The Wallabies’ defensive woes show the need for connectivity and communication

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

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    Sydney on a Saturday night – 54 points and eight tries conceded.

    Michael Hooper said in his interview after it was all over that the Wallabies were trying to bed in a new defensive system. This comment maybe more than any other encapsulated the difficulties Australian rugby is experiencing both on and off the field with those twin pillars of team-ship: connectivity and communication.

    Off the field, communication between the ARU and its Super Rugby franchises has not been of the best in 2017. The announcement of the decision to cut one of the Australian teams mid-season was sudden and surprising, and clarity and decisiveness was lacking thereafter as the union seesawed between the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels for months afterwards.

    The sense of connectedness in Australian rugby – between east and west, between the professional game and grassroots level, even between administrators, players, coaches and supporters – is in urgent need of repair and more than a little TLC.

    On the field, the problems were laid bare in a first 50 minutes where the All Blacks rattled along at over one point per minute.

    New Zealand were looking to reassert themselves and their characteristic, highly-skilled counterpuncher’s approach to the game after a disappointing series against the British and Irish Lions, and the selection of Damian McKenzie at fullback was a statement of intent.

    The All Blacks were determined to use the width of the field, and McKenzie’s skills in unstructured counter-attack, to the full, even if it meant pushing the world’s best fullback, Ben Smith, out to the right wing in order to do it.

    They were rewarded in spectacular fashion, scoring four of their eight tries from turnovers and another two from a kick return and a tapped penalty. They only needed a total of 34 phases to make those scores, at an average of just over four phases per try.

    Rieko Ioane New Zealand Rugby Union All Blacks Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship 2017

    (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    So what price the new Australian defence system? The first indications are that Nathan Grey is trying to do away with the old hybrid of shooting and drifting defenders and replace it with something more Lions-like, with the defence driving upfield as a unit rather than mixing and matching roles on the line.

    On the flip-side, issues with the constant interchange of positions in the backline – and with leadership, communication and connectivity – remain.

    With McKenzie picked at 15 in the New Zealand team, it was crucial for the Wallabies defence to deny him the countering opportunities on which he thrives, much as the Lions were able to do in their tour match against the Maori – as I outlined in a previous piece.

    Unfortunately for Australia, the hard triangle of defence the Lions were able to assemble around McKenzie was a lot more watertight than the Wallaby chase early in the game:

    Instead of the close-meshed, mutually-supporting three points of the triangle, there are two chasers in a line (Michael Hooper and Curtis Rona) well ahead of everyone else. This allows McKenzie to make a break between Hooper and Rona and commit Samu Kerevi to a tackle a further seven or eight metres downfield.

    The next phase of play turned into an All Black try as the Wallabies failed to reintegrate Kerevi into their defensive line as the ball was moved out to their right. In real time, the try can be seen on the highlights reel here:

    Having made a tackle on the previous play, Kerevi is (quite naturally) struggling to reload into the line:

    There is no pressure on either of the first two receivers (Beauden Barrett at 9:04 and Brodie Retallick at 9:06) after the All Blacks win a quick ball from the previous ruck, so the rush option on defence is not a realistic possibility for Australia.

    The obvious place for Kerevi to rejoin the line and become a factor in the play is in between Scott Sio and Henry Speight, but in order for him to do that, Speight has to drop off towards the sideline instead of firing straight upfield.

    Speight hits Kieran Read, and Bernard Foley steps in to hit Rieko Ioane outside him in the ‘domino effect’. But the cumulative effect of Speight’s decision is to make Kerevi’s running to reload all the way from site ‘1’, where he made the tackle on McKenzie, back to the far-right sideline all for nought.

    After all the recovery running he has already done, there is no way that Kerevi can get to Liam Squire when he receives the pass from Ioane – so Speight’s decision to fire up has left him trying to execute the (cover) tackle he is least capable of making at that moment. Either there has been a lack of communication or connectivity, or both.

    It is sure not intelligent defending of the type that is needed to keep the All Blacks in check.

    The theme of defenders making the effort to reload after a tackle, but struggling to become useful on the next play, was a constant one:

    Kerevi has got off the floor after making a tackle on Codie Taylor in the first frame and is rejoining the line in the second. It is a positive situation for the Wallabies, and there are six defenders against three attackers in the last shot from behind the posts.

    With such an advantage in numbers, they can afford to attack the ball and the space around Beauden Barrett. Kerevi’s effort has given him the opportunity to defend the cutback, which in turn should allow Sio to attack Barrett directly and Genia to flood up into the space between Barrett and his only receiving option (Rieko Ioane) and block the path of the pass.

    At least, that’s what Andy Farrell’s Lions would have done. Instead, the Wallabies stand off and wait for the All Black magic to happen.

    In the next example, Rory Arnold is circling around from off side guard to join up with his mates, who are outnumbered six to four on the far side of the field.

    The Wallabies are down on numbers, so it makes sense to make use of Arnold’s movement across the back of the breakdown and add another defender into a drift to that side.

    Instead, Ned Hanigan rushes straight out onto Brodie Retallick, losing his connection with Henry Speight outside him and giving Arnold no role to play underneath him. The outcome is an easy line-break for Joe Moody, and Arnold is still waiting to make a tackle in the third shot, over 20 metres downfield and six seconds later!

    The sequence ended with a try for Ryan Crotty.

