Oh no, Waratahs 0! What has happened with skills coaching in Australian rugby?

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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    The kindest thing that can be said about the Waratahs’ 29-0 loss to the Lions, at their Sydney Allianz Stadium “fortress” (sigh!), is that they were so inept at the basic skills of attacking rugby they were lucky to get zero points.

    In some hundreds of their Super Rugby matches played since 1996, this is the first time the Waratahs have ever been kept scoreless.

    And it is the first time that the Lions have kept any team scoreless, a record that includes playing matches against such no-hopers as the Southern Kings.

    We are talking about the Waratahs here. This is a club that, during the amateur era and the early years of the professional era, has produced some of the most skilful players, forwards and especially backs, who have ever played rugby.

    Not just the most skilful players ever to play in Australia. But the most skilful players ever to play rugby, anywhere and any time.

    Oh my golden boys of years ago. Dally Messenger, Trevor Allan, John Thornett, Ken Catchpole, John Hipwell, Mark Ella, Simon Poidevin, Nick Farr-Jones, David Campese, Matt Burke…

    The Lions, moreover, had only arrived in Sydney on Wednesday. So they had, essentially, one day to recover from jetlag before fronting up for their Friday night clash.

    Think about this, too. The Waratahs on 24 points are leading the table for the Australian Conference.

    The Waratahs have a points differential of +41.

    The two leading New Zealand sides, the Hurricanes and the Crusaders, have PDs of +91. The leading South African side, the Lions, have a PD of +70.

    The Waratahs were given a lesson in all the skills of the game by Malcolm Marx, the Lions hooker.

    The Australian’s Wayne Smith calls Marx “the world’s best hooker.” I call him the world’s best hooker/number seven.

    Marx has throwing skills, over-the-ball skills, running skills, smashing tackling power and, most importantly, passing skills.

    When you compare Marx’s range of skills with say, David Pocock, rated by his team-mates and rugby scribes as “one of the world’s best players,” you get a sense of how far even one of the best Australian players is behind stars from other countries.

    David Pocock

    (AAP Image/Rohan Thomson)

    In fact, Australian rugby does not have even one totally complete player like Marx.

    NZ rugby has several totally complete players and any number of highly skilled players.

    This disparity between the skill levels of the Australian sides and their counterparts from South African (even) and New Zealand was starkly indicated in the Chiefs’ demolition of the Reds at their “fortress,” Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

    Even with Damian McKenzie off the field for about 60 minutes of the match, the Chiefs were still able to slice up the Reds defensive lines with ease time and time again with slick passing and clever running, on and off the ball.

    Two aspects of the dire performance by the Australian teams in Round 10, where all four Australian sides lost their matches, stood out for me.

    First, there was very little understanding of what the new ruck laws require of players on attack and defence.

    Second, all the Australian teams displayed an abject lack of skills, especially passing skills.

    The ruck laws, for example, have made the “jackal” game of players like David Pocock and George Smith much less important than they were in past years. But these two players, in particular, do not seem to have adjusted their games to this new reality.

    That reality is that as soon as the ruck is formed the ball cannot be turned over by a defender. Moreover, the tackler cannot get in front of the ball and play it with his hands.

    Smith’s cameo at Brisbane, for instance, was marred by him conceding several penalties by going into the ruck with his hands while he was the second defender into the ruck.

    David Pocock made a bad mistake, for instance, going in for the ball in the Brumbies-Jaguares match at Bruce Stadium, Canberra, some time after the ruck had been formed. He was penalised by Angus Gardner, the best Australian referee on active duty. Pocock actually queried the decision. Gardner rightly told him, “Don’t argue with me, the ruck was over before you came in from the side.”

    In general, too, the notion of spacing on defence is not played properly by the Australian sides. This makes them vulnerable, as the Waratahs, Reds, Rebels and Brumbies were to their opponents who utilised a clever short and long passing game.

    Now we come to the lack of skills.

    The Australian teams tend to pass the ball into the stomach of runners or slightly behind them. They rarely pass the ball for a runner to run on to it. Few of them can pass on their left-hand side, a skill shown several times by Adriaan Strauss, the Bulls hooker, against the Rebels.

    There seems to be no awareness or understanding of capitalising on turnovers, something that all the New Zealand teams and the Lions and Bulls in the South African Conference do extremely well.

    Wayne Smith in the Australian (“Roaming Reds back to face the Kiwi curse”) reported that the Reds captain, James Slipper, said he was at a loss to explain why the Australian teams were able to compete with the NZ sides until two years ago but since then haven’t won a game against them.

    “If we knew the answer, we would have rectified it,” Slipper told Smith.

    What an indictment of the rugby intelligence of the Super Rugby coaches and the players.

    Here is the answer that Slipper and all the other Australian Super Rugby players and coaches should worked out for themselves.

    The New Zealand teams have up-graded their skills in every aspect of the game, especially in their passing skills.

    Their teams obsessively drill in their passing skills.

    We saw a glimpse of this during the semi-final of the 2015 Rugby World Cup when the All Blacks were behind the Springboks at half-time. They spent only a few minutes in the dressing room. Then they came out and started to do their passing drills.

