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Opinion

The dual pivot: The dynamic attacking structure of the Wallabies

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Roar Guru
21st October, 2020
27
2300 Reads

The Wallabies have adopted an interesting attacking structure under Dave Rennie.

The use of two pivots has been adopted by many teams worldwide, especially successful teams. Ireland tried to have one with Jonathan Sexton for a long time. However, when so much pressure is heaped on one player, they typically tend to perform poorly at some stage or another, as shown by Sexton on multiple occasions.

Also, double pivots add more hands and distribution to the game, giving the team more options.

In the All Blacks we see this in Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett. In the Springboks we see this in Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux. In the English Roses we see this in George Ford and Owen Farrell.

The All Blacks, Springboks, and England currently stand as the top three sides in the world. This is much owing to the dual pivot use.

The All Blacks and Springboks are splitting the game management between Nos. and 15, with generals at No. 10 and fullbacks who provide the dynamite. The English team is more about bridging play and strong passing, thus they put their dual pivots in Nos. 10 and 12 respectively.

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In the two recent Bledisloe games the Wallabies have utilised the 10-12 pivot structure, and to some effect. They are a much stronger team than last year, and the major game-changing implementation of Dave Rennie was this new structure.

With this dual pivot system, both men have a lot of ball-in-hand time. In the recent Bledisloe draw, James O’Connor had 26 passes, ten carries, two kicks and two try assists. Matt To’omua had 18 passes, 12 carries, four kicks and two try assists. In that game the Wallabies had two tries, both off the hands of O’Connor and To’omua.

In their 27-7 loss O’Connor had 41 passes, three carries and two kicks. To’omua, whose impact was limited by his injury, made six passes, four carries, two kicks and one try assist. The Wallabies scored only one try in that game.

Wallabies bad boy James O’Connor.

James O’Connor. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Another key character in this tale of dual pivots is skilful flanker Harry Wilson, who has a more ‘provide the dynamite’ kind of role.

Retrospect their 16-16 game with the All Blacks.

In the first game we saw To’omua step in at distributor, orchestrating a bit of play with Taniela Tupou, who released to Harry Wilson, who then got Filipo Daugunu away down the wing with the draw and pass, becoming the first major break in the game.

Consider another break. James O’Connor plays the ball fast behind an excellent dummy line and then fixes his man with draw and pass, getting the ball away to Harry Wilson, who puts Folau Fa’ainga away with an offload, and the ball gets back to Daugunu for a second major break.

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We saw another lovely passage of play with James O’Connor setting himself into the running attack off regathering the ball, setting away a draw and pass through Michael Hooper to his fellow playmaker To’omua to put Daugunu in for a break.

When they have clean possession we see To’omua ad O’Connor alternating at first receiver, while the stunning ball handling of Harry Wilson, who acts as a designated killer to serve as the edge lineman to open the defence and instrument the break. Both men are used to sling passes to the edge and a designated killer, sometimes one of the two pivots for an example one of Daugunu’s breaks (as mentioned above), or a forward with great hands like Harry Wilson.

However, both playmakers featured in the set-piece backline try of that game.

Matt Toomua

Matt To’omua (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The play began with a Wallabies lineout, with a pod of To’omua, Daugunu and O’Connor. O’Connor is positioned just right behind To’omua. In this same space are Sam Cane, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue and Rieko Ioane. Barrett is positioned wider out on the long side while Damian McKenzie is in behind.

The Wallabies play it fast, using Hunter Paisami as a dummy runner to commit Ioane, while O’Connor slides himself outwards and takes the ball.

The Wallabies used Matt To’omua to hide O’Connor behind their attack, before dropping the pass to their playmaker.

O’Connor uses pace and agility as he runs diagonally, finally releasing Marika Koroibete with a beautiful pass to seal the try. McKenzie cannot stop him, and Koroibete crosses.

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Let us consider the second Bledisloe clash.

The Wallabies scored one try, and it was instrumented by To’omua. He steps in at first receiver, selecting a heavy running option of a forward. Then he shifts himself behind the runner, and as his teammate is tackled, there is no cleanout. To’omua takes the ball and slings a good pass to Koroibete, who dummies and scores.

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We saw another bit of play in an attempt for a try. O’Connor is at first receivers, and he slings it away to Jordan Petaia, whose pace and skills quickly gets Koroibete away, just that a brave cover tackle by Mo’unga allows the defenders to hold up Koroibete.

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Both O’Connor and To’omua are predominant flyhalves, and on the pitch both play the flyhalf role-distribute, kick and command plays. Both are solid and gifted playmakers who are often in the heart of try-scoring plays. Also, both players have their carrying ability, which poses a double threat.

Then, Harry Wilson out wide serves as the designated killer, with his great hands to set players away on the edge.

The Wallabies have a livewire scrumhalf in Nic White to create the opportunities off the back of the ruck and then two playmakers who have decent running games in James O’Connor and Matt To’omua. They have two pace/power wings in Marike Koroibete, Koroibete more on the bruising ball carrier side and Daugunu more on the pace and agility side. On the edge they have a forward – certainly many will find this surprising – in Harry Wilson to do the job of a designated killer.

With play running off the two pivots – O’Connor and To’omua – and with Harry Wilson on the edge to provide the dynamite, the Wallabies have a formidable attack to challenge in the Rugby Championship.