Why the Waratahs are sinking to the bottom of a very deep blue sea

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

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    The Duke of Wellington famously remarked of the massed charge of Napoleon’s elite ‘Old Guard’ in the twilight of the Battle of Waterloo that, “They came on in the same old way, and we sent them back in the same old way.”

    In the fast-growing world of rugby professionalism it is particularly dangerous to ‘come on in the same old way’ from season to season, especially if that way happens to contain some fairly obvious weaknesses.

    Unfortunately this curse of repetition is exactly what seems to be bedevilling the 2017 Waratahs right now. Well over one year ago I wrote this article on the Highlanders’ formula for beating the Waratahs.

    The article concluded with the statement, “In the meantime, it will be up to the Waratahs and Daryl Gibson’s coaching group to resolve the issues raised by the Highlanders’ approach and come up with a more convincing solution.”

    There is a double dilemma here. There is the local question of the Tahs’ skill sets and systems keeping pace with those of their opponents, particularly those from New Zealand, but there is the larger issue looming in the background of Australia’s ability to match playing wits and show improvement within the terms of the current five-franchise structure.

    It is always a worry when your intellectual property shows no clear signs of moving on and developing, and the Waratahs, like all the other Australian sides, still seem stuck largely where they were in 2016.

    While some of the deficiencies – such as the lineout, with Dean Mumm now running a unit with four genuine receiving options – have been addressed, the major weakness in the team has not.

    That pressure point is a territorial game plan designed to keep the Tahs in their exit strategy, within their own last third of the field. This is by far the weakest area of the Sky Blues’ game and it is crippling their chances of battling their top-tier Super Rugby rivals on even terms.

    Over their five games against teams with positive win/loss records (50 per cent or better), the Waratahs have achieved the following results in 2017:

    Round/Location Opponent Result
    Round 2/Away Lions (9-1) L 36-55
    Round 3/Away Sharks (7-2-1) L 14-37
    Round 6/Home Crusaders (10-0) L 22-41
    Round 7/Away Hurricanes (8-1) L 28-38
    Round 11/Home Blues (5-5) L 33-40
    Average Margin (All) L 27-42 (15 points)

    The most troubling issues are an inability to stop opponents scoring points (an average 42 points conceded per game) and an identical margin of defeat whether the game is played home or away.

    Teams struggling with their win/loss ratio will typically start to build success by turning their home ground into a fortress, but that has not been the case for the Waratahs in Sydney. Far from it.

    The lack of starch when playing in front of their own people in Sydney must be especially galling for the Sky Blues’ faithful. On Saturday evening the Blues from Auckland cruised to a 26-0 half-time lead without really having to break into a sweat. That gave the Waratahs an insurmountable mountain to climb in the second period despite a gritty comeback.

    The Blues achieved their aim with a version of the Highlanders’ plan tailored to their own particular strengths.

    With the Tahs committing only 12 defenders to the line in the opening exchanges, the Blues began by establishing ball control in the middle of the field.

    Within the opening ten minutes of the game they had controlled it for two long sequences – 0:36-2:25 and 7:17-8:27 – totalling three minutes.

    The Blues’ ball control plan was quite simple, with two one-out phases to every pass that went beyond first receiver. The following screenshot illustrates the base structure:

    The Tahs are in a 12-man line and all eight Blues forwards are either buried in the ruck (three) or condensed on the near-side of midfield (five) – in all there are 11 Blues attackers playing on one side of the pitch.

    In the course of the first half the Blues were able to build 50 rucks and make 339 metres, seven offloads and five clean breaks out of this basic pattern – figures which are not too shabby as whole-game results, let alone the stats for one half of play!

    They dominated the penalty count 6-0 and neutralised the Waratahs’ outstanding jackal at the breakdown, hooker Tolu Latu, in the process. Latu is built so low to the ground that it is almost impossible for the referee to determine whether he is supporting his own bodyweight or not:

    In the first example Latu was penalised, but in the second he was permitted to make the turnover – but who can really spot the difference in real time?

    The Blues’ concentration in attack allowed them to expose slow reactions and a lack of co-ordination in the Tahs’ defence on the interior – from the guard next to the breakdown out to the second defender:

    In these two frames a potential (three-on-two) is translated into an actual (two-on-one) attack on the gap outside Michael Hooper, with No. 5 Dave McDuling slow to close down the space from the second defender.

