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The June Tests panel: What tweaks are needed for the second Tests?

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Wow, what a start to the June Test Match window – 15 minutes of New Zealand brilliance, followed by Australian defence to behold, followed by a South Africa comeback for the ages. How good is international rugby!

    Across the discussion panel it was only Nobes’ ongoing frustration with the state of coaching around Los Pumas that let southern hemisphere rugby down. Even our adoptive Super Rugby cousins from Japan kicked off their campaign with a solid win over Italy.

    But winning last weekend means nothing if our respective sides don’t learn from the mistakes they still made. If their opponents make the huge gains required while our sides stay still, they’ll actually have gone backwards. In the case of Argentina, learning from their mistakes will be the difference between more anguish this weekend and squaring the series.

    There is, as is always the case around Test rugby, much to discuss.

    This weekend’s internationals
    New Zealand vs France, Wellington
    Australia vs Ireland, Melbourne
    South Africa vs England, Bloemfontein
    Argentina vs Wales, Santa Fe

    Japan vs Italy, Kobe
    Canada vs Russia, Ottawa
    USA vs Scotland, Houston

    The question: What obvious tweaks or improvements will my national side need after the first test?

    While the end result was pleasing last weekend, composure, execution and discipline let the All Blacks down at times, particularly in the first 30 minutes.

    I suppose it is a bit harsh given it was the first hit-out of the season, and it improved during the match, but I feel New Zealand have an uncanny knack of putting themselves under pressure.

    Last week we saw an intercept pass, a penalty conceded from backchat eight points down already, not to mention pushed passes in midfield. Arrgh, no more, please!

    I really want to see the All Blacks start the match composed and ready to do the hard yards first, particularly in their own territory.

    Control, execution and no more silly penalties. particularly after last week, as it isn’t inconceivable that the team will be under extra scrutiny this weekend.

    Brodie Retallick New Zealand Rugby Union All Blacks 2017

    (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

    It seems trite to suggest any obvious tweaks for a side that scores 44 unanswered points in the second half of a Test match, but one thing the All Blacks will strive for this week is to maintain or even increase their level of physicality while at the same time steering well clear of any sanctionable offences.

    It’s a fine line to walk. On one hand there is a line of critics who point to repeated incidents of foul play involving All Blacks (eight yellow cards and one red card last season) as souring their legacy; on the other, more critics claiming that referees are intimidated by and are soft on the All Blacks as a result.

    The All Blacks are not a dirty team and their reputation matters to them, so they will aim their sights a wee bit lower but look to hit a wee bit harder.

    The Wallabies are in the unusual position where their kicking game is now both a strength (high contestable kicks) and a weakness (defensive exit and for field position). While it’s great to see positive intent via running plays and short cross kicks, it’s a risky game to concede field position and not expect to be punished on the scoreboard.

    Thus the tweak I’m looking for this week is for the Wallabies – through Kurtley Beale and, later, Reece Hodge – to be more definitive about punching the ball across halfway, more often than what occurred in Brisbane.

    Kurtley Beale

    (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

    Last week’s gritty win in Brisbane needs to be the Wallabies benchmark, not just for the remaining Tests against Ireland but for the rest of 2018.

    It was a high mark for hard work and achievement of a common goal not seen since the second Bledisloe Test last season. Like in Dunedin that night last August, the key to the Wallabies’ defensive intelligence was its simplicity: few moving parts, players in position early, line speed that choked both the breakdown and the Irish midfield and intensity in the collisions. Sometimes a tad too much intensity, as Adam Coleman was found to have applied several decades before Israel Folau crossed in the corner at the other end of the field.

    I don’t want any of that to change – if anything, I just want the timing to be even more on the money, as it will need to be with the expected improvements coming from the Irish.

    The tactical kicking – all kicking from hand, actually – needs to be on point too, especially if it’s wet in Melbourne as anticipated. If Kurtley Beale isn’t in the position for the kick, then Bernard Foley needs to be at his very best. I can handle him giving up distance for accuracy, but what he served up last week was seldom distant nor accurate.

    The most frustrating thing about this is there are so many kicking options available for the Wallabies – but are they all making sure they present as genuine options?