    The Wallabies showed that they can get it right, and that offers a glimmer of hope for the future:

    Although they have lost ground from the first couple of phases from a lineout, the Wallabies still have good numbers out to their right although they are compressed. Michael Hooper and Bernard Foley both make good decisions to push up and this makes Kerevi – who is recovering from a tackle on Retallick in the first frame – a real factor by the third, as Barrett is forced back inside and into the grasp of the big Fijian.

    Perhaps the biggest the single biggest system failure on defence occurred right at the end of the first half, at a scrum close to the Australian goal line:

    In the first frame, Samu Kerevi is clearly visible with his right arm out, directing Curtis Rona and Henry Speight to swap sides – presumably this was part of the planning before the game.

    Rona (who had been defending at 13 outside Kerevi for most of the match) goes to the short-side to help out Kurtley Beale against a lone All Black attacker in Rieko Ioane. Right winger Speight comes across to the left side to defend outside Kerevi.

    In my experience, it is highly unusual to see this system (with three defenders starting on the short side in Genia, Rona and Beale) used in this position so close to the goal line. Normally this distribution is designed to give up metres but prevent big line-breaks further upfield.

    In this instance, Australia are voluntarily giving up a five-on-four advantage in numbers to the open-side of the scrum with only 10-15 metres for the attack to go to score a try.

    When Aaron Smith takes a pass off the base in the second frame, it is clear the All Blacks have a host of attractive options at their disposal. They can run Sonny-Bill Williams straight at Bernard Foley and look for an offload, they can use Beauden Barrett on the wide arcing run to link up with McKenzie and Ben Smith out wide.

    In the event, they pick out Ryan Crotty, who benefits from Kerevi standing between a rock and a hard place defensively. Kerevi takes a step in to help Foley, and with Speight’s eyes fixed firmly on Barrett, the space opens up for Crotty.

    Oh, what the Wallabies would not have given for Curtis Rona to be filling that gap – he should have been there right from the start of the play.

    Michael Hooper Australia Rugby Union Championship Bledisloe Cup Wallabies 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    There is a new defensive system in place for the Wallabies, but how much time Nathan Grey will be given to bed it in and prove its worth is anyone’s guess. Despite the backing of his head coach, he must be on a definite timeline to either succeed or fail.

    The one constant of the Australian defence at present is constant change. The constant interchange of positions is having a negative impact on the play of men like Samu Kerevi, who is being asked to be a leader of the team (and defensive organiser) while still trying to establish himself in the first-choice side.

    Sometimes Kerevi is required to defend in the 13 channel, at other times he is at 12. He did not defend nearly as poorly as the picture painted in some of the media, and frequently he looked bad because either system errors or individual mistakes elsewhere negated the value of his work (and that of others) off the ball.

    There needs to be more communication and connectivity for the Wallaby defence to work properly, and that in turn requires a bit of stability. People still young in their international careers must be encouraged to learn one position, one role and learn it inside out – preferably surrounded by more experienced heads while they do it.

    Hard as it may be at the moment, the coaches need to stick with the principles and people they believe in and stand by the results of those beliefs, for better or worse.

    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 (356)

    • Roar Guru

      August 23rd 2017 @ 4:27am
      Harry Jones said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:27am | ! Report

      Solid. Workmanlike. Clear.

      If the Wallabies defended like you analyse and write, they’d have lost by only 10 points.

      • Columnist

        August 23rd 2017 @ 4:35am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:35am | ! Report

        I like the sting in the tail of that final scorpion-like irony H.

        The WB’s are not good enough to beat the AB’s right now, but you always want to to get the very best out of yourselves, and I don’t think that’s happening at present.

        • Roar Guru

          August 23rd 2017 @ 7:55am
          Harry Jones said | August 23rd 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report


        • Roar Rookie

          August 23rd 2017 @ 9:09am
          Dave_S said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

          Haha, we need a “ba-doom tish” button for those moments, Nic 🙂

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:24pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

            Something the Aussies (looking from this side of the globe) have always been so good at Dave – they may not always be the best team, but they’ve always given themselves the best chance of winning…

            • August 24th 2017 @ 10:44am
              Ryan said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

              …is fielding a bunch of unfit/un-skilled/mentally scared players giving yourself the best chance of winning? I think not.

        • August 25th 2017 @ 1:14am
          Carlos the Argie said | August 25th 2017 @ 1:14am | ! Report

          Finally back home. So much to watch and read. Thanks Nick! But one question, why do they make defenses so complicated? Shouldn’t simpler be usually more efficient?

          • Columnist

            August 25th 2017 @ 1:35am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 25th 2017 @ 1:35am | ! Report

            Shouldn’t simpler be usually more efficient?

            Welcome home Carlos! – and yes you’re right… but sometimes the route to simplicity is a tortuous one (ironically).

    • Roar Guru

      August 23rd 2017 @ 4:56am
      Corne Van Vuuren said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:56am | ! Report

      Evening Nicholas, I was remarking after the test match the article where you highlighted the Lions’ challenges with Mapoe at 13 and also the interchangeability in the Aussies backline that complicates defence.

      How long do you expect it to take, or should it tke to get communication, understanding, execution and trust in the system before it will work?

      • Columnist

        August 23rd 2017 @ 5:38am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:38am | ! Report

        That depends on how long they stick with the same personnel, and how long they allow those players to stick with the same role BB.. Every system depends on familiarity, both with the role you’re asked to play and your understanding/connection with your team-mates. It takes a while to grow that.