    At least one Australian coach seems to understand the rationale behind the NZ skills obsession. Andy Friend, the former coach of the Australian Men’s Sevens side, has said that he wants to coach in the 15-man game and that if got a job his main emphasis would be “to work like crazy” to lift the skills of the individual players.

    Why has there been a fall-off in the skills of Australian rugby players?

    The answer lies, I believe, with the mechanistic vision of rugby propounded by Eddie Jones.

    When Jones took over the Wallabies, he developed a “by numbers” attacking system. The players were drilled in set moves. They were not encouraged to go away from the set move groove.

    Jones also became enthused about the rugby league play-the-ball possibilities for rugby. He coached the Wallabies to submit in tackles so that there could be a fast re-cycle.

    He also paid very little attention to the scrum, allowing standards in set piece play to deteriorate.

    This mechanistic style has permeated all grades of Australian rugby, from the Wallabies, down through to the Super Rugby teams, to the clubs and schoolboys sides.

    It took two New Zealanders, Robbie Deans and Daryl Gibson, to identify this problem.

    Robbie Deans - ex-Wallaby coach

    (AAP:Dean Lewins)

    When Deans took over the Wallabies he told the players that he wanted them to start playing “what was in front of them.”

    In other words, they needed to play to what the situation required and not what the planned move required them to play.

    Unfortunately, this meant, then as now, that the players could not adjust to the new requirement to improvise their way to tries by using finely honed skills.

    And when Gibson joined the Waratahs he complained about the “playing by numbers” mentality of the players.

    Deans was unsuccessful in getting his Wallabies to play with their eyes.

    Gibson, also, has been even less successful in getting his Waratahs to stop trying to play by numbers.

    Gibson made the point when he started with the Waratahs that the problem of unthinking play went deeper than at the Super Rugby and Test level. It started with the schoolboys and worked itself into the clubs before rising like a smothering algae to the professional level.

    To solve the problem, therefore, Australian rugby has to go back to coaching skills from the schools level upwards.

    This brings me to the heart of the matter.

    Australian rugby needs a National Coaching Committee put in place as soon as possible to establish a coaching policy that embraces every level of the game so that, as happens in NZ, players can move from schoolboy rugby, through to club rugby and into the professional game with the appropriate skills and understanding of tactics to fit into any system a coach might embrace.

    As well as raising the skill levels of players, a proper coaching policy should raise the level of coaching, at every level of the game in Australia and, especially, at the professional level.

    It was saddening to see the Brumbies, for instance, kicking away possession after a couple of phases without putting any real stress on the Jaguares defence.

    On the other hand, the Jaguares went through their phases patiently applying stress on the Brumbies defence and getting rewards through their first try (after 18 phases) and with multiple penalties which meant the winning of the game to them in the end.

    Emiliano Boffelli

    (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images)

    Some history is needed here.

    Back in the 1970s, Australian rugby was in dire trouble, on and off the field. A decision was made by the then ARU to create a National Coaching Plan to “teach coaches the art of coaching through demonstration and practical involvement.”

    A key ingredient to the NCP was the “Rugby Coaching Manual,” which was written by Dick Marks, a former Wallaby and the first national director of coaching in Australia.

    This manual is a compendium of the besting rugby thinking and practice at the time. It is a masterpiece. If Aristotle had written about rugby, this is the sort of manual he would have produced.

    There are 25 separate chapters in the book’s 300 pages ranging from the conceptual Chapter 1 “National Coaching Plan” to the practical Chapter 25 “Basic Machine Plan,” with chapters in between on topics such as “Developing Skills in Grids” and “Individual Skills.”

    The point in all of this is that the National Coaching Plan worked. From the despair of the 1970s Australian rugby gloried in nearly two decades of success.

    In the 1980s, the Wallabies won back the Bledisloe Cup in NZ: there was the 1986 Grand Slam tour, a first for the Wallabies: a Rugby World Cup triumph in 1991: a second such triumph in 1999: a series of Bledisloe Cup victories: and the defeat of the British and Irish Lions in 2001.


    (Credit: Russell Cheyne/Allsport)

    Unfortunately, when professional rugby was introduced the National Coaching Plan was discontinued.

    The coaching policy role was transferred to the coach of the Wallabies, the national team. As we have seen, these coaches have different policies and favoured methods.

    I think it is fair to say that although professional era has seen some successes, particularly in the early years, these successes are not on a par with those enjoyed when there was a National Coaching Plan.

    Nearly a year ago, during a period rather like that in the 1970s when the results of Australian teams were below the expectations of the rugby community, Rugby Australia convened a meeting with the high performance manager Ben Whitaker, Michael Cheika, Bob Dwyer, Rod Kafer, Mick Byrne and Dick Marks.

    The meeting decided to send out a framework of initiatives to all the unions and the five Super Rugby coaches asking for comments and input. The framework included the establishment of a National Coaching Advisory Committee.

    But, sorry to say, the Australian rugby community is still to see the creation of the National Coaching Advisory Committee.

    On Saturday, the Reds’ defeat to the Chiefs was the 35th consecutive victory by a New Zealand team over their Australian Super Rugby opponent.

    What was a dire situation a year ago for the future of Australian rugby has become disastrous with the possibility that South African teams might become as unbeatable as the New Zealand teams have been.

