Wallaby pointers from the ‘Origin’ destruction derby

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

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    When the Reds’ players ran on to the field at Suncorp Stadium to play the Waratahs on Saturday evening, I saw their maroon shirts and an association arose immediately: State of Origin.

    The marketers had their triumph, because I’ve no doubt that was the desired effect on the unwary!

    The link to that profound history of State of Origin games between rugby league teams from New South Wales and Queensland increased the sense of expectation surrounding the match.

    I can still recall my first experience of the Origin series back in 2001, touring around Australia with the British and Irish Lions squad. The two series are running exactly in parallel when I climb into a taxi in Brisbane. After a brief introduction, I tentatively ask my driver whether he is going to be following the games between the Lions and the Wallabies.

    One pause and a quizzical look later, I hear a cry from the front seat:
    “Who’d ya prefer then mate?… Sterlo or Alfie?” We end up talking league and league half-backs, not union.

    It was like this over every morning breakfast. Whatever newspaper I picked up, there were seven or eight league articles to every one on union.

    Phil Larder still remembers his first experience of Origin, back in 1983, as if it was yesterday. It is the images that stick in his mind: the shattered face of NSW coach Ron Willey close-up after the series is lost; handing over five crisp new twenty dollar notes to Bobby Bax after the bet Phil had made with such confidence – that a sky-blue team containing eleven of the 1982 ‘Invincibles’ could not be beaten – had been overturned.

    He walks away with Bax’s gleeful cackle still ringing in his ears. He has learnt his lesson – “never bet against Wally Lewis at Lang Park”.

    After the initial impact of the association with those maroon jerseys wears off, questions seep in – serious questions. Can the game to follow really live up to the history that has been invoked? Does Australian rugby union have the players to live in the memory as long as the likes of Lewis and Langer and Sterling? Does a Wallaby figure as strongly in the Australian sporting imagination as a Kangaroo?

    In terms of desire and intensity, the match probably delivers on it’s promise. In terms of a consistently high level of skills, less so.

    At number 7, Michael Hooper and George Smith play out one of the grandest of battles on the open-side flank of the scrum. At number 15, two old Maroon teammates from their league days, Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau, flag up their claims to a Wallaby jersey in that position in the upcoming June series.

    Israel Folau Waratahs Super Rugby Union 2017

    George Smith, along with Richie McCaw was one of the first players to provide the template for #7 play in the professional era. That template is basically defensive (in line and at the breakdown), with some linking play in attack an add-on.

    The questions raised about Smith’s ability to sustain the tempo of a Super Rugby match in his mid-to-late thirties have all been answered ten weeks into the season. In the course of this ‘Origin’ game, he had:

    • Four dominant tackles-for-loss
    • Three breakdown turnovers
    • Three fumble/interception recoveries
    • Two decisive (line-breaking) contributions on attack

    and his significant involvements were spread evenly between the two halves.

    As a defender, Smith is effective sliding out towards touch (27:20), but even more so when he is able to square up and deliver a frontal hit to a ball-carrier running off first or second receiver (4:08, 6:36 and 63:48). With Smith in situ, you do not need to worry about that sensitive 7-10 defensive channel.

    If you’re a fraction late at the cleanout and allow George Smith to dip his shoulders and get into low position first, you are done in terms of ball retention. There is no way he can be removed from an over-the-top start. Smith’s powerful ‘starfish’ position over the ball wins turnover at 4:14, 15:09 and 44:40 and creates another loose ball at 27:23.

    There were also a couple of examples of Smith’s subtly nuanced play on attack – the quick hands in front of the last defender at 48:10 to set Sam Talakai and Eto Nabuli free down the right – can any Reds’ supporter tell me why Talakai is still starting ahead of Taniela Tupou at tight-head? – and the ‘scatter-block’ ahead of Scott Higginbotham’s pick and go at 11:13.

    Teams use scatter-rucking to block out defenders right on the edge of the tackle zone perimetre when they want the following phase to go right up the gut; here Smith wipes out Rob Horne to create the path for Higginbotham’s drive and offload to Karmichael Hunt for the score.

    Michael Hooper, along with other new 7s like Ardie Savea in New Zealand, represent the potential development of the open-side flanker position to a new level. Both Savea and Hooper are capable of being extra attacking centres, as well as enjoying the Smith-like attributes of physical impact and work-rate in defence, and stickability at the breakdown.

    A summary of Hooper’s decisive involvements during the game show the modern tilt towards offence:

    • One line-break assist
    • Two line-breaks and one tackle-break
    • Two breakdown turnovers and two significant slow-downs
    • Two forced fumbles on defence

    Once again the raw stats are impressive, but the extra involvements on attack are what set Hooper apart.

