CAMPO: Wallabies need two good centres and a new coach

David Campese Columnist

By David Campese, David Campese is a Roar Expert

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    Australia's James O'Connor is tackled by Wales' Toby Faletau. AP Photo/Rob Griffith

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    I was in Hong Kong this past week for the 7s, but was still able to catch all the Super Rugby action. Isn’t it amazing what happens when criticism comes the Waratahs’ way? The Sharks came hard at the Waratahs, but NSW, to their credit, rose to the challenge.

    They played some good, hard, positive rugby and it really was a sight to see after weeks of offering so little to their fans. Now for more of the same, please! And to facilitate that, how about this for the exciting nucleus of a Waratahs backline: Foley at No. 10, Barnes 12, Horne 13, Kingston 11, and Cooper at fullback?

    As for the Reds, it’s always tough when you lose players. They have a very young squad and there isn’t much leadership there. I just don’t see them winning it again this year.

    In fact, I don’t think any Australian team is a real chance, except perhaps for the Brumbies, who have been a surprise packet in the competition. Still, they’re over-reliant on kicking for goal and ultimately that will count against them.

    Instead of trying for three points every time you get a penalty, why not take a chance and go for seven? At least then the other team has to score twice to get ahead.

    The game is about scoring tries, and unfortunately in this Super Rugby season, teams are opting for the easy three points. While you’re in the 22, put pressure on your opponent and force them to make mistakes. Back yourself.

    But onto the more vexing issue of the Wallaby backline. The way things are shaping up, with Cooper out injured and Beale not having played a game, it’s not looking so good.

    The biggest area of concern is in the centres.

    If Beale returns to form quickly, then I’d slot him in at fullback. O’Connor and Ioane should be the wingers (O’Connor shouldn’t be playing any other position), and with Cooper out, I’d have Barnes at 10, even though he kicks too much.

    Genia will be the halfback, although he’s not playing anywhere near as well as he did last year. I wouldn’t play McCabe at all. He can’t pass, so he’s not suited to inside centre.

    Really, no-one has put their hand up in the Super Season so far and demanded a spot, so it’s a mystery who Deans will put there.

    Deans himself must be on very shaky ground.

    He needs to better define this season what style of rugby he wants the Wallabies to play and then pick the players to make that happen. We have some very good individual players, but they need to perform better as a team.

    That didn’t happen at all in the World Cup last year.

    I’d like to see an Australian who understands the style and mentality coaching the side. We have got so much talent with individuals with great flair. Yet the current regime does not seem to want to capitalise on this.

    The Rugby World Cup was a perfect example.

    I’d like to see someone like Ewen McKenzie take the helm, or at the very least, get McKenzie in to coach the Wallaby forwards.

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    The Crowd Says (137)

    • March 28th 2012 @ 3:30am
      granville said | March 28th 2012 @ 3:30am | ! Report

      then you wonder what the heck the coaches are doing………isn’t it there job to teach/coach the players?

    • March 28th 2012 @ 4:47am
      RAF said | March 28th 2012 @ 4:47am | ! Report

      I’ve always loved Campo because he was never afraid to voice an opinion whether it be a dickhead comment or one that’s right on the money. He contrasts so well with someone like John Eales who was obviously media trained, never really voiced a controversial opinon and as a result was a boring commentator / opinion columnist.

      • March 28th 2012 @ 9:49am
        rl said | March 28th 2012 @ 9:49am | ! Report

        … and one sits on boards & committees, while the other is out in the wastelands… I still think Campo actually needs to dial it back a bit, but whenever I see or read Ealesy… ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

        • March 28th 2012 @ 11:45am
          WoobliesFan said | March 28th 2012 @ 11:45am | ! Report

          Wastelands? You make it sounds like he’s working at the local McDonald’s or something.

          And what’s so special about sitting on this current board? It’s a shambolic unit of misguided minds, led by a dangerous coach, under the umbrella of an arrogant master. Who the hell wants to work within this environment?

