said | November 20th 2012 @ 7:51am | ! Report

        Agree Pots. It’s not often I worry about this, but that’s the Eds headline, not mine. I wasn’t specifying where the message was coming from..

        • Roar Guru

          November 20th 2012 @ 11:07am
          Poth Ale said | November 20th 2012 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          “…there were signs that the Wallabies might just be getting at least some of the messages coming from disgruntled supporters at home and abroad….”

          You weren’t Brett?

          • Columnist

            November 20th 2012 @ 11:42am
            Brett McKay said | November 20th 2012 @ 11:42am | ! Report

            I also mentioned comments of three Roar colleagues, Pots. It wasn’t just fans and supperters, no. And my headline was simply “Wallabies might just be heeding the message”

    • November 20th 2012 @ 4:52am
      HardData said | November 20th 2012 @ 4:52am | ! Report

      Australia will never have pride in the “yellow” whatever, when their players have already sung another anthem after birth.

      • Roar Guru

        November 20th 2012 @ 6:30am
        moaman said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:30am | ! Report

        You happen to live under a bridge,HardData?

        • November 20th 2012 @ 6:32am
          Billy Bob said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:32am | ! Report

          Thanks Moa better coming from you than one of the one he’s really offending

        • Columnist

          November 20th 2012 @ 7:51am
          Brett McKay said | November 20th 2012 @ 7:51am | ! Report

          well said Moa…

      • November 20th 2012 @ 8:08am
        soapit` said | November 20th 2012 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        perhaps you could put all your zingers into one post.

    • Roar Guru

      November 20th 2012 @ 5:34am
      moaman said | November 20th 2012 @ 5:34am | ! Report

      I liked the tone of the article Brett…excited,hopeful yet tinged with realism too 😉

      I have to say that this ‘Autumn’ series has been a bit of a surprise to me-and jaded old curmudgeon that I am,I pride myself on not being surprised anymore. Essentially-the standard of play has been pretty dire across the board,and it’s hard to get a handle on how meritorious any of these wins {(W)s?} are.

      The English scribes wax lyrical when they witness any player with a single digit (on his jersey) take or spin a pass;They positively go into ecstasy when one of them scoops a ball off his boot-laces and puts a team-mate in space! I read somewhere that the hero Dan Coles throws more passes during an England training-session than he does all season in the Premiership…..

      Meanwhile…in the Valleys,pessimism reigns.Whilst there are some die-hards who believe Wales were the best team at the RWC and were “robbed” of the title…a glance through ‘Wales Online’ pages reveals the deepest angst and even worse introspection than witnessed on the Roar in recent months.

      In a final digression–Ireland played Fiji away from their main stadium(where they are bound by contract to play ALL their Tests) and therefore called themselves an “Ireland xv”.I wonder if the game will be retrospectively awarded full-international status sometime in the future? Farcical.

      • November 20th 2012 @ 5:53am
        Justin2 said | November 20th 2012 @ 5:53am | ! Report

        Moa I meant raise the Ireland 15 rubbish yesterday. Talk about disrespecting the game and Fiji. Was this news prior to the match, do you have any more on this?

        • Roar Guru

          November 20th 2012 @ 6:29am
          moaman said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:29am | ! Report

          Not realy much more to add Justin2. That Fiji are unable to field their best players due to clubs either applying pressure or supplying incentives is the great scandal here.When will the iRB grow some? They are purportedly trying to ‘grow’ the Game.Maybe they need to sprinkle some HRT on their patch?

          • November 20th 2012 @ 10:39am
            Bakkies said | November 20th 2012 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            or the Fijian union didn’t bother. Samoa have managed to field a decent squad. The IRFU are contracted to play all internationals at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin and the stadium was needed on the weekend.

            There was no grunt in defence from Fiji and they put the top tryscorer in this season’s Top 14 Matanavou on the bench.

            • November 20th 2012 @ 11:16pm
              HardData said | November 20th 2012 @ 11:16pm | ! Report

              Fiji has lost most of this generation’s talent to France, thanks to their almost newly installed Academy.