    At 0:39, Hooper is set up at first receiver from lineout (a tactic the Waratahs used throughout the game) with Bernard Foley outside him making the in-pass which creates a hole for Cam Clark to run through.

    Hooper’s real excellence lies in his ability to bust the line off a distributor at first or second receiver, rather than be that distributor himself however. The picture at 36:23 is typical, with Hooper using his great speed-endurance to run around Bernard Foley and create an extra attacking body in the hole.

    Playing tight off the shoulder of a flat-lying distributor, Hooper will hit the seams between two defenders. He has the speed and power (see 38:25 with Hooper powering through three Reds tight forwards on the carry) to make it count once the breach is made (38:30).

    Because of that speed, he rapidly gets separation away from line defenders once he is in the gap (62:53).

    Both Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt played State of Origin for Queensland in their rugby league heyday. Now both are challenging for places in the Wallaby back three for the June series against Fiji, Scotland and Italy.

    But where Hunt is currently on an upward curve, providing commanding leadership as well attacking purpose and solid D for the Reds, Folau is floundering and temporarily unable to rediscover the spark that has made him one of Australia’s genuine international stars.

    Although he still has that world-leading ability under the high ball (32:18), he is either making mistakes in contact after it (65:50) or throwing uncontrolled passes, often in no-pressure situations (27:59, 55:12 and 73:13).

    Mentally he often appears to be wandering during games (his reactions at 41:40 after the ball goes loose) and he tended to come off second-best to a powerfully-energised Hunt in their head-to-head moments (28:00, 52:15 and 57:37).

    No-one has put up their hand to wear the Australia #15 jersey more forcefully than Karmichael Hunt this season. He has the flexibility we know Michael Cheika wants – able to function well on attack at first or second receiver and get his arms over the tackle to deliver the offload (13:00, 18:18 and 78:17).

    He has been running the in-pass support angle well off Quade Cooper (22:00 and 22:19) and will bring the ball back aggressively on kick returns (52:20 and 78:14). On defence, he has the strength to be effective in the front line, in between Michael Hooper and Samu Kerevi or Tevita Kuridrani.

    He makes hard upfield tackles and is putting people on the floor at 27:55, 57:37 and 61:02 – meat and drink to Nathan Grey, the Wallaby defence coach.

    Summary
    There were specific elements of the inter-state derby last Saturday which were worthy of the historic State-of-Origin association.

    The contest between George Smith and Michael Hooper at #7 was the highlight of the evening and it illustrated the development in thinking which is currently occurring at the very top of the game regarding that position.

    Smith remains at the highest level of performance at the ripe old age of 37 and probably sits only behind Hooper in the current Wallaby rankings. He still has the edge on his closest challengers, Colby Fainga’a and Chris Alcock.

    Hooper once again illustrated the immense bonus features that either he or an Ardie Savea offer on offence. He can reach more gaps, and be more effective once he’s through the hole than any other 7 in world rugby.

    I fully expect both Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau to be in the Wallaby starting line-up this summer, though Hunt’s presence may push Folau out to the wing, especially if Dane Haylett-Petty is injured.

    His presence would allow Michael Cheika to make a choice between another play-maker at 12 (Kurtley Beale), or opt for two power centres (Kerevi and Kuridrani) knowing that Hunt can function effectively in that alternate first receiver role.

    When all is said and done, the possibilities for the coach of Australia currently look rather more promising than they do for the franchise coaches at their Super Rugby regions right now!

    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 (324)

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 4:48am
      Steve J said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:48am | ! Report

      Again, excellent presentation.

      What are your thoughts on the set pieces regarding the defensive combination of George Smith & Karmichael?

      It appears Stiles strategy requires Hunt to play in the line close to his loosies whereby his defensive technique allows Smith to have a decent crack at the ball and to some extent the other way for Hunt.

      Gee, I tell you what, imagine what a Hunt and Hopper combination would look like if Cheika employ a similar tactic?

      • May 3rd 2017 @ 8:06am
        achilles said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        gee that would be great and I wonder what color jersey would be worn and if eithers contract is up for renewal.
        we are definitely back on track I can tell by the points in the table.
        I prefer long sleeves and a string not buttons.

      • Columnist

        May 3rd 2017 @ 8:28am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

        Hunt/Hooper, or Hunt/Smith would work well in combination at the tackle area – definitely a Wallaby prospect this season…

        • Roar Guru

          May 3rd 2017 @ 7:35pm
          Fox said | May 3rd 2017 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

          Nick – Smith has already said that he has retired from international rugby and I have heard nothing to the contrary since.

          Do you think he will handle the pace of a test match against the AB’s ?

          This season he has been excellent but he hasn’t stood out or above any no7’s against any Kiwi sides the Reds have faced- very good but nothing like against the Tahs

          Don’t get me wrong, George Smith is wonderful player – though past his prime I believe in a really high tempo game.