    This became a developing issue for the Tahs as the game wore on. It is also a regular defensive theme for sides coached by Nathan Grey, including the Wallabies:

    After a quick tapped penalty taken by half-back Augustine Pulu, on the following phase Piers Francis slides into a big hole between first defender Dean Mumm and the wrong-footed Latu outside him to set up an easy try for Scott Scrafton.

    In the second half Rieko Ioane scores the Blues’ third try when the guard, Paddy Ryan, mistimes his rush on to half-back Augustine Pulu and the defence outside him, comprising Hugh Roach and Will Skelton, loses its sense of connection completely:

    Three tries or breaks all made through the same hole in the defence. The same tries can be viewed in ‘live’ time on this highlight reel.

    With the Blues controlling the ball so efficiently in that first half, the Tahs were forced to shift up another defender from the backfield into the front line, and this is where their exit strategy problems really came into focus in a big way.

    The Blues went to their kicking game as soon as they spotted the space in the backfield:

    The diagonal kick from Francis finds Israel Folau having to cover the entire width of the field on his own, with two Blues chasers ready and waiting to collect him, isolated and without support on the return.

    When the Tahs did try to exit from their own last third, their kicking attempts did not achieve the desired results. On six separate occasions in the first 45 minutes they failed to exit more than five metres beyond their own 22-metre line.

    There were couple of short kicks from Bernard Foley, one from Israel Folau, and two from Waratahs’ #12 David Horwitz, the second of which flew a good eight metres over the touch-line, from well outside the 22 under no particular pressure from the Blues defence.

    On the sixth occasion when the ball stayed infield, there was an evident lack of the same collective purpose demonstrated by the kick from Piers Francis and the two-man chase on Folau.

    When Reece Robinson goes to kick at 36:04, all but one of his team-mates are either on the wrong side of the ball or ahead of it and therefore out of play.

    The one chaser on the side of the field to which the kick is directed (Rob Horne) is comfortably beaten on a return which took the ball all the way back, deep into Sky Blue territory:

    Summary
    One of the domino effects of the five-team structure in Australian Super Rugby is that lessons on the coaching and playing front are taking far too long to be absorbed.

    Is this more because of the lack of options in playing personnel, an absence of urgency in the improvement of individual skill sets, or coaching inflexibility?

    Whatever the answer to those questions, the outcome is straightforward. The Waratahs are getting ‘sent back in the same old way’ in 2017 as they were the year before, and the margins of defeat are becoming increasingly embarrassing to a team rich in Wallaby players – most especially at home and in front of their own people.

    The winning recipe is quite simple and easy for even the least successful Super Rugby team in New Zealand to follow. Keep the ball, exploit that looseness in the interior defence, kick for position when the Waratahs push another defender up into line. Above all, pressure the Tahs’ kicking game and force weak exits that can be exploited on the return or from deep-set attacking lineouts near the Sky Blue 22-metre line.

    The steady decline in standards is truly heartbreaking to any true lover or student of the game, and it is certain that Michael Cheika will find it very hard to right all the wrongs that are happening at the levels below him in the upcoming Wallabies training camp for June.

    Nicholas Bishop
    Nicholas Bishop

    Nick Bishop has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2003), Mike Ruddock (2004-2005) and most recently Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for or won national sports book awards. Nick’s latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union, entitled “The Iron Curtain”. He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches.

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    The Crowd Says (281)

    • Columnist

      May 10th 2017 @ 5:22am
      Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:22am | ! Report

      As a general comment, I would like to point out that (on editorial recommendation) we are experimenting with a new format to my articles on The Roar.

      Instead of the usual illustrative reels – which readers from abroad do not have access to, and which lapse after a certain period of time – there will be screenshots, with an additional link to the official highlights reel from the game in question.

      Feedback on the new format would be very welcome, as well the usual stimulating discussion of the material itself!

      • May 10th 2017 @ 8:08am
        soapit said | May 10th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        hi nic, just a comment. if ur going to use still frames illustrating something perhaps it would be good to have indicators added to key personnel to tell who’s who from frame to frame. its a bit hard to judge numbers (when theyre even visible) and so who’s moved where in attacks on the small version on computers especially on the wide shots.

        • Columnist

          May 10th 2017 @ 2:52pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

          Point taken Soap. This is something we can probably add if we stick with the new format 🙂

        • May 10th 2017 @ 8:21pm
          Bakkies said | May 10th 2017 @ 8:21pm | ! Report

          Soapit Scott Allen managed to do that with his articles.

