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Opinion

The dual pivot: Dave Rennie’s approach with the Wallabies

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Roar Guru
6th December, 2020
5

I think Dave Rennie has had the Wallabies develop a certain structure to their attack. Barring errors and with proper execution, it is very formidable.

In their recent series of draws with the Argentineans, we have seen them master the structure.

Yes, people will say that drawing with the Pumas is a bad thing, but the World Rugby Rankings show little about the current standings in rugby.

In the first draw (15-15), we saw them using their structure pretty well.

The second structure was scrappy but their were clear signs of Rennie’s tactics.

The dual pivot
This essentially means that two players will rotate in at first receiver on a good percentage of the plays. Their pivots stand at 10 and 12. In the first draw with the Argies it was Reece Hodge-Hunter Paisami. In the second it was James O’Connor-Paisami.

This kind of system suits the Wallabies well, and while other more attack-confident teams like the Springboks and All Blacks use the split between 10 and 15, this system best suits the inherent nature of the Wallabies right now.

Their pivots are often ball-carriers; JOC, Hodge, Paisami and the currently injured Matt To’omua all can crash the ball up.

This kind of system can counter a dead play where they are going no-where and they can take it in to generate more momentum.

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This also escapes the threat of the dual pivot in having two many hands and not enough runners at times.

Here is an example of carrying pivots.

Reece Hodge dummies and goes himself (first game with Argentina).

Reece Hodge of the Wallabies

Reece Hodge (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Also, when I talk about inherent nature of the Wallabies, I am referring to the current team dynamics of play.

They are a carrying team. Big boys in the forwards and big and fast boys in the backs.

The dual pivot constantly ensures momentum and someone other than the 9 to take the ball and make key decisions.

Here is an example. Hodge takes the ball at first receiver who does a skip-pass to Jordan Petaia who then engages the defences and passes on.

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A dual pivot also means two playmaking receivers. Here is an example.

Hodge takes the ball off Harry Wilson, passes to Paisami who does a skip pass out wide for a runner to play the ball into space.

One man does the distribution, another does the dynamite or key action in the movement. This has been used by the Wallabies on multiple occasions, but with less success on some others.

Forwards who pass
Like I mentioned before, Harry Wilson is an interesting and crucial cog in their attack. Harry Wilson is wide serves as the designated killer, with his great hands to set players away on the edge.

Here are examples.

Harry Wilson takes lineout skip-throw and then does an inside pass to Michael Hooper.

Harry Wilson breaks off the maul which turns in, allowing him to break off, fix Nicolas Sanchez and put away a pass down the wing to set the winger free.

Off 9
The Wallabies have a livewire scrumhalf in Nic White to create the opportunities off the back of the ruck. He is skilled, nippy and speedy, and extremely unpredictable. He often picks off the platform, stops fringe defence from drifting, creating space for his teammates.

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One example of his fringe-fixing would be Nic White playing a flat ball to JOC as he picks off the scrum. Though the overlap is shut off, JOC spots space and snipes.

He generates excellent quick ball playing when he wants to and he always poses a threat off attacking platforms, often forcing the defences to over-commit.

Tactical kicking
They split out-of-hand kicks between 10, 12 and 15. We saw this in Banks/Hodge at 15, Paisami at 12, and JOC at 10. Late in the game we also saw Marty Banks come on as a tactical kicker.

This is in terms of out-of-hand kicks. Most kicks in general are White’s responsibility.

Specialised construction
They often used screens to suck in and force the defence to be brought inwards and the attackers to adopt wide positions.

Here is an example of that.

Off a platform, we saw an attacking line off JOC. JOC stands at first receiver, with the second receiver behind a 3-man screen (3+1), and another Wallaby and Tom Wright in the wide channel.

There are several realistic options for JOC:
1. Pass to a runner in the front pod of carriers.
2. Play to third runner on screen to allow the +1 to come out.
3. Pass behind screen to +1
4. Skip pass to wide channel.
5. Kick

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JOC takes the fifth option and gets territorial gain. This example shows how simple screens and multilayering can increase the number of options in attack on top of protecting distribution.

Wallabies bad boy James O’Connor.

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

Dave Rennie’s attacking implementations have been very helpful to the Wallabies, and under him we can expect proper, logical structure in attack.

Their ideal pair of pivots are still JOC and Matt To’omua, but Paisami and Hodge can fill in if needed. Nic White is a great driver with lots of X-factor.

They have some great powerful forwards like Hooper, Matt Phillip, and Taniela Tupou.

Harry Wilson has great hands and can do the killer pass (he is the best man for it in the Wallabies). Jordan Petaia is a big ball carrier with a nice grubber kick, although he was spilling the wet ball on Saturday.

Their wingers always bring pace and power and Marike Koroibete brings a little something. They are employing a system of three viable in-play kickers to kick out-of-hand and White to kick from the base of the ruck.

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