          The game in the weekend was reasonably physical but was it at Hurricanes or Crusaders type high tempo and especially in the forwards? (Hooper exempted)

          Because that is what Smith will face if he changes his mind and plays tests…but as I say, he has said nothing to counter his statement some time back that he wasn’t interested in international rugby because of his body etc

          Folau is living on reputation at the moment but I believe he was always an overrated player at fullback

          • Columnist

            May 3rd 2017 @ 7:46pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

            As I’ve said elsewhere on this thread Fox, Smith could handle the June series comfortably, but the real question is whether he would want (or be wanted) for the RC. I doubt he’ll come back as a player, but he would make an excellent addition to the Wallaby staff as breakdown coach! He also looked very comfortable against the Crusaders, so I don’t buy the implication that he’s out of his depth against NZ franchises, even at 37 🙂

            At his best, Folau makes the AB’s run-on side (comfortably).

            • May 3rd 2017 @ 8:26pm
              Eduardo Kawak said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

              Who would make way for Folau in the ABs? Certainly not Ben Smith. Milner-Scudder? Naholo? Savea? Dagg? I don’t think Folau could displace any of them.

              • Columnist

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

                I’d have him ahead of Dagg, NMH or Naholo. Savea/Smith/Folau = helluva back three 😀

              • Roar Rookie

                May 4th 2017 @ 2:56pm
                piru said | May 4th 2017 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

                Not really, two of them can’t kick

            • Roar Guru

              May 3rd 2017 @ 8:32pm
              Fox said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

              Sorry Nick I didn’t need to imply that he was out f his depth -I did say he was very good – but not the standout he was against the Tahs including the Crusaders

              Sorry we will has to agree to disagree with Folau – even at his best -making the run on side of the AB’s – he sure as hell is not a better fullback than Ben Smith who has a far better skill set and especially reading the play than Folau.

              And sorry Nick but no way would he replace Savea, Milner-Scudder or Nadolo on the wing in my AB side or Hnsens I would imagine – and Dagg is much better defensive player than Folau – a better off-loader and passer of the ball – he is very good under the high ball as well and he leaves Folau in the dust for defensive kicking with that boot of his – so we have to disagree there if that where you think he would go.

              Hansen would not put up with Folau’s- poor passing -barely average kicking and too often poor defensive reads -losing the ball in the contact area as so often does and Hansen has plenty of players who can break the line like Folau but who are actually quicker and are scoring more tries than he is right now.

              So I have to disagree with you there

              And he has had these issues long before his form dropped if that is indeed what is happening

              Maybe he is just too easy to read – does not quite have that top end pace as Barrett showed when he ran him down from the other side of the field – and his poor passing as noted when he was in form which makes you wonder whether he gets it.

              Spiro has said in a Roar interview that he thinks he is a lazy player and overrated and I agree with him.

              Folau doesn’t go looking for the ball like Smith, Dagg, and even Hunt is now showing he does.

              I mean his work rate and sense of urgency, and reaction time when that pass went behind him was simply dreadful. It just looked like a WTF moment…..

              Dagg, Smith and Hunt would have turned and tried to regather the ball before the opposition pounced – Folau looked lost in wonderland which to me is just another sign of how poorly he reads the game and reacts sometimes

              I think he should be on the wing for the Wallabies and Tahs- but make therun on side of the AB’s with all the weaknesses in his game?

              Sorry but we have to agree to disagree there Nick – but each to his own I guess

              • Roar Guru

                May 3rd 2017 @ 8:37pm
                Fox said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

                Great article by-the-way – excellent unpacking as always

              • Columnist

                May 3rd 2017 @ 10:11pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 10:11pm | ! Report

                Thx Fox.

              • Columnist

                May 3rd 2017 @ 10:04pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

                Hansen would have him in ahead of Dagg, NMH or Naholo – just not Ben Smith!

              • Columnist

                May 3rd 2017 @ 10:01pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

                Yes thanks Fin. Smith at 8 in between Hooper on one flank and Timani on the other is also an intriguing prospect, if highly unlikely!

              • Columnist

                May 4th 2017 @ 9:12pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 4th 2017 @ 9:12pm | ! Report

                Thanks Fin – the Wallabies should sign up GS to coach the breakdown asap!

              • May 4th 2017 @ 9:28pm
                Fin said | May 4th 2017 @ 9:28pm | ! Report

                I heard from a reliable source today that he is planning on heading to Japan to play a few games for around $1Million when the Super Rugby season is over. Good on him if he can still cash in on his worth but it would rule out any chance of a fairytale international comeback.

              • Columnist

                May 5th 2017 @ 1:08am
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 5th 2017 @ 1:08am | ! Report

                Sounds eminently reasonable from his point of view Fin!

