A midfield war under a glass ceiling: Sonny Bill Williams versus Kurtley Beale in Dunedin

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

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    It had been a dark, damp week. In the build-up to England’s contest against New Zealand back in December 2012, there had been a lot of self-questioning and doubt.

    We had lost to Australia and South Africa in the previous two matches of the autumn series, and with the world champions looming on the horizon it promised to be a blackout.

    But when I talked to head coach Stuart Lancaster during the course of that week, he insisted that the players were looking sharp in training. Minds were concentrated, all of the coaching and playing group were determined to prove that they were capable of something much, much better on the coming Saturday against the All Blacks.

    Australian coach Michael Cheika probably felt something similar in the week before Saturday’s match against the same opponents in Dunedin. Cheika, his fellow coaches and the players would have known they were capable of more than they had shown in Sydney.

    And on game day, they delivered a performance to be proud of – even if they didn’t get the result they wanted.

    Such ‘peak performances’ come with a warning on the packet. They arise because of the privileged psychological position you’re in – backs to the wall, faced by the prospect of not just loss, but annihilation and a total loss of face. There is nowhere else to go and that gives you a vital mental edge.

    Michael Hooper Wallabies Australian Rugby Union Championship Bledisloe Cup 2017

    (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    The aftermath following a peak performance is more important than the game itself. The peak you reach because of the special psychological circumstances does not represent in any way your ‘standard of performance’ – the standard you can reliably expect to maintain under ordinary conditions, and with the added burden of new expectation.

    Back in 2012, England’s standard of performance gradually declined in the 2013 Six Nations, to the point where the 30-3 loss to Wales in the final game of the championship on March 16 was an accident waiting to happen. By that stage, the thread had been well and truly lost.

    So the task for Michael Cheika now is how to incorporate the advances shown at Dunedin more permanently into a new, higher standard of performance, in the knowledge that he won’t be able to rely on the same set of psychological conditions arising for the rest of the Rugby Championship.

    So many things went right for Australia at Dunedin. Apart from the scrum, which only achieved stability when Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu entered the second half fray, many players confounded expectation. Rob Simmons proved he is still most definitely international quality in the second row, Sean McMahon spiked criticisms of his lack of stature with a whale of a match in the back row, Will Genia proved he is not too old for this game at scrum-half.

    Above all, Kurtley Beale proved he can defend in the front line and does not need to be hidden in set-piece defence. He not only stood up to Sonny Bill Williams, he won the midfield battle between the two number 12s hands-down to the extent that I believe the All Black selectors will fundamentally reassess the balance of their combination at 10, 12 and 13 for the remainder of the season.

    Israel Folau’s intercept try in the first minute of the match set the tone on defence for the rest of the game.

    When the Kiwi second receiver Damian McKenzie takes the ball at 0:15, the Wallaby line in front of him is solid and even. They are in good position to spring a defender out of the line and cut off the obvious long pass to the outside.

    The key is Folau’s late movement from a deep position, defending behind Henry Speight and only breaking on the ball when McKenzie is committed to the pass.

    The organization of the Wallaby defence in general showed more intelligence than previously. Remember this very flat, inflexible scrum set-up in the backfield that led to a 35th-minute try against Italy?

    Compare that with this from Dunedin:

    Even allowing for the scrum moving further towards midfield, there is an impressive depth and flexibility in the Australian backfield set-up against a flat New Zealand backline.

    Folau is set deep in midfield opposite McKenzie and able to mirror his movements, while Dane Haylett-Petty is tucked in behind Beale out to the left and able to rotate into fullback.

    When McKenzie makes his move to the Wallaby right, Folau and Haylett-Petty can both read the play and move towards the ball to cover the threat. The front-line defender Tevita Kuridrani times his ‘stop’ perfectly in front of McKenzie to force the broken play and a subsequent turnover. Australia have all the bases covered defensively.

    The All Blacks have run three phases out towards the same-way touchline from a lineout, but the real target area is on the other side.

    As Beauden Barrett receives the ball, a dangerous gap has opened between the two Wallaby front-line defenders Michael Hooper (opposite Barrett) and Bernard Foley (on the 15m line).

    The depth of the Wallaby backfield again proves to be the saviour. Haylett-Petty has the time and space to read the hole as it develops and follow Foley inside to wrap up Sonny Bill Williams.

    Even when the Wallabies did give up a try from a scrum position almost identical to the first game in Sydney, they defended it correctly. In the highlight reel in the 61st minute, the Wallabies are in a man defence close to their own goal-line, with Haylett-Petty and Will Genia looking after Rieko Ioane on the short-side – there were three defenders stationed there at Sydney (Genia, Rona and Beale) when New Zealand scored on the other side of the set-piece.

    Haylett-Petty also makes the right decision to come in and hit Beauden Barrett when he scoots around to the short-side, but unfortunately for the Wallabies, he cannot make the tackle on the New Zealand number ten to prevent him scoring.

    The system worked, but the individual defender was unable to execute his role within it – in an admittedly difficult situation.

    One of the major success stories of the Wallaby defence on the day was the neutralizing of Sonny Bill Williams. Australia clearly made a policy decision to take him high in the carry to prevent the offload, and as often as not they managed to do it with people defending in their typical positions:

    In the first example, the orthodox formation of Hooper at seven, Foley at ten and Beale at 12 forces a mistake by the All Black attack in the form of a forward pass between Barrett and Sonny Bill.

    In the final instance from a scrum close to the Australian goal-line, Foley and Beale combined to not only stop Williams, but rip the ball off him in contact. In the course of the game, I counted five events where Sonny Bill turned over the ball in contact:

    On both occasions, it is Wallaby number eight Sean McMahon who is either ripping the ball away in contact or robbing it on the ground with the ball exposed on presentation. In the second instance, Williams needed to make another roll on the ground before placing the ball in order to connect with his support.

    Kurtley Beale also made another try-saving intervention near the Australian goal-line after the Wallaby front line had been broken on the previous phase:

    In the first frame, there are three Australian forwards still recovering towards their own line, and two backs just about on the turn in Kuridrani and Speight. Beale chooses the only real option to prevent a score, rushing forward to knock the ball up in the air and make the intercept.

    The Wallabies will be feeling baffled after scoring five tries away from home against their most bitter rivals from across the Tasman and still coming away empty-handed.

    But this peak performance will not become automatically the new standard of performance, even if it gives the promise of ‘what may be’ in future. That standard is far more likely to fall somewhere in between the level shown in the June series (and at Sydney) and the level in Dunedin.

    The two Rugby Championship games against a resurgent South Africa will be particularly important in assessing the Wallabies’ real curve of improvement.