        The issue for Grey is that he may not now be given that time because it’s getting so close to the wire.

        It took Phil Larder about three years to develop the England defence into world-leading D back in the early 2000’s.

        • Roar Guru

          August 23rd 2017 @ 5:44am
          Corne Van Vuuren said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:44am | ! Report

          Continuity of selection isthen paramount as well.

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 5:47am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:47am | ! Report

            Definitely, and the great partnerships are built that way. You have faith in players being the best in their position and as partnerships and you encourage that to grow – De Villiers and Fourie spring to mind for SA. Neither started off being great Test players but both ended that way.

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 9:28am
              Neil Back said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

              Didn’t take the Lions too long to work it out in defence though did it Nick, certainly not three years or the benefit of massive continuity in selection – just better raw materials in the players and coaches?

              • Columnist

                August 23rd 2017 @ 4:26pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

                yep Neil – a coach coming into his prime in Andy Farrell, some great pieces to work with, like Jonathan Davies and Sean O’Brien… I guess most of them would also have known the system from 2013 as well.

              • Roar Guru

                August 23rd 2017 @ 4:30pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

                I am pretty sure Andy Farrell has the complete collection of AB’s tests in the Hansen era. His library probably goes deeper than that. Comes through as a regular watcher of SR also in the few interviews I have read.
                I belive he is constantly working on game plans to challenge the AB’s with. His work did not start from scratch under a few weeks in NZ.

                Maybe Nic can share some light on that. From the outside, Daddy Farrell comes through as he is pretty obsessed with the game. And I suspect that is why Baby Farrell appears to be just as obsessed.

                Owen showed a sad but beautiful human side during the Lions series when he got miffed that all other players got a Fathers Day message, but he and Andy just went about business.

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 12:29pm
              Perthstayer said | August 23rd 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report


              Is there precedent for a national team to select so many known weak tacklers? (Not 1 or 2, but 3 or 4?).

              From set pieces could Grey not employ Hooper more? In my day the 7 (my spot) rushed the 10 channel.

              (BTW, Whilst selection continuity improves communication it does not make a bad tackler a good tackler)

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 12:41pm
                Jake said | August 23rd 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

                “Is there precedent for a national team to select so many known weak tacklers? (Not 1 or 2, but 3 or 4?).”

                On June 6th 1998, England fielded a team of 15 non-tacklers as well as 15 non-attackers and were humiliated to the tune of 76-0.
                Short memories must have a……….

              • Columnist

                August 23rd 2017 @ 4:29pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

                PS confusion makes people look like weak tacklers – in the Ioane try Australia don’t look like they know what they are trying to do with two men over in the vital area, and the result is that Folau looks like he’s missing his man. But with decisive D the pass from BB would never have got to its target.

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 7:06pm
                Fin said | August 23rd 2017 @ 7:06pm | ! Report

                Izzy is quoted in the press today saying he was thinking of going for the intercept but pulled out of the idea late in the peace, and that’s why he looked so ackward when Ioane beat him on the outside for that try.

              • Columnist

                August 24th 2017 @ 12:58am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 24th 2017 @ 12:58am | ! Report

                Shoulda backed that first instinct Fin…

              • August 24th 2017 @ 4:39am
                soapit said | August 24th 2017 @ 4:39am | ! Report

                you can see in in nics still, his positioning and angling is towards the intercept space, not to where he needs to be to tackle.

                always used to think the worst thing you can be is indecisive. gotta commit to a play and execute either way

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 1:35pm
              Red Block said | August 23rd 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

              Nick, added to the problem seemed to be that the All Blacks were getting such quick ball. Our lightweight back row weren’t able to get in with hands on the ball and slow the ball down, thereby allowing the backs to get into position.

              • Columnist

                August 23rd 2017 @ 4:30pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

                I have to admit I’d didn’t like the look of the B/R when it was picked RB.

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 6:04am
          soapit said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:04am | ! Report

          thats the flaw in the thinking tho nich, theyre waiting for everyone to finally get their head around it all and then theres an inevitable injury or change for form and the whole thing gets shuffled again.

          btw im pretty sure larder didnt leak 30 odd points a match while he developed things

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 6:07am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:07am | ! Report

            I don’t think Grey’s system is as stable and reliable as Phil’s anyway Soap!

    • August 23rd 2017 @ 5:24am
      Fionn said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:24am | ! Report

      Thanks, Nicholas. One of your best, I think, I really loved it. Cheers.

      By the way, agree with me now that Kurtley at 12 is a no go, or did you think it was worth trying again?

      • Columnist

        August 23rd 2017 @ 5:39am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:39am | ! Report

        I see no reason why Kurtley cannot go out with a number 15 on his back and still play the same role Fionn. Maybe give Kerevi the 12 shirt and bring Kuridrani into 13.

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 5:50am
          Fionn said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:50am | ! Report

          Cheika try someone other than Folau at fullback?! That’s about as likely as him losing faith with Foley. ? I agree, however.

          And thanks again for the article. I wasn’t quite as negative about Kerevi as some, but your analysis put things in perspective a bit better.

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 5:52am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:52am | ! Report

            I don’t think it really matters whether Folau wears 15 or 14, his role will be largely the same, as will Beale’s. But it might help the players psychologically and give more clarity going forward.