              • May 4th 2017 @ 3:23pm
                Browny said | May 4th 2017 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                It’s also a pretty short back row, Nick! Average height of about 6′ 1″ for the loosies probably isn’t going to help come lineout time.

              • Columnist

                May 4th 2017 @ 5:15pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 4th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

                Timani’s 6’4 and we know from Rebels games last season as a second row that he can win you ball at the front. McMahon is only 6’1 but he is a light lift for the boosters – a valuable commodity which lineout coaches appreciate – and a natural aerial athlete. So he plays taller than the figures suggest. Add in Coleman and Arnold (who is as much ‘banker ball’ at 6’10 as you’re ever likely to get!) and the lineout covers all of the bases.

              • May 5th 2017 @ 9:21am
                Browny said | May 5th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

                Nick, I agree that McMahon tends to be underrated because of his height. It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise considering how he also tends to play above his weight when he’s on the ground.

                The ‘short row’ comment was in regard to the suggestion of a Timani-Hooper-Smith trio. McMahon-Hooper-Timani immediately feels much more comfortable at the lineout, as do permutations with Fardy and Higginbotham thrown into the mix. I guess it’ll be interesting to see who is selected (probably depends a bit on who is available) and how they balance the row. Hooper is a given at 7 so you don’t really need any wide running/link man ability for the 6 and 8 (which may work against Higginbotham a litte). Timani probably required for the hard stuff, so perhaps you pick your remaining 6/8 depending on the ability of the tight 5 and where their strengths/weaknesses are. Latu at 2 can do a bit of the pilfering work so maybe that makes Fardy less important. If the 5 are doing a lot of the hard stuff and tight running maybe you can afford to go a McMahon-Hooper-Higgers trio who would be bloody damaging with the ball in hand.IF we’re not getting enough value out of the 5 it might have to be Fardy-Hooper-Timani to get over the ball and do some work in tight. Will be interesting watching…. when do they announce the June squad?

              • Columnist

                May 5th 2017 @ 4:52pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 5th 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

                Yes I’d agree with that Browny. I guess I threw the hat of Timani-Hooper-Smith into the ring knowing how unlikely it was to happen at this stage of Smith’s career!

                From a selfish point of view, I’d also like to see Scott Fardy take over the Mumm role as 4/6 sub off the bench. It will help Leinster next season as he’ll prob be playing a lot of games in the middle row!

                Higginbotham is another possibility in between Hooper and McMahon but I’d guess MC will want to give Timani first dibs when he’s back and firing again…

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:23am
      mzilikazi said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:23am | ! Report

      A very interesting analysis of the game…..indeed for me, very refreshing after reading the many comments post game.

      I went down to watch the game, and was so pleased to see the maroon jersey again….just a pity a win did not come with the wearing of it. Would really like to see Qld. go back to wearing it fulltime.

      Also very interested that you have had State of Origin exposure. Those games mean so much to Queenslanders….especially so to those in remote stations and small towns in the north and west…….not that equal passion does not exist right across the state. We began life in Australia in Charters Towers, SW of Townsville. On a match night, the streets are deserted, with clubs, pubs packed, and multiple vehicles parked around many homes. If Queensland lose, there is an air of depression over the State !

      Want to read your article again before commenting further, but one thing struck me watching the last quarter…would Stiles not have been wise to move QC away from first reciever, as he was playing very poorly by then, making bad decisions. I would have put Hunt in there, and shifted QC to fullback, or the wing…maybe even benched him.

      • May 3rd 2017 @ 8:10am
        achilles said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        YES move him away and at pace back to Toulon and bring back oconnor?

      • Columnist

        May 3rd 2017 @ 8:30am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        Thanks MZ. Quade Cooper does not look match-fit to me. I don’t know if it’s the strapped leg bothering him, but he’s playing pretty ‘heavy’ right now. They were already playing with QC at full-back on defence, so moving him there on attack would have brought into question why he was on the field at all!

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:18am
          Celtic334 said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          Quade needs some time off to get better. Perhaps he shouldn’t be included for the first 2 June Int matches to get back towards 100% and then promised to be included into the match day in the last test which will be in Brisbane from memory.

          • Columnist

            May 3rd 2017 @ 4:14pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

            I agree – getting rushed back post-haste will not do either the Reds’ or Wallabies’ chances much good.

      • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:17am
        jameswm said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        I was watching the game and watching Stiles emotionally ride the calls and ups and downs the whole match.

        Do we want a coach to be like that, getting all excited? Shouldn’t the coach be calm the whole time?

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 11:16am
          ClarkeG said | May 3rd 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          I guess it depends on how much input to the match he is having from the coaches box. This no doubt varies from coach to coach. Some may be micro managers and others may tend to sit back and let the players mostly take charge.