          • May 11th 2017 @ 7:51am
            soapit said | May 11th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

            yep i remember that bakkies. was just a simple 1, 2, etc above the players from memory

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 10:41am
        Spiro Zavos said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        Hi Nicholas

        I love the new format and admire your clear-eyed analysis of what is happening with the Waratahs.

        It’s a pity (I know you live overseas) that a franchise or the Wallabies haven’t made you an offer you couldn’t refuse to provide this sort of analysis for their teams.

        It seems to me that one of the issues is Nathan Grey’s defensive systems. They are too easily destroyed by well-coached sides with the skills, mental and physical, to exploit their weaknesses.

        You can’t expect to win game when you leak 40+ points regularly.

        My questions are these: Why hasn’t Grey or Daryl Gibson forced changes in the defensive system?

        Will Michael Cheika allow Nathan Grey to impose his clearly inadequate defensive systems on the Wallabies?

        As a postscript, I was disappointed to hear Nathan Grey say before the Auckland Blues match that he was looking for more passion from his players to improve the Waratahs defensive record.

        Passion dries up like water in a desert when it is not totally protected by workable systems.

        • May 10th 2017 @ 11:42am
          Darwin Stubbie said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          Auckland Blues ??? … how hard is it to get team names correct

          • May 10th 2017 @ 12:14pm
            Paul said | May 10th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

            Darwin Keg , no one knows where the Blues are from. But most would know where Auckland is..

            DERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR ..BOING!!

            • May 10th 2017 @ 12:20pm
              Darwin Stubbie said | May 10th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

              How old is the competition? … and how thick do you have to be to realise that no such team exists – particularly as it is clearly differentiated in the actual article

              • May 10th 2017 @ 1:32pm
                Paul said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                I`m talking about newcomers to the game DARWIN KEG and people who do not know what part of UN ZUD the Blues represent.. Those people are are thick are they?? hahaha Stop being so insecure and insular .

                They are called the Auckland Blues by many and will be continued to be called that, as they play all their home game at……… ?????????

                Eden Park ” Auckland “. Chill bro hehe.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 2:13pm
                Darwin Stubbie said | May 10th 2017 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

                Stupid is as stupid does I suppose … and as for new people to the game – what from Aust – yeah right

              • May 10th 2017 @ 5:40pm
                ClarkeG said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

                Sydney Waratahs – Canberra Brumbies – Brisbane Reds

                So when the “Auckland” Blues play home games at Albany should for that weekend we call them the Albany (or perhaps North Harbour) Blues.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 5:54pm
                CUW said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

                i think those were the initial super rugger names – Auckland Blues , Canterbury Crusaders , New South Wales Waratahs , Queensland Reds, …..

                probably in the same vein as Chicago Bulls , San Antonio Spurs , Los Angelis Lakers, …….

                then i think the city was dropped. but the name was kept.

                when exactly – maybe someone with better memory will tell 🙂

              • May 11th 2017 @ 6:28am
                soapit said | May 11th 2017 @ 6:28am | ! Report

                certainly no thicker than someone not understanding the difference between not realising and not caring.

              • May 11th 2017 @ 9:40am
                Darwin Stubbie said | May 11th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

                Which you confirm

              • May 11th 2017 @ 10:33am
                Paul said | May 11th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

                ClarkeG NSW Waratahs – ACT Brumbies – Queensland Reds..

                What is your point ??

              • May 11th 2017 @ 2:28pm
                ClarkeG said | May 11th 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

                I think you got the point Paul.

              • May 11th 2017 @ 6:00pm
                soapit said | May 11th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

                ds if the zinger doesnt make sense probably best to hold out for a better one.

            • May 10th 2017 @ 2:32pm
              woodart said | May 10th 2017 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

              everything north of the bombays,,boing!!!!

          • May 10th 2017 @ 2:15pm
            Zero Gain said | May 10th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

            Get over yourself, who cares. We all know which team he means.

            • May 10th 2017 @ 2:19pm
              Darwin Stubbie said | May 10th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

              Sort of sums up Aust current issues

              • May 10th 2017 @ 3:27pm
                CUW said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

                ditto – u beat me to that conclusion.

                as someone outside the SANZAAAAR countries , i find this auzzy obsession with their provinces / states really boring.

                they need to look beyond such boundaries and embrace a team for the love of the game.