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 5:57am
              Fionn said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:57am | ! Report

              Nick, I am in complete and total agreement with you, I wish you had Cheika’s ear. Folau often seems to be doing a roving with thing anyway it seems to me.

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 6:38am
                Ed said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:38am | ! Report

                Remember all those people clamouring for Folau to be at 13. Would that have meant him being shifted to the wing etc or staying at the tough defensive spot?

              • Columnist

                August 23rd 2017 @ 6:41am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:41am | ! Report

                Yep and you don’t hear a peep about that move now Ed! 🙂

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:26am
                Jacko said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

                well Folau is NOT a quality 15…The way Ioane stood him up and brushed past him was embarrassing for him. Is he a 14 or 11? thats the question that would determine if he was worthy of his place in the team….He looks to be capable of being a finisher but if 15 is the only spot available for him then drop him and move on from his mediocraty…So he can jump…so what…he cant catch when he does jump and he hardly beats his man ever in test rugby…a good SR player who hasnt managed to transfer it to test rugby…Some decent coaching would help

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:33am
                ethan said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

                The Tahs tried Folau at 13 to start the year and it was an abject failure. Blind Freddy could have predicted that though. Folau’s big strengths are running with the ball, and catching high balls. The weaker aspects of his game are defence and ruck work. So why would you ever shift him to a position that gives less involvement of his strengths and more of his weaknesses?

                Thank God no one is talking about Izzy at 13 anymore..

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 11:22am
              PiratesRugby said | August 23rd 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

              What about:
              9. Genia
              10. Hodge
              11. Speight
              12. Kerevi
              13. Kuridrani
              14. Folau
              15. Beale?
              Everyone just defends where they are, pretty much.
              Add that to a back row with Timani at 8 and McMahon at 6.
              Of course I’d prefer Pocock to Hooper and bring back Higgers but that’s not possible. In fact, any team that doesn’t have Hooper, Folau and Foley as automatic selections is unthinkable to Cheika.

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 12:32pm
                Markus said | August 23rd 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

                Hodge could barely even be considered a playmaking centre, no way is he a flyhalf.
                He is a solid utility back reserve at present but simple does not command a starting spot.

                Solid backline otherwise. Really that 10 spot should be Cooper, but with him out of the squad I (unfortunately) cannot see how it can be anyone other than Foley at present.

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 3:06pm
                AlwaysReadUpOnUsefulThings! said | August 23rd 2017 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

                I agree with you, Pirates. But as three floggings against the Kiwis was always forseeable, they should have completely re-jigged everything during the June window against the three weaker teams. Who’s to say that the athletically very capable Hodge might not be a brilliant 10 in time to come? Given three tests against Scotland, Fiji and Italy, he would have had an entire runthrough of whatever abilities he may be hiding. Great kicker and athlete, I’m convinced he would have done at least as well as Foley, but way better in defense than any of our possible 10’s. So a missed opportunity in June, I think, with all the different player permutations we could have tried. Once again.. everything is solely up to the whims of the idealistic Cheika.. hence the constant poor showings and defeats, IMO.

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:22pm
                PiratesRugby said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:22pm | ! Report

                I’m not saying Hodge is a great playmaker. Foley’s had two and a half years solid and this all we get. Non existent defence and pop gun kicking. His playmaking is provincial at best. Is Hodge’s playmaking that far off Foley’s? Maybe in the first few games he’d misfire but at least he can tackle and can kick the cover off the ball. With Genia, Beale and Kerevi around, we’ve got enough playmaking to get by. Foley doesn’t really fire the backline. He’s had more opportunity than he deserves. Does the team come first or Cheika’s old chum?

    • Roar Guru

      August 23rd 2017 @ 5:28am
      Fox said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:28am | ! Report

      All I can Nick, is I said over a year ago in an article this excessive musical chairs defensive system was heading for disaster and a really stupid place to go. About time Australia found players who can defend their channels and maintain their structure and positions in the line.

      Laurie Fischer said he was watching it and they had a different defensive positioning for just about every position on the field which he said was totally unfathomable.

      I also said to you – if you remember that I don’t rate Cheika as an international coach who more and more is looking out of his depth. Just remember Nick, he rehired Grey, after a pretty poor defensive record for the Wallabies in recent times and a woeful record for the Tahs this year – he also has to be held accountable.

      Would Eddie Jones or Hansen have hired Grey? I rest my case

      Dane Coles back this Saturday – it’s not going to get any easier and I suspect Ben Smith will go back to fullback and Milner-Scudder ( he needs a run) or Dagg will return to the wing.

      Also Nick how bloody good is Liam Squire becoming? On his way to best no6 in world – and no I don’t say that lightly

      • Columnist

        August 23rd 2017 @ 5:41am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:41am | ! Report

        I do think Grey’s system is unnecessarily complex at certain times and in certain places Fox. Plus he is working with far more inexperienced personnel than he was in say, 2015.

        Also Nick how bloody good is Liam Squire becoming? On his way to best no6 in world – and no I don’t say that lightly

        He’s a decent player, but well away from best in the world right now…

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 5:47am
          Fionn said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:47am | ! Report

          Yeah O’Mahony, Kaino sand Kolisi I would have all thought ahead of him currently. I suspect O’Mahony will take over the mantle of world’s best 6 from Kaino.

