Former Wallabies assistant coach Laurie Fisher says the team is lacking clarity and that wholesale changes to the staff make it a tough fix in the short run in to the World Cup.
Fisher was part of Dave Rennie’s final Tests as an assistant, but was not renewed as Eddie Jones put together his coaching team for the Rugby Championship and World Cup.
While he has retired from the Brumbies, Fisher was involved with the Australia A team that lost in Tonga on Friday. The next day Jones’ Wallabies team slumped to a second straight defeat, losing to Argentine in Sydney.
Laurie Fisher joined Brett McKay and Harry Fisher to talk about the state of the Wallabies on The Roar Rugby Podcast. Listen here or on your podcast app of choice
“From watching the game, I don’t know that they have great clarity themselves at the moment,” Fisher told The Roar Rugby Podcast on Tuesday of the Wallabies.
“They have a new defensive coach [Brett Hodgson] who’s never coached rugby union, hasn’t played rugby union.
“He’s obviously working on connection and kick chase and first phase. Is he also talking about what is our contest policy between the 15s, what do you do in our own 22? I saw guys having a crack, but I didn’t see a designated policy of how we’re going to get some pressure on their ball.
“Even close to our line, I saw Jed Holloway pull out of a contest. For goodness sake, you’ve just got to go in and make a mess of it. It’s a non-negotiable. So I don’t know if that’s an area that they’ve addressed with any significance yet. So it’s a huge area for potential improvement.”
On Saturday night Jones acknowledged the magnitude of the task facing him.
“It was always going to be difficult, mate. We’re trying to change the team, and we’re also trying to change the way we play. So, we’ve sort of double-whammyed this, and I’m quite happy to accept that we’re not where we should be. But, I’m also quite happy to tell you that I think we’re on the right track and we’ll get there.
“It would have been easy if I come in, take the team, pared everything back, and played a really simple game but that’s not going to win us a World Cup. We need to be able to play a number of different ways.”
Fisher was asked if it might be an easy fix for Jones, but he suggested the turnover in staff made that unlikely.
“It can be simple (but) I don’t think it is with the Wallabies at the moment,” said Fisher. “There’s a lot of change in coaching personnel – new attack coach, new defence coach, new scrum coach, new maul coach, new lineout coach, new head coach. There’s a lot of change there.
“I’m not in the environment so I don’t know how the information is coming in and how that all gets shared around. I think if you had a team that were well honed in what they were doing, and you had a bad day, then it can turn around in an instant. But we’re still discovering ourselves really which is not an ideal part of where we are at the moment.”
But Fisher said Jones has the ability to get things back on track.
“Just don’t read too much into one game,” Fisher said. “Eddie’s been coaching a long time. He’s got a fantastic record. He’s got a clear idea. He’s got a lot of good people around him. And he’ll have an unwavering belief in what he wants to do.
“Eddie has come in and he doesn’t want to just dumb the game down and play a reduced version of what we’ve tried to do over the last few years and be competitive.
“He thinks he’s got a game and a style of play that can win a World Cup, win the British and Irish Lions series in two years time. So he’s got to stay true to that.
“And I can only speak from the Brumbies perspective in that we do have quite a structured game, as do the Waratahs, probably the Rebels and Queensland less so.
“But he’s tried to make fundamental changes to what guys see, how they make decisions, how they communicate. And that won’t happen overnight. But it will happen over a period of time.
“The challenge will be if you try to reinvent your attacking game, you’ve got all the other nuts and bolts of the game that you got to be working out too. So is it your tackle technique? Is it your breakdown work, your tackle contests? You’d probably say after the weekend that the set piece went well, you wouldn’t say that the week before.
“I think the set piece will be more than competitive all the way through. But you’ve got to be hitting all the key areas every week. It’s a short amount of time. It’s not like you’ve got a three-month pre-season to evolve your attacking game – you’re asking quality players to be able to take something that’s reasonably new to them. It’s rugby but just what you look at and how you get into position and how you communicate, what decisions you make, that’s where their teething problems lay at the moment.”
Fisher also discussed the form of several star players, including Will Skelton and Allan Alaalatoa, the need for more presence in the No.7 jersey, and the impact of playing a low possession game is having on the team.
He also agreed with pod host Harry Jones, who suggested the Wallabies needed more “screaming” from their leaders.
“I agree wholeheartedly that we don’t have enough volume or intensity consistently in our communication at training, on the field on game day,” Fisher said.
“I know Nic’s [White] felt the pressure that over a number of years, in his provincial and Wallaby environment that too often he feels that he’s the bad guy. Whereas it really is a shared responsibility. Just by demanding more of each other through our communication, that again, that can make an instant improvement in what you do.”
Jones is adamant that he’s leading the team in the right direction.
“I think we’re going to get a lot better, a lot quickly. And something will happen and it might be Richie Mo’unga runs, offloads, we intercept, we take a try and the whole team changes,” he said on Saturday.
“I know that’s a bit airy fairy, but that’s what happens to teams. And it happens in life. It’s just not happening at the moment, but it will.”
“I think they’re very much about trying to maintain positivity at the moment,” Fisher observed. “It would be different for every team and different depending upon your expectation and the time of season. But it’s most important that they retain positivity within the team, so they’ll be certainly no ranting and raving and yelling.
“Looking towards the World Cup, I tend to dismiss the next four weeks of rugby as they’re just playing footy, they are experimenting. I wouldn’t be dying in a ditch over a loss at this point in time. What I’d be mindful of is not exposing everything, but being good in physical shape and good frame of mind when you get there.”