    Defensive structures last Saturday were much improved, and Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley demonstrated that they are capable of defending the 10/12 channel together without having to be hidden against a much bigger opponent.

    I would be very surprised if the current All Black midfield of Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty lasts to the end of the year as the first choice combination. It may not even last to the end of the Rugby Championship.

    The end of Sonny Bill’s All Black career may well be hoving into view, with Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown providing the centre partnership versus the Springboks and Pumas.

    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 (418)

    • Columnist

      August 30th 2017 @ 4:23am
      Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:23am | ! Report

      The current video highlight reel in the article seems to have expired…

      You can view the tries on this one instead –

      • Roar Rookie

        August 30th 2017 @ 8:19pm
        Phantom said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

        I feel that Beale needs to be put under more pressure before he can be anointed the saviour at 12.
        He had no real test on Saturday like say laumape will do in direct low centre of gravity running.
        With a dominant forward pack all loose forwards and most backlines look like world beaters.
        The springboks will severely test Australia upfront and then a direct approach to break in midfield will occur.
        Bring it on I love it.

    • Roar Guru

      August 30th 2017 @ 4:55am
      Harry Jones said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:55am | ! Report

      Howzit, NB.

      I’m no SBW fan, but I feel sympathy for him after his mistreated concussion from B1. He should not have been playing in B2, if we are really learning about the long-term damage of head knocks after a concussion. The effects are far more than headaches; motor control is affected.

      Great pictures/diagrammes, sir.

      • Roar Guru

        August 30th 2017 @ 5:01am
        Fox said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:01am | ! Report

        Agreed Harry – he didn’t look right all game – and the AB’s will take that into consideration.

        • Columnist

          August 30th 2017 @ 5:18am
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:18am | ! Report

          Having said that Fox, the first Test against the Lions is the only time I can really remember the Barrett/SBW partnership working. There doesn’t appear to be a natural synergy between the two at all.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 7:31am
            Darwin Stubbie said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

            But Barrett wasnt at 10 for the majority of that game

          • August 30th 2017 @ 8:06am
            Bluesfan said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

            Personally prefer to see Crotty/ALB as the centre combo – as Crotty is a 12 not a 13 etc. SBW looks a better bench option.

            What will be interesting is to see:

            1. For the Autumn tour – will Ngatai be brought in and how/where will be play. Remember prior to his concussion issue he was being lined up to be the 12 for the AB;s.

            2. Goodhue – huge wraps on the guy – so will be interesting to see who will roll out as the long term centre for the AB’s and that is not counting Ioane – who has always being viewed as a Centre candidate.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 1:02pm
              Akari said | August 30th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

              He’s still a Goodwho? as far as I am concerned as I still haven’t seen what you and admittedly many others (including Hansen) see in the young fella yet.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 3:41pm
                cuw said | August 30th 2017 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

                for a young guy his defensive reading is very good. also his tackle technique is copy book – around the anckles most of the time ( watch crusaders v BILs). ALB may endup as the loser , unless he becomes a 12.

                watch the crusaders games on utube – u will see why Scot Robertson got him in the Canterbury and crusaders teams – rather than Auckland and blues.

                onlything preventing him from a long all black career is injuries. already i see he is slower than when he was in U20 becoz of a leg injury.

                its the same with Ngatai – he was very quick like Aso – about 4 years ago , but many leg injuries has made him slower.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 4:57pm
                Akari said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

                Thanks cuw

            • Columnist

              August 30th 2017 @ 4:42pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

              Yeah, i agree Crotty and ALB seems the most likely combo, with Ngatai back in the mix too. Maybe just a question of how quickly it all happens?

              • Roar Guru

                August 31st 2017 @ 2:49am
                Carlos the Argie said | August 31st 2017 @ 2:49am | ! Report

                Nick, we discussed already the 2013 (or was it 14?) Wales match when BBBB-SBW were terrible in the first half and then Slade came in with BBBB going to the FB position that the game opened. In that game, the Wales defense was terrific as well in stopping SBW in his tracks. There is something to that strategy, similar to what Beale did last weekend.

                A few years ago, I was refereeing a match here for a second division club. One team’s 10 was terrific, a young Brazilian guy, but he would defend as a FB. After the match, I asked him why he did this and he answered that the coach, a South African, wanted him to do so. I suggested that he learned to defend as 10, that it would b more important for his play and less disruptive of the team’s defense. He was a small guy, but I still it made sense. Again, simpler is better, learn and practice all your skillsets. Foley/Beale defended better, maybe as well, because it involved less disruption of movements of players across the field. Less unnecessary running around.

              • Columnist

                August 31st 2017 @ 3:32am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 31st 2017 @ 3:32am | ! Report

                Yes I recall the discussion Carlos. I would not be surprised if that game formed part of the WB preparation either (if any of their analysts go back that far!). I quite like the fact that there occasions when Foley and Beale defended in the orthodox manner – it showed that their coaches were not afraid of that eventuality.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 10:10pm
              Jumbo said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

              It’s refreshing to see guys like reiko thrive in this environment, I would not have picked him as our starting winger at the beginning of the year. I think this is the perfect year to blood new players and try new combinations, 2 years out from the world cup it would be good to see these youngsters step up. Even if it means dropping a few games and put up with the bad press for abit, we know it’s all forgotten come wc time.

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 10:16pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:16pm | ! Report

                yep Ioane’s certainly a blue-chipper 🙂

          • August 30th 2017 @ 12:28pm
            DanFan said | August 30th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            I agree. SBW and BB haven’t really clicked at all. SBW had very good synergy with Cruden and also with Carter. I think BB and SBW have been both been off their game and one may have to make way and I can’t see that being BB.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 3:47pm
              cuw said | August 30th 2017 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

              its the way BB plays – he is not the classical 10 in the Carter Cruden mould.

              BB’s sideways movement affects the running lines of SBW. Cruden on the other hand runs at the line.

              its a pity that both Cruden and Colin Slade before him went away. both have glass bodies but were never afraid to run at the line and take a flat ball.

              the problem for SBW is it is 12 or nothing. he is not that good to defend at 13 and not that quick to be a wing.

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 4:43pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

                They had the issue against Wales back in 2014 on tour – just couldn’t get the timing right at all.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 7:59pm
                ClarkeG said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

                And apparently not even quick enough to close down the space on Foley when he scored. Williams looked very ordinary in that play I have to say.

              • Roar Guru

                August 31st 2017 @ 2:50am
                Carlos the Argie said | August 31st 2017 @ 2:50am | ! Report

                Oh oh! I just mentioned this above. Sorry.