    This is a really exciting time for Wallabies fans but really anxious times too. Come Saturday night we’ll be 80 minutes away from something wonderful. Or something oh so frustratingly familiar.

    Adam Coleman

    (Albert Perez/Getty Images)

    After Faf du Plessis sold Maro Itoje the Brooklyn Bridge and the Trumpian country of ‘Nambia’ to score a classic halfback try, I texted Roarers ‘Rugby Tragic’ and ‘DaniE’ that the match at Ellis Park could turn into one of those instant classics or would be a real rout.

    The 320-cap Boks, without any starting combination that had ever played together at any level, picked themselves off the canvas after Deadeye Owen Farrell laughed to his reserve corps as he jogged and scored the third try unopposed.

    I should just say: “Nothing! Do that again! Make Eddie lose his mind”.

    But Rassie Erasmus and defence guru Jacques Nienaber will definitely work on the shape of the outside centre-wing channel. Lukhanyo Am can be the long-term answer to that question plaguing South Africa since Jaque Fourie’s premature departure. But Am has to be the short-term answer, now! He cannot gun up in a pressure defensive system if he is not going to smother the ball.

    Also, the starting props may need to be flipped. No prop in any team has outperformed honest Steven Kitshoff over the last two seasons. And Wilco Louw is carrying some kind of injury.

    Springbok Dillyn Lleyds with ball in hand poised to break through the All Blacks line

    (Peter Heeger/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

    Last week I made a point that Daniel Hourcade was going to be under a lot of pressure with a bad result. Well, it was not only a bad result against the Wales B team but an awful performance by Los Pumas.

    Mario Ledesma handed a Ferrari to Mr Hourcade and he crashed it. We did not get to see any of the good things that the Jaguares have been doing in Super Rugby, and in exchange we saw most of the bad things that Los Pumas have been doing since 2016. If 18 consecutive defeats against Tier 1 Nations does not ring the bell, I have no idea what will.

    My answer to the question will only take a very few words: I would like to see a change in the coaching staff, period.

    The press has been really shy on this topic, but the social networks so discredited by Argentine Rugby Union have spoken heavily on this matter. With no strings attached to anybody, I can speak freely thanks to The Roar and this panel. And I will.

    It was notorious that the same players skippered by a different captain and under the instructions of Mr Hourcade did not feel comfortable on the field. The body language and attitude of most players was not the same that we have seen in the Jaguares under Mario Ledesma. Also, the strategy was not quite right against a team that defended very well and slowed every ball in every possible way.

    The Jaguares set piece that had been improving so much went back many steps under the Pumas. Penalties are back, the defence was poor and the movements were so predictability obvious.

    There are so many things I would like to see different, not just improved, that I think it is time to go South Africa’s way and go ahead and change the commanders. Not much to lose at this point.

    What tweaks are you making to your national side this weekend? Are you just trimming around the edges, or are cutting things up and starting again?

    Let us know below and enjoy your weekend of international rugby.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

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

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    The Crowd Says (164)

    • June 14th 2018 @ 7:34am
      Canetragic said | June 14th 2018 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      Tackle low. Don’t rush the pass. Patience

      • June 14th 2018 @ 11:30am
        Noodles said | June 14th 2018 @ 11:30am | ! Report

        WB version: kick with purpose, accuracy at breakdown/lineout (otherwise more of the same pls)!

        • June 14th 2018 @ 2:32pm
          Old One Eye said | June 14th 2018 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

          Foley to kick only if at goal or if kicking to Folau

      • June 14th 2018 @ 10:35pm
        Realist said | June 14th 2018 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

        Nic Phipps to lock himself in his bedroom on Friday and not let himself out until after the end of the Test series (and the next RWC).

        Hopefully he has a bunk bed for his mate Neddy Hanigan (and his pi$$-weak cleanout attempts).

        • Roar Pro

          June 15th 2018 @ 4:36pm
          Matt Davis said | June 15th 2018 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

          Lol, you’re a sad little person!

    • June 14th 2018 @ 7:40am
      Canetragic said | June 14th 2018 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Oh and some gratuitous advice to the Poms – don’t laugh at the Boks when they are down. They don’t like that!

      • June 14th 2018 @ 9:30am
        Morsie said | June 14th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        No, please do it again.

