Trumps or clunks for Wallabies in June series?

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    The first Test is on our doorstep and odds suggest that every millimetre earned will be an important one.

    The Wallabies can ill afford to bring their usual clunky June form to the series opener, which is a genuine concern after a short turnaround from Super Rugby.

    Ireland rightly enter the series as slight favourites to win this weekend. However, as the series progresses and the Wallabies spend time together their combinations will improve. Don’t be surprised if the tables are turned by the third Test in Sydney.

    What are the crucial areas for each nation?

    Ireland

    1) The defensive lineout
    I expect that the Wallabies scrum will be closer to parity with the Irish than many might think. The much bigger area for concern from a Wallabies perspective is the defensive line out of the Irish.

    With the Wallabies playing inexperienced hookers and attacking threats like Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau in the backfield, I expect Ireland to kick long and kick for touch.

    Kurtley Beale Wallabies Australia Rugby Union Championship Bledisloe Cup 2017

    (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

    Any Wallaby nerves or errors at lineout time will be feasted on by the likes of Iain Henderson, James Ryan, and Tadhg Beirne.

    But perhaps the most worrying player of all for the Wallabies, who like to throw to the back of the lineout, will be the presence of Munster captain Peter O’Mahony.

    O’Mahony is lethal in the defensive lineout and has the wood over any Wallaby backrow option in that space. You have been warned!

    2) Turnover transitions
    When I say turnover transitions, I mean how quickly the Irish can shift focus from attack to defence should they cough up the ball or relinquish possession to the likes of David Pocock.

    The Wallabies will have Will Genia, Beale, and Bernard Foley sniffing around for any opportunities.

    With turnovers and kick returns accounting for nearly 50 per cent of possession in the modern game, the Irish will need to be lightning fast on transitions to contain a Wallaby trio that can attack the narrow, midfield, or wide channels within seconds should space be on offer from turnover ball.

    Wallabies

    1) How they deal with the Irish tactical kicking game
    Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton can put the ball on a pin head. When they don’t kick long you can guarantee that their kicks will be contestable.

    The Wallabies will need a serious plan to play out of contestable kicks. Winning the ball is one piece of the puzzle.

    The aerial battle between Folau and Rob Kearney may well be worth the price of admission alone, but the real clincher will be whether the Wallabies can offload the ball before the tackle or win quick ball at the ensuing breakdown.

    If they can do this more often than not it will nullify an important component of the Irish game and give the Wallabies an edge.

    If not, the Irish will have time to set their defence and will control the tempo of the next exchanges.

    2) Discipline
    The Wallabies are one of the most penalised teams in world rugby. During the English series in 2016, an interesting comment was made in an exchange between referee and then captain Stephen Moore – ‘If you’re going to attack every breakdown then you’re going to pay a tax for that’.

    Despite this, the Wallabies have continued down the same dangerous road for the past two seasons. The Irish are notorious for giving away a miserly number of penalties.

    A penalty count skewed in Irish favour by just three per game can in real terms mean around 100m of kicked territory with set piece possession following that territorial gain, or nine precious precious points on the scoreboard.

    Ireland's fly half Jonny Sexton kicks a penalty

    (AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL)

    Can the Wallabies manage the referees with skill and subtlety to achieve at least parity with the Irish when it comes to the penalty count?

    The series is shaping up to be an absolute cracker. My prediction? An Ireland series win 2-0 – the Wallabies’ best result will be a draw in the second or third Test.

    Wallabies fans will walk away scratching their heads after a tactical masterclass from the Irish, showcasing plenty of patience and nerve.

    What’s your prediction?

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • Roar Guru

      June 8th 2018 @ 9:14am
      Machooka said | June 8th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Good read Dexter… and congrats on your first published piece.

      I find it hard to disagree with most of what you’ve presented. In fact, I found myself nodding along in agreement as I read each area you highlighted. Except for the second last para… predictions are so difficult at this stage, and home ground advantage must be a factor in all of this. Likewise, with no Johnny Sexton playing in the first Test, surely this brings some concerns for the Irish.

      So regardless of predictions, I’m just hoping my Wallaby plays to the best of their abilities… win or lose!