        • August 30th 2017 @ 9:35am
          The Sheriff said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

          Sonny Bill is fairly slow- his opponents in B2 were much quicker. L-B and Crotty or the other bid dude Laumpi(?0 would be better for the rest of the Championships.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 10:22am
            Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

            Sherrif he had the same opponent in B1…BEALE….get Nick to show you the stats for that game and Beale is totally anialated but 1 game changes everything apparently

            • Columnist

              August 30th 2017 @ 4:44pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

              Uh, Rona and Kerevi were playing in the WB centres that day Jacko (whatever numbers were on their backs)…

      • August 30th 2017 @ 5:07am
        mzilikazi said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:07am | ! Report

        Agree, Harry. Was horrified that SBW was on the field again….a step back to the dark ages.

      • Columnist

        August 30th 2017 @ 5:16am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:16am | ! Report

        A good point H.

        This is a huge issue in view of recent NFL lawsuits for long-term damage.

        I was also worried about Ryan Crotty in the course of the game, took several nasty knocks to the head but played on.

        • Roar Guru

          August 30th 2017 @ 5:29am
          Harry Jones said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:29am | ! Report

          Seems like midfield combos are really hard to find/gel/keep.

          • Columnist

            August 30th 2017 @ 5:44am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:44am | ! Report

            They are indeed H – rapidly becoming one of the most important commodities in the game…. I just cannot see BB/SBW/Crotty taking New Zealand all the way to the World Cup…

            On the other hand, Australia may have found an answer – although Kerevi may come back in for Kuridrani in the future.

            • Roar Guru

              August 30th 2017 @ 5:48am
              Harry Jones said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:48am | ! Report

              What do you think about our wooden-leaden Serfontein-Kriel combo?
              Apparently, Coach KK is thinking of using Handre Pollard at 12…

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 6:05am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

                Pollard at 12 would certainly give the two playmakers Harry… but would it be fudging the Jantjies ‘issue’ at 10? And is Pollard a strong enough defender to play there?

              • August 30th 2017 @ 6:08am
                Galatazo said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

                What do you think about it, Harry? The present combo is less than dynamic, but it won’t matter too much in Perth because your pack will easily get the better of ours.

              • Roar Guru

                August 30th 2017 @ 6:10am
                Harry Jones said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:10am | ! Report

                Pollard has played 12 before (next to Lambie) and he’s big/fast enough to break the line or stop Beale…

                I like it

              • Roar Guru

                August 30th 2017 @ 6:17am
                Corne Van Vuuren said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:17am | ! Report

                Problem is Harry, when last did Pollard have an extended run to show any form?

              • Roar Guru

                August 30th 2017 @ 9:03am
                Harry Jones said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report


              • August 30th 2017 @ 1:07pm
                Akari said | August 30th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

                Unlike Goodwho, Pollard oozed of talent the first game I saw him play in U20s. I wasn’t sure that he’d make it at test level in the same year but he proved me wrong. Goodhue may likely do the same when given his opportunity by the ABs.

              • Roar Pro

                August 30th 2017 @ 4:59pm
                Jonty Shonty said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

                Another insightful article Nick. Thanks. I really enjoy them.

                Personally I don’t mind Serf/Kriel. Considering they’ve been in the most under performing South African Super Rugby team (and in and out of the team and position) I think they’re doing well and it shows the value of good coaching. I guess it also shows the good structures the Boks have at the moment. Credit should be given to Toetie for the good start to 2017 we’ve had.

                Kriel’s Super Rugby stats are decent, and I feel he’s going to grow into that 13 position. We forget that Serf was a junior world player of the year, so he has talent, I just feel he’s been on the wrong end of some poor coaching. He’s a very solid 12 who will grow significantly by playing overseas.

                I reckon we’ll see significant improvements in Pollard and Kriel next year by playing under Mitchell too. The Bulls will be better drilled.

                Nick, actually, I’d love some insight into Mitchell as a coach…

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 6:15pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

                Yep, I feel Kriel can be a real player for SA in the 13 role Jonty.

                From what I’ve heard John Mitchell can be a marmite coach – take him or leave him. His career progression rather indicates that. But most recently he is credited for laying the foundations for the Lions success in SA, and that has to be respected. Not all coaches grow with the times.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 7:52pm
                Muzzo said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

                Well Jonty Shonty, along with Mitchell having the top job, in NZ, once, I would say that he didn’t impress in quite a few avenues, but with time, possibly he has made some improvements, in his outlooks to the coaching scene. Well he must be doing alright, as it has been noted he has continued in his coaching career, as with his past assistant.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 6:14am
              connor33 said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:14am | ! Report

              It seems the that the 10,12,13 channel is an area where players are so prone to injury because of the collisions. Perhaps there will be some rotation to preserve players. I could see Kerevi, CCL and Toomua coming into the team. Larkham would not be adverse to this.

              Of course, Toomua is a bit out b/c of his English contract, but my bet is that he will make himself available for SR in 2019 to ensure WC eligibility. HIs time in England will serve him well–as it has Beale.

              I think Kerevi would be well-served by a short stint in the UK or EU, too–much like CCL’s current sojourn with Ulster. Meakes of course is another.

              To then have Foley, Beale, TK, CCL, Kerevi, Toomua and Meakes in the WC squad could cover so many injury permutations–and AU gets a ‘like for like’ coming in for the injury prone 10,12,13 channel.

              *And, hey, I’m even open to Cooper coming back into the team if he can learn to tackle like Beale and Foley on the weekend.

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 6:29am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:29am | ! Report

                We had the same problem with England when Stuart L. was in charge. Manu Tuilagi was available for only a handful of games in that era and he would have been a fixture – more latterly injuries prevented the development of the Ford/Farrell combination at 10 and 12 which has since become a staple for the Eddie Jones model.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 4:15pm
                taylorman said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

                Have to agree there Connor, injuries in the midfield seem to be where the team feels it most, the frequent collisions and nature of them combined with the time it takes to mature in the position at test level, let alone form an effective combination, is really taking its toll.

                The entire dynamics of a team seems to change when the midfield either changes or changes in form dramatically. Trouble is, to build form, or combinations, including real back up, you’ve gotta expose players too it regularly. The ABs have been luckiest in that regard where they can still win a good percentage while doing it.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 6:18am
            Kibuib said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:18am | ! Report

            Seems the best midfield partnerships take time, and with all the chopping and changing they don’t get the consistency to grow together.
            I feel like Anton Lienart-Brown(12) and Jack Goodhue(13) would compliment each other very nicely, both good defenders, great pace, and fantastic skills……..time to move on from Crotty and SBW. Rob Thompson is another solid option at 12, and Jordie Barrett at 13 when back from injury.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 6:27am
              Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:27am | ! Report

              Time to move on from Crotty? He’s not that old and he is world class. Why would you move on from him?

