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Wallabies’ Scotland loss needs to be an aberration

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Many angry words have already been written about the Wallabies’ 24-19 loss to Scotland, and many more may well follow again today.

    And in fairness to all measured critiquers and frustrated desk-thumpers alike, it was the kind of annoyingly sub-standard display that deserves an angry reaction.

    If only we could guarantee those angry words are read by those who need to see them…

    But what can the Wallabies do to move on from ‘The Sydney Debacle’?

    Well, if they’re honest with themselves as players and coaches, they’ll use this game to their advantage.

    A full match replay should be required viewing this week, as the Wallabies prepare for Italy in Brisbane, and repeat viewings should be part of the planning for The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup preps, too.

    If the Wallabies ever want to know what might happen if they play within themselves, or assume that someone else will get to that ruck, there is eighty minutes of pretty solid evidence played out in front of a decent afternoon rugby crowd who expected much, much better.

    What the Wallabies will see on the replay is a team who were way too passive at the breakdown, and particularly when in possession. They were frighteningly inaccurate. Their skill execution let them down on countless occasions. They made silly decisions; they remembered for ten minutes they had a longer kicker on the field, and then forgot about that same kicker late in the game, forcing them to launch futile lineout drives from way too far out.

    They’ll see a team who weren’t desperate enough; neither in defence, nor when needing to clean up a mistake. They played way too much east-west rugby, and not nearly enough north-south.

    And what they will see on the screen in front of them is what will happen if they even think about underestimating a team between now and Christmas.

    None if this takes anything away from the Scots, who were superb across the park. While the Wallabies bumbled and fumbled, Scotland bashed, barged, pilfered, stole, retaliated, sliced, diced, and julienned. And won.

    And what’s more, they did exactly what anyone who watched them completely dominate Italy in Singapore the week before expected they would do. They were hard over the ball, physical in defence and at the breakdown, solid at set piece, and ruthless at turnover.

    The Australian camp would – should – have known what was coming.

    Wandering among the Wallabies post-match, I was confronted by the ashen faces of gold-clad players who knew what was coming their way. Nothing they could say between then and kick-off next Saturday was going to change any minds; they’d underperformed, terribly so, and they knew it. Honesty had to be the best policy.

    Michael Hooper Wallabies Australia Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    “There were times when we just didn’t control our pace, and also, they made the most of the opportunities when they countered,” an almost shell-shocked Tatafu Polota-Nau attempted to explain to me on ABC Grandstand.

    “We need to make sure we work hard on our urgency, but also on our shape as well.”

    The required improvements were obvious, and the players themselves were already thinking ahead to what surely now has to be a gruelling week of preparations in Brisbane.

    “It just comes down to who wants it more,” Polota-Nau said. “Well done to Scotland for pouncing on the opportunities when they presented, but we’ve just got to be harder on ourselves next week to prepare for Italy.”

    Scott Higginbotham was similarly circumspect. For a guy who has openly said any Tests he plays from now on is a bonus, he’d be well aware that his spot is far from secure this weekend.

    “We’ll have to look at the breakdown; I think that’s going to be important for us, definitely our attacking breakdown,” the No.8 admitted.

    “We need that speed over the ball, and that’s what we’ll need to work on.”

    Michael Cheika has suggested that changes for Italy this week are likely; “I’d say there’d be a few,” was how he answered the question post-match on Saturday evening. How many of those changes will be above and beyond what was probably already planned to face the 15th-ranked team in the world, we’ll never know.

    And really, changes are immaterial after a loss like that. They might have an effect, they might make no difference whatsoever. I’d be just as inclined to send the same XV out in Brisbane and have them prove the Sydney loss was ‘just an off day’.

    Quade Cooper after the Wallabies loss to Scotland

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    In all reality, and I say this with all respect due to them, but the Wallabies should be beat Italy handsomely this weekend. If they don’t, it just underlines the whole theme of this column.

    The Scotland loss must be the line in the sand for 2017. A full review of preparations and game plans for The Rugby Championship and the Bledisloe must happen now. The Wallabies have to be smarter, clearer, cleaner in everything they do for the rest of the international season.

    Losses may still result, but they cannot be as meek and as dispiriting as what Wallabies fans had to endure last Saturday.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

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

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    The Crowd Says (248)

    • June 20th 2017 @ 6:56am
      Fionn said | June 20th 2017 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      Exactly right, Brett. I can accept losses.

      I just can’t accept lazy players not running in support or bothering to clean out, terrible decision making when on attack, brain snaps conceding 14 points or the players drifting out of games for 20 minutes (seriously, being physically or mentally unfit at this stage of the season is unacceptable – just train harder!).