    At the end of the July 2017 meeting, Rod Kafer, who had been recruited to arrest the decline of the 15-person code in Australia, told reporters this: “When Australia was great, we recognised that there was a team who were innovative, they were thoughtful, they were prepared to bring something a little bit different.

    “We need to establish in Australia in Australia a concept of a unity of purpose …

    “Every player that gets to Super Rugby level should be able to catch and pass the ball consistently under pressure.

    “We should position players who get into professional rugby with a skill-set appropriate for the level of the game they are playing, and probably don’t always get at the moment.

    “Every player and coach has a part to play in developing future Wallabies, Wallaroos and Olympians, and the more resources we provide to improve those players the better our future will be.”

    These are fine words. And they are true words. But what the rugby community needs immediately is some action. That action must start with the immediate creation of the National Advisory Coaching Committee.

    In a journey of a thousand miles, the old Chinese saying goes, it is necessary to take the first step.

    Take the first step, Rod.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (149)

    • April 23rd 2018 @ 6:46am
      Redsfan1 said | April 23rd 2018 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      So David Pocock getting paid to do nothing and then eventually grace Australia rugby with his presence isn’t working out?

      • April 23rd 2018 @ 7:01am
        MH01 said | April 23rd 2018 @ 7:01am | ! Report

        Of the games I’ve seen him play this year it’s been pocock v 15 ….. the real problem, as our best 7 and best performing oz player so far, he will not be chosen at 7 – what is not working out for RA is logic ……

        • April 23rd 2018 @ 7:30am
          Reverse Wheel said | April 23rd 2018 @ 7:30am | ! Report

          Not yesterday. Pocock was utterly ineffectual. I remember him getting one turnover on a counter ruck where he flicked the ball out with his hand and should have been penalized, and two other careless penalties. That’s about it for his contribution.

          • April 23rd 2018 @ 8:02am
            Daveski said | April 23rd 2018 @ 8:02am | ! Report

            Reverse that play was fine the ball had popped out the ruck and Pocock was on his feet. The Jags purposefully avoided to many ruck engagements in Pococks territory or at other times he was the only one making the tackles.

            He’d had many pilfers prior to yesterday in the other games so I think you and Spiro are being a bit selective in your analysis.

            George Smith on the other hand really was suffering a bit of ruck fever and gave away three penalties in about 15minutes. Two were blatant and silly one was unlucky.

            • April 23rd 2018 @ 8:37am
              Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

              That was what Mccaw was good at…he adapted his game as time went on.
              Pocock would be the best turnover merchant in the game but he hasnt developed other aspects.
              Hes not a great ball runner and supporting runner and nor is he a dominant tackler.
              Hes a one trick pony.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 8:42am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

                Except that isn’t true. He has improved his linking and running game, is still great at the turnover, is strong in the maul, is a great defender and is excellent at clearing out.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:05am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

                I disagree. He hasnt changed or adapted his game. Cane now has a better all round game than Pocock.
                Pocock is still the king of the turnover but thats it.
                Years ago Grant Fox was talking about the change in role of a 7 and how Mccaw had to adapt.
                Back then Fox highlighted the fact that no longer is it the 7s brief to be that turnover merchant. Its everybodys brief. He added that midfielders get more turnovers now than the forwards.
                Pocock needs to change his game. The game keeps evolving and i dont think he has.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:32am
                Jameswm said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:32am | ! Report

                Hence the preference for Hooper by many.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:40am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

                Hooper might carry more but I am pretty certain he links less.

                The role of a 7 isn’t to be a centre though. It’s still to be both a link-man and a breakdown expert.

                I could be wrong but I think the ‘many’ mostly refers to Waratahs fans. The majority of foreign rugby fans and fans from states other than NSW and the ACT seem to prefer Pocock.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:28pm
                Malo said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

                Hooper is probably the best link 7 in the world . He adds a lot in creating attack with the backs

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:08am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:08am | ! Report

                Well that’s seemingly based on nothing—do you have any facts to back this up?

                You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:22am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

                What facts? Im telling you what Grant Fox stated.
                Do you think Pocock has adapted his game?
                Mccaw certainly did.

              • April 24th 2018 @ 4:29pm
                Malo said | April 24th 2018 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

                You need to watch rugby

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:22am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

                He clearly has evolved his game, he’s carrying more and linking more. Nick Bishop wrote an article just the other week about Pocock’s performance.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:34am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

                You base your opinion on what Nick Bishop says.
                I base mine on what i watch every week combined with a coaching clinic i attended at the rugby institute.
                Murray Mexted, Fox and Hansen all attended and gave lectures.
                Mexted and Hansen said the same thing…that Aus rugby isnt changing with the times and they highlighted Pocock by saying they used to have strategies to negate him just like Aus used to for Mccaw. But now those strategies are not required for Pocock because they know exactly what theyre gona get from him. He hasnt changed.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:37am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

                No, my opinion is based on watching him carrying and linking a lot for the Brumbies.

                Even if Pocock isn’t make turnovers at the breakdown if opposition teams send it 2 players to take him out then on attack that leaves one fewer defender and gives his team a one-man advantage for the next phase, and on defence it means opposition teams have one fewer attackers.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:46am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

                So yours is opinion too.
                Yet you want me to bring some facts and accuse me of basing my opinion on nothing….

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:50am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:50am | ! Report

                No, it isn’t just an opinion that he hasn’t adapted. It’s based on the fact that I have watched him carry and link a lot for the Brumbies.