          Also I imagine it depends on the individual. An excitable coach might still make sound decisions. Then you might have an apparently calm coach that internally is in a right tizz.

          Having said that I think we could have done without Stiles crack at the refereeing in his early second half interview – interviews I find quite intrusive and unnecessary as are the sideline and half time interviews with players.

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 12:01pm
            rl said | May 3rd 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

            Bob Dwyer and Rod MacQueen (both who I would consider to be coaches that made sound decisions) had markedly different demeanours.

            Basically I find the camera in the coach’s box and the halftime interviews add absolutely nothing to the coverage. Fox, having seen Stiles blowing up in the box, went fishing for a controversial comment. Stiles, perhaps showing his inexperience, gave them exactly what they went looking for. Doesn’t make him a bad coach.

            • Columnist

              May 3rd 2017 @ 4:19pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

              Basically I find the camera in the coach’s box and the halftime interviews add absolutely nothing to the coverage.

              I think BT and Sky started doing this but I cannot remember a single interview where it has added anything solid to my enjoyment of the game.

              • May 3rd 2017 @ 4:52pm
                ClarkeG said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

                ditto

              • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:24pm
                cuw said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

                fallout from the IPL. if they could the tv will try to wire the players and ask how the scrum is going 🙂

                have they stopped it in auzzy after GAYLEGATE?

              • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:43pm
                soapit said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

                yep, its surely just an exercise in justifying someones salary

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 1:13pm
            jameswm said | May 3rd 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

            Maybe Clarke, but I would say a coach with a calm demeanour is more likely to make rational decisions than one as excitable as Stiles clearly was. He gave the appearance of not being in control of himself or the match situation.

            A coach must have some degree of game involvement. I think he should often be on the radio to his runners telling them what tactical information to pass on to the players.

            • May 3rd 2017 @ 4:37pm
              ClarkeG said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

              Yes probably more likely.

              On your second point I distinctly recall Steve Hansen saying once, under Graham Henry’s reign, that other than relaying info/being given info regards injuries, replacements, substitutions – they tended to keep their on field contact with the players to a minimum.

          • Columnist

            May 3rd 2017 @ 4:17pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

            An excitable coach might still make sound decisions. Then you might have an apparently calm coach that internally is in a right tizz.

            Right to the heart of it Clarke – do not believe everything you see on the ‘cover’!

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 12:18pm
          Akari said | May 3rd 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

          Stiles is still a picture of charm compared to Cheika-antics, jameswm. I also like his honesty and his quiet manner in telling it as he sees it.

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 1:13pm
            jameswm said | May 3rd 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

            I don’t know about charm, but he was at least as excitable in the coach’s box as Cheika ever is.

            And when did I say Cheika’s demeanour was ok?

            • May 3rd 2017 @ 1:47pm
              Perthstayer said | May 3rd 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

              Cheika’s reactions to refs decisions should be wound in. IMO it has to help the opposition to see he’s so flustered

        • Columnist

          May 3rd 2017 @ 4:16pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong in principle with a coach getting excited or emotional in the box – remember Heyneke Meyer, who looked like he was going to have a heart attack, or Jack Gibson, who used to get so wound up he had to ask Ron Massey to talk to the players – as long as they are back in ‘cool’ when they make decisions.

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:26pm
            cuw said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

            these guys are nothing compared to the footy coaches.

            i mean Klopp has broken like 3 pairs of specs on the sideline – one match he admitted not seeing the winning goal LOL

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 7:21pm
            Fin said | May 3rd 2017 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

            Nick,
            Alastair Clarkson is the most successful AFL coach in the modern era. He often goes nuts in the coaches box – slamming walls, doors, phones, anything in site! He has even been sent to anger management classes!

            • Columnist

              May 3rd 2017 @ 7:27pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

              It’s not uncommon Fin, but it does not impede the lucid judgement of the best coaches. When it’s needed, they get their mojo back!

          • Roar Guru

            May 3rd 2017 @ 8:49pm
            Fox said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

            Yes but Meyer didn’t then arrive in a press conference sour and blaming the ref like a certain someone – he was passionate and animated but he wasn’t scowling at every decision that went against his side.

            One was subjectively very passionate – but he never lost his objectivity in defeat or in the press conference and can’t recall him being sour – very disappointed but not bitter and sour.

            • Columnist

              May 3rd 2017 @ 10:05pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 10:05pm | ! Report

              For sure, Meyer used to get worked up but he could also control it, even when it appeared he was about to blow a gasket…

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:37pm
            achilles said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:37pm | ! Report

            yes nic back in control when its decision time ;but decision time is a small window and preference must be either keeping calm or actually coaching in anticipation. or do you believe the players learn faster through law of effect.?