              • August 30th 2017 @ 7:08am
                Kibuib said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:08am | ! Report

                Crotty is world class, and the spot is his till they can earn it from him. His injury ravaged career and most recently the concussions he has had make you question how many minutes you can get out of him.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 10:47am
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

                I think we will see a Crotty-Goodhue combination by next year if Crotty can stay uninjured. Crotty is the best 12 in the country and Goodhue outplayed all of the other 13s in SR, in my opinion. And you can’t overlook the importance of the centre partnership built up over SR—which is part of the reason I think that Mounga will be the 5/8 in 12 months.

                Be prepared to come back to this in 12 months when I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I think we will see this backline.

                09. A. Smith
                10. R. Mounga
                11. R. Ioane
                12. R. Crotty
                13. J. Goodhue
                14. N. Milner-Skudder
                15. B. Smith

                21. T. Perenara
                22. B. Barrett/L. Sopoaga
                23. A. Lienert-Brown/N. Laumape

              • August 30th 2017 @ 11:50am
                Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

                Seriously Fionn? No BB, no Sopunga starting? What has Mounga done to displace BB? Never played a test yet but you have him replacing the official best player in World rugby?

              • August 30th 2017 @ 1:13pm
                Akari said | August 30th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

                Mo’unga didn’t handle his game against the BI Lions that well and I am not sure that he’s going to jump ahead of the incumbents as yet, Fionn.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 1:17pm
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

                Akari, you could well be right. And you’re welcome to come back in 12 months time and point out how wrong I am. 😀 But has Barrett handled any of the big matches particularly well this year, for either the Hurricanes or the All Blacks? Mounga handled all of the big Super Rugby matches brilliantly.

                Jacko, I think that the All Blacks’ performance under Barrett at 10 hinge too much on Barrett’s performance, and I think that when is Barrett is having a good day at the office he is the best 10 in the world, but at the same time when he has a less than spectacular day he cramps his outside backs and doesn’t communicate with them well enough—as Darwin Stubbie says above, I don’t think it was coincidence that the ABs looked best against the Lions when Cruden played at 10 for the majority of the first Test.

                Most of the averages performances of the Hurricanes and All Blacks this year coincide with average performances of Barrett. His 2017 form is just nowhere near his 2016 form.

                Sopoaga seems more prone to errors, bit more hot and cold than Mounga.

                ‘What has Mounga done to displace BB?’

                Well he was the best 10 in SR this year, and is also a better goal kicker than Barrett (although inferior to Sopoaga).

                I also think you can’t overlook the importance of the 10-12-13 axis playing together in Super Rugby as well as international rugby.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 2:42pm
                Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

                Sorry Fionn but what evidence do you have of Sopounga being error prone…His SR stats do not say that, his test stats do not say that so I dont know how you come to that conclusion. Mounga suffered badly in the Lions v Crusaders game as his leader and director( Crotty) was not there. Sopounga’s only starting test was fantastic v the Boks and I see no deteriation to reverse the order. Goodhue may be great, but so may many other players may be also. Lets see him at test level for a few games before making that statement. Also what is it about ALBs game that you dislike him? Where has he EVER let the ABs down?
                You say that BB played bad in the ABs and Canes games they were bad in. How many games was that? what games? Easy to make statements but it appears as tho you want to see changes to the ABs backline…just for the sake of making changes.
                I do agree about Cruden being the best 1/5 in NZ rugby and have said it many times even in the leadup to the WC…I see Barrett as a better fullback…but I was just rubbished as a Cheifs supporter then yet many now seem to see what I did back in 2015.
                Goodhue looks a talent from the 15 or so games I have seen him play but I have seen many a youngster get to the bright lights and not end up being the player the world thought so I am weary about hyping someone up based on lower level performances. If he is the outside centre in 2019 then he will have had to beat out some very talented guys in ALB…Crotty…Moala…Ioane…but if that happens then he will deserve it.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 3:28pm
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

                Why don’t you watch the 1st Crusaders vs Highlanders match from SR this year, or the Highlanders vs British and Irish Lions match.

                I never said that I dislike ALB, why do you keep making BS up? I’ve consistently called for a Crotty-ALB centre partnership in the Rugby Championship and you’ve gone about how great Sonny Bill Williams is and should be at 12, which I have disagreed with.

                ‘You say that BB played bad in the ABs and Canes games they were bad in. How many games was that? what games? Easy to make statements but it appears as tho you want to see changes to the ABs backline…just for the sake of making changes.’

                Again, nonsense. I wrote an entire article about the average performances of the All Blacks (and you accused me of bias against the All Blacks because of it). You can pretend the All Blacks are looking awesome right now, but they’re not, they’re looking very shaky, very beatable (how long is it since the All Blacks won 1 of 3 matches in a home series, and against a team with about 2 weeks preparation time?).

                The backline didn’t look settled against France, against Ireland in the 2nd Test, 2nd and 3rd British and Irish Lions Tests, against Aus last week; when the Canes lost to the Chiefs both times and when they lost to the Crusaders the first time, and even when they lost to the Lions in Joburg.

                You can point to the fact that the All Blacks won the majority of those matches despite. I am going to point to the unconvincing and shaky nature of the wins. I think Mounga is much better at calming the backline down and making fewer errors than Sopoaga or Barrett. And I think the 10-12-13 axis works also.

                Goodhue massively outplayed all of those guys in Super Rugby.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 3:53pm
                Muzzo said | August 30th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

                Well in truth Lima Sapoaga, is a far better first five than Mo’anga, as it is shown by the All Black selection panel,still selecting him & keeping him in the squad, overall. It seems that so many tend to forget his brilliant game, when starting, at Ellis Park against the Bok’s, a couple, or so, years ago.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 3:56pm
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

                Muzzo, the AB selection panel chose SBW at 12—they’re not infallible.

                You do realise that you’re talking about “a few years ago”?

                I said in 12 months time Mounga would be the incumbent, not next week.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 4:42pm
                Muzzo said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

                Well Fionn, we are not all perfect, & possibly the AB selection panel, have seen something in SBW that we haven’t. In my opinion, he should go, as possibly the best pairing ATM is Crotty & ALB. But that’s only my opinion, in which some agree. Along with that.as far as Sapoaga goes, he hasn’t done much wrong, & honestly, apart from when he came back from a little lay off, he still did outplay Mo’anga in those Super games, in my opinion, of which I am entitled too, as is you. Oh yes, I am talking about a few years ago, but he is still in the mix. As with your foretelling, we can only say, time will tell.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 30th 2017 @ 8:21pm
                Phantom said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:21pm | ! Report

                Mounga is not test class.