        • June 14th 2018 @ 10:25am
          James Butcher said | June 14th 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          Yep arrogant England, thankfully they’re the only team that has players who celebrate or smile when they have a run in try. 🤔

    • Roar Guru

      June 14th 2018 @ 7:59am
      taylorman said | June 14th 2018 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      All three main matches had poor SH starts, so thats the first thing to address. In their favour is it appears the visiting sides started with a tempo that was never going to last for 80, so whether its tiredness, overeagerness by the tourists, a slow start to the test season for the homees, or the comparative benches of the SH and NH, the starts need to improve.

      You cant rely on the NH sides tiring again, especially if they start more conservatively. If France had managed the same 40 in the second half, they might have won. So all three have shown at least 30 minutes of parity.

      ABs have named the first same 23 in three years, a deliberate effort on Hansens behalf to build consistency across the side. I think hes happy with the starting mix, and finally he has a bench almost as good as the Cruden, Faumuina etc sides. Time to consolidate, yet look at bringing in the injureds later, Naholo again the loser for this approach as normally Hansen would give the fringe players a run second up.

      In oz its fairly clear Pooper, Foley, Folau, Genia, and Beale remain locked in for WC 2019, only injury likely to see one of them out, and fair enough. Each is playing near the top of their game based on last week.

      I think England will suffer at the hands of youth and excitement at altitude this weekend. Tails are up and players are stepping up where the Fords, Itojes etc are flatlining. Relying on space out wide again or tries like Mays down the middle could be stretching things too far.

      As always, looking for a 3-0 win across the three, and therefore another quiet week from the swede…bliss!😂

      • June 14th 2018 @ 8:09am
        moa said | June 14th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        You posted while I was writing.I needed have bothered!

      • June 14th 2018 @ 8:29am
        Daveski said | June 14th 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        Of course if the citing commissioners had done their job it wouldn’t be the same 23 hey Tman?

        I’m just stirring.

        What I’d like to see is 15 v 15 at all times, Ireland offering a bit more of a ball in hand threat but Australia combating that ( the former may not happen in a wet Melbourne), more highlight reel plays from Skosi and Dyanti, Argentina bouncing back, Japan going 2-0 with more wonderful tries and Georgia grinding out more wins in the Sth Pacific.

        Also a chance for a reasonably full strength US team ( minus a few of their dual intl 7s players) to show what they can do against a young Scotland team.

        • Roar Guru

          June 14th 2018 @ 9:37am
          taylorman said | June 14th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

          Yea theres talk about a yellow just being a warning, a second and red, off. Same as footballet. Makes sense.

          Gives the player the same chance to think. If hes done the less serious foul, hes done it, warning achieved. Only problem with that is if sides systematically deploy yellow card level knowing theres no immediate punishment. Maybe add three team yellows, the third is off for a team red.

          • June 14th 2018 @ 10:06am
            Jacko said | June 14th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

            In Footballl they add the yellows up over a season and once you reach a certain number you miss a match….maybe that could be part of the thinking…Get 4 yellows…miss a match…maybe only 3 for internationals

      • June 14th 2018 @ 8:50am
        Pistol Pete said | June 14th 2018 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        maybe you and the swede should give it rest taylorman? can’t speak for all other roarers, but i’m deadly tired of the slurs and digs you deliver on a daily basis. yes, the roar is an open opinion forum, but the lack of respect you show to everyone who comes here to read and discuss rugby in a respectful and informed manner is disturbing.

        • June 14th 2018 @ 8:58am
          Highlander said | June 14th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

          I’m with Pistol Pete on this one – tons of good code to talk about gents.

        • June 14th 2018 @ 9:15am
          Jacko said | June 14th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Chat to the Swede too Pistol…..The Swede would kick a dog if he thought it had once eaten a NZ doggy buscuit let alone if it had an NZ owner

        • June 14th 2018 @ 9:36am
          moa said | June 14th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

          I’m with Pistol Pete on this one too TM; although your above comment was absolutely harmless it was a barb nevertheless.
          What separates The Roar from many other fora is that the debate is usually politely conducted with minimal ad hominem attacks.
          Your feud with the (occasionally less than) Neutral Swede has sometimes taken over threads completely!