          If anything, the real wastelands is within the ARU.

          • March 28th 2012 @ 12:23pm
            rl said | March 28th 2012 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

            no, I was picturing more the Mad Max character wandering the desert seeking redemption. But as you say, prob better than sitting in the ARU. And the road kill would be more nutritious than Maccas.

        • March 29th 2012 @ 8:13am
          soapit said | March 29th 2012 @ 8:13am | ! Report

          if the winning coaches box at a world cup final is a wasteland

      • Roar Rookie

        March 28th 2012 @ 6:10pm
        Die hard said | March 28th 2012 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

        I’ve always loved Campo because hes a proven thinker about the game who has damned good ideas. Hes as fearless with the pen as he was with the ball. I must be off step with everyone else because over all the years I have rarely disagreed with him. And this from a Campese hating AB fan (damn that goose step and no look over the shoulder pass).

    • March 28th 2012 @ 4:54am
      mania said | March 28th 2012 @ 4:54am | ! Report

      cant argue there campo, though would prefer to see deans kept there until the AB’s have reached 10 winning streak of the bledisloe.

    • March 28th 2012 @ 5:38am
      kingplaymaker said | March 28th 2012 @ 5:38am | ! Report

      ‘We have some very good individual players’ Not half as many as New Zealand hence Deans’ problems.

      Indeed this article simply points out the obvious problem with the Wallabies and Australian rugby: why does a coach have to resort to Pat Mccabe and Anthony Faiingaa, two mediocre players? Because there aren’t any better ones.

      Compare what Robbie Deans had to choose from at centre last year in Mccabe and Faiingaa with what Graham Henry had to choose from: Nonu, Smith, SBW, Kahui, Fruean, Mcalister and others. Not very difficult for Henry to look like the better coach with nuclear weapons like that to oppose to Deans’ sticks. The fact that Deans is even able to present a team that is competitive against such INFINITELY superior cattle makes him little short of a COACHING GENIUS and Henry pretty average: why with such superior cattle can’t Henry put 50 points on the Wallabies each match?

      Mccabe/Faiingaa vs Nonu/Smith/SBW/Kahui/Fruean/Mcalister. That sums the whole issue up.

      This year maybe things will improve. JOC/Tomane looks an ok combination in the centres, certainly better than last year.

      Jamal Idris, who rugby could have had, would have gone a long way to solving the problem.

      • March 28th 2012 @ 5:56am
        millard said | March 28th 2012 @ 5:56am | ! Report

        KPM,I agree deans should be kept on for next world cup but what you say about HENRY is also true about DEANS at the crusaders.
        this season will expose who the best australian super coach is and at the moment jake white is looking good with less cattle.

        • March 28th 2012 @ 6:39am
          kingplaymaker said | March 28th 2012 @ 6:39am | ! Report

          millard it could be said about Deans at the Crusaders. Henry in my opinion by the way is an excellent coach, but that doesn’t mean when comparing him to Deans the quality of the cattle they work with shouldn’t be taken into consideration, as it routinely isn’t. I wouldn’t blame Henry if he didn’t have much luck coaching a Super team with bad cattle.

          Both Deans at the Crusaders and Henry at the All Blacks had excellent cattle and also coached very well. However at national level the quality of the cattle Henry has worked with are so much better than the cattle Deans has had to work with that comparisons no longer make sense. It’s like asking who is the better fighter when one man has a machine gun and the other a club.

          • March 28th 2012 @ 8:59am
            millard said | March 28th 2012 @ 8:59am | ! Report

            no i disagree both coach well with good results with good cattle.
            reds even won the comp last year;now lose by 60.
            what percentage is coaching or,auckland,ABS,lions
            wallabies lose by close margins to ABS and coaching and right tactics may help considerably.
            your analogy has too much poetic licence and misses.
            this year the ABS are ripe for the picking.

            • March 28th 2012 @ 9:05am
              kingplaymaker said | March 28th 2012 @ 9:05am | ! Report

              Half the Reds team is injured now.

