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Studs and duds: Eddie's 'wrongheaded' selections, Carter '100 percent a concern', 'weapon' fires at last

27th August, 2023
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27th August, 2023
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Carter Gordon’s baptism of fire from the kicking tee at international level continued while there was a promising performance up front for the Wallabies in the 41-17 loss to France on Monday. Here’s who starred and who stuttered in Paris in Australia’s final game before the World Cup.

The size of Australia’s defeat inevitably drew comparisons to Australia’s previous visit to Paris, when Dave Rennie’s team went down by a solitary point in one of his final games in charge.

While Eddie Jones continues to talk positively about his team’s chances when the Cup starts on September 9, his selection decisions – opting for youth over experience in key areas – are looking tough to justify.

On The Roar’s Instant Reaction podcast, Harry Jones said the headline of the game was “Wrong Kiwi brought to camp” in a nod to Jones’ decision to bring in Steve Hansen to help out last week, and the decision of Rugby Australia boss Hamish McLennan to replace Rennie.

“You look back at 29-30 against France by Dave Rennie and that was the way to play,” said Harry Jones.

“I thought there were large portions of the game that suffered from Eddie Jones’s selections. They were wrongheaded, and they showed up exactly in this match. Will they show up against Georgia? No. Will they show up against other teams? No. But against the big boys having a naïve playmaker [won’t work].”

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Jones’ biggest call for the tournament – and there were plenty – was to entrust the number 10 jersey to Gordon and leave out the experienced Quade Cooper or Bernard Foley.

Gordon missed four shots from the tee, including three in a relatively even first half, costing the team 10 points in all.

Carter Gordon of Australia is tackled by Jonathan Danty and Francois Cros of France during the match between France and Australia at Stade de France on August 27, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Carter Gordon of Australia is tackled by Jonathan Danty and Francois Cros of France during the match between France and Australia at Stade de France on August 27, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old was one of 12 players in Australia’s matchday squad with 10 caps or fewer.

“It’s 100 percent a concern,” Eddie Jones said afterwards. “But all we can do is work with the young kid.

“We’ve got young kids in this team and we’re backing them, and he’ll get better.”

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Harry Jones pointed to a techincal issue with how Gordon was addressing the ball for his shots at the poles.

“The guy strikes the ball beautifully. So that’s not the issue. It’s like the dreaded straight ball in golf when you set up for a draw that never comes.

“That’s the problem for Carter. I’m not bashing the guy. It’s so early in his career. You wouldn’t expect it to make these kinds of kicks. But it has to be fixed.

“I think there was a lot of self sabotage because I think that the scoreboard pressure ended up being self inflicted. “

Australia’s midfield lacked cohesion. Tate McDermott was “too hair on fire on some of his breaks,” according to Harry Jones, while his block that left Andrew Kellaway in strife was “just unbelievably stupid.”

“Tate, Carter, Foketi, Petaia, that’s a strange foursome. And I could see that that wasn’t working,” said Harry.

The exception was the performance of the back three, said Brett McKay on the Instant Reaction podcast.

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“The Kellaway – Nawaqanitawase combination is very, very good. But full credit to Suliasi Vunivalu, that was by some margin, his best ever Test match for Australia. He was very, very good,” said McKay.

The former Melbourne Storm star scored a late try, plucking a high kick from the air.

Mark Nawaqanitawase of Australia scores the team’s first try during the 2023 Summer International match between France and Australia at Stade de France on August 27, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“I was thinking about a number of players that are improving and Suli’s one,” said Eddie Jones.

“He scored one good try, could have scored a couple more. He looked like he was ready to play at the highest level.”

Harry Jones was also impressed by some of Vunivalu’s play.

“He showed more spatial awareness. There’s still sometimes on the offense I think he gets lost but you can see that he is a weapon in the air – he’s definitely more comfortable than the French,” said Harry, although he felt there was too much pressure on fullback Kellaway.

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“Kellaway was basically the guy on the boundary cutting off fours and sixes. I would love to see his GPS,” Harry said.

“The French have the longest kickers in in the game so they’re just booting the ball so far. Kellaway could never really stay at home or launch a counter because he had too much to cover. That was horrible. There were just moments that calm was needed.

“There were just moments where you looked at a younger team playing a more experienced team but you could tell the difference of people who have been in big matches before. The French were patient. They knew their time would come they knew that time would come to throw miracle offloads. But I think the Wallabies from the jump when they had some moments that were trying too hard.”

Also encouraging was the performance of the pack, particularly props Taniela Tupou and Angus Bell, who both looked strong as they continue their paths back from long term injuries.

Thibaud Flament of France is tackled by Richie Arnold and Taniela Tupou of Australia during the 2023 Summer International match between France and Australia at Stade de France on August 27, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“The scrum was excellent. The starting front row did a real number on the French scrum,” said McKay. “Lineout was a worry. There was a couple of times Dave Porecki’s throw was picked off and mostly because they were throwing to Tom Hooper a lot at the front so they just got up in front of him.”

Lineout throwing has been an issue for Australia for some time.

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“I think you’d have separate ratings for rising or falling for Porecki and Matt Fessler if you were speaking about throwing and their actual general play,” said Harry Jones.

“Their general play was quite good. Porecki in particular carried well and hard and Faessler brought a lot of dynamism. Angus Bell was my best Wallaby – he really did grab the upper hand throughout and he also carried well. And Taniela Tupou looked fitter.”

“He did definitely look fit,” said McKay of Tupou. “He looks a lot more mobile around the field. He was he was really good at scrum, defended well. At one point he made a tackle and then counter rucked in one and did everything perfectly except he just lost his balance and went over the ball and conceded the penalty.

“That little moment was just something he wasn’t doing two weeks ago. Never mind the month before that.”

Eddie Jones said: “Our scrum probably finished on top and the lineout was good. I thought the way we were able to negate France’s defence was pretty good.

“I like the way the players kept fighting. I really enjoyed that. They were red hot in the second half. Every bounce went their way. it was a tough second half but we kept in there and kept fighting.” 

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