      • Roar Rookie

        June 8th 2018 @ 9:41am
        -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        Thanks for reading Machooka and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I agree with your comments on predictions, but any conversation starter is a good one! Have you ventured into the Irish forums to see what the educated supporters are saying up there? Once you sift through the ‘shackle-draggers’ comments there is some good stuff. Their mindset shifted a fair bit once the side was named. I wrote this piece on Wednesday, fully expecting Sexton to start. He will still play a big role this series even if not starting this week.

        • Roar Guru

          June 8th 2018 @ 11:14am
          Machooka said | June 8th 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

          Thanks Dexter… and, yes, I had assumed you’d written this before Sexton was not selected.

          And, no, I haven’t ventured on to any of the Irish forums… alas I’m sooo ROAR centric and therefore are usually satisfied with that alone. Those ‘shackle-draggers’ you speak of are very much universal methinks! 😉

        • Roar Guru

          June 8th 2018 @ 5:46pm
          Derm McCrum said | June 8th 2018 @ 5:46pm | ! Report

          Nice piece, Dexter. I’m Irish – curious about the Irish forums you were reading. Which ones?

          • Roar Rookie

            June 8th 2018 @ 6:00pm
            -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

            Thanks for the comment Derm

            You might be able to give me some tips on which ones are most credible… I had a scroll through the ‘boards.ie’ ‘leinsterfans’ and ‘munsterfans’ forums to get some perspective.

            Any thoughts on those for future research would be very much appreciated… or if you know some others?

            • Roar Guru

              June 8th 2018 @ 6:12pm
              Derm McCrum said | June 8th 2018 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

              Boards.ie forget about.

              Babbling Brook (Leinster) and Munsterfans are good but there’s always a few wild contributors.
              606v2 is more British forum, but there are Irish fans on it, including myself from time to time.

              It was your ‘shackle-draggers’ comment that caught my eye – didn’t think Irish fans used this phrase much, if at all.

              The 42.ie is worth a look at for some analysis pieces and Off The Ball.

              • Roar Rookie

                June 8th 2018 @ 6:18pm
                -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

                Thanks Derm I’ll have a look at a couple others you’ve mentioned.

                That comment was in a boards.ie thread!… Along with some ‘Waltzing Matilda’ talk to boot.

              • Roar Guru

                June 9th 2018 @ 12:34am
                Derm McCrum said | June 9th 2018 @ 12:34am | ! Report

                There’s always one. Or two. 😏

              • Roar Guru

                June 9th 2018 @ 12:50am
                Derm McCrum said | June 9th 2018 @ 12:50am | ! Report

                Found it.

                And if there is one thing I’ve learnt as a kiwi sports fan, always be wary of the shackle-draggers especially when everyone is writing them off.”

                It’s those pesky Kiwis again….

              • June 9th 2018 @ 5:39am
                Faith said | June 9th 2018 @ 5:39am | ! Report

                The 42 is amazing

              • June 9th 2018 @ 5:51am
                Faith said | June 9th 2018 @ 5:51am | ! Report

                So is NZ Herald on some days. See their latest take on Aussie rugby: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/rugby/news/article.cfm?c_id=80&objectid=12067285

              • June 9th 2018 @ 11:10am
                Ed said | June 9th 2018 @ 11:10am | ! Report

                Faith – So is NZ Herald on some days. See their latest take on Aussie rugby.

                That piece was written by an Australian journo.

    • June 8th 2018 @ 9:23am
      Highlander said | June 8th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Good read Dexter
      The transition to attack is critical for Australia because they will likely will their share of turnovers but it will require a change in Grays defensive pattern, Genia defends almost as a sweeper between ruck and fullback and to take advantage he needs to be defending closer to the ruck so he can be clear to clear quickly. This is not a new issue.

      The comment on tax at the ruck was Jaco Peyper and I think was in the second Bledisloe test in Wellington that year, but it was a point well made as Wallanbiea generated few turnovers that day but did concede a number of pens at the breakdown.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 8th 2018 @ 9:35am
        -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        Thanks for the correction re: Peyper Highlander. I was scrolling through games on Wednesday trying to find it and with all the controversy during the England series it was my best guess.

        Interesting comment re: Genia in the defensive pattern. I agree. A lot of sides now defend their half on the blind side near the breakdown for that reason, and to take the pressure away from what can seem like acres of space on the open side of the field of course. The half can just as easily sweep from that blind side of the ruck once the ball is cleared as well.