              • March 28th 2012 @ 10:41am
                jameswm said | March 28th 2012 @ 10:41am | ! Report

                Yeah but the Tahs made the semis and did well with half their team injured last year.

          • March 28th 2012 @ 9:44am
            Kane said | March 28th 2012 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            Why don’t you compare Deans at the Crusaders and Henry at the Blues?

            • March 28th 2012 @ 12:40pm
              kingplaymaker said | March 28th 2012 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

              Kane both had excellent players so it doesn’t show much.

          • March 28th 2012 @ 11:20am
            ohtani's jacket said | March 28th 2012 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            Henry & Co. choose which players to use and how they were going to play. The cattle didn’t just mozy onto the playing field. Deans has made mistakes time and time again with the players he’s chosen and the tactics he’s used. The reason the All Blacks don’t beat the Wallabies by 50 points is that Australian sides are well organised defensively. But they’ve had a number of wins that were just as convincing.

            • March 28th 2012 @ 12:41pm
              kingplaymaker said | March 28th 2012 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

              OJ excepy Henry had cattle 10,00000000 times better than Deans to work with, making it easy for Henry.

              • March 28th 2012 @ 1:37pm
                El Gamba said | March 28th 2012 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

                Quality of cattle is always going to be subjective, at the pointy end in most positions (arguably!) the Wallabies had players as good and (again arguably) better in a couple positions as/than the AB’s at the WC. Yes there is more depth in NZ in almost all positions but it doesn’t really matter if one country has one world class 12 (for example) and another fifty. Only one can play on any Saturday.
                Here I think the thrust of Campo’s article, and OJ’s comment, is true. As much as I like Deans as a coach I don’t believe that he got the selections right. McCabe can’t pass – check. JO’C is a winger only – check. We didn’t have a back-up 7 etc.
                Most frustrating was Deans dogged determination not to back down on these decisions, in comparison, one of Henry’s best coaching moves was pulling Piwi off in the semi.

              • March 28th 2012 @ 1:42pm
                ohtani's jacket said | March 28th 2012 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

                Just because you have a deeper talent pool to choose from doesn’t make it easier to choose the right side. Coaching isn’t a matter of choosing the 15 best players. It’s about developing a winning team. Deans did this exceptionally well at club level, but ironically when he has the choice of the best players in Australia he struggles with selections. Since we’ve been talking about Kaino, do you honestly believe that Robbie Deans would’ve chosen Jerome Kaino at blindside flanker for the All Blacks? He’s not the sort of player Deans preferred at the Crusaders. Nonu is another example. Weepu too. I honestly think Deans would make a better Waratahs coach than a Wallabies coach.

              • Roar Guru

                March 28th 2012 @ 5:34pm
                Sam Taulelei said | March 28th 2012 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

                Adding to OJ’s comment, coaching also recognises patterns in the game, improving skillsets and developing tactics to remain ahead of the pack.

                The All Blacks got their butts whipped in 2009, and it wasn’t just the 3 losses that hurt, it was also acknowledgement that the Springboks were now the leaders in the game under the rules at the time.

                Henry recognised that the team had several skill deficiencies under the high ball, at setpieces and the quality of their work at cleaning out at the breakdown. So he focused on improving those areas so they could compete against the best in the business without ignoring their natural abilities.

                Then when the ELV’s were dispensed and the game changed again in 2010, they not only could take advantage of their natural skills, they had the benefit of all that specialist coaching the year before turning those weaknesses into strengths.

                The All Blacks cattle in 2009 were all there again in 2010 but the difference in performances were light years apart.

                I’ve yet to see any innovation in Deans coaching of the Wallabies, perhaps he’ll prove that he can learn from his mistakes this year. But if he does extract a big improvement from an unchanged squad this year then that will dispel all those comments about Australian cattle being the weakness as an urban myth.

              • March 30th 2012 @ 7:16pm
                Dan said | March 30th 2012 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

                your seriously fos!!