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 5:51am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:51am | ! Report

            As a player, I am sure that Squire himself would admit that he is not yet in the same sphere of operations as Kaino – but he undoubtedly has potential.

            Perhaps Kaino’s closest rival over the last ten years has been Juan Fernandez Lobbe of Argentina – a truly great player at both Test and club level.

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 9:39am
              Mitch (in Valencia) said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

              Nick, always great articles, and this one no less. Thanks. Not since Scott Allen have we been so spoilt.
              Just adding my two bobs worth to the 6 debate, I reckon The Queen of Dragons really came into his own this year. For me the form SouthHem 6 during the tail end of Super “_insert number here_” , and the French series.

              • Columnist

                August 23rd 2017 @ 4:32pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

                Yep Kolisi is a very fine player – no doubt about that!

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:23am
          Fox Saker said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          No I said on his way Nick I think you may have misunderstood – Kaino is for me right now – when I said on his way – I meant on his way as in two or three years down the track.

          He is very dangerous ball carrier – really physical in the tackle as Hansen has said, and he seems to read the game very well as well and a genuine lineout option just as he is for the Highlanders so all the ingredients are there and he his under a world class coaching team which helps a lot in my opinion.

          We will have to disagree on your sort of defence of Nathan Grey’s defensive system there….I don’t agree a defensive has got right when the players look completely confused – get caught out of position and you get 54 points racked up against you in 50 minutes.

          Sadly I think the AB’s will put at least 40 on in the next game and they will seriously tighten up their second half defence.

          What was really telling was the AB’s attack coach yesterday saying they had studied the Wallaby musical chairs defence – or as he put it constant shifting of positions and with a very clear tone of disbelief I might add – and designed an attack that would open it up, noting that some players were getting put in positions they AB’s knew they were not experienced enough to defend and noted when certain player were caught in rucks the system turned into a mess.

          It was clear the AB’s thought the system was rubbish – you could tell by the tone and manner or their assessment. If Grey does not make some radical changes it could be more of the same this week.

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:34pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

            Sadly I think the AB’s will put at least 40 on in the next game and they will seriously tighten up their second half defence.

            Careful about this sort of prediction after the Lions series Fox 😀

            What was really telling was the AB’s attack coach yesterday saying they had studied the Wallaby musical chairs defence – or as he put it constant shifting of positions and with a very clear tone of disbelief I might add – and designed an attack that would open it up, noting that some players were getting put in positions they AB’s knew they were not experienced enough to defend and noted when certain player were caught in rucks the system turned into a mess.

            Was that Wayne Smith?

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 5:06pm
              Ed said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

              Ian Foster.

            • Roar Guru

              August 23rd 2017 @ 6:23pm
              Fox said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

              “Careful after this sort of prediction after the Lions series Fox”

              The Lions were better prepared after all the games against Super sides and with the greatest respect to the Wallabies are a better side and better coached – Graham Rowntree is a guy I admire as scrum and forwards coach and he always gives honest comment. He is one of very best in the game along with Mike Cron at what he does.

              And the All Blacks hopefully won’t be down to 14 most of the second test 🙂

              Sorry Nick couldn’t resist it !

              Yes Ian Foster and Hansen gave him big raps post match fro hatching the plan.

              • Columnist

                August 23rd 2017 @ 6:26pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

                Shag generally does a good job of persuading the oppo to play as the AB’s would like them to play Fox… with jibes about ‘not wanting to play any rugby’ if they cause his team too many problems! The Lions got under his skin, which probably surprised SH quite a lot 🙂

            • August 24th 2017 @ 4:42am
              soapit said | August 24th 2017 @ 4:42am | ! Report

              think he actally just said theyve noted that beale and foley get swapped out as happening for a long time

              • Roar Guru

                August 24th 2017 @ 11:18am
                Fox said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

                yes soapit but you have read between the lines with Foster – if they get swapped out of the line then clearly the domino effect is players being in positions they are not experienced at defending and then Beale and Foley end up defending in positions they too may not be good at defending.

                The detail of what he said was also edited in some media but Fosters manner and tone said it all. He has a way of letting you know what he really thinks with his body language more than Hansen.

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 12:24pm
          Akari said | August 23rd 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          Totally agree with your call on Liam Squire, Nick.

          Another top analysis and thank you for taking the time to look at the flaws of the WBs defensive lapses.

          It’s sad to see that Mick Byrne is being asked to defend the team publicly given the failure is to do with ‘new’ defensive system that the ABs have been taking apart years before he even started his current stint with the WBs as a skills coach. I guess Byrne is the only coach with credibility amongst the lot, Cheika included, but it’s still not fair to use him to defend a failed system that he probably had no role in developing.

          • August 23rd 2017 @ 12:50pm
            Fox Saker said | August 23rd 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

            Great call Akari on Byrne but I guess it was hard for him not to take Michael Lynnah’s comments personally as he is the skills coach

          • August 23rd 2017 @ 12:55pm
            MitchO said | August 23rd 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

            There’s a good interview in last month’s Inside Sport. Matt Cleary and Mick Byrne.
            Mick seems like a team player of a fair bit of substance. Would not surprise me if he is happy to take some heat off the group – he is the coach with credibility.
            I knew he had an AFL background. Turns out Mick grew up in Sydney and started playing rugby when he was 6. Played rugby, league and footy growing up and then went Melbourne to play footy. He always knew a fair bit about rugby and comes across as a good thinker.