            • Columnist

              May 3rd 2017 @ 10:07pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 10:07pm | ! Report

              Some coaches also master the use of anger – they know when the shock effect of a fit of ‘angry’ is needed.

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:30am
      mzilikazi said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:30am | ! Report

      Before I am accused of being a QC “hater”, I would add that I thought QC did a lot of good things in the game…..his great intercept, and very precise kick for the subsequent try, for example…brilliant play.

      That kick off to start the game though….wonder who decided that…really gave Waratahs a huge intitial boost. Why not kick high and deep into their right back quarter of the field, and trap them in their red zone ?

      • Columnist

        May 3rd 2017 @ 8:31am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        He did a lot of good things as you say, but does not look match-sharp right now, maybe in another two or three games?

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:40am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:40am | ! Report

      Thank you Nicholas.
      You seem to agree with most of us in giving Izzy the 14 shirt to make room for KH.
      Hooper has tricks that most 7’s don’t, certainly in attack. But are his tricks essential core duties?
      We may see George starting?

      Speaking of Wally Lewis. Do you remember his pre test speech to the Welsh team in 03 prior to the English test?

      • Columnist

        May 3rd 2017 @ 8:35am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        Hi Ken.

        Shifting to wing would probably just be to take the pressure off IF, who looks out of sorts atm.

        I’ve no doubt George Smith could handle the summer games easily enough in a Wallaby jersey, but the real Q is whether Cheika would want him playing throughout the RC – maybe as player-coach at breakdown!

        Speaking of Wally Lewis. Do you remember his pre test speech to the Welsh team in 03 prior to the English test?

        No don’t recall this – do you have more details? 🙂

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 8:39am
          Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

          I believe that in the sheds, Wally(of Welsh extraction) informed the team of a cultural truth, that for that game they had the support of every Australian watching.
          He would not have been far off.

          • Columnist

            May 3rd 2017 @ 8:50am
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

            I imagine it was more colourfully embroidered than that Ken 😀

            • May 3rd 2017 @ 2:57pm
              cuw said | May 3rd 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

              probably like a Gordon Ramsey omelette 🙂

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:48am
      Luke Ringland said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      I loved the look of Hunt at Full Back. In particular I like that he is decisive with his running, and when he wants to kick has a long accurate boot. In saying this, I think with his defence he’d make a might good 12. I think it’s probably more likely he’ll play fullback and Beale 12, but the other way around might be stronger defensively. Either one of them is a better option than Folau, who I think just about everyone watching rugby in Australia right now would like to see shifted to the wing.

      Best backline Cheika could pick right now IMO would be:

      9: Genia
      10: Foley
      12: Hunt
      13: Kerevi
      11: Folau
      14: DHP
      15: Beale

      • May 3rd 2017 @ 7:56am
        Highlander said | May 3rd 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

        I have long been a proponent of Folau to the wing but it needs to be on the right, not in the 11 shirt.

        Carries the ball in the wrong hand (many will remember Barrett running him down in a Bled 2 years ago (?) when he couldn’t fend off the little guy and got bundled into touch), his natural step takes him the touchline and his left to right pass is not good. – actually he threw 2 shocking right to left efforts on the weekend too, one at foleys feet, one along the ground.

        NZ sides, starting with the Highlanders in 2015 Super rounds proper, have been kicking to Folau everytime he posts up wide on the left side for these reasons – there is a real good chance of getting the ball back.

        TM wrote a few weeks ago that he should be given the right touchline to own, at both ends of the park, this could really help simplify his responsibilities and get his confidence back.

        As Nic pointed out above, his lack of defensive urgency when the ball was on the ground v Queensland should be of real concern to his coaches. This was not a one off.

        Really enjoyed the Smith/Hooper battle on Saturday, that’s what it is supposed to look like, brilliant contest.

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 8:01am
          Cynical Play said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

          Excellent observation re Folau HL. Some of his most memorable moments are down that right side.

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 8:06am
            Highlander said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

            Cant imagine a single defender who would fancy defending him head on 10-15 metres from the line, one on one wide out CP.

            This whole Izzy ‘needs more touches’ is a complete distraction – Julian Savea doesn’t generally have high involvements, but he has one primary job, and excels at it, that’s the role I see Folau in

            • May 3rd 2017 @ 11:18am
              ethan said | May 3rd 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

              Agree 100% Highlander.

        • Columnist

          May 3rd 2017 @ 8:37am
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

          Yeah Folau is world-class on that right hand side because he can always step off his right foot, on the other side he tends to run more laterally and can’t cut off his left.

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 2:09pm
            Perthstayer said | May 3rd 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

            Hi Nick, great article, thanks.

            I think wings need to come in and hunt. Standing at the end of the line waiting is not enough (rush defence partly to blame).