      • Roar Guru

        March 28th 2012 @ 7:20am
        Hoy said | March 28th 2012 @ 7:20am | ! Report

        Hold the phone. Jamal Idris is a flat track bully if ever I have seen one. He is lazy, he can’t defend at all, he can’t turn at all, more than often he doesn’t creat any opportunities for his outside players… the issues go on with Jamal Idris. Yeah sure, 5 metres out he is hard to stop, so was Folau, but I don’t rate either as highly as others do because on the whole their contribution to a game is very limited.

        • March 28th 2012 @ 9:05am
          kingplaymaker said | March 28th 2012 @ 9:05am | ! Report

          Hoy how about Inglis then?

          • March 28th 2012 @ 10:17am
            rl said | March 28th 2012 @ 10:17am | ! Report

            let it go KPM – been there and the whole rugby league recruit gimmick is a fail. Not a massive fail, but a fail all the same. Lote wasn’t too bad, but probably should have been playing fullback or 13. SBW is a remarkable athlete, but what position was he for the ABs most important game last year? Riding the pine.

            There’s probably some reasonable candidates in league now (Slater, Inglis, Hayne, Cameron Smith) but none of them have shown either the interest or the application to really be considered seriously.

            Surely there’s better options right in front of us – JOC & Taps would make a pretty good combo, and at around 95kegs each neither would let you down in defence against gorillas. No reason you can’t run Ioane at 13 during the game if you want to punch it up. If you must have a gorilla at 13, then AAC/Inman/Dellit isn’t a bad place to start (even Tomane, who at least has some rugby pedigree).

            • March 28th 2012 @ 12:26pm
              MFB1991 said | March 28th 2012 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

              Campo should have a chat to his nephew. He had a great game for the Raiders on Monday night. He’d look pretty good at inside centre for the Wallabies. Big, strong, ball skills, kicking game…….and can tackle.!!

              • March 28th 2012 @ 7:32pm
                sheek said | March 28th 2012 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

                Probably too late for Terry Campese to come across to union. I think he’s closer to 30 than 25. But yeah, a couple of years ago, he would have been great to get.

      • March 28th 2012 @ 9:40am
        Rob9 said | March 28th 2012 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Sure we had our dramas with injuries last year but to suggest that McCabe and Fa’ingaa were our only midfield options seriously distorts the reality of the situation. JOC commands (in my opinion) a play making role (preferably at 12), and if it was true that McCabe was our only option here then JOC certainly should have been brought in from the wing. It was clear early on that the McCabe experiment was a failure and Deans’ persistence to push on with it in a world cup year was frightening. The guy had played most (if not all) of his Super Rugby in the outside backs. Deans’ decision to move him into what is arguably the most important position in a modern day rugby team was questionable to begin with. His one dimensional style of play did not (and still does not) suit the Australian backline where some of our greatest assets and strike weapons play in the outside backs. They weren’t given the opportunity to be brought into the game. On top of this we had a 10 who was crumbling under the pressure of the world cup and clearly could have benefited from a second playmaker on his outside shoulder to take some of the heat off.

        Besides JOC we had Barnes who came back and was playing the house down when Deans gave him an opportunity to get on the field. Deans also had Giteau (to cover 9, 10 and 12) who could have taken the spot of Phipps who looked seriously like a fish out of water in the test rugby arena. Yes I know they aren’t the best of friends but I think they’d both be big enough and have the experience in a professional team environment to put their differences aside for a few months for the greater good of attempting to bring back Bill.

        Deans had AAC, not Fa’ingaa playing 13 for the majority of the season which I believe was the right call. But outside these two he also had Horne to call on who isn’t exactly a slouch and also made the most of his opportunities when he got them.

        Minus McCabe, there’s 6 quality midfielders for Deans’ to have played in the WC year. Clearly the playing stock wasn’t the issue but the guy who was selecting them to go into battle. I just hope and pray Deans has learned from his mistakes if he is to continue to coach at this level and for the Wallabies!