      • June 20th 2017 @ 7:48am
        Johnny J-Dog said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:48am | ! Report

        How about that kick by DHP when attacking their line? The turnover led to a Scottish try. What about that ridiculous grubber by Genia to no-one? Absolute rubbish rugby.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 10:19am
          The Sheriff said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          He only had two men outside him……

      • June 20th 2017 @ 9:35am
        Ouch said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        ” conceding 14 points”………so often that it is not a surprise anymore.

        Among all the frustrations, that is the most frustrating,

      • June 20th 2017 @ 3:56pm
        Worlds Biggest said | June 20th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

        Yep agree Fionn, we can accept losses as that goes with the territory supporting the Wallas. However what us as fans can’t cop is insipid, aimless, dispirited Rugby which we have witnessed over most of the past 12 months.

        Macca you are right, this game and subsequent media / fan backlash has to be the line in the sand for the season.

    • June 20th 2017 @ 6:58am
      Adsa said | June 20th 2017 @ 6:58am | ! Report

      Last year after 3 straight losses to England their was a similar sort of resolve coming from the Wallyb’s, they backed all that talk up with the most insipid and tepid loss I have ever seen to the All Blacks in Bledisloe 1.
      My prediction is Clown will make the following changes:
      Punt QC for Rob Horne
      Punt Higgie for Dempsey
      Punt Carter for Skeletron.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 8:17am
        PiratesRugby said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        Yes, the 2014 Waratahs redux isn’t working. Solution? More Tahs. And with a win over the powerhouse of Southern European rugby, the strategy will be vindicated.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 9:40am
        jameswm said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Is Dempsey available? I’d take him over Hanigan. Similarly good lineout ability, but more agility and ball running, and more physicality. Dempsey is bloody good.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 10:04am
          Link said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          Dempsey hasn’t played rugby for 2 years, so we cant remember him to be fair

          • June 20th 2017 @ 1:48pm
            jameswm said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

            2 months you mean?

            • June 20th 2017 @ 2:31pm
              Link said | June 20th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

              No I mean Super rugby.He hasn`t played Super Rugby for two years.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 10:12am
        Marto said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        If Cheika picks Horne Robertson or Foley this week my cups of Warm Pi$$ will be ready to hoik over the fence at them when they are standing behind the goalposts after Italy score….Many more boos and F@#K offs will be aimed their way as well…I have no doubt people will be waiting to see who Cheika picks before handing over the green…..Holding 53000 they can wait..

        Coach Clown better select wisely.

        Quade must start at 10… Foley must not…

        • Roar Guru

          June 20th 2017 @ 2:17pm
          gatesy said | June 20th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

          Totally agree – Quade looked like he was much more comfortable out there on Saturday. I’d pick him

        • Roar Guru

          June 20th 2017 @ 7:03pm
          eagleJack said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

          You going to the game Marto? Surprised the psych ward will let you out. You must have finished all of your cereal this week. Good boy.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 10:20am
        The Sheriff said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

        No, no, no and no again!

        • June 20th 2017 @ 10:52am
          Link said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

          Sherrif, if you cant speak coherently and only know 3 words, your deputy should relieve you of your command forethwith.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 1:06pm
        KF said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

        How could you miss Mumm and Naiyaravoro?

        • June 20th 2017 @ 2:35pm
          Marto said | June 20th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

          Mumm made himself unavailable for tests hasn’t he? He is not in the wider squad is he? Please tell me i`m right..I ususually am right, but you can tell me if i`m right if you like…

          • June 20th 2017 @ 4:17pm
            Akari said | June 20th 2017 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

            You’re always right, Marto, and yes, Dean Mumm has retired from international rugby.

    • Roar Guru

      June 20th 2017 @ 7:06am
      Rabbitz said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Hi Brett, while I agree with your premise, I fear that rather than aberration, the Scotland test was, in fact, a culmination. One that will take enormous heart and massive re-learning to overcome.

      To further exacerbate the issue, they will probably win over Italy and the urgency and effort will stop – Rose coloured glasses in place they will stride purposefully into the Rugby Championship.

      We can guess where that will lead…

      • June 20th 2017 @ 7:19am
        Daveski said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

        Rabbitz I think there’s something to what you say. Aus rugby fans in general for too long have over-inflated our team’s ability and under estimate the opposition. Italy lost to Fiji in Fiji by an 82nd minute drop goal. They have a good scrum and Tomasso Allen and Campagnaro in the backs are good enough to trouble us.

        We should win, we must win. But expecting a handsome victory of wide margin is partly what gets us into trouble. Especially when coupled with questionable, out-dated game plans and lack of conditioning. As I said yesterday for the majority of the team it’s not lack of heart it’s lack of smart. And that extends to the three coaches…Larkham included.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 7:51am
          FunBus said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

          I think you’re right. For the world outside Australia this ‘shock result’ isn’t seen as much of a shock.

