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Wallabies' inconsistency might be best addressed by regular squad rotation

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25th September, 2022
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I have spent my Sunday like most diehard Aussie rugby fans, darkly mulling over the Wallabies’ 40-14 flogging at Eden Park.

Three events stick in my mind the most.

The first was Jed Holloway’s excellent linebreak in the first minute of the game, where he ran an excellent line to avoid a tackle while the other forwards in his pod kept the other defenders occupied. An improved running game from the forwards was evident in this game and shouldn’t go unrecognised, even if silly mistakes like Holloway’s subsequent yellow card prevented it from translating into points.

The second was Tom Wright’s tap and go without support followed by a grubber to the All Blacks, giving up a great attacking opportunity and resulting in an All Blacks counter-attack and a try by Will Jorden at the other end. Aside from Wright’s poor decision, the thing that stuck in my mind was the sight of Andrew Kellaway jogging across the park in cover defence, then being nowhere near Jordan to attempt the tackle.

The third event was Marika Koroibete’s mistake in putting his foot on the line when he had a clear run to the line from good handling by the Wallabies locks, Jed Holloway and Caderyn Neville.

Today I felt disappointed and angry about the Wallabies’ many mistakes, those by the outside backs in particular led to up to a 21-point difference in scores. But then I reminded myself that these men are the ones who have had to front up for one of the most physical contests of any sport in the world, not me, and became more philosophical.

I have asked myself: “why would such good players make such silly mistakes?”

Holloway, Wright, Kellaway, Koroibete have all played excellent rugby this year and all come across as highly committed.

Marika Koroibete of the Wallabies is tackled during The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Marvel Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Marika Koroibete (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Reflecting on all the talk of inconsistency in Wallabies performances at the moment, it occurred to me that every other team in The Rugby Championship has faced the same issue. Perhaps professional rugby has just reached a point where physical and mental high performance is being pushed beyond a limit that is sustainable on a weekly basis?

This begs the question, if our best team cannot back up a performance the next week, would our second best team do better? So, I compiled a starting 15 list of the squad members who were not selected to start in the second Bledisloe Cup match.

1.Angus Bell, 2. Folau Fainga’a, 3. Pone Fa’amausili, 4. Cadeyrn Neville, 5. Nick Frost, 6. Langi Gleeson, 7. Fraser McReight. 8. Harry Wilson, 9. Nic White (c), 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Jock Campbell, 12. Reece Hodge. 13. Jordan Petaia, 14. Suliasi Vunivalu 15. Kurtley Beale

Lachlan Lonergan and Tate McDermott were also available.

Does that look like a completely non-credible starting team to others? Because it doesn’t to me. I wonder whether starting the fresh legs and fresh minds who would be dead keen, would outweigh the benefits of selecting first-pick players and building on the previous week’s performance?

The latter is a strategy which clearly isn’t working, not just for the Wallabies either, so is there really anything to lose by trying?

The upcoming European tour has games against Scotland, France, Italy, Ireland and Wales, in that order, so the “easier” games will be first, third and fifth. With the pressure to bank wins from fans and the media, there is going to be the temptation for Rennie to play his best players against the weaker opponents.


I don’t care very much about Rennie’s win ratio. I can’t see anything that he is doing glaringly wrong as a coach that suggests that he is not doing the best any coach could, in an incredibly competitive international rugby environment.

Rather than taking a low-risk approach to bank a few wins, I would rather see Rennie take selection risks that maximise the Wallabies’ odds of winning all these games, even if that risks a more dramatic downside if things go wrong.

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Because in reality, winning all their games is what the Wallabies must do to have a chance of winning the World Cup next year.

If increasing squad rotations or a variation on that theme is part of the solution to winning all of the European games, it would need to be well explained to restless fans and media, who would greatly assist by demonstrating maturity and understanding about why selections are being changed more regularly.

It is less than a year now until the World Cup and we all know that when they play well the Wallabies can beat anybody. Our job is just to be as supportive as possible while they take the journey.