                Having just checked AllOutRugby for the last three weeks

                Rd 10
                – carried 15 times
                – passed 5 times
                – made 14 tackles (4 dominant)
                – 0 misses

                Rd 9
                – carried 12 times
                – passed 9 times
                – made 9 tackles (1 dominant)
                – 0 misses

                Rd 8
                – carried 6 times
                – passed 10 times
                – made 17 tackles (1 dominant)
                – 1 missed

                Saying he is just a ruck monkey and doesn’t contribute otherwise isn’t backed up by the facts.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:03am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

                Exactly what im talking about. Further up you still think a 7s role is to be a breakdown expert.
                Thats changed now.
                A 7s brief at the breakdown is no more specialist or expert than anyone elses now.
                In regards to your stats..i will relay what Hansen said in one of his lectures.
                “Rugby isnt all about stats so dont get carried away with that. You have to have a feel for the game and rely on what you see and feel….”
                I believe Hooper is far and away the better link man and support player than Pocock. Pocock the better scavenger.
                Neither are the dominant defender in the Cane mould, just like Ardie Savea and Todd arent.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:44am
                Daveski said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:44am | ! Report

                Ben if you haven’t noticed Pocock’s defense, pilfering, his improved ball handing and link play and his ability to control attaching rucks and resist defenders launching counter-raids then I dare say you haven’t been watching very closely.

                Yes Sam Cane probably does all these things almost as well plus is quicker and presents a secondary lineout option. But your assertion that Pocock hasn’t adapted his game flies in the face of what we’ve seen so far this year.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:51am
                Ed said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

                “Murray Mexted, Fox and Hansen all attended and gave lectures.
                Mexted and Hansen said the same thing…that Aus rugby isnt changing with the times.”


                That would have been an interesting discussion to have heard.

                Bret Harris in the Guardian last year wrote about us being behind in tactics:

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:07am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

                One task was for everyone to analyse the same super rugby match and come back with the good the bad and the ugly.. work ons etc.
                Everyone had similar reports but we all missed a few vital things that those experts picked up on.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:06am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                The 7s role has never been just a ruck monkey. The ideal 7 is a link-man, ball carrier and a ruck monkey (which is why George Smith and Richie McCaw were better than the current guys).

                Hooper passes less, so I don’t know if he can be a better link-man. He is undoubtedly a better ball-runner, but there is a reason that Ardie Savea is behind Sam Cane, and has recently fallen behind Matt Todd according to Hansen also. Because a 7 isn’t just a ball-runner in space. If he was, they would just select a centre at open-side flanker, as international centres are better at running the ball and passing than either Hooper or Pocock.

                The point is that an open-side flanker has to be more than a ruck monkey and more than just a link-man and a ball runner. He has to be both.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:11am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

                Yeah thanks for that..but i’ll stick to listening to the experts.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:13am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

                The experts like Hansen who picks Sam Cane (and now Matt Todd) over the far more athletic (and Hooper-esque) Ardie Savea?

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:20am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:20am | ! Report

                Yup…i suspect listening to their opinion over yours will hold me in far better stead.
                By the way…i believe Ardie is better than Todd but neither are up in the Cane echelon. My opinion of course…..

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:26am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:26am | ! Report

                So your logic is as follows: experts like Hansen say that a 7s job is to be a link man and ball runner.

                So why does he pick Cane and Todd over Savea then given Savea is the superior ball runner and link man?

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:42am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

                Can you just show me where i ever said “……like Hansen say that a 7s job is to be a link man and ball runner.”

                Cos he never specified that.
                Cane may not be as athletic as Savea…doesnt get round the fact Cane is the far better 7 and the best 7 in NZ….a fact alluded to on The Breakdown and by Tony Johnson.

                But hey what do Hansen, Tony Johnson, Jeff Wilson and Murray Mexted know compared to Fionn….whoever he is.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:46am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

                I never once said that I knew more than any of them.

                What did they say made the ideal 7 then? I’m honstly interested to hear, because thus far you’ve made the empirically incorrect claim that Pocock is just a ruck monkey and doesn’t contribute in attack and then stated that the experts said some things that you haven’t specified, and:

                ‘I believe Hooper is far and away the better link man and support player than Pocock. Pocock the better scavenger.’

                Well, Savea is the fat better link man and support player than the other New Zealand options, and yet he is still behind Cane and perhaps now Todd too.

                Why is that? Clearly a 7s brief isn’t just to be a link man and support player, so what was it according to the experts at the pannell you attended?

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:50am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

                First before answering your questions…are you going to answer mine?
                Where did i state that Hansen says a 7s job is to be a link man and ball runner?
                Also point to where i ever said Pocock doesnt contribute in attack.
                Your patently making stuff up….

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:55am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

                You implied it by saying that you went to a panel by the experts, said you were basing their opinion off what you said and then went on to say that you’d pick Hooper and ‘I believe Hooper is far and away the better link man and support player than Pocock. Pocock the better scavenger’.

                Given that Hooper is primarily a ball-runner, that much we can agree on, the implication of your statement was that they said a 7s duty was to be a ball-runner.