        • Roar Guru

          June 14th 2018 @ 2:48pm
          The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 14th 2018 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

          Point taken PP.

        • Columnist

          June 14th 2018 @ 3:39pm
          Brett McKay said | June 14th 2018 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

          I’m not wanting to load up on Taylorman or NV here, but it would be great if Pistol Pete’s advice is taken more broadly across the board. The less we all have to wade through dozens of pointless and petty posts to get to the meaningful discussion, the better off we’ll be.

          Reckon this thread shows that we all want to have great discussions, and with plenty of fun and banter along the way. Let’s try and keep the quality of discussion up as much as possible…

      • June 14th 2018 @ 9:27am
        jacko said | June 14th 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Tman I think you are being harsh on the ABs by saying the French could have won as the ABs always looked to be dominant and it always looked to be just a matter of time before the ABs put it together……ABs by 20…series decided.
        The irish will stand up this week as they are no 2 in the world and will want to prove they deserve to be….Aus will need to improve from last week to wrap the series up on Saturday…..I want a decider so Irish by 8
        Surely England has to earn some respect or start looking for a coach…England has the players to win this but can Eddie get them up….For the series i want England to win……and i think they will by 3
        Come on Argentina…play like the Jaguares and win by 12
        Wins to Japan, Canada and Scotland in the others

        • June 14th 2018 @ 9:38am
          moa said | June 14th 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

          @ jacko
          TM said they could have won if they played the 2nd 40 like the first! That was never going to happen mate.
          Ten minutes before the break the ABs were already on the ascendancy.

          • June 14th 2018 @ 10:16am
            jacko said | June 14th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

            Moa…my thoughts were that NZ was the best side in the first half anyway….Sure the French led at half time but it never looked like they would win…..ABs made mistakes they wernt going to make all game and if Crotty…didnt he have an interesting game…had passed correctly on a couple of occasions the ABs were 2-3 tries up anyway…So to me even if the french had played the 2nd like the 1st it was still an ABs win…Not by 40 tho of course……

            • June 14th 2018 @ 12:23pm
              WA Rugby nut said | June 14th 2018 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

              French try was against run of play and quite fortunate for them

      • June 14th 2018 @ 10:29am
        James Butcher said | June 14th 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        I’m not sure that England tired that much tbh, despite all of the chat about altitude, they finished the stronger. Tiredness and altitude were definitely not the reasons for the loss IMO.

      • June 14th 2018 @ 2:14pm
        Faith said | June 14th 2018 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

        Ha! Yes the Swede has been quiet after an NH top sides shut-out. Lol. Not every day that your core belief that SH rugby is dying and NH is rising is debunked in a day. Especially after arguing that NH club culture is the reality we all have to live with (yeah that’s what’s causing English and French rugby so much misery now and will continue to do so). After rewatching all 3 games its clear that the Oz and S.A games will be the most competitive – France will rise to this but as showed in Game 1 they were already being rocked in the midfield and it was all a matter of time … can Oz bring back to back defensive grit in games. Can S.A keep their composure when England are on attack?

        • Roar Guru

          June 14th 2018 @ 2:47pm
          The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 14th 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

          Results from two Test (and both were very even) changes the big picture? For your information, I am no fan of English and French setups, just been stating the obvious, that their financial power is effecting SANZAAR rugby in a negative wave. And I have been posting ideas about how NZR and RA can possibly counter this (but somehow that is very sensitive subject for the usual suspects).

          The only teams I cheered for a little bit last weekend was Argentina and Japan hence I want to see the new kids on the block do good and grow (I do the same thing with Jaguares and Sunwolves in Super Rugby). And South Africa, of course, because I truly want the game to grow among the black population in the Republic.

        • June 14th 2018 @ 2:51pm
          Faith said | June 14th 2018 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

          England were lucky to have Itoje on pitch for 80 after late and high tackles on Faf. In fact Mako’s YC prolly came after Itoje’s constant infringements. S.A really have to figure out their defensive alignment especially out wide. Curious who’s Ref in that encounter – very key. O’Keefe is very lenient.

