The Wallabies performance against England on Saturday had plenty of positives. Quade Cooper continues to show he’s the real deal. The defence was really good and the goal line defence was superb. Luke Burgess had his best game as a Wallaby and Drew Mitchell continued his good form.
The statistics from the game confirm a couple of areas where there are trends developing that need attention. The amount of possession lost was too high, there were more missed tackles than should be expected from a national team and Luke Burgess has some more work to do. The scrums? Yes, there is that issue, but watch later in the day for a separate post “Is There A Scrum Doctor In The House?”.
Let’s start with a look at individual player involvements. David Pocock was in everything and watching the game again whilst preparing the numbers it’s no wonder he had to be replaced late in the game. His work rate was phenomenal and his aggressive defence really made an impact. As you’d expect he comfortably topped the involvements at the breakdown but he also topped the tackle count and the dominant tackle count. He’s also starting to get more involved in attack as a link man.
Nathan Sharpe had another good game but the forward that really surprised me was Salesi Ma’afu – he was involved a lot more than I originally thought when I watched the game for the first time. The quality of his involvements can certainly be better but he kept working hard even though he must have been drained from his lessons at scrum school. Rocky was in the thick of the action but Richard Brown was a little quiet as was Dean Mumm.
Interestingly the tackle count was pretty similar to the game against Fiji last week – 142 tackles made this week against 135 made against Fiji. The missed tackle count was also similar – 19 this week against 17 last week. That missed tackle count needs to be reduced if the Wallabies are going to be competitive against the All Blacks and Springboks later in the year. Quade Cooper missed five tackles and four of those were lazy attempts. Even with the six tackles he did make, he only made one decent tackle. His main technique issue is that he’s tackling up around the ball and trying to bear hug the player to ground. Rob Horne also missed four tackles so between he and Cooper that’s nearly 50% of the total missed. Horne’s technique looks reasonable, he just appears to be aiming a little too low and as a consequence he slides down to ankle level and some players are breaking free of his tackle. Tindall went straight over him for this reason.
|Player||Carries||Line Breaks||Dominant Tackles Made||Total Tackles Made||Tackles Missed||Successful Tackle %||Breakdown – Attack||Breakdown – Defence|
The Wallabies gave up possession twenty four times during the match. This includes dropped ball, forward passes, running into touch, kicks that went out on the full and short kicks that went straight to the opposition. It doesn’t include turnovers from set pieces or at breakdowns. That number compares to fifteen from the Wallabies against Fiji and ten from England, which I suggest is a typical number for an international team. Of the twenty four, sixteen occurred in the England half, which is far too much attacking ball to waste.
Luke Burgess had a really good game and I believe he should start again this week with Genia coming on for the second half. Whilst Genia is clearly the better halfback, the Wallabies need backup and I think Burgess should be encouraged to continue improving by rewarding his good performance rather than saying “Great game but you know, Sanchez is back so you’re on the bench”. The best part of his game on Saturday was his running and he was clearing the ball from the breakdown faster than he did the previous week against Fiji. However, his passing is still an area that is having a negative effect on the Wallabies attack. I’ve reviewed his passing over the last two games and summarised the results as follows:
|Average – At Receiver||22||31%||23||35%||23||34%|
I highlight these numbers not to support the arguments of those that suggest he’s not worthy of a position in the team. In fact, in my view, his performance on Saturday clearly supports the arguments of those that believe he’s worth persisting with. The fact that he’s thrown five poor passes in each of the last two games doesn’t concern me, after all with a scrum coming back on top of you, no halfback will ever get through a game with no poor passes. The area these numbers do highlight is that one third of all his passes have been average. By average I mean that they were catchable and didn’t put the receiver under terrible pressure but they weren’t where you’d want the ball to be, which is in front of you at shoulder height so the receiver can run onto the ball with momentum.
I think one third of all passes being in that category is far too high for an international halfback. Looking further into the numbers, by far the biggest problem with his average passes is that they’re thrown at the receiver, rather than in front of him. That means the receiver has to check their run a little or the ball will go behind him and that disrupts momentum. Modern defences are so good that attackers need every advantage they can get and losing one step from your momentum is not helpful. Clearly Burgess has been working hard on the speed of his delivery and becoming a running option to keep defences guessing but if he can improve this one small area of his passing game, I think the Wallabies success or otherwise wouldn’t be so reliant on Genia’s fitness.
Finally, to the set pieces which obviously show the problems with the scrum.
|1st Half||2nd Half||Match||1st Half||2nd Half||Match|
|Lineouts||Ball Thrown In||7||3||10||8||5||13|
|Throw Not Straight||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1st Half||2nd Half||Match||1st Half||2nd Half||Match|