                You also said:

                ‘Pocock would be the best turnover merchant in the game but he hasnt developed other aspects.
                Hes not a great ball runner and supporting runner and nor is he a dominant tackler.
                Hes a one trick pony’

                That is essentially saying he doesn’t contribute aside from a ‘one trick pony’ at the breakdown.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:05am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

                “You implied it by saying that you went to a panel by the experts, said you were basing their opinion off what you said and then went…..”
                Now i know youre making stuff up… go back and read properly.
                What panel by the experts?

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:10am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:10am | ! Report

                Coaching clinic of experts then: ‘a coaching clinic i attended at the rugby institute … Murray Mexted, Fox and Hansen all attended and gave lectures.’

                So I haven’t made anything up.

                You accused me of making up patently false statements, but you clearly said that Pocock was a one trick pony at the breakdown.

                And you still haven’t answered my question as to what they said at the clinic, or what you interpreted from what they said at the clinic.

                Now, I’ve answered your questions, you said you would answer mine once I had done that. So will you?

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:17am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

                You did make stuff up….claiming that i stated lots of things i never stated. Now your saying i implied it….cos after reading back you can see i didnt state anything of a sort.
                Yup…i stand by what i said about Pocock being a 1 trick pony.
                Opinion of course, just like yours.
                And you havent answered my question…where did i state Hansen said those things? Show me.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:22am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

                Also you say i said i would pick Hooper…yet i never said that.
                As i have said in previous articles i believe Aus should play like the ABs play Cane then bring Ardie on in the fatigue moments when the game opens up.
                Pocock then Hooper in the Ardie role.
                But you keep reading whatever it is you want to read into my comments and what i “imply”.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:23am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:23am | ! Report

                No, I didn’t

                You stated Pocock was a ‘one trick pony at the breakdown’. By definition this means that he doesn’t contribute in attack (technically he may contribute, but in the way that Hanigan does, effectively he doesn’t).

                You stated you went to a coaching clinic where guys that are definitely experts, that you yourself termed ‘experts,’ and that your opinions are based on ‘what i watch every week combined with a coaching clinic i attended at the rugby institute’ and ‘… i’ll stick to listening to the experts.’

                Then you went on to say that you would pick Hooper because of his linking and ball-running ability. Fair enough, but by definition the implication is that they said words to the effect of linking and ball-running ability being the most important aspects of a 7.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:39am
                Ben said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

                Fionn..you seem to read things that arent there….show me where i said “Then you went on to say that you would pick Hooper because of his linking and ball….”
                Show me where i said i would pick Hooper….
                Show me.
                You keep saying i stated or i said….
                Like i just said, ive previously stated the Pocock then Hooper 1 2 punch like Cane then Ardie would be my preference for the Wallabies.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:43am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:43am | ! Report

                If you’re saying that you think Pocock should start and Hooper should come off the bench then that really wasn’t what came across in what you’re writing.

                I’m not sure if that is better or if playing the Pooper is better. Nick’s consecutive articles on how good both of them are playing was pretty persuasive in saying that they both should be in our 15.

                Going back to your original point, Pocock definitely has evolved his game. He is unquestionably carrying and linking man than he did in the past, as opposed to just being on the field to attack the breakdown.

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                April 23rd 2018 @ 10:31pm
                Shane D said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:31pm | ! Report

                On the Savea, Todd & Cane discussion. Hansen said last season that he was preferring Cane due to his defence, work rate & that his tighter game suited test football. Hansen also viewed Todd as a like for like replacement for Cane for the AB’s.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 12:06pm
                shooshiner said | April 23rd 2018 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

                Jameswm said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:32am

                ” Hence the preference for Hooper by many. ”

                We haven’t won too many games against good teams with the above scenario.

                Your point and Michael Cheikas is therefore rendered null and void.

            • April 23rd 2018 @ 8:43am
              Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 8:43am | ! Report

              It looked like Smith had forgotten the new ruck laws.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:24am
                Highlander said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

                and he got penalised once for kicking the ball in the ruck – instinct over thinking

              • Roar Rookie

                April 23rd 2018 @ 10:32pm
                Shane D said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

                He looked like he knew it straight away too!

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:30am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

                Yeah, that’s what I was referring to.

              • Columnist

                April 23rd 2018 @ 3:50pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | April 23rd 2018 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

                Hi Fionn (above)

                Never trust anyone who says they’ve been to a meeting or had a secret convo with someone ‘in the know’! They will always go back to that supposed higher authority and offer nothing from themselves – it’s the lazy man’s way out 😀

              • April 24th 2018 @ 7:45am
                Fionn said | April 24th 2018 @ 7:45am | ! Report

                Cheers, Nick😊

            • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:22am
              Reverse Wheel said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

              My comment related to yesterday’s game, I thought he offered nothing. The week before he was epic.

        • April 24th 2018 @ 6:25am
          Crash Ball2 said | April 24th 2018 @ 6:25am | ! Report

          “As soon as the ruck is formed the ball cannot be turned over by a defender.” So, exactly the same stipulation as always then?

          In a match that saw Kwagga Smith and Malcolm Marx lay on an absolute, game dominating breakdown masterclass with six forced turnovers at the ruck – the majority of which were affected as second man in plays – Spiro pens an article on the death of the jackal. Thick, dripping irony.