          • June 20th 2017 @ 8:12am
            Dan in Devon said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

            I fancied Scotland after their 6M performances. Finn Russell was better served by quick ball and Foley looks too predictable. Only Oz players that I rated during the game were Hunt and Hooper. Cooper looked electric when he came on but I gather he is not a part of Cheika’s gameplan. I saw him play in Cardiff a few years ago and cannot believe he has not developed in the mainstay of the attack. The most surprising aspect was just how tired the WBs looked during the final 15- does Cheika not use the bench to combat this? Mind you we have about 8 Aussies in our Exeter squad which just won the premiership.

            • June 20th 2017 @ 12:43pm
              Akari said | June 20th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

              Hannigan played for 80 minutes.

              • June 20th 2017 @ 3:01pm
                Link said | June 20th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

                Hannigan 80 minutes,? did he,that must be one of the reasons we lost.

              • June 20th 2017 @ 3:09pm
                Fionn said | June 20th 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

                I don’t think we can exactly blame Hanigan. The buck stops with Cheika. He selects and coaches the team.

                Hanigan did his best, he just isn’t good enough.

              • June 20th 2017 @ 4:18pm
                Akari said | June 20th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

                Not blaming Hannigan, Fionn. Just pointing out that he played the full 80.

            • June 20th 2017 @ 7:54pm
              ajg said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

              I think that the final 20 mins has killed all the aussie super rugby teams this year. they just seem to run out of puff and ideas

          • June 20th 2017 @ 10:49am
            Republican said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

            ………i.e it should be no shock to Australians either?

    • Roar Guru

      June 20th 2017 @ 7:18am
      Nick Turnbull said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      G’day Brett,

      Mate just about every year for the past 10 or so, the Wallabies put in a dud performance early in the test season the come home with some momentum citing the aforementioned dud performance as the catalyst. Last year it was against England, three times, then the All Blacks twice, and so on.

      This year it is Scotland’s turn. I fear this is not a one off and the Wallabies in their minds are ‘rock stars’ without a selling record, yet somehow keep getting record deals based on where they want to be, not where they are.

      I love the confidence and aspiration but it void of collective effort on the park too frequently. They are big enough, they are fit enough and they are skilful enough to win at this level. They are just deluded enough to think all they have to do is turn up and they will beat teams like Scotland without total mental application.

      That is what our man Quigley captured in his post and until that cancer of apathy and delusion is cut out of the Wallabies I fear we will see more of the Sydney same.

      That being said, I’ll be there on Saturday hoping my own delusions of Wallaby grandeur materialize.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 9:39am
        Harryonthcoast said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Well said Nick! The Wallabies look like they are playing in slow motion.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 9:41am
        jameswm said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        if the Wallabies had been properly coached and conditioned for the last 5 years they wouldn’t put in dud early season performances.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 10:26am
          The Sheriff said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

          We will all be watching and Jack will too, unless his Southern Cross University Gold Rats are playing at the same time as the Test is on.

          We can only hope that the kerfuffle has been the boot up the bum that they need to play better.
          All fans will be watching closely to see who is quickest up off the turf after a tackle and who is slow to the breakdown.
          How do we fix their poor passing?

      • Roar Guru

        June 20th 2017 @ 1:29pm
        sheek said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report


        In the past the Wallabies have gone through bad patches. Often, in fact. While frustrating, especially when they made silly mistakes, you tended to believe they were actually trying their best.

        This was the amateur era, & guys played for the love of it. The best mightn’t have been up to scratch, but generally you could satisfy yourself they were giving their all.

        I just don’t believe that with this current generation.

        I see Quade Cooper has come out & given his contempt of keyboard warriors. He’s entitled to his opinion. He’s copped a lot of bad press over the years, some of it clearly undeserved.

        But these guys, well, I don’t know, they don’t even look as if they enjoy playing rugby. It’s just a job, office hours, clock on & clock off.

        The love for the game, the passion, the care factor, it seems to be missing.

        I contrast this with the Socceroos, who are also struggling. But there’s an implicit belief the guys representing the Socceroos are giving it their all, even if they’re not that good at present.

        If these guys really care about rugby, then they must be poor actors, because their demeanour on the pitch suggests they don’t really care all that much.

        I’ve seen the Wallabies go through bad patches many times, & I’ve stuck solid. But there’s something about these current Wallabies that just doesn’t gel with me.

        Do some of these guys who have come from other places like the Pacific Islands & Southern Africa, as young kids, do they really appreciate the opportunity that Australia has given them, or do they see playing for the Wallabies as an ordinary second best choice?

      • Columnist

        June 20th 2017 @ 2:55pm
        Brett McKay said | June 20th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

        There’s a lot of ‘awkward second albums’, Nick!

        • June 20th 2017 @ 4:48pm
          Paul Leo said | June 20th 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

          I think we are at the base of a tidal wave.

          We are going to be beaten up so much in the coming months it will be reminiscent of The Washington Generals v Harlem Globe Trotters.