            • Columnist

              August 30th 2017 @ 6:30am
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:30am | ! Report

              I think Crotty will keep his place all the way to 2019, but one of those you mention may well become his permanent partner.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 9:12am
                RahRah said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

                Hi Nic, Personally I would just love to see the “minibus” Laumape chosen at 12. Regardless of who he is playing for I just love watching him play. If anyone is talking “new Nonu”, I reckon it’s this guy that has the goods.
                I’ll wave his flag again and say I reckon Billy Meakes could become very similar to Ryan Crotty as a centre.
                Thanks for the weekly read, really enjoy it.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 12:33pm
                DanFan said | August 30th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

                Laumape has a great relationship with BB. Maybe he is the answer.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 3:56pm
                cuw said | August 30th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

                Laumape has 2 years to add a few strings to his bow. ATM he is a limited center just like NONU when he first came in to the NZ team.

                it is understandable as he has played union for like couple of years only.

                The issue with Crotty is he has been injured a lot. if i remember correct he first played in 2013 NH tour but has missed a lot since NOnu- Smith moved on becoz of injures.

                he is probably the new Richard kahui ….

            • August 30th 2017 @ 6:54pm
              FunBus said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

              Time to move on from Crotty? Wow, he looks a good player to me.

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 7:23pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

                Aye FB, far too good to be moving him on right now…

              • August 30th 2017 @ 8:43pm
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:43pm | ! Report

                Yeah that baffled me too.

                Apparently it’s only us British and Irish people that can recognise his brilliance? ?

              • Roar Guru

                August 31st 2017 @ 2:54am
                Carlos the Argie said | August 31st 2017 @ 2:54am | ! Report

                This Argie likes Crotty too. And, out of context, my missus thinks he is handsome and likes him too. (Oh bother!)

        • August 30th 2017 @ 5:31am
          mzilikazi said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:31am | ! Report

          Yes, I was unsure exactly what the problem was with Crotty, but it certainly looked like a head injury issue. I just cannot believe that the highly professional AB’s setup would act in this way in this day and age of increasing awareness of the medical dangers associated with head knocks, let alone the legal issues.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 10:28am
            Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

            Miz you are inferingg that the Abs did something wrong. Thats totasl BS as they have clearly stated he passed all possible tests around concussion and its easy to blame from where ever you are without any actual facts…The ABs take concussion as seriously as any team in WR and have been leaders in this field resting players prior to the latest rules requirements. so either provide proof that the ABs management did the wrong thing or dont write BS.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 1:28pm
              Akari said | August 30th 2017 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

              The ABs can be trusted and I believe it when they say that they followed the HIA protocols appropriately and found the players medically fit to play. I however do agree with Harry Jones that SBW may not have been ready for Bled 2 as he was uncharacteristically error prone. Perhaps, the HIA tests need a reassessment as there might be something or 2 not right in the protocols itself.

      • Roar Guru

        August 30th 2017 @ 5:55am
        Machpants said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:55am | ! Report

        Although SBW knock was missed during the first game, the ABs followed the full protocol after the match. Same as if he had come off, once it was brought to light. SBW passed all the tests etc, so was declared fit to play the second test.

        So either it is a non issue and SBW has had just half a patchy season of fifteens rugby leading upto these tests and is not really upto international standards, or the protocols aren’t thorough enough and he was playing under a concussion cloud. My opinion is the first, SBW has hardly had a good game since the RWC 15 final, and even then just as an impact sub – which is his best position, if any, in an ABs squad. But it also could be both, the ABs management have been extra careful in not playing concussed players, even if by the protocol they are fit. Should the return to play protocol be toughened and/ or lengthened?

        As Fionn said, glad that SBW is fit otherwise it would be Laumapi! Hopefully the ABs coaches will soon be rid of their SBW obsession and develop alb and Laumapi and goodhue from here on in.

        • Columnist

          August 30th 2017 @ 6:07am
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:07am | ! Report

          I agree MP – esp at this stage of his career I see him being more effective in the impact role off the bench (although that might also screw the bench up as he can only really play one position)…

          • August 30th 2017 @ 6:41am
            Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:41am | ! Report

            That’s somewhat fixed by a Crotty and either ALB air Goodbue partnership, as Crotty can slide across and cover 13.

            I agree though, I wouldn’t have him anywhere near the 23 if I were an All Blacks selector.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 10:32am
            Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

            SBW has started tests in 3 different positions.

        • August 30th 2017 @ 7:24am
          In brief said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

          Having suffered concussion myself I would say scenario two is more realistic. I doubt the protocol picks up the mild concussions which may not render the player insensible but may cause subtle deterioration in motor skills, mental acuity and focus.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 8:54am
            Andy said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:54am | ! Report

            Id be very surprised with the advances in sports medicine that mental aptitude and co-ordination tests are not actually part of most teams post concussion assessments

            • August 30th 2017 @ 10:34am
              Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

              The Drs say it is impossible to con the tests so not possible he was still suffereing the efects but it IS possible he had a bad game

            • Roar Guru

              August 31st 2017 @ 2:56am
              Carlos the Argie said | August 31st 2017 @ 2:56am | ! Report

              You can con the test. A few years ago I was clearly concussed at a game. I was taken out and was fully aware of the medics testing me. They passed me as fit even though I was totally aware of being in la-la land. We have to understand that concussion assessments are not perfect yet.

          • Roar Guru

            August 30th 2017 @ 9:05am
            Harry Jones said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

            The highly competitive natures of elite coaches and athletes combine to create a perfect storm for concussion malpractice.

            Speaking as someone who took 2 very heavy knocks decades ago and still wake up w the pain

            • August 30th 2017 @ 2:47pm
              Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

              So Harry you are saying that the Player, SBW and the coach, Hansen decided to decieve the rest of the rugby world just so he could be in 1 test? then you accuse a DR of MALPRACTICE to allow them to do this?
              I do agree with you that the concussions you had seem to have affected your thinking

              • Roar Guru

                August 30th 2017 @ 10:22pm
                Harry Jones said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:22pm | ! Report

                In future years, all will be revealed. Rugby is no different from NFL. Too much pressure to win: causes people to gamble with long term brain health

              • Columnist

                August 31st 2017 @ 1:47am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 31st 2017 @ 1:47am | ! Report

                Yes Harry, at present player welfare in rugby is in its infancy…

              • Roar Guru

                August 31st 2017 @ 2:58am
                Carlos the Argie said | August 31st 2017 @ 2:58am | ! Report

                Harry, see what I wrote above. When the medics passed me as fit, I removed myself from the game as I had decided that how I felt was not right.

                My biggest fear to come is the possible complications of too many head knocks. Including the worst one, on a bike in Provence. 8 hours out cold.