          • April 25th 2018 @ 2:51am
            ThugbyFan said | April 25th 2018 @ 2:51am | ! Report

            Spot on Crash. Its not total doom and gloom as there are a few ruck masters in Australia capable of getting in early and winning the pill, just very few if any are near the class of M.Marx or the speed and nous of Q.Smith.

            Add that I have often seen with kiwi teams that if the opportunity presents they will attack the ruck en masse and drive over the ball to force a turnover. I cannot recall that ploy being used once by an Aussie team, an example of what Robbie Deans was on about; players have to play what’s in front of them.

            And Spiro is absolutely spot on. Poor passing and catching skills have permeated right through Australian rugby, resulting in constant lost ball when put under pressure. We saw the Reds get blitzed by the Tahs 2 weeks ago because of multiple dropped ball when the Tahs were in their faces. This weekend the shoe was on the other foot, especially in the 2nd half when tiredness came in. Everytime the Tahs were in any threatening position, a wild pass to row G32 or a simple dropped catch killed off the move.

            If I get a chance to watch a replay of the Bulls vs Rebels game, I will try to count the number of times a Rebels player had to slow down and catch the ball shoulder high and slightly behind him. At 2am Sat night, my brain wasn’t that functional but I did notice it happened way too often.

            Similarly the new “Golden Child” of Oz rugby, J.Maddocks constantly had the ball ripped from his hands upon contact. I’m all for skilled runners to carry out in front with both hands but these blokes have to hug and protect that ball upon contact. I hope someone has a word in his ear as everyone will target him now.

    • April 23rd 2018 @ 6:50am
      MH01 said | April 23rd 2018 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      Australia has the talent – the problem is when gifted individuals are told they are not going to make the wallabies , they head over seas to make their money . The overseas Australian players would beat the current wallabies.

      Australia’s problem is RA – and wallabies setup . This elite level is so far removed from the grass roots . Most people who I know, who were passionate about SR and wallabies, are Becoming casual fans who don’t see value for money for the very poor product on offer.

      • April 23rd 2018 @ 8:43am
        Malo said | April 23rd 2018 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        We don’t have the talent that is why we can’t win. We don’t nurture or improve talent when the squads are in their Sr gym bubbles. You need a nz type domestic comp.

        • April 23rd 2018 @ 12:08pm
          shooshiner said | April 23rd 2018 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

          Malo ,You don’t read too well do you ?. The talent is overseas as MH01 stated .

          • April 23rd 2018 @ 2:00pm
            Malo said | April 23rd 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            Bs, There is 3 or 4 players. We have to raid the nrl. There is little to no talent.

            • April 23rd 2018 @ 8:24pm
              Ken Catchpole’s Other Leg said | April 23rd 2018 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

              “We have to raid the nrl?”?,?
              Not the afl, the Premie League or the netball?
              Who brings the gums?
              Who brings the ammo?

      • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:17am
        BBA said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        I think your point is evidence that Australia doesn’t have the talent. Because SA and NZ lose a large number of players overseas too. However I think Aus does pretty well with retaining most of their talent, as I seriously doubt that the best of the rest would win a test in a 3 test series against the Australian based players, as the main ones that go overseas are journeymen or those who consider their path to the Wallabies blocked by an untouchable player in from of them.

        • Roar Guru

          April 23rd 2018 @ 10:24am
          PeterK said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

          the only o/s based players that would make the wallabies 23 would be TPN, Fardy, JoC, and maybe Liam Gill and Greg Holmes

          TPN already qualifies and plays for them anyway.

          The main issue is the poor quality coaching at all levels which Spiro correctly points out.

          • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:31am
            Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

            I would have TPN, Fardy, Toomua (at 10 or 12) and O’Connor in the 23 for sure.

            Tomane would also be in with a good shot.

            • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:33am
              Reverse Wheel said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

              Which is why the Wallabies are kind of getting by but the super rugby teams are a mess. It’s that next level which is suffering from England & France, which means you have a bunch of guys who are not and never will be Super Rugby standard lining up week in and week out. The impact on the wallabies is (1) they come together as a bunch off guys with a habit of losing (in super rugby) and so need to break out of that, and (2) there isn’t the competition for places that forces players to improve their game, they can just get by and know they will be selected.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:36am
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:36am | ! Report

                Reverse Wheel, I think that is a pretty accurate summation of the problems.

                One of the other main problems is the calibre of coaches, I think. How many of our SR coaches really have the runs of the board to indicate they’re good enough?

              • Roar Guru

                April 23rd 2018 @ 11:37am
                PeterK said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report


                and if really good new talent does turn up or develop a lot of it goes o/s if their wallaby spot is blocked

              • Roar Guru

                April 23rd 2018 @ 12:12pm
                John R said | April 23rd 2018 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

                The coaching pathway isn’t working aye. Like why are we letting our coaches learn on the job?

                Bring in an experienced head coach.

                The pathway should be Club – > NRC -> SR Assistant -> O/S Head Coach -> Super Rugby Head Coach.

                This current batch have all skipped the overseas head coach bit and are going straight to the top.

                If we don’t want to let our talent go overseas then they need to address the gap in their development at an institutional level. Replicating real world experience in a class room is bloody tough though.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 12:19pm
                Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

                John, we need to find a rich benefactor (like Twiggy Forrest) who is willing and able to give money to RA with the explicit intention of paying for the best quality international coaches money can buy at both SR and Wallaby level.