          • May 10th 2017 @ 3:50pm
            Jake said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

            Auckland Blues, Waikato Chiefs, Otago Highlanders, Canterbury Crusaders, Wellington Hurricanes are the names of the teams

            • May 10th 2017 @ 5:54pm
              Darwin Stubbie said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

              The Aust private school system appears to be an absolute waste of money

              • May 10th 2017 @ 8:32pm
                Adsa said | May 10th 2017 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

                So your whole carry on about bad terrible Oz rugby and terrible schools is because an NZ journalist referred to the Blues as the Auckland Blues.
                Precious petal today aren’t we!

              • May 11th 2017 @ 6:26am
                soapit said | May 11th 2017 @ 6:26am | ! Report

                quite sweet that you think any of our schools spend time discussing your rugby teams.

              • May 11th 2017 @ 10:00pm
                taylorman said | May 11th 2017 @ 10:00pm | ! Report

                Perhaps they should Soapit?

          • May 11th 2017 @ 3:27pm
            Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | May 11th 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

            Thank you Darwin Stubbie for bringing this trivial matter of an Australian foundation rep team back to topics of international importance.
            Perhaps the poster had a poor education? The nuns in Wellington have a lot to answer for.

        • May 10th 2017 @ 11:57am
          Perthstayer said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          Spiro,

          if Nick remained overseas he could still add value to this bunch just via email

          • Columnist

            May 10th 2017 @ 3:09pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

            I do feel the Waratahs are under-performing PS (and Spiro). When they rouse themselves, as they often do when the game is gone in the last 20-30 minutes, they can look a very dangerous attacking side. They have the weapons – Hooper, Foley, Folau and Naiyaravoro, plus Skelton in the midfield when he comes on, are an imposing attacking five.

            But until the the kicking game is fixed, it is a bit like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it. I’d be happy to help out on a consultative basis, but there has to be the will to ask for help from someone outside the current box 🙂

        • Columnist

          May 10th 2017 @ 3:03pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

          Hi Spiro

          Thanks for your response. I personally would hesitate to blame it all on Grey’s defensive systems.

          There are a number of factors which I feel are interconnected, and influence defensive effectiveness. Last season the lineout was a major issue for the Tahs, and it meant they spent long periods inside their own end.
          This season they seem to be better there with the addition of Ned Hanigan at 6 and Jed Holloway at 8.

          However the kicking game has not improved. Earlier in the year they were box-kicking off 9, but getting so little pay out of either Nick Phipps or Jake Gordon from that I cannot recall them kicking once off 9 against the Blues.

          But they still have a lot of issues off 10, 12 and 15 (usually the three main kickers) don’t they?

          Especially kicking from close to the side-lines, there appeared to be no clear strategy and the kicks were very short.

          This allowed the Blues to build confidence from spending so much time in the Tahs’ own end. No defensive system can withstand so much pressure if it is constantly defending only 20 metres or so of turf!

          Having said that, there are some holes in Grey’s system (as there are with all systems) which the Blues happily exploited.

          • Roar Guru

            May 10th 2017 @ 3:11pm
            Fionn said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

            The Wallabies were never going to have a particularly good defence when we placed DHP on the wing, who had never played there, and had to learn how to defend marking Julian Savea in Tests where we were getting smashed, with the duo of Quade and Foley at 10-12 and with Folau (another bad defender at fullback) coupled with Samu being played over TK, and Samu isn’t as strong defensively.

            Also, Cheika was consistently playing people Mumm, Moore and Skelton two of whom aren’t international standard, and one was out of form.

            Grey has to work with a jigsaw when it comes to defence, moving 50% of the players around so that we aren’t exposed.

            • May 10th 2017 @ 3:33pm
              CUW said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

              but does he have the the same problems at Waratahs? becoz this article is about them and not AUZZY>

              this is the tam that played Blues – i’m no expert but i dont see anyone that needs to be switched around in this team. 🙂

              Waratahs:
              15 Israel Folau, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 David McDuling, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
              Replacements:
              16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Taavao, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Irae Simone

            • May 10th 2017 @ 7:27pm
              maxxlord said | May 10th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

              NATHAN GREY is a TERRIBLE defence coach. Persisting with him is costing both the Tahs and the Wallabies.

              • Roar Guru

                May 11th 2017 @ 8:06am
                Fionn said | May 11th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

                I wouldn’t continue with him as defence coach, Max. I am totally against the ex-players getting coaching jobs they are unqualified for, or haven’t proved they are capable of, just because they belong to the old boys club.

