BRIAN SMITH shares his thoughts on the Wallabies matches against England and Wales with Richard Edwards from G&GR.
Wallabies were superb against England
“The Australian display last weekend against the Old Dart was exceptional.
Naturally, a lot of the credit has to go to Bernard Foley who pulled all the strings and the Australian forward pack, particularly the front row and Pocock at the breakdown.
Beale’s entry into the game made Australia a more dynamic attacking threat and you can put that second try down to the role he played as the linkman.
Also, the work done by Kepu in the loose was spectacular. It was his little shimmy and footwork that set up the super quick ball that enabled Foley to flatten out the line and score that first try. That was a really impressive performance.”
England management is to blame for their departure
“While Australia have been broadly credited (and rightfully so) with England’s premature departure from the tournament, what should not be lost from the last two week’s events is that England had an opportunity to draw their game against Wales in the dying stages.
Owen Farrell was shooting the lights out with the boot when England were awarded a penalty. But instead of taking the kick, they went for a really poorly executed drive that came to nothing.
There was only one call to be made in that situation. Take the kick, because if it had been successful, the draw would have kept England’s hopes alive going into the final pool round, despite the ensuing loss to Australia.
It was an arrogant decision, one that showed very little respect for Wales at the time and the Wallabies the following week. It was also an irresponsible decision for which England’s management is entirely to blame.
Surely they must have expected (or at least anticipated) that at some stage in the tournament they were going to face a tight finish and have put a clear plan in place for how they were going to deal with that.
It appears as though England’s captain and coach were not on the same page going into the Wales game and that is unforgivable given what was at stake.
There is no way a Clive Woodward coached team would have gone into that Wales game with the coach and the captain (Martin Johnson) not 100% on the same page on what was to happen when the big calls needed to be made.
England weren’t dumped out of the World Cup on the weekend. They put the final nail in their own coffin.”
Australia has good depth
“Looking forward to this weekend, Hooper is suspended for one week and Horne, Giteau and Folau are in doubt due to injury.
In the back row, McMahon can step up and compete at the same level as Hooper and Pocock. Even though he got schooled around the ruck area when Australian last played Wales, McMahon’s game has developed considerably and was one of Australia’s best in the Uruguay match. Another strong contender is Ben McCalman.
In the backs, Beale really got the job done when he came on last weekend and his razzle dazzle created a more balanced back three. Also, Drew Mitchell, while not as electric as Beale, is a stronger defender and, like Giteau, his has oodles of big match experience in Europe.”
Our scrum stocks are rising
“While the England match may go down as a turning point for the Wallaby scrum, we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves. With scrummaging, you don’t get any credit for what you did last week. You have to start again.
So don’t expect Australia to dominate this weekend. Wales are going to steel themselves for this clash and, as predicted last week, a lot will depend on the referee’s interpretations.
That said, you can bank on Australia not getting bullied in the scrum department and that’s a great step forward.”
Wales are a different beast to England
“Like Australia, Wales are unbelievably fit and are really comfortable in playing multi-phase footy. While England couldn’t match it with Australia in the phases, Wales most certainly can and both sides are going to ask lots of questions of each other in this area.
Wales has a back row that is going to compete with Australia. Their captain (Sam Warburton) is very strong and hard on the ball and they have other back rowers who are cut from a similar cloth.
The other big difference between Wales and England is that Wales is a winning team with a lot of experience and a winning culture. They are coached by a master tactician in Warren Gatland who recently took the British Lions team, comprising a number of Welsh players, to a series victory in Australia. They have also won the Six Nations Championship more recently and more often than England.
Wales will be a serious step up on England. They are a better team, better drilled, fitter and more willing to compete.”
We’ll soon know if Australia is a genuine contender
“While Australia looks a very well prepared side, it’s still early days in the tournament. But if Australia can back up and comfortably put Wales away this weekend, then you’d have to say this team is going to go really deep into the tournament. In tournament footy, it’s all about consistency.
The really pleasing thing is the way the Australians spoke after the England match. They didn’t get too carried away, which is a great sign that they are steeling themselves for what lies ahead this weekend and beyond.”