                And then we need to buy the best coaches, most of whom are Kiwis.

                Surely the days are gone where people would complain about having a foreigner in charge of the Wallabies

              • Roar Guru

                April 23rd 2018 @ 12:21pm
                John R said | April 23rd 2018 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

                Any angst would be solved by winning.

                Winning solves everything in this country!

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 12:36pm
                bluffboy said | April 23rd 2018 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

                Yes it’s rarely a chicken and the egg situation.
                Talent pool is suffering because the coaching and skill development is substandard.
                No doubt the start has to be coaching/skill development has to be magnified and grass roots and up, which is the long terms solution.
                Perhaps in the short to fill short comings, any overseas player should be made allegeable. It should be made possible with a provision in their contracts.
                The rules around overseas based players were made pre the professional era and now it’s time to move with the times.

              • April 23rd 2018 @ 2:58pm
                double agent said | April 23rd 2018 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                Agree. The player drain to Europe has had a terrible effect on our Super teams.

    • April 23rd 2018 @ 6:52am
      Dekka said | April 23rd 2018 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      I agree the overall skills of the Australian teams were very disappointing and alarming. Our teams have fallen way behind their NZ and RSA opponents. Players lack basic skills and continue with aimless kicks, which plays into the hands of their opponents. We are in need of better coaching and in my opinion having one or two teams in the ITM Cup would do Australian Rugby the world of good.

      • April 23rd 2018 @ 7:05am
        woodart said | April 23rd 2018 @ 7:05am | ! Report

        not going to happen

      • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:37am
        zhenry said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

        Every rugby nation has a national competition, or should work towards such. International competition comes after that. It’s lmportamt for revealing national player and coaching development.
        Forget about barging your way into the NZ development process, as Spiro says you have successfully created your own, recreate it again.
        That Aust mindset of meddling in the NZ system is a destructive impulse to take from the NZ system (or any other) for Aust benefit, and make NZ less effective.
        By all means study different national methods but f… o.. out of joining NZ.
        This destructive AU tendency is part of an overall AU prejudice towards NZ, and manifest in a number of ways: Selecting an AU CEO who is a friend of Tew is another example.

        • April 23rd 2018 @ 1:30pm
          julius said | April 23rd 2018 @ 1:30pm | ! Report


          Well said. Australian teams in the NPC!!!!!!! The delusion of some people is remarkable.

          • April 23rd 2018 @ 5:25pm
            Malo said | April 23rd 2018 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

            Our 1st grade is equivalent to 3rd grade in the 90s. The Randwick goal kicker kicked like someone from the 14cs

            • April 24th 2018 @ 12:23am
              Big Dog said | April 24th 2018 @ 12:23am | ! Report

              The Randwick goal kicker from last Saturday’s game is an Irishman visiting this country.

          • April 24th 2018 @ 8:30am
            Two shades said | April 24th 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

            But didn’t you know? The whole world revolve’s around Australian sports “needs”…if they are struggling in a particular sport on the world stage then, we should move heaven and earth to get them back to the top! It’s the reason where here!!!!

    • April 23rd 2018 @ 6:57am
      Ken Catchpole’s Other Leg said | April 23rd 2018 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      A National Coaching Committee? Yep.

      But is that all?
      – A National competition?
      – Independence from the Super / Fox teat?
      – Utilisation of every resource, including the offer of a WA mining billionaire.
      – A world-wide search of Brisbane for a world-class 10?

      Oh and widespread adoption of my yet to be published alertness/passing/counter attack drill?

    • April 23rd 2018 @ 7:02am
      Cynical Play said | April 23rd 2018 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      Wasn’t a good weekend, was it?!

      All teams have deep problems with players skill and on-field decisions. Coaches share the blame with losing strategies this weekend. The poor Reds have had to wait 6 weeks to get a home game. All teams looked exhausted. The Izzy issue must be weighing in the WTs camp to some degree. The were mentally gone form the opening whistle. Brumbies don’t have a 10 to steer things and it buggers them every week. Without Genia, Rebels are rudderless. Physicality was lacking this weekend across the games.

      On the plus side, The Tahs have the bye. Reds only have to tame the Lions and Brumbies get to settle down the crusaders. The Rebels might win in SA but I doubt it

    • April 23rd 2018 @ 7:25am
      Drongo said | April 23rd 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      As usual, Spiro announces that he knows all the answers. He has the silver bullet that no one else can identify. He says the Kiwis saw it years ago. Problem? We already have two Kiwi coaches in our traditional rugby strongholds. One has been there for years. We also have someone purported to be the best skills coach in the world with the Wallabies. Spiro offers a simple solution that will satisfy the simple reader. Fact is, our teams, more or less, match everyone except the Kiwis. Why? NZ is a rugby machine, blessed with peoples apparently designed by the Gods to play rugby. The whole country is on board to dominate the game. Every level of government contributes. The community lives and breathes the game. We don’t. E.g. our soccer team will play in the WC. We have tens of thousands at several grounds every week watching AFL. We have a national ARL. We have a broader focus and will never, ever match the Kiwi rugby juggernaut.
      Stop pretending you know why and allocating blame, Spiro.

