What the Wallabies need to fix during the Rugby Championship

Gishan De Soyza Roar Pro

By Gishan De Soyza, Gishan De Soyza is a Roar Pro

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    Before the Ireland series, I was optimistic that the Wallabies could create an upset and win 3–0 so I could feel a bit better about 3-0 whitewash by England back in 2016.

    However, I was also preparing myself for the possibility of the exact opposite happening.

    There I was, nervously awaiting the first Test with all the hype and build-up, with flashes of the Scotland game last November still playing in my head.

    After the final whistle of the first Test, I had an unusual feeling; something I don’t feel very often after a Wallabies game: relived mostly, but I was also feeling a bit proud of the team and quietly confident that we could win the series against the world’s No.2 team.

    Now that the dust has settled, and emotions are back to normal, it’s as good a time as any to get some perspective.

    I for one am in a far better state than I was before the first game. It’s never easy to lose and it will go down as a historic series loss, but there was a lot to like about the men in gold and I’m hoping they will only improve.

    The most significant improvements were in kickoffs and re-starts, defusing high balls, defence, set pieces (the scrum in particular), and in attack.

    While there’s room for further improvement, these were areas of weakness not very long ago.

    Australia must further improve further during the Rugby Championship, specifically by fixing some weaknesses which are causing them to lose games they could win.

    Let’s look at what they need to focus on fixing.

    1. Kicking
    This weakness needs immediate attention and improvement if the Wallabies are going to beat good teams consistently.

    Apart from goal kicking and kick offs, all other aspects off the boot lack variation, accuracy and creativity. Giving Bernard Foley only kick offs, restarts and goal kicking would help improve this exit kicking, although in Super Rugby some of his kicks to Israel Folau near the tryline have been good.

    If Foley can execute accurately he should continue with that.

    2. One-off forward runners and running from a standing start in attack
    This is the most frustrating weakness, as it kills attacking momentum.

    The Wallabies have been guilty of doing this for quite some time now. This tactic results in a turnover more often than not.

    3. Protecting our own ball at the breakdown
    Even with David Pocock in the team, the Wallabies only barely manage. This again slows the momentum of the attack or even worse, leads to turnovers or penalties.

    I’m a Michael Hooper fan, and while this is not one of his strengths, modern rugby has moved on from this being the core responsibility of the No 7.

    The entire forward pack needs to focus on this – sometimes even the backs – but the fact is that it remains an area which needs improvement.

    Michael Hooper Australia Rugby Union Championship Bledisloe Cup Wallabies 2017 tall

    Michael Hooper (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    4. Game and referee management
    The Wallabies often find themselves playing too much rugby in their own half and, as a result, hand over easy possession by a dropped ball to put themselves under pressure, concede a breakdown turnover, or give away a penalty and concede points.

    Knowing when to kick and when to run the ball will help them to relieve pressure and put them in the right area of the field to maximise their attack, which is working well.

    Hooper and all the stand-in captains need to improve on managing the referee better as well.

    5. Decision making
    This is perhaps the main difference between winning and losing a close game, at which the All Blacks are the masters – you can count on their 23 making the right decision nine times out of ten.

    Along with their skill levels, this is the main reason the Aussies are where they are. What worries me is that this lacks in most areas, especially when the Wallabies are under pressure.

    Offloading when it’s not on, when to kick for goal and when to kick for touch are among the most common errors being made.

    I’m under no illusion that these can be fixed overnight, but they can be fixed, and results will follow.

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    The Crowd Says (53)

    • July 12th 2018 @ 7:54am
      Reverse Wheel said | July 12th 2018 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      I think #4 is a big one for us. We need to minimize the avoidable penalties. Any team is going to give away penalties, particularly at the breakdown where refs are not very patient if you get something wrong. But the dumb and lazy penalties are absolute killers, and we need them cut out completely. The offsides, the careless high tackles, the hand thrown out at a passed ball etc. Let’s not forget we scored a lot more tries than Ireland in the series yet still lost. We need to stop giving away cheap points and easy attacking opportunities.

