The Roar
The Roar


English way, Welsh way, Brumby way or the 'fight Pacific fire with a Pacific inferno' way: Eddie's four options vs Fiji

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
15th September, 2023
4338 Reads

Officially, Saint-Etienne brands itself the ‘Design Capital.’

The rest of France colloquially calls this manufacturing town the ‘aisselle’ (armpit) of the country, which sounds a bit like ‘asshole’ to the Anglophone ear.

Every nation has a town known thus: urban renewal plans aplenty, old patterns ingrained and hope failing eternally.

This weekend Rugby Australia — in the midst of a renewal project of its own — has a date with destiny in the Design Capital.

What body part will Eddie Jones bestow an uppercut to? Judgment day is here for the Wallabies.

Join England on the list of Fiji’s victims or emulate Warren Gatland’s Welsh way of winning?

Which method can the young Aussie side best copy and execute on Sunday?

Fiji beat England for the first time in London just before the World Cup began; wet sail Wales survived in unlikely fashion on the first weekend. Yet it is not obvious which game plan best suits the 965 kg Wallaby pack.


Australia owns a 15 Test win streak against Fiji,

The last time Fiji beat the Wallabies was in the 1950s. So why worry?

Well, with a more cohesive, six-win 2023 Fijian Drua integrated into Super Rugby Pacific (and drumming the Reds to get into the playoffs) augmented by some of the planet’s best individual players (Levani Botia could be the ultimate one in the seven-one bench), this is not your father’s Fiji. They scrum and maul well and put men up against lineouts; they finish games strong.

Fresh from knocking England over at home and pushing Gatland’s experienced team to the hilt, they will believe they can win.

There seems to be three recent models to study, to decide how to beat Fiji this week: a much better version of England’s plan, a better Warrenball, or an Aussie Way, upsized to handle increased Fijian power. Is there a fourth way?

Then, who should be selected?

Eddie Jones head coach of the Wallabies during the Australia Wallabies training session at the Territory Rugby Stadium on August 11, 2023 in Darwin, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)


The English Way

Steve Borthwick entered the Cup on even shakier ground than Jones, courtesy of his team’s shock loss to Fiji on the Cabbage Patch.

His 1:4.5 kick-to-pass ratio plan resulted in the Flying Fijians (1:6) having a load of windup runs (117 carries) with a whopping 361 post-contact metres, and slick passes (122) galore.

Their three tries with impeccable Caleb Muntz work off the tee allowed them to overcome nineteen lost turnovers, insufficient territory, and 15 hot scrums.

Critical to Fiji’s win was their tidy work at ruck and set piece (just seven penalties). This is where the big starting pack for Australia could perhaps improve most over England, using the English way.

England seems to have rectified their losing patterns: kicking 43 times to see off Argentina, and refusing to provide the Pumas space, or even much time at all in the English 22.

Even if it sounds logical to use a more Brumby method than a Red, it seems Australia tried the Twickenham version of the Borthwick methodology in the first three Tests of 2023 and it did not suit them.


Tackle counts off the charts (nearly 300 against Argentina) in Pretoria and Sydney resulted in injury and cards. Ceding possession and territory is a dangerous game.

But in the first pool match, the Wallabies lifted 40 kicks into the Georgian backfield. And won.

The Welsh Way

After early wide strikes, taking Fiji on at its own strength on the wing, Wales ceded Fiji over 60 percent of the ball and the field, buckling down to attempt 253 tackles (missing 34), and survived 17 penalties.

This sounds more like the 2023 Wallabies: trading tries, yet tackling at record rates, kicking a modest 24 times rather than a French level (44) out of hand, and living off the turnover to strike and dot down.

Nine-penalty Fiji built 130 rucks versus Wales, with plenty inside the Welsh half, and made 655 metres from 176 runs. Yet Wales survived, because they played big, tough, and stuck to it, waiting for nearly inevitable errors.

As Gatland wrote this week in the Telegraph, the analysts have conclusively proved it is better to let go of the ball at a midfield breakdown than squeeze it and risk a penalty; due to the ensuing four minutes of red zone pressure fighting to keep possession will give you.

Wales' Louis Rees-Zammit celebrates at the final whistle during the 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool C match at the Stade de Bordeaux, France. Picture date: Sunday September 10, 2023. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

 (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Australia certainly has the ability to do what Wales did and a bit better, because of superior size and speed matchups.

But the Cup pedigree? The nerve?

Dan Biggar has made more crucial kicks to win Tests than the years Ben Donaldson or Carter Gordon have lived, and it is not clear the Wallabies can tackle two hundred times and keep penalties below ten and cards under two.

Coaching this type of instinct — to release the ball rather than grapple — can take many years. Eddie has a few days now.

The Brumby Way

The Brumbies went toe to toe with the Drua and came out the winners (43-28) this April.


The rather flaky Reds lost at the end of the season after a Welsh-like three point win earlier.

The high score Rebels lost; the tough Force won.

This suggests the Aussie way should be closer to how the Brumbies play (and Force try to): play big but without the ball, take no prisoners at scrum, steal lineouts, maul and do not be mauled, and attack the breakdown with counter and pilfer attempts.

Fiji has a big bench; the Wallabies must be more accurate in contact, win the first 60 minutes, exit cleanly, kick long to touch, and have a good lead going into the home stretch.

If this is the way, Andrew Kellaway appeals more as player 23 than Suli Vunivalu; even if he may not be number 15, as Jones has made a rod for his own back on the tee by passing over proven kickers.

Nic White can execute a kicking game; this is clear. Does he start? Yes, if the Super Rugby Aussie way is followed.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)


Lose to Fiji this way, however, and the knives will be even sharper, just as Borthwick found, even if he now is smiling.

For Jones and the Wallabies, even if this is not a knockout, it will be seen as such. So why not play Brumbies ball; Lord Laurie Fisher is a call away.

A Fourth Way

Jones has made his name as a maverick willing to surprise.

He may already have signaled with selection that he views 2023 more as preparation for 2027 than a legitimate title run.

Why not smash convention, hand Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete the pill, free up Rob Valetini to offload to his brothers, and grab the tournament by the scruff of the neck by posting 600 Wallaby running metres with a 1:2 run-kick ratio?

In sum: fight Pacific fire with a Pacific inferno. Ignore the statistics.


Damn the tactics; sail straight at ‘em.

Go down with the ship, or make history with a rousing rout.

Jones has a history of the fey denial, but reports he is exploring the head coaching job in Japan (batted away as rubbish, just as 2022 reports of the USA and Australia jobs were), even if they have an inkling of truth, point to a man well aware his job has always had two polar sides: drum up interest in union at home (the Chief Marketing Officer) and win pretty soon (if not now, soon).

Win or lose but in a blaze of glory: this could fit both narratives, and preserve the most options as well.

Saint-Etienne may be an elbow or bum or axila of a town but this week it is the belly of the rugby beast: the only match in the tournament which offers a look right into the soul of two proud unions joined in rugby, but desperate to walk off the pitch victors at the other’s expense.

Kick heavy or batten down or roll the maul or get into a demolition derby: Jones’ choices at nine and fifteen will tell a tale.