                But I don’t think it is entirely his fault, look at the players he has to work with at the Tahs and the Wallabies: Mumm, Skelton, Foley, etc.

      • May 11th 2017 @ 6:07pm
        Fboy said | May 11th 2017 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

        As an infrequent poster but religious reader based in London this new layout is much appreciated. Awesome articles as always. Love articles that leave me with further understanding of how and why Australian teams are struggling so much. Mainstream media articles rarely offer any real insight.

    • Roar Guru

      May 10th 2017 @ 5:43am
      Kia Kaha said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:43am | ! Report

      Living in Madrid, I appreciate this new format Nick so thanks to you and the editors for trialling it.

      I loved the description of keep the ball and exploit the looseness of the interior.

      The lax South African defense Round the fringes has particularly shocked me this year.

      They’ve definitely developed a new offloading game and some of the tries like the reverse pass from the floor or those from the Bulls or Cheetahs game last week have been truly sublime.

      I feel, though, that this has been to the detriment of the typical strengths of South African rugby. The Stormers looked most convincing when they kept things tight against the Hurricanes. They’ve looked ordinary on the NZ tour when they opened things up.

      I think the Waratahs are at their most dangerous when the forwards get front foot ball and when Foley is flat up in the line. They just haven’t been able to impose themselves like they used to in that area and it seems they don’t have a plan B.

      Whereas for many SA teams are struggling with plan B.
      Time to try plan A and build the frills on that.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 5:53am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:53am | ! Report

        Phil Larder, the great English defence coach of the early noughties, always stressed that good D started from the guard closest to the breakdown – the good habits spread out from there…

        Increasingly you see some defensive sides who are so desperate to get line-speed further out that they neglect that integrity on the inside.

        I agree about the Stormers – development has to be incremental, and you cannot expect to adopt NZ type methods all at once, or sacrifice your historical strengths in the process. The idea is to find a point of balance where you can retain the best of the old and add the new without over-reaching. Over-reaching their skill resources describes the Stormers’ performance against the Crusaders and the Highlanders.

        • May 10th 2017 @ 1:38pm
          Talismatic said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

          Hi Nic, I used to charge the wingers with calling numbers in defence as they had no one outside them to defend against and had time to look at the overall numbers. It took a little while for the boys to adopt that as defence normally works inside out but the players on the flank have more ability to see the picture forming.
          What’s that old saying …”If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you” then you have a better chance. Perhaps Rudyard Kipling who coined that saying was a defensive winger

          • Columnist

            May 10th 2017 @ 3:14pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

            Good point T – NZ teams used to number up from the outside in, though that changed with the introduction of up-and-out type defences.

            Grey’s system appears to set off the 2nd defender (opposite the first backs receiver), and that often leaves people trying to fill in underneath him as best they may. You can see another example near the top of an article I wrote for Rugby World last year

            http://www.rugbyworld.com/countries/france-countries/analysis-why-new-zealand-are-masters-of-the-offload-55130

            The AB’s were obviously aware of where the holes would be!

            • May 10th 2017 @ 5:02pm
              ethan said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

              Love that offload article Nick! Amazing how clear the method is upon analysis. We often say NZ are best at ‘playing whats in front of them’, yet there are still plenty of rules guiding decisions that on first glance may look spontaneous.

              I wonder how many head coaches around the world read articles published by the likes of yourself, and take on board the analysis? So many I wish would just be mailed directly to the ARU. At least Mick Byrne should be familiar with the NZ offload laws, and help coach the WBs as such.

              • Columnist

                May 10th 2017 @ 5:31pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

                Cheers Ethan!

                Yes there are plenty of rules, although they are there to be ignored. If you watch French club rugby for example, they still insist on offloading in the middle of the field and in front of the defence – so information does often no penetrate for a long time!

              • May 10th 2017 @ 7:03pm
                ethan said | May 10th 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

                Yes, either they don’t get the memo, or don’t factor it into training. We only need to look at the Waratahs exit strategy, a long time on since you first wrote about its weaknesses, to see that for whatever reason, some lessons do not sink in.

                To be fair to the French, they might not be reading too many English language publications! They would also be far from the only ones guilty…

              • Columnist

                May 10th 2017 @ 7:42pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

                Yes there can be a strange resistance to, or simply unawareness of the information available. Which will make the summer series, and the RC following an even more fascinating watch!