    • June 8th 2018 @ 11:13am
      Sinclair said | June 8th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article. Selected Oz XXIII worries me. Some attacking potential and can defend well, as in Bledisloe 3 in 2017. However, really worried we will be outkicked (not much kicking power in the back 3 or midfield), outjumped in lineout (only 2 real targets v Ireland 4-5 targets) and out worked/outmuscled at breakdown. Backrow selected would be ace at tunnelball but not sure about lineouts. I am terrified by the potential disaster in midfield defence and I am worried about Koroibete under the high ball. Unbalanced backrow, unbalanced back 3 and midfield that can attack much better than defend. Hope I am wrong. There is a lot to like in all the individual players but I think selections are amplifying weaknesses in combinations not balancing things out. Still, I hope Cheika has some surprises and that I have obsessed on a few things and missed other more important things.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 8th 2018 @ 11:47am
        -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        Thanks for the comment Sinclair. You’ve raised some more interesting points. I agree with your concerns around ‘out kicked, and out jumped at lineout’.

        I can also confirm that Irish punters on forums are salivating at the thought of Bundee Aki and Henshaw targeting our midfield defence.

        The back row is an intriguing contest. No Leavy, or Beirne, for Ireland suggests to me that they will be very very patient at the ruck on defence. POM, CJ and Murphy are very good at moving bodies on attack though and will be critical for the Irish if they are to starve us of possession for long sequences of play. In direct contrast, you would expect to see Pocock and Hooper bouncing around from ruck to ruck like rubber balls thrown into a small box as usual!

        I think these days the Wallaby ‘back three’ is more like a Wallaby ‘back 3 and a half’, with 2 wholes, and 3 halfs… I expect to see Folau and DHP in full time positions at the back, with Genia sweeping half way, and the two ‘wings’ (Koroibete & Foley defending on the ends of the line) going soft on the open side of the field when needed. This will mean Foley and Koroibete can only be targeted by a cross field kick instead of any box or bomb. Hodge had to be the bench position not just because of his versatility, but his ability to play the DHP role in this system as well.

        At least that’s what I expect to see! Who knows, happy to keep mulling it over if you have any more comments.

        • June 8th 2018 @ 12:20pm
          Highander said | June 8th 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

          The Irish are no doubt the best in world rugby at keeping the ball.
          The tackle counts they enforced on others during the 6N were

          – Wales 225
          – France 253
          – Scotland 230
          – England 152

          Real defensive focus needed against this

          • Roar Guru

            June 8th 2018 @ 1:59pm
            The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 8th 2018 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

            Those stats are sick. Combine them with the tackling efficiency of the Wallabies backs from Super Rugby this season (they all are around 50-65 percent) and the conclusion is that the Wallabies pack gonna have to climb the Everest to get them over the line.

            • Roar Guru

              June 8th 2018 @ 3:19pm
              taylorman said | June 8th 2018 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

              Whats hard about climing mount everest. Knocked that bu?ga off in the fifties.😆

              • Roar Guru

                June 8th 2018 @ 3:52pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 8th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

                Not your usual style to downplay a true Kiwi hero like Edmund Hillary.
                Even to this day, defeating Mount Everest is no small task. A good mate of mine tried it ten years ago, he failed and was inches from losing the plot completely and die.

          • Roar Rookie

            June 8th 2018 @ 2:56pm
            -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

            Scary stats! Love it.

        • June 8th 2018 @ 12:24pm
          SP said | June 8th 2018 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          “I can also confirm that Irish punters on forums are salivating at the thought of Bundee Aki and Henshaw targeting our midfield defence”

          Bet they are. There are a few who believe they are already better than NZ.

          http://www.606v2.com/t67337p100-ireland-tour-of-australia-1979-2018-39-years-later Re: Ireland Tour of Australia 1979/2018 – 39 years later

          Post by rodders on Wed 06 Jun 2018, 10:57 am

          “If everyone remains fit I think I’m not convinced NZ can match our squad with their current crop”

          • Roar Rookie

            June 8th 2018 @ 12:35pm
            Paul D said | June 8th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

            Just the kind of hubris that brings people unstuck in spectacular, England at RWC15, kinds of ways.