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:35pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

            Thanks Akari, I’ll have to take a look at MB’s comments!

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 1:38pm
          Charlie Turner said | August 23rd 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

          Hi Nic, would you say the Grey structure is complex if everyone held their numbered positions. I feel for Grey, Cheika’s sent a platoon of Italians to the battle of Stalingrad.

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:37pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

            Yes it would be less complex. When you’re in trouble (and your players are inexperienced), it makes sense to give your players less to learn – fewer roles, simpler tasks.

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 8:22am
        Dan in Devon said | August 23rd 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        The problem lies in the lack of continuity with the centre pairing. The system won’t work until the WBs decide on their best combination. That said, when Hunt returns I have no doubt it will improve. This will enable Beale to move to FB where he played well for the Wasps and Folau to move to the wing. Likewise it will make the defensive sliding less complicated as WBs seemed confused about which player was defending which channel. The shooting system is a variation of the rushed defence but the ABs seemed to anticipate it too easily – maybe they should vary which players are shooting etc. But any system needs time and familiarity. The real travesty as Michael Lynagh said was in the execution of basic skills – an ongoing problem which has not been resolved.

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 8:26am
          Fionn said | August 23rd 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

          Beale won’t be moved to fullback and Folau won’t be moved to the wing.

          • Roar Rookie

            August 23rd 2017 @ 9:17am
            Dave_S said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

            As I said elsewhere, clearly Beale was always going to play 12, since he is not a like for like replacement for Hunt. There are others who can play Hunts style better than Beale. Beale could have played 15 if that was the ultimate plan.

          • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:33am
            Jacko said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

            So yet again it comes back to the refusal of the coach or his little helpers to see what the rest of the world can see…..The clown is looking like a donkey

        • Columnist

          August 23rd 2017 @ 4:38pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

          I suspect they’re trying to move away from the shooting idea towards a more Faz-like pattern, but it is still another new thing to learn and another habit to change at a time when the players are prob overloaded with information.

          • August 23rd 2017 @ 4:49pm
            MitchO said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

            You can’t have much time to think when BB and DMac are running at you with plenty of support.

            Nick, Cheika seems to want to have two fast flankers in Hanigan and Hooper. I think he just picked McMahon for love and in the belief that he could do the job at 8. What system is he running that requires Hanigan? And could McMahon or a slower 6 pull it off?

            Before Hanigan Cheika indicated a preference for Mumm over the slower, tighter Fardy. RHP hasn’t had a look in. Jack Dempsey did get a look in in June but he has missed a lot of games with injury. I don’t know him but the word seems to be that he has Hanigan’s good points and also adds physicality. Putting Dempsey aside what do we do? Timani should come into 8 for either Hanigan or McMahon with the loser of the two going to the bench. Looks like McMahon will be benched since he was the sub for Timani.

            Second question but you have had a look. Was Hodge really that bad at 12 last year and on the end of season trip? I thought he was strong. He did have to learn on the job.

            • Columnist

              August 23rd 2017 @ 6:08pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

              Hanigan has a future but it’s not right now. The Oz B/R immediately looked more cohesive when Timani came on, so he should go to 8 and Sean McMahon to 6.

              Hodge was good on the EOYT but has kinda gotten pushed out by Beale and Hunt’s return. But reckon it’s between him and Samu at 12 inside Tevita.

              • Roar Guru

                August 24th 2017 @ 11:20am
                Fox said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

                yes soapit but you have read between the lines with Foster – if they get swapped out of the line then clearly the domino effect is players being in positions they are not experienced at defending and then Beale and Foley end up defending in positions they too may not be good at defending.

                The detail of what he said was also edited in some media but Fosters manner and tone said it all. He has a way of letting you know what he really thinks with his body language more than Hansen.

                This was a telling line as well and the way he said it

                “We kind of expected to see what we saw in the midfield ( all the positional changes). Will they change it? I am not sure.”

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 8:31am
        jameswm said | August 23rd 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        “I don’t rate Cheika as an international coach who more and more is looking out of his depth”.

        I have to say that is the way I am starting to feel.

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 11:56am
          Frank said | August 23rd 2017 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          He is made to look very ordinary by an excellent all blacks coaching setup. Eddie did the same to him last year. Let’s see if he can learn from the worlds best coaches in the short term. Timelines to be dictated by our next CEO of the ARU, I imagine.
          Jim Carmichael perhaps? The man who overseen what many thought was impossible, the resurgence of the qld Reds as a franchise and its re connection with a very disillusioned supporter base and grass roots, as a result of bad management, politics and terrible on field performances. Sound familiar?

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:41pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

            Although he has said otherwise publicly, I think the remorseless beatings Aussie players have taken from Kiwi sides at SR level has had a big impact. When things start to go wrong, it’s a hard mindset to shake “Here we go again” – and ofc the ABs are not not your first choice of a team to let up when they have you down!

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:06am
        Ruckin Oaf said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Hey Fox,

        Do you think it’s Grey’s idea to pick a 10 and 12 who then don’t defend at 10 and 12.

        OR do you think Cheika is making the selections and calling the shots and then Grey has to try and come up with a defensive system based around Cheika’s selections and positions.

        • Roar Guru

          August 24th 2017 @ 11:29am
          Fox said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          Hi Ruckin Oaf – that is an interesting question which would certainly account for Cheika’s staunch defence of the indefensible

          I think Cheika would certainly have a say as head coach but the original defensive structures would largely be drawn up by Grey or there is no point in paying for a defence coach.