          The only way skills can improve is if players just go to NZ and play. Hopefully they can get a gig over there and learn the way to play running rugby. NZ coaches will fulfill their talents.

          Could Bill Meakes play fly half?? Great pair of hands. Don’t care if he can kick. I don’t want him to kick.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 20th 2017 @ 7:19am
      Dave_S said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      Good piece, Brett.
      I’m surprised by how “rusty” the WBs have looked.

      Fair enough, somewhat acceptable for a 1st test when there are new combos and coach for some players, but after the Fiji game, after more than a dozen Sr games, that excuse cannot hold water.

      The old “who wants it more” is amateur stuff. There is some sort of flaw in the WBs collective psyche, maybe they need to bring in a high powered shrink? Or a retired military commander? I’m clutching at straws…

      • June 20th 2017 @ 8:20am
        PiratesRugby said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        Or a good coach?

        • Roar Rookie

          June 20th 2017 @ 10:00am
          Dave_S said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          Pirates I don’t to subscribe to the notion that Cheika can’t coach at all, since has had some notable achievements, but there is definitely something wrong with the operation as a whole. Maybe his assistants are letting him down, neither Grey nor Bernie are much chop at their SR level gigs.

          • June 20th 2017 @ 12:51pm
            Akari said | June 20th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

            Maybe his assistants are letting him down, neither Grey nor Bernie are much chop at their SR level gigs.

            The coach owns and is the boss of both, D_S and is ultimately responsible.

            A team selection panel, perhaps?

            • Roar Rookie

              June 20th 2017 @ 3:28pm
              Dave_S said | June 20th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

              Akari there’s obviously truth in what you say, but while the head coach is ultimately responsible for owning the problem, others also must take responsibility for their part in it. Coaching is a team game.

              • June 20th 2017 @ 7:07pm
                ScrumJunkie said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:07pm | ! Report

                While Larkham is clearly not as good a coach as he was a player, the Brumbies have made the semis consistently with him as head coach, due to the ridiculous system we have now where you don’t have to beat kiwis to make the semis… he is clearly the best super rugby coach in Australia… scary stuff, pull your finger out Bernie!

    • June 20th 2017 @ 7:21am
      Gilbert said | June 20th 2017 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Was that the first time the wallabies lost to Scotland in Australia?

      • June 20th 2017 @ 8:04am
        Dodb said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        Scotland won against Australia the last time we played you in Australia the last two times Scotland played Australia Australia won by a single point

      • June 20th 2017 @ 8:48am
        Peter said | June 20th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Ugh. No. 1982 at Ballymore. Scotland 12 Australia 7. Not helped by the brain-snapped Australian selectors picking Mark Ella at 5/8 and Glen Ella at fullback instead of Paul McLean and Roger Gould. Apparently McLean was “not versatile énough.” Order restored in Sydney as he scored a try, conversions, penalties and a field goal.

        • Roar Pro

          June 20th 2017 @ 10:51am
          Matt Davis said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

          How does this align with Mark becoming (perhaps) the greatest Wallaby? Was he too young?
          Really wish there were replays of these games…

      • June 20th 2017 @ 9:05am
        JohnB said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        Pre-professionalism, Scotland won in 1981(? or thereabouts) when Dwyer selected Ella brothers ahead of Gould and McLean – errors he reversed the following week, after the Wallabies were boo-ed by the Ballymore crowd at the start of the game, for Australia to win in Sydney.

        [Edit – sorry Peter, your substantially identical comment wasn’t there as I was writing this originally]

        • June 20th 2017 @ 9:50am
          Harry said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          JohnB … I was at that game and it is a great myth that the Wallabies, particularly Ella, were booed at the start of the game. Yes there were boos at inept Wallaby backline play (of which there was plenty with players picked out of position … sound familiar?) but they did not emerge until well into the game. From memory, we had Hawker (Sydney Uni rather than Randwick) on the wing among other illogical decisions.
          Then, as now, a determined and well drilled Scottish team, over ran a poorly constructed Wallaby team.
          The 1982 Wallabies rallied and put on a convincing and strong display the week after. Lets see how the 2017 version goes. Hugely different circumstances I know but there is a template for this team.

          • June 20th 2017 @ 1:38pm
            Drongo said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

            The team a week later had Paul McLean at 5/8 and Rogen Gould at FB replacing two of the Ellas. They scored all the points and we won easily.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 20th 2017 @ 9:56am
          Dave_S said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

          It was the Ellas who were booed (I was there), absolutely disgraceful regardless of state bias. Mark was always going to be a better flyhalf than McLean, but Gould’s omission was a poor selection.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 9:31am
        Adsa said | June 20th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Newcastle 2012 – 9-6.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 10:16am
        Marto said | June 20th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        First time ever in the Sydney

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