          • June 8th 2018 @ 12:44pm
            Highlander said | June 8th 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

            Fair to say every rugby website will have its outliers.

          • Roar Guru

            June 8th 2018 @ 3:20pm
            taylorman said | June 8th 2018 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

            Good old rodders, gotta love him.

          • Roar Guru

            June 8th 2018 @ 5:51pm
            Derm McCrum said | June 8th 2018 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

            Classic Rodders comment.

          • June 9th 2018 @ 4:21pm
            Pablo said | June 9th 2018 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

            To quote one wild comment as an example of how Irish fans think is a bit disingenuous. What I am reading is that a lot of Irish fans aren’t too confident at all about this first test especially considering the changes in the team.

      • Roar Guru

        June 8th 2018 @ 7:15pm
        soapit said | June 8th 2018 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

        big question over the oz midfield defence surely? beale passable at best and kerevi has looked at sea at 13 at times. throw in the question over our back 3 kicking ( a lot depends on folaus improvements there) and theres a few options for ireland to attack.

        should be a really interesting series. 3 gamers are good arent they, chance for ebb and flow as each team learns and adapts

    • June 8th 2018 @ 12:31pm
      Iain Barclay said | June 8th 2018 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      Good intelligent assessment of what might happen. I tend to agree; however, if [big if] the Wallabies can keep the penalty count down I think they are a definite chance. Just think what could happen if we get reasonable possession and start throwing the ball around the way the Rebels, Waratahs, and Reds have all shown themselves capable of doing. Remember the Brumbies came from behind with only 14 men to beats the Bulls at their home ground, and the Waratahs probably only lost to the Crusaders in NZ because of some seriously bad umpiring. And the Rebels beat the Blues on their home turf without the nous of Genia. Collectively they have the talent to bother any side in the world if they find their best game. Maybe not this weekend – a weeks prep time together is asking a lot against a rampant Irish side at the tail-end of winning the 6 Nations series but by game two ……………..

      • Roar Rookie

        June 8th 2018 @ 3:06pm
        -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

        Absolutely Iain, we definitely have the ability if it all comes together. My main concern about our Super sides and the more recent Wallabies is how ‘streaky’ we seem to be. We will see glimpses of brilliance, sometimes for a whole game, and then we will see the complete opposite! I wonder if we can bring some consistency in our skill execution. There are many ways to win a game of rugby, we will see two completely different styles tomorrow… What makes a successful team is the consistency of decision making and skill execution. Very excited to see how it all plays out over the next few weeks.

        Thanks for the comment!

    • June 8th 2018 @ 2:23pm
      Sinclair said | June 8th 2018 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

      Dexter, agree re the back three and a half andI think the Irish will seek out Foley/Beale/ Koroibete if they are back, either as full-backs or soft wings. I think Foley and Beale are clear starters but have to be defending in place. They will concede the gain line which is not good but it is less bad them having the musical chairs. I would have preferred Kerevi off the bench and ideally a defensive unit at 13, given the b=fragility inside. That suggests TK (not in great form) or Hodge (not really a dominant tackler). English might have been considered? Hodge’s boot on a wing might have been useful.

      I am a believer that the essentials of the game don’t change much, even though the rules get tweaked every year. Ultimately we need a 5/8 who can control the tempo and position with boot but still set a backline going. We need strong set piece (which really means at least 3 strong jumping targets at lineout – scrum is now ok), big, fit, enforcers at 6 and 8 and a fetcher at 7. at least 2 of the back 3 who can punt a mile and are safe under the high ball. Strong defence in midfield with the attacking capacity to relieve pressure on the 10. A 9 who can pass like a bullet and snipe from time to time to fix the pillar and post. Cheika’s difficulty is that some of that is just not available and some of it he doesn’t seem to select. Ireland really seem to have most of these things well covered. That’s why I think they will take the series. Not the most exciting mid-field but good enough.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 8th 2018 @ 3:40pm
        -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

        Your list of needs in our ideal Wallabies side is almost as long as my mates list for his next missus… What a dream! Safe to say he’s been single for some time… ha

        Ireland are a smart team and may well find a way to target Foley/Beale/Koroibete with kicks. We definitely won’t be in perfect shape all of the time that’s for sure. Strange things always happen in games.