          • Roar Guru

            June 14th 2018 @ 3:40pm
            The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 14th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

            You don’t reckon if Itoje had tackled Faf high – and it was deemed a red card offense somehow missed by the ref – he would have been cited?
            Overall it is kind of funny that some are upset about a lock is going for a “hot” scrumhalf.
            The Boks will probably face a tougher and more compact England pack this Saturday. Launchbury to partner Itoje and Shields will most likely replace Robshaw. Two clear upgrades in my book. Billy Vunipola has had another week to regain some fitness also.

            • Roar Rookie

              June 14th 2018 @ 4:05pm
              Paulo said | June 14th 2018 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

              I haven’t seen the match, but reading waht Faith said, it appears he is referring to potential YCs not necessarily a Red, and you know citing are only for Red card threshold. How bad were the shots?

    • June 14th 2018 @ 8:07am
      moa said | June 14th 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      The ABs have named an unchanged 23 for the first time in 3 years-apparently.
      That tells us, I suppose, that they think more of the same only more precisely and more often.

      I really want to see more direct running and more pick and goes early on and I particularly want to see improved discipline–particularly regarding tackling below the head please!

      France have made five changes.I expect them to be just as tough early on.Whether they can stand the tempo for the full eighty is the big question.

      As a neutral, the other two games could be compelling viewing.Both games offer a lot.Will Ireland play any differently? Can Oz back up?
      Will the English bounce back or the Boks again prove too much?

      • June 14th 2018 @ 11:50am
        bigbaz said | June 14th 2018 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        maybe France should bring on their u/20 pack

        • June 14th 2018 @ 1:05pm
          moa said | June 14th 2018 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

          Those boys absolutely monstered the NZ pack at scrum/maul didn’t they?

          • June 15th 2018 @ 7:42am
            bigbaz said | June 15th 2018 @ 7:42am | ! Report

            It was something to behold Moa , you sure EJ didn’t get to that Kiwi pack

      • June 14th 2018 @ 4:06pm
        Phil said | June 14th 2018 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        Moa,I see Cheika has named an unchanged 23 for the first time in his coaching tenure with the Wallabies.Starting XV also.

      • Roar Guru

        June 14th 2018 @ 4:33pm
        taylorman said | June 14th 2018 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

        Still feel for Naholo who would bolt into any other 23 going. I think the fact that he doesnt need lead in time means hes ready to go at short notice. Just shows how strong our outside back numbers are. Managing Ben Smith is going to kick in at some pointso maybe he’ll get time then.

    • Roar Guru

      June 14th 2018 @ 8:17am
      Kia Kaha said | June 14th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      I seem to recall the last time the French toured NZ it was a shutout. 23 – 0 or thereabouts. A blackout! Low scoring but highly satisfying.

      No yellow cards. Or red ones for that matter.

      I don’t ask for much…

    • June 14th 2018 @ 8:17am
      Cynical Play said | June 14th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      I’m with GP. Big boot from WBs when in own third to play as much in Irish 1/4 as possible. Rodda and Timu to go up 2 gears.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 14th 2018 @ 12:31pm
        Don said | June 14th 2018 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        I’m hoping Timu is better for his first run and the side is learning how to best use him.

        Eg. Not that I want to see it yet, but in a few games time I’m looking forward to seeing him given a bit of license to offload.

        Rodda will evolve. There’s still a good argument for starting Simmons for his lineout and scrum talents and bringing Rodda on from the Pine.
        But with Pooper starting we probably need Rodda for his big body ball running during the early stages.

        • June 14th 2018 @ 12:44pm
          The Slow Eater said | June 14th 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          Isn’t Arnold back this week? Will he get a look in I wonder?

        • June 14th 2018 @ 1:12pm
          Cynical Play said | June 14th 2018 @ 1:12pm | ! Report


          I think Ireland will pepper the touch-line with touch-finders in Oz 1/3, then look to drive from the lineout. No more bombs. Which brings Simmons right into starting contention. It will be hard to defend but the back three will have to guard the line very closely.

          • Roar Rookie

            June 14th 2018 @ 3:24pm
            Don said | June 14th 2018 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

            CP, The way you’ve predicted is exactly what the Highlanders did to the Tahs in the 2015 semi final.
            Kick deep into touch and chase hard to avoid a quick throw in.
            Avoid having to defend Folau and Beale in broken field play.
            Then pressure the weaker line out.

            Slow the Wallabies down.

    , ,