    • July 12th 2018 @ 9:07am
      waxhead said | July 12th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      I have a few comments on your article Gishan

      1) Kicking – agreed has been a big problem for long time but your solution is poor imo.
      Foley is a pop gun inaccurate open field kicker.
      Always has been and still is. He shows no improvement in past 5 years.
      As such he’ll never be a world class flyhalf and no team be in the top 3 consistently without one.
      W’s need a new better flyhalf but there is no better replacement for Foley in Aust.

      Then you forgot to add the following big Wallaby weaknesses.

      Ordinary attack and offloading skills.
      Ordinary combinations between forwards & backs.
      Ordinary general catching, passing, tackling skills.
      Except for Folau W’s are crap at taking high balls and get beaten by opposition 80% of the time.
      Ordinary on-field discipline.

      Appalling selection policies – This is THE biggest problem imo.
      Blatant favouritism to Waratah players delivering selection of non test standard players every game.
      Phipps, Hanigan, Robinson, Simmons to name the most obvious duds.
      No team can afford to carry error prone passengers.
      Aust has far better players but they never get picked.

      • July 12th 2018 @ 12:34pm
        John DRYSDALE said | July 12th 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

        Waxhead,

        Readers have no reason to assume that you would be a better selector than the coach,
        With whom would you replace these players, pray tell?

    • July 12th 2018 @ 9:24am
      Reverse Wheel said | July 12th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      I recommend surgery.

      • July 12th 2018 @ 10:52am
        JP said | July 12th 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        For Cheika ?

    • July 12th 2018 @ 10:23am
      stubs said | July 12th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      The Wallabies also need to trust themselves and back their ability. Whilst playing in your own half isn’t ideal, constantly kicking away possession is never going to win you a game. I would like to see the wallabies take more ownership in earning the right to enter the opposition half by backing their talent rather than kicking it away and (usually) ending up with a net loss.

    • July 12th 2018 @ 10:37am
      Bobo the Clown said | July 12th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

      I need to somehow fix the 9 10 combo. I know it is literally the worst Wallabies Combination of all time imo. but i just don’t trust anyone else to do the job. I haven’t seen Powell play much so i cant gauge how good he is .I keep picking Phippsy in my squad ” Better the devil you know ” etc etc.

      With Foles ,i only give him kicks for touch and goalkicking to do so he feels involved, i don`t want to get him all stressed out thinking he has to be the playmaker. We have plenty of others to pick up his slack. anyway i cannot see any number 10`s who could do better than him. I have no choice but to select them, so forgive me .Hey guys !! . Can someone on here suggest a good 9 10 from club rugby ? Country Rugby, anyone ?

      • July 12th 2018 @ 7:44pm
        KiwiHaydn said | July 12th 2018 @ 7:44pm | ! Report

        What about Beale at 10? Playmaker – Yes, Kicking – Ok, Vision – Yes, Ability to manoeuvre team – Maybe? World class – Yes.

        Having Beale at 10 would free up the midfield for specialist midfielders, bring more flair into the backline, with a the option for Foley to play when a more one dimensional style is needed.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 3:01am
          canadiankiwi said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:01am | ! Report

          You are starting to sound like Robbie Deans with this crazy notion of putting your best playmaker, Beale, at 10. Deans was chased out of town with this type of thinking.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 1:04pm
          Yenda Ad Enthusiast said | July 13th 2018 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

          Wouldn’t mind Beale and 10 and Toomau at 12, question would be who goal kicks and who plays 13. This a backline I would like to see.