      • April 23rd 2018 @ 7:43am
        John said | April 23rd 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

        Well let’s hope that your losing attitude isn’t too prevalent amongst the players in the Australian Super Rugby franchises. Spiro has actually identified a list of problems and provided solutions and he is probably right.
        Start with establishing the National Advisory Coaching Committee.

        • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:38am
          Cliff (Bishkek) said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:38am | ! Report

          And do not let Kaffer anywhere near it. An absolute dunderhead.

          Problems with Australian Rugby

          1. Rugby Australia admin and management
          2. Qld and NSW admin and management
          3. Player Power – overriding coaches
          4. Jobs for the boys – from coaching, through to admin and management through to Fox Sports
          5. Skills
          6. Rugby nous
          7. Private Schools and little development or formation in Public Schools
          8. Past Wallabies – lack of guts in commenting on or berating RA and players.
          9. No grassroots development – problem from RA and State Managements

          And probably many more – and so Rugby is slowly sliding down in to being a non-relevant football code in Australia

          • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:52am
            Former Fan said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:52am | ! Report

            Spot on for most of those points – in particular point 4 – seems harder to get dropped these days than it is to get into the starting team. Form should be the main driver not reputation.
            You also pick up on the commentary in Aust which has become parochial on State / old team loyalties and political correctness in not giving anyone a spray when they deserve it.
            Listen to the Kiwis – their commentators are some of the more open minded and professional on air. The SA blokes are so one eyed they actually make the Aust blokes seem reasonable!

      • April 23rd 2018 @ 8:38am
        Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        It’s a classic Spiro article – mixing some very pertinent points with some blatant agendas, such as his anti-Pocock slant. Again.

        He picks one of the top 3-4 players in the world in Malcolm Marx and then complains that Australia doesn’t have anyone as good as him. Well, South Africa doesn’t have anyone else nearly as good as him either.

        He also doesn’t note the fact that before this weekend Australia had a pretty good record against the non-Kiwi foreign teams. Perhaps we will collapse into a heap now, but I would rather wait until the end of the season before we start analysing how we compare against the South Africans and Jaguares.

        • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:11am
          Ed said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

          Currently AUS teams have won 5, lost 6 and drawn one against the SA conference.
          I think our record will deteriorate as the Lions play the Reds, while the Rebels go to Cape Town with further injury worries.
          The Brums road trip is Joburg and Pretoria, so getting a win there will be bloody tough.

          • April 23rd 2018 @ 9:23am
            Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report


            But, as I said, I’d rather wait until the end of the season to analyse our performances as opposed to jumping to any conclusions.

        • April 23rd 2018 @ 10:23am
          Puff said | April 23rd 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Fionn, perhaps we watched different games yesterday. The Brumbies appeared to have a great turnout at GIO stadium and yet couldn’t deliver on their home track. The Jaguares dismantled them with a clever strategy and made some of your signature playmakers to very ordinary. This must have been a match penciled in as points on the board by the coaching staff. Sorry, Pocock is still very much in the 2016 mindset. Hence, had a number of spats with the ref regarding law interpretation. Spiro is perhaps correct on most points. SA & NZ consistently challenge their players to raise the bar but I never noted any additional commitment or new skill trends on Sunday. It was just the same old 5m maul, that the Arg’s nullified and very little composure or excitement displayed by the backs. The Crusaders would deliver a different intensity which will require a number of players to step up, good luck.

          • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:05am
            concerned supporter said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            Great turnout????? Crowd: 8053 ???????

          • April 23rd 2018 @ 11:56am
            Fionn said | April 23rd 2018 @ 11:56am | ! Report

            I agree with most of that (except that the South Africans are clearly so much more developed than us, I want to wait until the end of the season before deciding that), but I don’t see what it has to do with what I said.

            Pocock had a poor match, but before that he had three very good ones.

        • April 23rd 2018 @ 6:39pm
          Bakkies said | April 23rd 2018 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

          Fionn they do. The starting hooker for Montpellier. Marx is a younger version of Bismarck.

          • April 24th 2018 @ 7:46am
            Fionn said | April 24th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

            I love Bismarck but I think they’re a bit different, Bakkies.

            Bismarck has all of Marx’s power in defence (and some added ferocity), is better in the set piece and has a decent offload, but he doesn’t have Marx’s ball-running, speed or his passing.

            • Roar Guru

              April 24th 2018 @ 7:58am
              Harry Jones said | April 24th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

              To me, Bismarck is the perfect closer for the last 10-20 minutes, depending on the score. Brutal. But pinpoint in the LO. Really good at the LO throw. Also, a monster in the scrum, still.

              I think we have three good front rows, now.

              Tonnes of Test locks.

              A decent supply of loosies.

              We just need a 9!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              • April 24th 2018 @ 9:54am
                Fionn said | April 24th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

                Harry, the boys on the Eggchasers podcast are enamoured with Faf de Klerk.

                How would the Bok fans like to be in the position that the Wallaby fans were when Quade Cooper was playing great in 2010-11? Hand in the mouth every time he touches the ball because it could be brilliant or really poor. Personally, I loved the feeling, and Quade (and guys like Faf) make rugby a more fun game to watch.

                Bismarck was my favourite player for a long time. I hope to see him back with the Boks. Him and Marx are surely the two best hookers in the world.

    , ,