          That being said – Cheika cannot escape from the fact that he rehired him after an ordinary Wallabies season last year and his dreadful record with the Tah’s this season.

          So in that sense he has to share some of the blame and I think he knows that so it is important that he defends Grey until it becomes obvious that the defensive system is rubbish or actually begins to work.

          • August 24th 2017 @ 1:47pm
            Ruckin' Oaf said | August 24th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

            Yeah it’s one of those situations where I’d like to be a fly on the wall.

            “…. the original defensive structures would largely be drawn up by Grey”

            Yep but I’m wondering if he’s given parameters in advance that he then has to draw the structure around.

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:55am
        Highlander said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        Squire has taken some time to establish himself as the best 6 at the Highlanders, let alone wider accolades.

        Having said that, he has really developed in the AB environment over the past year.

        • Columnist

          August 24th 2017 @ 5:34pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 24th 2017 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

          I wonder whether he will end up shifting back to 8 when Read retires though H’lander?

    • August 23rd 2017 @ 5:31am
      John said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:31am | ! Report

      Hi Nick, you do realize that there are thousands of rugby fans sitting in front of their screens waiting for this article to post every week. Some like me on Tuesday afternoon sitting in their offices in the US, others like our SA friends sipping what they sip before going to bed, while the Aussies are sipping their morning cuppa.

      So the first try was mainly due to Speight not drifting instead of Kerevi, who was highlighted on the commentary I saw. then the second was due to Folau feeling he had to come in off his wing to help the other five against the two opponents, leaving Ioane unmarked. The next sequences shows Hanigan full of energy but achieving nothing. Finally, we see Kerevi directing traffic.

      What you haven’t highlighted was the SBW break where Beale was fullback and he shot out to – do what exactly? He seemed to be going for an intercept on a ball that wasn’t being passed and ended up 15 metres on the wrong side of the field. I’m curious, are we saying Beale is such a golden child he can be protected while everyone else is left to flounder?

      • Columnist

        August 23rd 2017 @ 5:45am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:45am | ! Report

        Hi John – thanks for the kind comments.

        Yes I heard a lot of criticism of Kerevi on the TV feed but he was busting a gut to get involved. The two outside defenders had to realize that he could and should have been included on the line as part of a drift. Then his effort would have been rewarded.

        Both Genia and Folau should have been shutting down the final pass in that 3 v 6 scenario – Genia just allowed himself to be excluded from the play when he could have been the key factor.

        There was plenty of other material (some of it really very good!) which I had to leave out, and I think the incident you’re talking about (with Beale) was one of them!

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 6:21am
          John said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:21am | ! Report

          So I’m going to react to that exclamation mark.

          On one of the replays I saw from behind the posts it very very cleary showed Beale run up toward SBW and then – not lay a finger on him. Ran right past him. My only thought was WTF??

          So I will ask question others may be reluctant to. Was Beale reluctant or afraid to hit him? People used to give Cooper crap for that sort of thing. Haven’t heard a word about Kurtley’s effort.

          Scary that one half of rugby can provide so much great content, yeah? NOT a good sign.

          • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:09am
            Link said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report


            As it`s always been ,one rule for Waratahs( Foley Beale ), another rule for Quade.

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:49am
              EnoughisEnough said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

              Yes, and no doubt Kerevi will be the sacrificial lamb at the selection table this week.

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 12:42pm
                Link said | August 23rd 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

                Oh Samu will be.He will be. So much for keeping the same team together so they can learn Greys ludicrous defensive barn dance. 13 Rona or Hodge?? DHP wing ? ( If DHP proved his fitness yesterday reports say, he is in)..Mcmahon will most likely be benched and Timani in at 8..( Which i would have liked in game one )

                Still have Hanigan at 6 up against Squire..I dread the thought.

              • August 23rd 2017 @ 2:08pm
                Charlie Turner said | August 23rd 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

                Link, now the dust has settled and in light of Nic’s article I think Grey is the patsy in Cheika’s dogs breakfast of a rugby side. Imagine Grey’s dismay when Cheika handed him the team sheet with Foley, Beale and Folau at 10, 12 and 15. He would still be suffering PTSD from Cheika selecting Foley outside Cooper in the 2016 anus (n) horribilis.

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:46pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

            That may also be related to this policy of ‘hiding’ players on D John, What effect does that have on a player’s confidence if he’s not trusted to defend in his normal position, should he be encouraged to improve his defence instead?

            Moving KB to the backfield on D structurally does makes sense (Wasps took two games to find this out last season but they then put 15 on his back) but maybe it would help to put the number 15 on his back and say, “you’re a full-back who will play second receiver on attack”.

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 8:33am
          jameswm said | August 23rd 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

          Yep – Genia is not putting his body on the l ine enough,. Contrast witht he mucjh maligned Phipps, who is also quicker to the breakdown and was a significant part of the comeback.

          Do we live with Phipps’s unacceptably high percentage of poor passes but enjoy his defence, fitness and speed, or do we go for someone with a more consistent pass who offers less in defence (Powell)?

          • August 23rd 2017 @ 9:46am
            connor33 said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

            Good point, j. Most don’t appreciate Phipps’ off-the ball stuff. But hey, it’s al about throwing 15 m cut out passes and scoring tries–just ask the Abs….