          • May 11th 2017 @ 3:53pm
            Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | May 11th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            Talismatic, I played wing, which may explain my unique wisdom as a close up spectator of the game?
            All other positions- you dont really know! You were only doing what I was watching.
            😎

            • May 11th 2017 @ 3:59pm
              Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | May 11th 2017 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

              By the way Nicholas, another brilliant piece.
              You should not only do analysis, you should teach analysis.
              In South Wales (the new one).

              • Columnist

                May 11th 2017 @ 4:01pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 11th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

                As long as it increases people’s enjoyment of the game – rather than stands in its way Ken 🙂

    • May 10th 2017 @ 5:49am
      mzilikazi said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:49am | ! Report

      Nic, as always, a great article and very insightful analysis. Thank you.

      “The steady decline in standards is truly heartbreaking to any true lover or student of the game, and it is certain that Michael Cheika will find it very hard to right all the wrongs that are happening at the levels below him in the upcoming Wallabies training camp for June.”

      This statement cuts right to the heart of the matter.

      For all our Australian sides, I believe, their seasons are in ruins. I can’t see the side that qualifies for the finals…almost certainly the Brumbies…..doing much better than to date.

      So Michael Chieka will be coaching a group of players steeped in the psychology of defeat. Indeed a huge challenge !

      Personally I would like to se Chieka seek some cross code input, principally from Rugby League and AFL. There are a lot of very successful and astute people, players and coaches, who could be used to help lift the burden he will undoubtedly bear in preparing for the June Internationals, let alone the important games later in the year.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 5:57am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:57am | ! Report

        So Michael Cheika will be coaching a group of players steeped in the psychology of defeat. Indeed a huge challenge !

        This poignantly describes the worst aspect of the current malaise MZ.

        Psychologically, it is very difficult for any of the potential Wallabies to go on to the field expecting to beat a team from New Zealand, because they have become so accustomed to being beaten by them at provincial level. Sometimes it can take an entire playing generation to turn over before that sense of inferiority wears off.

        I would also agree about the benefits of cross-code input, it can help freshen the approach and attitudes significantly.

        • May 10th 2017 @ 12:32pm
          Gray-Hand said | May 10th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

          To be fair, for years now, all wallabies players have become accustomed to losing to the All Blacks.

          • Columnist

            May 10th 2017 @ 3:15pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

            They always had a few successes – enough to encourage them though GH, at both SR and international level!

    • May 10th 2017 @ 6:11am
      Highlander said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:11am | ! Report

      Thanks Nick, quality review and astounding that the Tahs seem either unable to learn or the current players do not have the skills to counter a repeating game plan.

      Latu is a demon over the ball but surely the test is, if you lift your hands what happens, and in both of your examples, one legal one not by the ref, he falls over.
      No way he can be supporting his weight unless his Romainian gymnastic coach has performed miracles. For mine as soon as your chest is resting on the grounded player, then you are not supporting your weight.
      Pococks technique of keeping his legs underneath him (largely) at the contact remains the benchmark.

      An aside if I may.
      What is your view on the structure of the Lions lineout given those selected.
      Seems to me with Billy V almost a lock they look at least 1 option short -Henderson or Itoje may have to play 6.

      New video structure is fine but a simple VPN fixed any issues for offshore viewers. Would not posting clips to a You Tube site and citing link not be a good alternative.

      • May 10th 2017 @ 6:17am
        Highlander said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:17am | ! Report

        Lock as in assured selection, not the position obviously

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 6:25am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:25am | ! Report

        No way he can be supporting his weight unless his Romanian gymnastic coach has performed miracles.

        Love it Highlander!

        Yes, with Billy V. and Sam Warburton almost certainties in the Lions Test B/R barring injuries, they may need a convincing third option at 6, which will diminish the chances of CJ Stander for example. WG’s plans for Itoje in particular will be fascinating.

        New video structure is fine but a simple VPN fixed any issues for offshore viewers. Would not posting clips to a You Tube site and citing link not be a good alternative.

        I will take this up with the Eds 🙂

        • Columnist

          May 10th 2017 @ 7:11am
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 7:11am | ! Report

          I should add that Peter O’Mahony may turn out to be a very important player for the Lions at #6 as the series progresses – even if he is overlooked at first…

          • May 10th 2017 @ 10:01am
            Fionn said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

            I think POM is the all-round best option at 6.

