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Do lineout woes go hand in hand with Pooper against All Blacks?

David Pocock is better than Mike Hooper. Simple. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Roar Guru
19th August, 2018
57

The All Blacks annihilated the Wallaby lineout, stealing seven and winning six penalties at scrum time.

This completely disrupted and/or stole the Wallabies’ set piece ball. As Steve Hansen said post match that is where you win the game – and they put plans in place to do just that.

At the risk of bragging – okay so I am bragging – I said weeks ago the All Blacks would destroy the Wallaby lineout. People with nous like Nick Bishop insinuated that I was basing my analysis on last year’s statistics.

But my analysis was never based on last year – but rather what I believed would would happen this season. Whether one of The Roar’s most astute rugby scribes has guts to eat a bit of humble pie or not – he was wrong.

My reasons were simple – last season Stephen Moore threw much of the ball in. This year it was clear if Rob Simmons didn’t start then the more inexperienced lineout caller would be Adam Coleman who is still learning his trade at test level.

Furthermore claims from some Roarers that Tatafu Polota-Nau had got better at throwing in England before his return has to be balanced with the fact he is never throwing to the best defensive lineout in the world – which the All Blacks most certainly are.

The Wallaby lineout was a complete shambles that got attacked with devastating consequences in the context of the game. It was an echo of the 2015 World Cup final – but worse!

This does not speak well for Cheika and his fellow coaches.

Was it mere coincidence that with the Popper return the Wallaby lineout came under more scrutiny as it has in the past against the All Blacks with this combination?

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Pocock didn’t play last season as we know. So my analysis was sound and proven right – bitter pill though it may be for some to swallow.

The AB lineout most certainly covered itself in glory – how many sides get seven lineout steals in a single Test match?

The big question now is what the hell is Cheika going to do?

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika speaks to his players during an Australian Wallabies training session

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

And no, it is not a simple fix against this AB defensive lineout who clearly have the Wallaby measure.

Questions need to be asked – Pooper returned and so did the lineout woes, yet both had good games. In Pocock’s case the performance was outstanding.

But the All Blacks, yet again, largely nullified Pocock’s threat around the ruck – they are one of the few sides in world that seem to be able to do this with any sort of consistency – perhaps because they have seriously talented powerhouse backrow and a coaching staff that are second to none.

Hooper – despite his enormous value and world class abilities he gives to any side he plays in – still lacks weight and power. He hasn’t got enough serious upper body strength in the contact.

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It was exposed at times in this Test – none more so than we hit the ruck to stop Sam Cane stealing the ball. Cane didn’t even move and got the steal. It was not the only time.

Hooper, like Pocock, is superb in the D but the combined hitting power of Sam Cane, Kieran Read and Liam Squire (who was a bull in the contact in this Test and is growing fast as Test no6) just has more ‘hurting power’ physically. However it was most certainly a great defensive first half from the Wallabies – the best I have seen from them.

The All Blacks weren’t as exhausted as you’d have imagined. Some Wallaby players, on the other hand, were visibly knackered ten minutes into the second half.

Congrats to Jake Maddocks on debut Test try – he may start next game on the wing or at the back – but will Simmons start for the sake of the lineout?

And will he stick with Pooper? Probably – but at what cost?