            I am not convinced IF will be a hungry winger. Sure he’s great at high ball and the last 10m. But there’s more needed, especially for teh WBs with the opportunities MH and KH will throw up.

            A wingers opportunism so often leads to a positive outcome.

            • Columnist

              May 3rd 2017 @ 4:22pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

              I doubt he’d be a ball-tracker like a Jack Nowell, always looking for work inside PS. But he showed enough on the EOYT as a second receiver (against Scotland) that we know he can fill that role, and he will rotate plenty into full-back anyway.

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:32pm
            Steve J said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

            Hi Nick,

            Funny enough I noticed your description of him favoring his right clearly displayed (0:29) when beating Keveri at close range, which doesn’t say much about his defensive capabilities. On the other hand same identical Izzy shuffle (1:00) Hunt gets him on his favorite side by working the ground and range better.

            • Columnist

              May 3rd 2017 @ 5:33pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

              Yep Hunt made sure he stayed on his inside shoulder and forced to take the long way around him – familiarity in two codes?

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 8:52am
          Browny said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          I think that considering DHP is out for 3 months or so the logical move is Folau takes DHP’s ‘kicking wing’ place at 14 and either Naivalu or Speight play from 11 as a running wing. I like Beale and Hunt 12 and 15; they’ll both be moving between 1st or 2nd receiver and fullback across the course of the game it provides a natural switch to happen. Beale may be the key to unlocking Foley and Folau while Hunt is the form 15 and has plenty of big game experience and should flourish. That means your OC choice comes down to preference for attack or D. Probably also worth asking how many on field kickers do we need/want? Foley, Beale and Hunt with Folau as a secondary option isn’t too bad. Removing Beale or Hunt (without someone like Hodge on the field in their place) start to make it feel a touch worrying.

          The remaining questions are predominantly all regarding the bench. Are you running Cooper at 21 or is Foley with Beale enough cover at 10 allowing two damaging running players on the bench or even a 6:2 split? Does a utility player like Hodge get a run from the bench? Power centres?

          10. Foley, 11. Naivalu/Speight, 12. Beale, 13. Kerevi/Kuridrani, 14. Folau, 15 Hunt, 22. Cooper/Hodge, 23. Naivalu/Speight/Kerevi/Kuridrani

          10. Foley, 11. Naivalu, 12. Beale, 13. Kerevi/Kuridrani, 14. Speight, 15. Hunt, 22. Cooper/Hodge, 23. Folau

          10. Foley, 11. Naivalu/Speight, 12. Beale, 13. Kerevi/Kuridrani, 14. Folau, 15 Hunt, 22. (forward), 23. Hodge

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:04am
            Fin said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

            Browny, your last option with Speight and Kerevi in the run on and Hodge playing the utility in on a 6-2 bench is the way I would go.

            • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:22am
              jameswm said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

              That’s the middle option. I don’t think both can play and I think Hodge is logically the backup outside back, but as he covers 11, 12, 14 and 15 (and even 13), and Beale at 12 covers 10, we can go a 6-2 split. It would mean Kuridrani missing out altogether though. His defence is better than Kerevi no doubt, but Kerevi is such a beast in attack you have to pick him. Adding him to Beale, Hunt and Folau – there’s some serious talent there.

              • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:44am
                Browny said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

                Versatility is definitely something to consider.

                10. Foley (15, 12)
                11. Speight/Naivalu (14, 13)
                12. Beale (10, 15)
                13. Kerevi (11, 12, 14)
                14. Folau (11, 15, 13)
                15. Hunt (12)
                23. Hodge (11, 12, 13, 14, 15)

                Obviously some of those bracketed positional cover options are really stretching it at international level – Foley 12, Speight/Naivalu/Folau 13, Kerevi wing, etc – but it’s pretty handy none the less.

                Hooper’s loose forward companions is another interesting one… Fardy, Higgers, McMahon and Timani fighting it out for the 2 starting and one bench spot, although it could potentially be 2 bench spots if they go 6:2. Fardy can cover 6 or lock, McMahon covers the back 3, Timani covers 6, 8 and lock at a pinch, Higgers is 6 or 8 (not sure if he’s ever packed down at lock. You wouldn’t really want to see them pushed out of their comfort zone but it’s nice knowing you’re not going to get stuck with someone who’s never played a position before if there’s a stack of injuries in a game. Does Timani become valid lock cover (in the Kaino mold) if the back row has several good lineout targets? Say if Arnold goes down you put Timani at lock with Coleman if your back row has good jumping players like Fardy and Higginbotham. Still have 3 good options plus Timani as secondary. Food for thought…

              • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:44am
                Fin said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

                James look again it’s the bottom option I have just made a decision at 11 and 13 where Browny had a couple of Choices. I agree with regarding the talent in attack at least Having Folau. Speight and Kerevi to finish what Hunt and Beale can create should provide some points. Defence will be the concern and a 6-2 split would be useful considering the loosies will need to do some work.