          9.Genia
          10.Beale
          11.Folau
          12.Toomau
          13.Kerevi/Hodge(for D and GK)
          14.DHP/Maddocks
          15.Banks

          21. Powell/Gordon (any word on White?)
          22. Kerevi/Hodge
          23.DHP/Maddocks

          More attacking 13/14 combo would be Kerevi and Maddocks, but the safer option would probably be Hodge and DHP. Hopefully Foley goes off in one of these games ( but for a rest , no injury!) so Beale can have some shots at goal and hopefully put me at ease. If not I’m afraid it’s Hodge or Foley, and I don’t want Foley he’s had a mortgage on the jersey for too long.

    • Roar Guru

      July 12th 2018 @ 10:50am
      Ralph said | July 12th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      Good effort Gishan,

      I think static forward runners can be caused by the opposition slowing the ball just a second or two so as to throw the timing and rhythm of the team off. Either the runner sees the delay and has to stop the timing of his run or he continues and over runs the pass.

      I would say therefore that accuracy in cleaning your breakdown is very important.

      • Roar Guru

        July 12th 2018 @ 11:14am
        PeterK said | July 12th 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

        IMO the reason for static ball runners is more because the ball is passed into their chest and not in front of them making them move forward. A major reason for this though is the forward isn’t expecting the pass being thrown in front and when it is he often drops it. A real chicken and egg and under pressure neither trusts the other thus static forwards one out.

        • July 12th 2018 @ 11:25am
          Fionn said | July 12th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

          I actually think that there has been a significant improvement in this, especially when they play off Genia. Neither Beale nor Foley pass in front of the man nearly as well.

          • Roar Guru

            July 12th 2018 @ 11:37am
            PeterK said | July 12th 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

            that is moreso in the backs, the forwards on one off drives even off genia are nearly always static instead of running onto the ball.

            • July 12th 2018 @ 11:46am
              Fionn said | July 12th 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

              Nah, I don’t think I agree, I was impressed at times with the forwards that drove onto the ball at speed off Genia. It certainly isn’t always, but I think it is definitely improving.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2018 @ 11:53am
                PeterK said | July 12th 2018 @ 11:53am | ! Report

                Yes agree it is improving, but off a very low base.

                More often than not they should run onto the ball but is by far the minority that the fowards do, most cases they are static.

          • July 13th 2018 @ 6:41am
            Uncle Eric said | July 13th 2018 @ 6:41am | ! Report

            Probably because they play so flat. Most of Beale’s and Foley’s passes are to players in line with them (particularly Beale’s because of his lateral running habit). In my view, the big problem is coaching and the solution for that is simple as abc: ANYONE BUT CHEIKA.

        • Roar Guru

          July 12th 2018 @ 12:57pm
          Ralph said | July 12th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          Good points Peter.

          Aaron Smiths’ passes ahead of the man create both the extra metre but also the speed onto the ball.

          • Roar Pro

            July 12th 2018 @ 5:42pm
            Gishan De Soyza said | July 12th 2018 @ 5:42pm | ! Report

            Fair point Ralph, although the All Black forwards are much more dominant in ball carrying, even if it’s from a standing start.

      • Roar Pro

        July 12th 2018 @ 5:12pm
        Gishan De Soyza said | July 12th 2018 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

        Cheers Ralph, my take on this is that whilst there has been an improvement in this area, there are still one of forward carries and the ball carrier gets tackled behind the gain line due to the lack of momentum. This then causes either slow ball, turn over or a penalty for holding on most of the time.

      • July 12th 2018 @ 6:18pm
        Baz said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

        Static ball runners is actually more complex problem. You can’t throw a pass into a ball runner if the defense is already in your face.
        To start with you must secure quick clean ball from the break down. Clear the ball from the ruck before the defense is set.
        This provides space. Given you have created space you can then pass the ball ahead of the receiver so he runs onto the ball.

        • Roar Pro

          July 12th 2018 @ 6:37pm
          Gishan De Soyza said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:37pm | ! Report

          True, perhaps in these situations the the intended runner could stand a bit deep so he can run on to the ball with momentum which will enable quicker ball in the next phase.

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