In bringing you our analysis of the Wallabies each week, we need to watch and re-watch the game to find the most relevant information to highlight and sometimes it can be painful going through that process. However, this week it felt like Groundhog Day – I couldn’t escape the feeling that I’ve seen all this before.
England must get credit for their improved performance, even though they were coming off a pretty low base. To so radically change your performance from a slow, stodgy game in Perth to an up tempo game in one week without major team changes was remarkable and I doubt many commentators expected a turnaround like that.
The Wallabies on the other hand are on a much slower change path. Or are they changing at all?
Here are a few video highlights from the game.
The scrums were a big improvement for the Wallabies and the statistics actually show that the Wallabies outperformed the English at scrum time. That’s right, the Wallabies fed 8 scrums, won 5 and received 2 penalties/free kicks with only 1 penalty/free kick against – that’s 7 from 8 or 88%. The English fed 6 scrums, won 2 and received 3 penalties/free kicks with 1 scrum lost when the Wallabies were able to wheel the scrum through 90 degrees – that’s 5 from 6 or 83%. I’m sure we can’t find one reader who agrees that the Wallaby scrum was better than England – the Wallabies just managed their deficiencies a lot better this week. Still, the young inexperienced Wallaby front rowers were fantastic compared to the previous week.
Another area of improvement was the reduction in the number of times the Wallabies lost possession. In Perth the Wallabies lost possession 28 times of the 51 times they started a sequence with the ball (55%) compared to 33% for England. In this game the Wallabies lost possession 11 times of the 42 times they started a sequence with the ball (26%) compared to England with 30%. Whilst that’s an improvement it’s still way too high and needs to be reduced significantly before the Tri Nations. Let’s have a look at that again against Ireland.
But back to my main point – Groundhog Day.
It seems the Wallabies take two steps forward, then one step sideways and at least one step backwards. This week the Wallabies took three steps forward – the scrum improved, the backline showed some spark and the amount of possession lost reduced from the previous week. The rate of missed tackles went sideways, the Genia / Cooper combination went sideways and didn’t produce the improved results everyone expected and the goal kicking performance went dramatically backwards.
The Genia / Cooper combination not working that well had a lot to do with the English tactics of racing up to shut down their options. Expect to see a lot of teams adopting the same tactics in the future and the Wallabies will need to have a plan B ready to counter those tactics next time.
My issue is the lack of consistent improvement. Watching the Wallabies in the Bundaberg Rum series last year, there were plenty of good signs. Then came the Tri Nations and the Wallaby performance went forward in the first half of so many games, then backwards in so many second halves. Then forward at a great rate of knots against the Springboks in Brisbane, then backwards again. Then in the Spring Tour, it was forward against the English, sideways against the Irish, backwards against the Scots and finally forward again against the Welsh.
There were no consistently good area of the Wallabies game (perhaps with the exception of the scrum) and there were no consistently bad areas. It must make it very hard to coach a team with such inconsistency – you work hard on one area and get that fixed, only to find another area give you problems. I wonder if Robbie Deans feels like Bill Murray every Sunday morning when he wakes up after the Wallabies have played?
I looked this week at the performance of Will Genia at halfback in comparison to Luke Burgess. Obviously Genia was a bit rusty given it was his first game back in four weeks and he played with a broken thumb for most of the game. His usual running game was missing and he only made one run of any significance, 65 minutes into the game. There was also very little of that great combination we saw with Quade Cooper in the Super 14. As Burgess didn’t make it onto the field it’s hard to make a direct comparison but the statistics from the first three games of the international season make interesting reading.
|FIJI – Luke Burgess||ENGLAND – Luke Burgess||ENGLAND – Will Genia|
|Average – At Receiver||22||31%||23||35%||16||28%|
Even with his rustiness Genia’s passing was more accurate than Burgess has been. That’s not to say Burgess has being doing badly but in terms of poor passes and average passes, Genia’s performance was better than Burgess has been in the first two games. Even just making a reduction in average passes for both players will make a significant difference to how the Wallabies attack flows and making that change is not a huge step for either of them. It’s just going to take a lot of practice. I hope the coaches are working on this issue but when I attended Wallabies training this week I saw no improvement and lots of average passes being thrown as the backline went through their paces.
Visit again tomorrow for a video analysis on Matt Giteau’s goal kicking. He obviously had the “Yips” on Saturday and when you look at the kicks in more detail you can see some of the reasons he didn’t kick well. I’m not sure who the Wallabies kicking coach is but they’ve got plenty to work on.