        I think we will see less musical chairs in defence tomorrow.

        I think we will see our backline defend in position on scrum. Lock down the left side by matching numbers and then play ‘one out’ defence on the right side with Genia drifting onto the 1st receiver on that side. This will take pressure off the decision making out wider as we will have an extra man. What this will do though is put pressure on our back row to defend the spaces around the scrum. Ireland may see this strategy coming and employ some interesting 8/9 plays. This kind of strategy around scrum time is one of my favourite things to keep an eye on.

        On lineout I expect Foley to defend in the channel like usual and Hooper to move to 10. Everyone else to line up in position but with Koroibete on the open wing and DHP on the blind so he is in that box/bomb position. Always less risk of defensive error on lineout than scrum in my opinion because an attacking team can only play one direction.

    • Roar Guru

      June 8th 2018 @ 4:26pm
      El Gamba said | June 8th 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

      Thanks Dexter, I don’t comment much on the roar any more but enjoyed your article and wanted to add my biggest concern for the Wallabies… being defensive structure and time together to readjust and gel to it from the various structures they play in their Super teams. I believe that these structures need to be so ingrained in the players mind that there is not a millisecond of hesitation. As soon as that happens your confidence goes and you start second guessing yourself. Just as worrying, players start second guessing those inside or outside. Although there is a core of guys in the key positions who played these structures last year in the wallaby set-up, I’m not convinced that they were ‘all over it then’ and even if they were, if they stick with the complexities there is bound to be rust. Even if they simplify it, it will be new and not instinctual.

      Is 6 days enough?

      • Roar Rookie

        June 8th 2018 @ 5:23pm
        -Dexter- said | June 8th 2018 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the comment El Gamba. You raise a great point.

        Have heard that Schmidt came out in justification of the Carbery move saying that he always planned to start him in a test this series. His reasoning for the first test was it had the longest lead up for Ireland of any of the tests.

        Now casting thoughts back to the Wallabies… 6 days isn’t long as you have said. Add in there a few players on debut and five/six of our forwards with less than 5 tests and it is a genuine concern. Other nations seem to be able to have a consistent message going through their provincial teams. We have four very unique styles in our Super sides. Could definitely be some confusion when the pressure comes.

        • Roar Guru

          June 8th 2018 @ 6:01pm
          Derm McCrum said | June 8th 2018 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

          Yes Schmidt did say this about Carbery at the selection presser earlier this week.

          What’s gone largely unremarked is the inexperienced front row that he’s selected with only McGrath in double cap figures and starts. Ryan and Herring are going to have a baptism of fire. Wallabies could make some headway there if scrums become a regular feature of the game, particularly if it’s wet/raining.

          • June 8th 2018 @ 7:16pm
            Highlander said | June 8th 2018 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

            That’s quite a front row on the bench though Derm.

            • Roar Guru

              June 9th 2018 @ 12:32am
              Derm McCrum said | June 9th 2018 @ 12:32am | ! Report

              Agreed Highlander. If they come on at the usual hour mark with the game tight, then it will prove useful. My concern is that the Wallaby props extract the maximum in the first half and gain a lot of points to leave the bench chasing the game.

              Ireland have learned to come from behind over the last while in a few games but that will depend on the margin.

              Ideally, they need to hit the hour mark on level terms, or near enough it, for the bench to make a successful scoring impact – either to retrieve the lead or hammer home the ascendancy.

              Schmidt wants/needs to test his backups resolve and starting capacity across the series. It’s the front row and 10 under the microscope in this first test. And to a lesser extent, Roux, Conan and Larmour from the bench.

              • June 9th 2018 @ 4:22am
                Cuw said | June 9th 2018 @ 4:22am | ! Report

                interesting that CArberry has not been playing much this season.

                also interesting to note the head hit Sexton took inthe Pro14 final from 2 guys.

                and interesting the front row as u have said.

                basically it seems as if the coach is doing things up-side-down. start with those who lack experience ansd usually expected to play off the bench…

        • June 8th 2018 @ 11:26pm
          Dan in Devon said | June 8th 2018 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

          I wonder about Carbery’s lack of match time during the season. Ross Byrne seemed to be the preferred choice.

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