              But lets not let the facts get in the way of perception?????

              • November 21st 2012 @ 2:46am
                Bakkies said | November 21st 2012 @ 2:46am | ! Report

                What professional opportunities are there in Fiji for these players? Well ?

      • Columnist

        November 20th 2012 @ 7:57am
        Brett McKay said | November 20th 2012 @ 7:57am | ! Report

        Moa, as you’ve seen yourself, we tend to get carried away after one win on the trot, so the realism was very deliberate!!

        I can only imagine what’s being said in Wales. I thought Wales-Samoa was a cracking game, but you’re quite correct, they’re a shadow of the team that won the Six Nations. It might not be a good time to be playing them, actually, in two weeks time!

        Have to admit I wasn’t aware of what happened in Ireland. That smacks of disrespect toward Fiji, and the IRB most definiately should “grow some” as you put it..

        • November 20th 2012 @ 9:47am
          kingplaymaker said | November 20th 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          An utter disgrace.

          The IRB should throw the book at the French clubs via the French federation or however.

          • November 20th 2012 @ 2:20pm
            stainlesssteve said | November 20th 2012 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

            Fiji suffers because of some unofficial sanctions and dirty dealing.
            The explanation seems to be centred on the Fiji government’s periodic disengagement from the pretence of a democratic process.
            More likely, as with other “rogue nations”, is that they have the guts not to knuckle under to the Rothschild bank.

            • November 20th 2012 @ 9:15pm
              Bakkies said | November 20th 2012 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

              Yep there have been several visa issues for Fijian players in the past getting to places like Australia and NZ for Rugby matches. How many of them have pro contracts in NZ now compared to when Vunibaka, Tanivula and Caucau were tearing up Super Rugby? France make it easy for PI players to get contracts and they probably get them for far less compared to the middle range Kiwi, Aussies and Saffers that go over there. The players don’t want to upset their employers who put food on the table for their families.

              • November 20th 2012 @ 11:18pm
                HardData said | November 20th 2012 @ 11:18pm | ! Report

                All due respect Bakkies,

                You have NO idea in regards VISA issues.

                Do not comment otherwise.

              • November 21st 2012 @ 2:48am
                Bakkies said | November 21st 2012 @ 2:48am | ! Report

                Well mister know it all why do certain Fiji players get left behind due to red tape issues. There have been issues in the past due to Fiji having a military controlled government which didn’t go down well with Aus and NZ.

              • Roar Rookie

                November 21st 2012 @ 3:16am
                Neuen said | November 21st 2012 @ 3:16am | ! Report

                Actually they are no use to NZ because they have represented Fiji at 15 or 7 man level which make ineligible to play for NZ. Kids with a Pacific Island background value culture more than country. So if they see a superstar Fijian play for NZ the kids also want to become a All Black. Big names = kids flocking to NZ schools to do what their role model did. That is why Samoa have some talented players playing for them cause and not go over to NZ thanks to guys like Brain Lima being a role model for some. People do not look at the cultural background when they talk about these issues. You can be born in NZ but they will be brought up in a Samoa, Tonga or Fiji culture and not NZ one. Many of them go to NZ for a education and started playing rugby due to guys like Michael Jones which was responsible for most of the players with the Samoan background playing for NZ.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 6:14am
      mace 22 said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      What exactly was the fans message, apart from sack deans.

      • November 20th 2012 @ 6:50am
        mark said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:50am | ! Report

        speak for yourself

      • Columnist

        November 20th 2012 @ 7:59am
        Brett McKay said | November 20th 2012 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        Mace, see my post above, the ‘message’ has been attributed to the fans, but that wasn’t my doing. And to follow on from Mark’s post, there was plenty more being said than just sack the coach..

        • November 20th 2012 @ 12:40pm
          mace 22 said | November 20th 2012 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

          True but the ones that called for his sacking are the ones that stand out in my mind. Maybe because I was a deans supporter and now am having second thoughts.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 6:36am
      Billy Bob said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      Come on Mace, there were at least three of us who were not screaming out for someone to be sacked, dropped or otherwise scapegoated

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