        • August 30th 2017 @ 7:35am
          Ben said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

          L a u m a p e

          • August 30th 2017 @ 10:31am
            exTen said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

            F e k i t o a
            (if only to underline the embarrassment of riches)

            • August 30th 2017 @ 11:10am
              MitchO said | August 30th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

              Fekitoa is off to Toulon

              • August 30th 2017 @ 11:52am
                Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

                Thank goodness…..he is an almost…..

      • Roar Guru

        August 30th 2017 @ 9:52am
        Hoy said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        In SBW’s defence, some of the early drops he had were terrible passes to him, either under pressure, or behind him…

        I also think it would be hard for a player of his style to play outside Barrett. Cruden worked with SBW because he was not a true running 5/8. Barrett is a running 5/8, who plays close to the line, so SBW doesn’t get the early ball he needs to pick his lines and run through half-gaps to offload… plus Barrett is so fast, it would be hard to align off him well.

        Just my thoughts as a previous 12 anyway. The adjustment for SBW with Barrett is taking time. SBW might be the fall guy, or they might play him in against Argentina, where they have a better chance of synergy with time. We’ll see.

        • August 30th 2017 @ 10:15am
          taylorman said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          Crudens not a running 5/8? First Ive heard that one. The early criticism of Barrett was that he stood too deep and pushed the ball on too much. Cruden has always been one to test the opposition line.

          When Ben Smith and Crotty exited test 1 they should have gone with Cruden at 10 and BB at FB for the remaining tests after the two filled those roles well in the second half first test.

          But for me retaining BB at 10 with Crotty and Ben Smith out while keeping SBW on when as we know now hes clearly not up to it was a crucial decison on Hansens part. he completely underestimated the impact the loss of Crotty and Smith at the same time would have on the backline as a whole, and overated Barrett and SBW to clean that mess up.

          Now with Cruden and Smith gone he must find their same level of cover.

          If they cant I think they need to relook at the seven position in terms of someone more present on attack and get that extra forward out there more.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 11:04am
            Old Bugger said | August 30th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report


            If Hoy’s baseline for running FH is BB, then he’s right to suggest the Cruden is not, a running FH. Crude’s speed or lack of, became his saviour in that the opposition had to come to him rather than he, run to them. He stood flatter than BB because he lacked the speed but, it gave him the ability to place question’s within the opposition’s d-line of what, his next move will be.

            Hansen’s selections in mid-field were of his own making. Ngatai was injured. Laumape was in form but, a green-horn all the same. He could’ve/should’ve followed Razor and placed Crotty as his IC but, for whatever reason, he chose SBW/Crotty as his mid-field combo, against the BIL’s. By the start of the RC, it seemed nothing had changed except Shag probably thought, 4 weeks on the sideline, should be enough of an incentive to lift, considering the club that SBW joined, went from 2 members to 3.

            And as you say – by continuing with BB and having Crotty and BS out with injury, his hands were definitely tied-up, with who to choose. The proof was the red card in BIL T2 match and Laumape, having to enter the fray a lot sooner, than expected. Laumape was primed to play a bull-dozer roll but, he came on to play a defensive role because, the ABs were down to 14 players.

            If ever there was a decisive moment in that match apart from the card, then IMO, it was replacing JK with Laumape. Your suggestion to use the No7 as presumably extra cover or attack, sounds a bit WB-esque. The simplest answer is to consider Crotty/ALB as the mid-field with TJP, Lima and Goodhue, on the bench.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 4:27pm
              taylorman said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

              Yes OB my version of a running 5/8th is more general…looking for options, putting players in gaps, pushing into gaps and a wide kicking scope, chips, wingers etc.

              Cruden definitely fits that mould but in terms of pure running yes Barretts ahead on that card, more so than anyone before him robably.

              He’s not so good at putting players through so although he’s quicker I think Crudens the better all round 10, and probably should have played there when Crotty and Ben Smith went out.

              My seven option is just a side comment where I think Cane just might be seen as limited soon. Not suggesting a Hooper type of option but something between is needed, and selecting Cane does have an influence on the make up of the Six and 8 in terms of the mobility of the loosies, and that is also a WB thing.

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 4:56pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

                Yep Cruden undoubtedly has more subtlety and variation at the line than BB, so I’d have him ahead on that score. BB does things well when he knows what he’s going to do before reaching the ad-line…

          • August 30th 2017 @ 4:07pm
            cuw said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

            @ taylorman

            with Smith leaving i would put Barrett at 15 and Sopoaga / Mounga at 10.

            i think SBW will play ok with those 2. they play more flat than BB.

            Barrett from fullback will be able to do the DMac thing – running fast and mazy at the defence , with Dagg on right wing.

            for me SBW had one bad game – i also think he may still had concussion issues. there are cases of boxers who partied after a match and then dropped dead after a couple of weeks.

            it is a condition noone really understands and affects people differently everytime.

          • Columnist

            August 30th 2017 @ 4:54pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

            When Ben Smith and Crotty exited test 1 they should have gone with Cruden at 10 and BB at FB for the remaining tests after the two filled those roles well in the second half first test.

            I recall we tossed that idea around extensively on one of the threads back then! With the benefit of hindsight, we were probably right 🙂

            • August 30th 2017 @ 8:14pm
              taylorman said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

              Yes I think with that and SBWs continuing selection a Hansen faux pas. At the Press conference he said they considered that but in the end decided they wanted Barrett to steer the ship.

              He didn’t.

          • September 1st 2017 @ 12:24am
            canadiankiwi said | September 1st 2017 @ 12:24am | ! Report


            Barrett was 2016 World Player of the Year at 10 playing with Crotty or ALB at 12 so the issue is not Barrett who is clearly a world class fly half despite the Chiefs fans who pine for Cruden (who is also world class but chose to leave the ABs rather than compete as Dagg did when he lost his jersey).

            The issue is that Barrett and SBW have no chemistry as a 10-12 combo for whatever reason. To be honest, Cruden and SBW had great chemistry but the great Carter never combined with SBW nearly as well as he did Nonu- not even close.

            Barrett is the ABs 10, barring injury, into the 2019 RWC so it is vital to select 12s who he has chemistry with- Crotty or ALB (based on 2016 season) or Laumape (based on Hurricanes in 2017).

        • Columnist

          August 30th 2017 @ 4:52pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

          Cruden worked with SBW because he was not a true running 5/8.

          Can’t say I agree with that one Hoy, Cruden plays closer to the ad-line than most and straightens more often than not!

          I think it has more to do with BB’s background as a 15 and the fact that SBW finds it hard to read when and how he is going to deliver the ball.

      • August 30th 2017 @ 2:33pm
        Mike Julz said | August 30th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

        Agree with this as well. Head knocks are a serious problem. For head knock players they should rest one full week, with no training. Start back on Monday the next week with assessment.

