It often happens that during the Rugby Championship, or as it is known in my household, The Killing Season, I am moved to jot down a few words on the methods and techniques that I believe the Wallabies would be well-advised to adopt, should they wish to defeat the All Blacks.
I am no professional rugby coaching expert, but as an amateur spectator I certainly believe I know more than pretty much everyone on what the team’s been doing wrong.
Every year it becomes harder and harder to come up with these suggestions, but I think this year we may just have hit the wall when it comes to armchair punditry. There’s just nowhere to go.
After the first game last weekend, the only way to offer constructive advice to the Wallabies would be in the form of a list as follows:
Or to put it in a nutshell, the only tactic Australia can possibly adopt if they want to beat the All Blacks this year is to be entirely different people.
And it’s not that this is necessarily a bad idea in theory, it’s just difficult to execute in practice. Or rather, it’s not so much that it’s difficult to execute, it’s just that with current technology, the only way to execute is to take the current group of people away and replace them with another group of already-existing people. And that is a risky move, because the replacement group is probably going to be just as bad as, if not worse than – OK, probably not “worse” given what we saw last Saturday – the incumbents.
Ideally, what we want is some kind of surgical procedure to turn the current men who play rugby for Australia into men who are better at playing rugby for Australia. But scientists say such a procedure is years, possibly decades, away.
Performance-enhancing drugs? Yes, this seems to be the obvious solution. But again, technology constrains us – chemists have as yet been unable to develop a drug powerful enough to enable a win by this Wallaby side against this New Zealand side. Not that I’m saying the Wallabies shouldn’t take drugs, of all kinds – it can hardly hurt. But I don’t think there’s any drug that makes a man better at catching a football. Ritalin maybe?
So let’s be honest with ourselves. For the foreseeable future, Australian rugby fans are stuck with a team made up of Australian rugby players, and as unsatisfactory as this state of affairs is, there’s precious little we can do to change it.
On the other hand, there are things we can do on the other side of the ledger: we can’t make the Wallabies better, but we can make the All Blacks worse. Sure, our first attempt – putting a bug in their hotel room – didn’t work, but that was just because it was a stupid idea.
We can look to the 1995 Springboks as the exemplar of Kiwi-nobbling strategies: their cunning food poisoning-based game plan won the World Cup for Matt Damon and his loyal men. Australia can learn a lot from this. Not that we can use food poisoning again: every All Black squad now employs a full-time food taster to avoid a repeat of ’95.
But after all, food is not the only delivery vector for poison. Darts, for example, can be deployed with great effect in sporting scenarios. All you need is to get your man within blowing distance of a NZ training session. There is also the option of toxin-tipped thumbtacks on the dressing room chairs. And, of course, the Napoleon Solution: wallpaper.
But let’s not put all our eggs in the poison basket – good advice for rugby teams and egg farmers alike. Poison is an effective remedy for poor form in rugby and other sports, but it’s not foolproof. We need contingency plans, and we need to put them into place quickly.
There definitely needs to be a mental health program implemented by the Wallabies camp: this should be based heavily on the classic film Gaslight. By subtly hinting to the All Blacks that they are losing their minds, we can seriously affect their preparation and ability to perform to optimum levels.
There are lots of ways to achieve this – moving furniture around, stealing laundry, dressing the Wallabies backrow in period dress and having them stand behind All Blacks when they’re looking in the mirror – and evidence suggests it’s one of the best ways to gain success on the international stage. Reportedly Usain Bolt does this to all his opponents before every race.
There is also the demotivational method. This involves convincing the All Blacks that rugby isn’t that important and that making an effort would be a waste of time and energy.
The method involves a suite of measures including: hijacking hotel televisions to show non-stop news stories about global strife and the selfless work of charities around the world, conveniently leaving reading material about high achieving humanitarians lying around where the players can easily find them, and in extreme cases abducting the All Blacks and forcing them to look at footage of their children looking sad and lonely. Or, in really extreme cases, hiring a doctor to tell the entire forward pack that they have only three weeks to live.
Finally, Operation Kerrigan is obviously a bit of a last resort, but if worse comes to worst, the Wallaby administration should have staff placed strategically outside the rooms and along the walkway to the field, armed with crowbars.
Some of these measures might seem excessive, but let me be quite clear about this: if we don’t get started on them, we are literally never going to win a rugby game against New Zealand ever again.