                Of course none of this matters unless we can keep our best tight 5 fit because I think we lack some depth there.

              • May 3rd 2017 @ 12:04pm
                rl said | May 3rd 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

                Fin, further to your comments about our tight 5, I’m especially worried about our front row.

          • Columnist

            May 3rd 2017 @ 4:24pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

            Yep they will want two full-back in the back three with Mick Byrne around, so that prob mean Hunt/Beale and Folau. Then you choose a strike winger from among Naivalu and Henry Speight – positive choice there…

    • May 3rd 2017 @ 7:07am
      RedandBlack said | May 3rd 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      Yep – despite the critiquing that goes on here Oz are pretty well served when it comes to No. 7. It has to be Beale dosn’t it Nick? The Wallabies backline has missed him so much Cheik has to take a chance and restore him, I know NZ players normally come back from the North off the pace a bit but Beale is needed for what he can do for the players around him. He could be the key to reigniting Folaus slashing runs from the back. For mine their problem will not be so much who they are going to play as how they are going to play. Surely the over prescription, over planned attack is out the door and they must be looking at backing instinct and skill again.

      • Columnist

        May 3rd 2017 @ 8:39am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        They may take on the Mick Byrne inspired improvements at Brumbies R & B? Having said that the jury is out on the NZ coaching influence at the Tahs – I do wonder how much longer Daryl Gibson can last there.

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:07am
          RedandBlack said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

          Ha – he can follow Maugers path and return as an assistant – we’ll have the best qualified assistants ever. Seriously I’m pleased to see the humility of guys like Mauger and Hammett. No false airs about I’m a head coach now – they just want to be involved – excellent example for the players.

          • Columnist

            May 3rd 2017 @ 4:27pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

            Wayne Smith example maybe R & B? WS realized that to be a head coach or DoR type you need to sacrifice a lot of the hands-on coaching – something he was loathe to do. So he stepped down from the top role permanently.

            Stuart Lancaster did the same at Leinster – offered DoR but wanted to hone his coaching skills on the field. Mauger seems to be the same kind of guy as that.

            • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:41pm
              Highlander said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

              Very pleased we are getting Mauger in th south, with Brown moving on, who is a very innovative coach, he is a good replacement.

              Trying to get the Tigers to play expansive rugby with Cockerill on the team (at first) must have been all sorts of difficult

              • Columnist

                May 3rd 2017 @ 5:43pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

                Trying to get the Tigers to play expansive rugby with Cockerill on the team (at first) must have been all sorts of difficult

                Yeah the tradition at Leicester is very forward oriented, and training can be very old school to say the least. Doubt it would have gelled with Mauger’s more progressive outlook.

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:18am
          John said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          Hi Nick,

          Your comment re Gibson made me think – thank you.

          I can recall three different NZ coaches of Australian teams – Deans, Mitchell, and now Gibson. All – I believe – had success before here but all were lukewarm in Oz.

          Is it foreign coaches or is it their inability to connect with the Australian psyche – whatever that is?

          • Columnist

            May 3rd 2017 @ 4:30pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

            Is it foreign coaches or is it their inability to connect with the Australian psyche – whatever that is?

            A vg point John – not all nations (or teams within nations) are ready for the connection, so the situation has to be exactly right.

            At Leicester in the UK, they’ve had a mixed bag of success. Guys like Bob Dwyer and Pat Howard succeeded, other like Rod Kafer, Heyneke Meyer and now Aaron Mauger got spat out in short order. And that is in way a reflection on their coaching ability!

            • May 3rd 2017 @ 5:33pm
              cuw said | May 3rd 2017 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

              isnt that an interesting case? the tigers and Mauger

              i mean they are replacing a kiwi with an auzzy.

              and mauger is well liked by the players (at least according to the press).

              he also won the anglo-welsh match , and tigers are 4th on aviva table.

              so it is not a disaster that has made this change take place.

        • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:19am
          RedandBlack said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

          Further to that – I was reading the other day that in the late 1800’s when they were experimenting with electricity and some scientists thought they could bring to life the freshly dead. So the Govt agreed to help and let them have the corpses of newly hung prisoners. But they insisted on a Police presence so if the experiment was a success they could remove the resurrected prisoner and hang him again. Maybe Gibbo’s feeling a bit like one of those blokes – it may not matter what he does now they’ll hang him anyway.

          • Columnist

            May 3rd 2017 @ 4:32pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 3rd 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

            Maybe Gibbo’s feeling a bit like one of those blokes – it may not matter what he does now they’ll hang him anyway.

            He looks pretty dispirited in the box doesn’t he?

            I suspect he’ll be back in NZ by the end of the season R & B.

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