        • Roar Guru

          August 30th 2017 @ 10:23pm
          Harry Jones said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

          Saliva test will be used soon; less subjective…

    • Roar Pro

      August 30th 2017 @ 5:06am
      Francis Foo said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:06am | ! Report

      The secret was, as I said many times in the past, in playing Off-load rugby.

      In Dunedin, it was the first time we saw Wallabies putting pressure on the ABs by denying their offloads and forcing handling errors and the first time we saw this team of Wallabies playing good off-load rugby.

      As the images showed, SBW was correctly neutralised by not allowing him to offload when tackled, and the same strategy made against the AB backline… this broke their open break play which in the past had allowed the AB backline to make deadly breaks and runs in counter attacks and scored.

      However Wallabies players still need to be trained to ANITICIPATE offloads from their own players and to learn to position themselves strategically to receive the offloads.

      At Dunedin we did NOT see the Wallabies playing their predictable one dimensional rugby game of simply falling to the ground when tackled and recycling the ball for yet another passing game with players next tonthe loose scrum waiting to receive the ball while stsnding still.

      Lets see whether the Wallabies are able to repeat the same kind of off-load rugby they played in Dunedin, against the Springboks in the coming week, or we see they would resort to their old predictable habits… and lose.

      • August 30th 2017 @ 6:22am
        connor33 said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:22am | ! Report

        Mick Byrne’s skills are probably coming into playing. That said, and unlike many other teams–save perhaps England and Ireland–Australia can actually construct plays from set-piece (and score).

        Those who with the next WC will mix the mad ‘helter-skelter (aka hot potato) rugby that the ABs brought to the 2015 WC with the ability to pull off set-plays (and score). Defense is going to get better and the Lions and Aus have shown that you can stem the AB game if you stem the hot potato rugby that they proffer by talking higher. Interestingly, though, the ABs seem to be onto the need to mix things up–with their trying to play the odd set-piece play against the Lions in the 3rd test–though still bumbling bits, and relying on raw talent to get over the line (talent one cannot deny).

        • August 30th 2017 @ 8:59am
          Andy said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

          I’d be very surprised if the all blacks in this mid World Cup fphasr aren’t developing a game plan for the next World Cup. In bledislie two they played an incredibly high tempo game that combined with improved wallabies defence resulted in errors. They showed in the first test against the lions that they can also play a forward oriented game much more conservatively and play that very well. I think a combination of the two with better balance will be where they are at in 1-2 years

          • August 30th 2017 @ 9:16am
            RahRah said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

            That’s the WB’s big problem at the moment, the inability to change game plans during the game as may be required. Do they even have a plan B?

          • August 30th 2017 @ 10:19am
            Connor33 said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

            The Ab certainly ambushed the Lions with the forward oriented game in the first one. And we saw a bit of it re the first try on the weekend — South Africaish in the set up, but quality pass and receipt re Reiko.

    • Columnist

      August 30th 2017 @ 5:20am
      Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:20am | ! Report

      However Wallabies players still need to be trained to ANTICIPATE offloads from their own players and to learn to position themselves strategically to receive the offloads.

      I’d suspect this is one of Mick Byrne’s major remits in the coaching group FF…

    • August 30th 2017 @ 5:23am
      Darwin Stubbie said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:23am | ! Report

      It’s been said before that MC is a rip in, shake it up and follow me over the top type coach … that type of coaching works for short spurts – tahs for a season, Wallabies into the W- cup … last weekend was set up for a similar scenario … as you say the proof isn’t in last weekend it’s in the following performances … Perth is going to be an interesting watch

      The kiwis are evolving as well and these type of performances are becoming more common and they overlap the introduction of BB as the starting 1st 5 .. I don’t think that it’s coincidence that NZs best recent performance was when Cruden was back at 10 for the majority of the 1st lions test … at present NZ are suffering from the lack of a controlling 1st 5 – will BB turn into one or will Hansen look to his bench where there is a option to go for more control

      • August 30th 2017 @ 10:36am
        Connor33 said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        I know that I’d want Cruden in the WC. If the Abs feet knocked out before the 2019 final, Cruden will no doubt be a factor. I remember when Hansen pulled BB in Bled 3 last year for Cruden. Spoke volumes, as did Cruden’s control in the 1st Lions.

        • August 30th 2017 @ 4:31pm
          taylorman said | August 30th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

          Yep…what he said. Cruden, Piutau, Faumuina…dead cert squad members we are now without.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 6:27pm
            cuw said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:27pm | ! Report

            oh as a blues fan how can u forget Luatua????

            the best bench forward covering 5 6 8

          • August 31st 2017 @ 5:47pm
            Faith said | August 31st 2017 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

            Good observation Tman. Piutau is the one that got away. Can you imagine having his utility during the BIL series? Cruden is an extremely smart player. He always seems to be thinking so he keeps teams guessing through he’s lost his speed. That knee thing seems to have really affected his game. Teams now have BB’s no. The thing he has to work on is his game management. Charlie is also a very big loss. There are so many important games that he’s been man of the match ABs vs England 2013. All these players stand out with their lack of errors and that in Test matches can be the difference … there’s something about this ABs team that lacks cohesion compared to the 2015 side. They are still a sum of brilliant parts but Read has to rein them in. They are man to man more talented than 2015 but lack the cohesion and the grit.

            • Columnist

              August 31st 2017 @ 7:26pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 31st 2017 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

              Yep agreed Faith – Piutau went young and has now signed for Bristol for two years taking him past 2019. Unless the NZ policy on overseas players changes he won’t back.

      • August 30th 2017 @ 12:00pm
        Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

        I think you’re right on all accounts, DS. Good comment.

      • Columnist

        August 30th 2017 @ 5:00pm
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

        Yes as discussed above DS – the Cruden 10 BB 15 package is quite attractive – but I guess nothing will come of it as Cruden’s off to France now… May happen with someone like Sopoaga?

    • August 30th 2017 @ 5:27am
      mzilikazi said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:27am | ! Report

      “But this peak performance will not become automatically the new standard of performance, even if it gives the promise of ‘what may be’ in future.”

      A most interesting article, Nic. I am hoping that this was not a peak performance, but rather the beginnings of the WB coaching group beginning to “wake up” to the what can be achieved with this group of players.

      Glass ceiling indeed….and such ceilings are there to be shattered, but that will only happen with the WB’s if this very good performance is carefully analysed, and the faults and shortcomings are rectified.

      • Columnist

        August 30th 2017 @ 5:42am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:42am | ! Report

        As often happens, I think the WB’s surprised themselves when they opened up such a big lead MZ! A mature team would have been able to close it out despite the AB fightback at the end….