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:11am
              Ruckin Oaf said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

              “Most don’t appreciate Phipps’ off-the ball stuff”

              I reckon there are some Argentinian physio’s who are well aware of what he can do off the ball 🙂 🙂

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:41am
              ethan said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

              I appreciate the work he does off the ball – its no doubt why he still gets a game. But a number 9 will throw more passes than anyone else in a game. His pass is likely to be involved in every offensive play. Therefore it is the single most important aspect of his game, and Phipps has one of the worst passes for a 9 I can recall.

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:51am
              AJM said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

              By off the ball stuff you mean his childish insolence with the Refs?

          • August 23rd 2017 @ 4:08pm
            moaman said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

            I was stunned by Genia’s seeming lack of effort in chasing in the build-up to McKezie’s try.BB strips Hooper, feeds Ioane..and Genia appeared content to merely trot after them…..couldn’t believe it.
            Just one more strange thing in a bizarre game….

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:48pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

            Yep – Genia is not putting his body on the l ine enough,.

            I think this comment is a case in point James. It’s entirely natural for you to make it, but from my viewpoint Genia simply does not know what he’s supposed to be doing on that play, therefore he gets cut out of it when he could have been the decisive factor.

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 5:41pm
              jameswm said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

              Nick I don’t mean once – I thought his efforts were half-baked a few times in that match. Contrast with Phipps and any AB.

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:14am
          Old One Eye said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          I’m pleased to see you offering some “defence” of Samu Kerevi’s defence Nick. He’s one who has been singled out for criticism when looking at your analysis he was just left holding the baby at the end of a team/system wide failure. At times he looked like my mother searching for her car keys as he wandered up and down the defensive line trying to find his place in Nathan Grey’s Rubiks cube.

          Another failure and still the coach is blaming the players for not executing the plan well enough. Could anyone?

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:50pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

            I don’t see any problem with Kerevis’ ticker or effort OOE. He’s chasing down plays after just making a tackle after all. But the pattern (or the decisions of people within the pattern) were not allowing him to reap the rewards of the effort he was making.

            • August 23rd 2017 @ 7:03pm
              Old One Eye said | August 23rd 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

              Agree, looked like he was working hard but I bet his inner monologue was something like “first half on the half be at fly half, 22 move move out two, if next to Speight run up straight……bloody hell nothing rhymes with Foley and Rona rhymes with boner! What was I supposed to do 10 out or was it 10 in? Oh crap did somebody just run past me?”

              • Columnist

                August 24th 2017 @ 12:56am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 24th 2017 @ 12:56am | ! Report

                Good one OOE 🙂

              • August 24th 2017 @ 6:42am
                Wallsy said | August 24th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

                Cover for Foley ‘cos his defence is… something must rhyme!

              • August 24th 2017 @ 8:49am
                Old One Eye said | August 24th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

                …”holey” of course it was so obvious

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 6:08am
        soapit said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 2:10pm
        mzilikazi said | August 23rd 2017 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

        ” you do realize that there are thousands of rugby fans sitting in front of their screens waiting for this article to post every week. Some like me on Tuesday afternoon sitting in their offices in the US…………what a world of connectivity we do live in, John…to take Nic’s word from the title of the article.

        At 05.45 hrs here in Qld there were already 11 comments ! Now 159 as I write. Takes me a couple of days to read everything and digest it all. Great stuff, and long may Nivc continue to write for us all.

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 2:41pm
          Bob Wire said | August 23rd 2017 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

          Mzilikazi, beware, a poster by the name of Zulu is around and about, traditional foes of the Matabele!

          • August 23rd 2017 @ 9:55pm
            mzilikazi said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:55pm | ! Report

            Jeez, Thanks for the warning, BW…….might need to move further north…again…damn !!

        • Columnist

          August 23rd 2017 @ 4:51pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

          MZ, I’m very glad there is as much interest in the forum afterwards as there is in the article itself 🙂

    • August 23rd 2017 @ 5:57am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | August 23rd 2017 @ 5:57am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article Nicholas.
      A good ‘read in defense’ (Boom tish)

      But you did not say directly so i need to ask – is it ‘easily fixed’?

      I dont think anything about the Wallabies will be easy for a good while to come.
      And the reasons for that lie in your first paragrsph. A generic lack of connection across the board.
      One of the few bright spots atm is the Sydney Shute Shield.
      And my old team is in the final!
      Thanks Nicholas, once again.

      • Columnist

        August 23rd 2017 @ 6:10am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 6:10am | ! Report

        But you did not say directly so i need to ask – is it ‘easily fixed’?

        No it isn’t easily fixed, because of the constant swapping of personnel and players having to learn multiple roles. As I said last week Ken, I feel Grey should try to simplify the positional demands until the Wallabies have proven they can concede less than three tries per game (esp against the AB’s!)…

        • August 23rd 2017 @ 2:43pm
          Ruckin Oaf said | August 23rd 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

          “Grey should try to simplify the positional demands until ……..”

          Is that Grey’s call though ??

          • Columnist

            August 23rd 2017 @ 4:52pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

            No idea RO – does anyone know whether Grey is getting the players he wants?

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 9:48am
        connor33 said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        Shute Shield – light at the end of the tunnel…possibly…I’m looking forward to this weekend…there’s was a lot of crapped served up from both teams this past weekend…

    , ,