The whole of the game between the Wallabies and Argentina in Mendoza was a shambles. Perhaps the week leading up to it was as well. First of all with the incidents of the luggage and between Kurtley Beale and Di Patston.
As far as the match was concerned our play was a shambles – individually and collectively. The referee and the TMO were a shambles. The Wallabies’ (and Argentina’s) discipline was a total shambles. Selection has been a shambles. In the end we were without any idea of how to win the game even when Michael Hooper was on the ground. A shambles.
What disturbed me most is that on the spring tour last year, we gradually played better and better. Even to the extent that I commented that the last two Tests on the tour were the best the Wallabies have played for some years. In this recent period we’ve played worse and worse and not surprisingly in the individual roles we’ve also played worse and worse.
If I take Nick Phipps as a case in point: the Waratahs spent the season improving his technique in the fundamentals of the scrum half position. In the last couple of months, those same fundamentals have virtually disappeared from Phipps. Even though he has some real qualities like speed and courage, the fundamentals fell away – he was dreadful.
For continuity to be successful, it means ‘continuous action’, not ‘continued possession’. Continuous action requires the game to not be staccato and the scrum half’s play is key to this. Phipps went back to the old days of Australian rugby where the scrum half stops for some unknown reason before he distributes the ball, steps back and takes a backswing before delivering the ball. It looks like it’s done to let the opposition get their defence in position. That had almost disappeared by the end of the Waratahs season, and now it’s back in full force.
It looks to me that in the last couple of months everything has been deteriorating. Realignment has disappeared. We had an opportunity late in the fourth quarter down the left wing and two of our players were standing idle in front of the ball – totally useless. Why would you do that?
Our support play and attention to detail at the tackle was missing from the kick off. One of our players kicked the ball away through a ruck in the first minute of the game.
We decide Benn Robinson can’t play so we pick Pek Cowan. Then we decide Cowan can’t play so we pick Robinson. WIll Skelton is in, then out.
We’re constantly happy with ‘good enough’ in selection: “He’s not good enough to get to the top, but we’ll stick with him.”
This is just crazy. To me it’s clear we have some chance with Skelton. It’s equally clear we have no chance with Rob Simmons, James Horwill and Sam Carter.
We have absolutely no chance with Scott Higginbotham either. He took his try well (largely due to the work done inside him), but he didn’t do anything else for the rest of the match and I wasn’t surprised when they took him off.
Apart from the fact he’s a courageous (although clearly not technically accurate) and a determined tackler – I fail to see what Matt Toomua can do for thje side’s attack at the top level.
All the players I’ve talked about are OK or good players at Super level, but from my observation they’re never going to take us any further. Ever.
We’ve got some chance with Nic White and Phipps if we work hard to get the fundamentals of their position in place every moment of every practice.
Lack of urgency in a game will be present in every game if it’s present in any practise. If it’s not present during any practise, then it won’t be present in the game. If we can’t change the play of players, then don’t have any coaches.
This has been a very disappointing period. The results you could say – a win and loss against South Africa – were not too bad. Against New Zealand a draw and a hiding which was less than satisfactory. If we’d had two wins against Argentina then you could say overall we hadn’t come out too badly. But even if you could have said that, in terms of performance – on which we should always judge, not results – we have to work much harder to do much better.
There have been few positives other than Tevita Kuridrani. If ever there needed to be support on my effort to get him playing inside centre then surely in his performance against South Africa last week he did it.
Also for Kurtley Beale on the wing. Can we say those who have been selected over him are better selections? As for his off field problems – perhaps they’re from frustration that his talents aren’t being used. Like a naughty kid at school, if a teacher can spark that student’s imagination they’ll often blossom.
As for our total disregard for the laws of the game; any player who played with me will know that if you deliberately or negligently give away a penalty you insult your team mates. This is because it says that unless we cheat, we’re not good enough to win. We have serial offenders of this in Horwill and Simmons. Scott Fardy has his moments and his shoulder charge was ridiculous. The game is not a contest to see who can cheat the best, it’s to see who can play the best.
The Wallabies have virtually no support play in place. Especially with Toomua at 12, we have no straight running. So we then resort to kicking. If there’s one thing you must never do at the end of a game if you need points to win, is to kick. You must keep the ball and stay positive.
It was vastly disappointing and my worst fear is that we can now have an excuse for going back to Will Genia and Quade Cooper. Unless someone fixes Genia’s scrum half play and unless someone can add to Cooper’s God-given talent an understanding of five-eighth play, then we’ve got no chance of progressing that either.
Can I repeat – someone has to have a look at Paul Alo-Emile as then we have the chance to put pressure on an opposition scrum. Instead we bring on Ben Alexander and – surprise – he immediately gives away a penalty for collapsing a scrum! I’d love to have a count of the number of times this has happened in his career.
We have possibilities open to us and we have grit and determination – which are excellent qualities. But we need to be brave and not continue the way we are – otherwise not only will we stay this bad, we could well get worse. We would be lucky to get out of our pool in the World Cup next year. Fixing this is the job of our coaches.
Any way you look at how we’re going right now, the whole thing was a complete and utter shambles.