        In terms of performance I do see it as a peak, but how much of that will they be able to reproduce against the Boks – while remembering to win the game as well? 🙂

        • August 30th 2017 @ 6:23am
          mzilikazi said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:23am | ! Report

          And that is probably the next step up to be taken, being able to close out and win the game.

          Being more capable and having self belief at the restarts will go a long way to achieving that goal.

          • Columnist

            August 30th 2017 @ 6:32am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:32am | ! Report

            Did you notice the same restart directed towards Read as in the third Test of the Lions series right at the end? Read really flew in to scatter the catching pod like skittles!

            • August 30th 2017 @ 8:23am
              Hello said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

              Watching the way Read is attacking the restarts has me a little worried. I sometimes think that it is getting to the point of being negligent in that while he is always going for the ball he is getting very close to putting people in danger.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 8:30am
                Ben said | August 30th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

                Omg…..putting people in danger?
                Lets just play touch then.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 9:02am
                Andy said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

                Also himself he’s off the ground focused on the ball, that’s just good fair play, if he’s not looking at the ball or playing the man then it becomes an issue.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 10:45am
                Connor33 said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

                Similar to the Lions, but not the same. The Lions game was pushing negligence. On Saturday he seemed to jump later and was closer to the ball. I had no major problem with it, but we had Rodda attacking it–with Folau coming over the top all style–that’s what caused the danger.

                Folau should just mirror where Read is. Screw the lifting just have Folau and Reid go it with run ups and see who comes out best. Read will be able to tap it back but Folau will catch it.

                If Folau goes down heavy catching it when Read was not in a position to do so, probably a good chance that Read will get a yellow or red.

                Read won’t do it again after that.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 9:18am
                RahRah said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

                Seriously, people in danger?

              • August 30th 2017 @ 9:23am
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

                To be fair, for all of the talk by certain fans about Poite getting the last decision to award an attacking scrum in the 3rd Lions Test wrong, I think Read should have been penalised for playing the man in the air on the kick off.

                The way the laws are now you can’t compete in such a way that you risk putting other guys in unsafe positions.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 10:05am
                Hello said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

                The problem is once someone is put in danger refs will be forced to clamp down on it.
                I have no problem with it, but I can see problems arising.
                If someone else does this and is panelised or carded we will see Read used as the defence and we will have more of the player in the air can not be touched.
                I personally think it should be if you jump it is your own fault.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 3:01pm
                Jacko said | August 30th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

                Fionn your anti ABs bias is coming out again….Maybe the simple fact that READ is in the air means no one else can interfere with him? Players have jumped up to try to retain the ball from kickoff forever but because READ wins the ball and then wins the game you want him penalised and possibly carded…

              • August 30th 2017 @ 3:17pm
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

                ‘Fionn your anti ABs bias is coming out again’

                Jacko, no matter how many times you repeat BS, it is still BS—you’re yet to provide one shred of evidence of me being biased against the All Blacks. Go back and watch the slow motion of the Poite decision again. Read does not touch the ball and knocks the Lions player (not sure who it is) while he is in the air.

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 5:03pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

                I think it’s legal, but it’s at the fringe of legality as the real intention is to get the catcher to drop the ball rather than catch it himself. But there is a heavy aerial bump involved for sure.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 10:35am
              Ed said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

              It was the only restart by the ABs that went to their right – they still had Whitelock and Retallick on the left. You’d think other teams will notice that pattern for the future.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 7:28pm
              Fin said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

              Do players develop combinations around receiving the ball at re-starts? It looked like Rodda and Folau got mixed up out there and were not on the same page collectively. Hardly surprising given it was Rodda’s first game.

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 7:42pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

                Yes you’ll tend to see the same receiving pods working together in two’s or three’s. Obv replacements can disrupt that understanding.

        • August 30th 2017 @ 6:30am
          Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:30am | ! Report

          Was it really a peak performance though, Nick? 38 missed tackles, decimated in scrums, missing goal kicks and couldn’t catch kickoffs.

          I’m usually Mr Negativity about the Wallabies, but there were enough areas that we were poor in that we actually have a lot of areas that improvements could be made, which makes me think it may not have been peak.

          • Columnist

            August 30th 2017 @ 6:34am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:34am | ! Report

            Yes there were plenty of improvements to be made, but in the context of both June and the Sydney Test it was a 2017 peak by a long way.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 6:42am
              Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

              I’m hoping the performance could just mean that Cheika and Grey are finally giving up on some of their terrible coaching ideas they’ve tried to push for 18 months.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 10:46am
                Connor33 said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

                And terrible selections.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 11:50am
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

                That, Connor, we can agree on.

                Although I think that you and I have different ideas on what constitutes a ‘horrible selection’ :P—although I imagine that at least we can both agree that the Doctor, Ned Flanders and Phipps should definitely be out of the team (as should Speight probably…) and the Moore is looking a little barren, and it is time to move on.

              • Columnist

                August 30th 2017 @ 5:04pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 30th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

                I guess we’ll see over the rest of the RC…. 🙂

          • August 30th 2017 @ 7:29am
            In brief said | August 30th 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

            And I assume from your comment that apart from kick offs and conversions the wallabies did nothing.
            Must have been a dull one-dimensional match..

            Good to see a respected rugby commentator doing what so many so called supporters refuse to do- praising the Wallabies performance.

            • August 30th 2017 @ 10:33am
              Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

              Nice straw man. I’ve never said the Wallabies the Wallabies ‘did nothing’. I have praised their attack and individual players without the team.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 10:48am
                Connor33 said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

                But did you praise Foley’s 100% kicking record the week before or his double digit tackles this weekend. Foley’s defense was exceptional in the channel compared to the crap that was served up the week before. Nic’s frames coincidentally demonstrate Foley’s efforts.

              • August 30th 2017 @ 10:58am
                Fionn said | August 30th 2017 @ 10:58am | ! Report

                No, because kicking 100% when it doesn’t and there is no pressure because you’re so so far behind isn’t a great achievement worth of praise—what matters is that you can do it when the pressure is on, and he wilted—especially when his horrific pass that was intercepted and scored off by Ioane is part (only a small part) of why we were out of the game. Foley’s defence was very good (although he had a poor read ,that, like Beale, let in one try). He just didn’t put in a good overall performance overall—poor goal-kicking, out of hand kicking, didn’t set up a single line break or set up a try.

                He simply made his tackles well and ran a good support line, hardly worthy of praise when compared to Arnold, McMahon, TPN, Genia, Beale or Folau, or compared to the team’s attack overall, which was the main positive.

          • August 30th 2017 @ 11:29am
            Pantom said | August 30th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

            Agree…plus not forgetting they need to get their kicks in above 50%.

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