        • March 28th 2012 @ 10:45am
          Nico'larse said | March 28th 2012 @ 10:45am | ! Report

          Here bloody here! I agree with EVERY word of that Rob. And I’ll be holding my breath hoping Deans learned from his mistakes last year too.

          • March 29th 2012 @ 8:17am
            soapit said | March 29th 2012 @ 8:17am | ! Report

            the thing was blind freddy could see the problem developing at the start of last season with our starting centres from the previous years biggest and most recent win, barnes & AAC, injured and out of form respectively.

            yet next to nothing was done to develop experience/depth in the position with persisting in rookie maccabe & out of form AAC.

        • March 28th 2012 @ 1:33pm
          Denby said | March 28th 2012 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

          Rob9, that is absolutely right. There is not a huge player problem in Australia Deans has a fetish for selecting players out of position or players in poor form and just sticking to it.

          Mum is a blindside flanker, not a lock,
          O’Connor is an inside back not a wing
          Kepu is a tight head prop not loose head
          Alexander is a loose head prop not a tight head
          McCabe is a outside back not an inside back
          Faingaa’s are just plain rubbish
          McCalman is a blindside flanker not a No. 8

          We had Mowen at No. 8 – never selected
          We had Tom Carter for a center – never selected
          Mitch Inman for a center – never selected
          Dan Palmer as a prop – never selected
          Ita Vea as a No. 8 – never selected

          It is like Deans did not even watch super rugby or look at players performances before he selected the team.

          • March 28th 2012 @ 7:49pm
            sheek said | March 28th 2012 @ 7:49pm | ! Report


            What absolute rot, as my father used to say.

            It would be totally irresponsible for Deans not to look at ALL potential Wallabies. Just because he doesn’t agree with you, you make this outrageous allegation that he hasn’t watched super rugby players.

            What on earth makes YOU (& others) think YOU are so right? Or deans wrong??

            Anyone can look a genius on the sideline, & The Roar is full of sideline geniuses…..

        • March 28th 2012 @ 7:36pm
          sheek said | March 28th 2012 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

          I have to disagree O’Connor is a natural at 12. And yes, I know I’m cutting across the grain of what many others think. And yes, O’Connor himself thinks he’s a natural 12.

          I agree with Campo, O’Connor’s best position is on the wing, with a roving commission, just like Campo used to have. I don’t think O’Connor’s a particularly great team player. Inside centre requires too much disciplined structure which would stifle O’Connor. At test level anyway.

          Let him play on the wing & be the big hero he wants to be…..

          • March 29th 2012 @ 7:51am
            Justin said | March 29th 2012 @ 7:51am | ! Report

            What absolute rot.

            What on earth makes YOU & Campo think YOU are so right?


            • March 29th 2012 @ 9:36pm
              sheek said | March 29th 2012 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

              Justin – a riposte with humour!

              I can handle that…..

          • March 29th 2012 @ 9:44am
            peterlala said | March 29th 2012 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            Sheek, I admire Campo and respect his opinion. But I think O’Connor is a natural 12. It’s hard to make a judgement because O’Connor is one of those players that gets shunted from position to position.

          • April 6th 2012 @ 10:08am
            Crazy Horse said | April 6th 2012 @ 10:08am | ! Report

            Right on Sheek. O’Connor is a ball hog who frequently doesn’t pass when he should. He’s better on the wing where he can do that without squeezing the rest of the back line out.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 28th 2012 @ 6:15pm
        Die hard said | March 28th 2012 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

        KPM why don’t you spend your energies agitating for an Aussie national comp? I value many of your thoughts but really disagree with expanding super rugby for a range of reasons. A national comp would eventually give you your “cattle” both as coaches administrators and player depth. It would/could play on free to air TV and generate real domestic interest and dare I say tribalism. It would certainly give an alternative to the league option for teenagers now. How about it?

      • March 28th 2012 @ 10:55pm
        ThelmaWrites said | March 28th 2012 @ 10:55pm | ! Report

        I watched the Aussie and Kiwi U-20s, and the ITM cup and Sydney Club rugby, and I can see why Deans had problems and Henry didn’t.