            • Columnist

              May 10th 2017 @ 3:16pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

              Will be interesting to see where he is in WG’s thinking as the early stage of the tour unfolds Fionn.

      • May 10th 2017 @ 8:57am
        Kane said | May 10th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        I have to agree re he falls over.

        There is the other instance where its illegal to have your head below your waist in a ruck situation. I guess you could argue the first one isn’t a ruck the second one definitely is at time of the photo.

        • Roar Guru

          May 10th 2017 @ 9:21am
          PeterK said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

          head below waist, just like hands in the ruck, do not apply if the rucks forms over you after you got in the position.

          • May 10th 2017 @ 12:17pm
            Kane said | May 10th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

            Have to disagree, if you have your hands on the ball and the referee says release aka you didn’t win it then you can’t leave your body in a dangerous position, you need to put your head back above your waist.

            • Roar Guru

              May 10th 2017 @ 1:39pm
              PeterK said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

              in that case of course, however it must be said for that to happen the ref has got it wrong since you have your hands on the ball and the ruck formed over you, the player should be pinged for holding on.

              If you had one go and then went for a second and the ruck had formed that is not the situation I am talking about, it should be a penalty for handling in the ruck but is often let go.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 4:44pm
                Kane said | May 10th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

                Getting your hands on the ball doesn’t entitle you to it, you’ve still got to get it off the ground. Most of the time not getting it off the ground is to do with not supporting your own weight.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 10th 2017 @ 4:53pm
                piru said | May 10th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

                My pet hate is players putting their hands on the ball, making no effort to steal it and waiting for a penalty.

                It’s not holding on if you just can’t pick it up.

              • Columnist

                May 10th 2017 @ 4:59pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

                The better refs don’t rewards either this action, or propping on your elbows/dragging your hands ahead of the ball. They only reward attempts to steal ball directly and rip it away.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 6:18pm
                ClarkeG said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

                Not only making no attempt to steal it Piru but preventing the tackled player from playing the ball often.

                It really is a horrible part of the game as it’s so 50/50.

                But in regards to the two Latu pics shown in Nicholas’ article. Latu can’t really be considered to be on his feet in either case as he is clearly resting on the tackled player.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 10th 2017 @ 6:22pm
                piru said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

                I had an angry dad yell at me once because his boy had been coached to do just this, and was getting blown off the ball at every ruck and I wouldn’t whistle it.

                I told him to go yell at his coach

          • May 10th 2017 @ 5:53pm
            ClarkeG said | May 10th 2017 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

            A player on his feet continuing to have his hands on the ball after a ruck has formed is specifically allowed for in the laws but no player in a ruck is allowed under law to have his head below his waist – that to is specifically covered.

        • Columnist

          May 10th 2017 @ 3:17pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

          Like many players now, Latu tends to go off feet first before regaining a more stable position over the ball…

    • May 10th 2017 @ 6:12am
      Cynical Play said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:12am | ! Report

      Someone get this to DG….. QUICK!

      Some of this stuff should not need to be coached into a player at SR level but as Tom Robinson admitted last night on Foxtel’s Kick n Chase, players are coming through club rugby with set piece and rudimentary skills only being coached. Not saying this is every player. But many.

      The young Tah forwards have individual strengths but are a shadow of the collective intent that was obvious in the year they won the SR. Dennis, Jacpot, TPN seemed to hunt as a pack and were very motivated.

      In a forum last week someone posted a weekly timetable of the Tahs various training routines. At the time I thought it seemed light on skills training given the current problems.

      I sure hope Hore is recruiting a couple of experienced piggies for next year.

      I also hope there’s a sports psychologist lurking around the team as they clearly need it.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2017 @ 6:27am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:27am | ! Report

        In a forum last week someone posted a weekly timetable of the Tahs various training routines. At the time I thought it seemed light on skills training given the current problems.

        I sure hope Hore is recruiting a couple of experienced piggies for next year.

        I also hope there’s a sports psychologist lurking around the team as they clearly need it.

        All three absolute necessities CP, of that there is no doubt!

      • May 10th 2017 @ 10:19am
        ethan said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Quite alarming to learn “set piece and rudimentary skills only being coached” when set piece is not typically a strength of ours!

    • May 10th 2017 @ 6:25am
      Bamboo said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:25am | ! Report

      Im expecting an announcement post Rugby Championship about Folau becoming an Auckland Warrior.

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