    • March 28th 2012 @ 6:26am
      Red Kev said | March 28th 2012 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      Campo clearly hasn’t been watching the Reds games then – Ben Tapuai has been one of their best every match, even against the Bulls he was one of the few that stood up. The guy can’t kick (honestly a plus in my book as long as he doesn’t try to) but he’s a very very good running and tackling centre who plays either 12 or 13. By a decent margin he has been the best performed Australian inside back this season so far.

      • Roar Guru

        March 28th 2012 @ 7:21am
        Hoy said | March 28th 2012 @ 7:21am | ! Report

        I agree. He has been a shining light in the Reds backline this year, which honestly, has been rather poor in execution.

      • March 28th 2012 @ 6:15pm
        IronAwe said | March 28th 2012 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

        Couldn’t agree more. Ben Tapuai is THE next Wallaby 12 for sure. He was picked on the end of year tour 2011, so lets hope they give him another chance his year. Outside centre is our problem spot.

    • March 28th 2012 @ 6:36am
      kingplaymaker said | March 28th 2012 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      ‘very very good running…..centre’ That seems to me an exaggeration. He’s a fine running centre, but doens’t appear to be anything special.

      • March 28th 2012 @ 6:44am
        Red Kev said | March 28th 2012 @ 6:44am | ! Report

        He’s not Tim Horan or Ma’a Nonu, but he’s as good as de Villiers and Fourie and certainly a damn sight better than any other centre in Australia. Very very good is an accurate assessment – perhaps you should watch more Reds games too.

        • March 28th 2012 @ 9:42am
          Funk said | March 28th 2012 @ 9:42am | ! Report

          That’s a bit harsh to start comparing him to Horan and Nonu, he’s only just turned 23 and has years of learning his trade still in front of him, I remember some abysimal play from Nonu in his younger days, and Horan was nowhere near the finished model at 23. He shows some great potential which should be nurtured, with the right coaching he could be better than Nonu, whether he can be as good as Horan????

          • March 28th 2012 @ 10:25am
            rl said | March 28th 2012 @ 10:25am | ! Report

            good call – Nonu was a SHOCKINGLY bad ball distributor in his early years but has clearly applied himself.

            When you look at Taps now compared to 2 seasons ago, he’s also clearly shown the desire and ability to apply himself. Rob Horne take note.

            I think we can put up some very capable (if not outstanding) centre combos who at worst will run their lines, put their opposite number on the deck, and not turnover possession. And all going well we still have game-breakers in 9, 10, 11, 14 & 15. Our RWC effort wasn’t won or lost by no.s 12 & 13 – it was in the unit numbering 1-8.

          • March 30th 2012 @ 9:32am
            Justin said | March 30th 2012 @ 9:32am | ! Report

            Thats all well and good but look at Taps, I think he is younger and so much more developed across the board.

            At least Nonu was making busts left right and centre from the start, he just couldnt pass once he did. McCabe doesnt make clean busts like the other two. His passing has actually come on a little bit this year, to his credit but its a stand and deliver effort rather than on the run natural passing game. His defence is superior, no question (to just about anyone).

            Horan was a WC winner at 21 and was right up there by the age of 23. Not finished but a bloody good footballer nonetheless. But lets leave the King out of it. He is exception rather than rule…

        • March 28th 2012 @ 1:08pm
          Justin said | March 28th 2012 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

          Lets not put Horan and Nonu in the same sentence please. Different class…

        • Roar Guru

          March 28th 2012 @ 1:17pm
          Mark Richmond said | March 28th 2012 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

          And in the same vein, just remember everyone who is bagging McCabe, he has just turned 24, and only played at IC for part of a season. My guess however is that McCabe’s future is at OC.

        • March 29th 2012 @ 9:47am
          peterlala said | March 29th 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          Red Kev, “as good as de Villiers and Fourie”. If you are right, Ben Tapuai should be the first picked this year.

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