Wallabies v England
Ref: D. McHugh (Ireland)
Wallabies 14 lost to England 25
Halftime: 3 12
If you had been reading the sports section of the papers in the build-up to the clash you would have really struggled to find much on the actual match. While there were three major news stories floating around.
Firstly there was the players dispute with the ARU and IRB. I am sorry but hell its not as though the players are crying poor anymore in the “professional era”. What do you think the players who played in the first RWC are thinking when they weren’t officially paid to play rugby? You know professionalism does have a down side when they are more worried what their image may be used in sponsoring rather than how well they are doing on the field. Where’s the pride in the jersey gone too?
While, I loved Clive Woodward’s (has this bloke got a hair lip or what?) complaints about the Williams incident in the ABs game. As I listened to all the guff I just could help but ask, “how many times has Martin Johnston been suspended?” Anyone else remember the McRae incident, the incident before the 6 Nations this year, etc? I mean if he wants thuggery removed from the game perhaps he should look at his own squad as I do believe that another player originally selected ended up staying at home while serving a suspension after decking one of the touring English squad members. I mean in Williams defence what was a back doing in there anyway?
Thirdly but in my opinion the most important fact on the game was the Flatley incident that I am still spewing over. I know he was stupid but for Chucky to shoot the Wallabies in the foot before the game, it just doesn't help. Hell why not take away the central pivot and see what happens?
Now it looks as though Chucky is pulling the old headmaster style of discipline on Flatley “I will be coming up to Brisbane to talk to you”. Jesus here is a person who knows he has ####ed up and was apologetic but no, leading up to a major match I will suspend you from the squad at the expense of the team. I am sorry but, what!
I liked Horan’s take on the whole issue and the Crowley comments concerning Knuckles where if you were late you didn’t just run an extra couple of laps. Knuckles put you through you paces until you vomited while your team mates watched and no one ever had to do it twice. Thus it was kept in house and you didn’t get sent home for being a naughty boy.
Anyway onto the game. And Paul butchers the first 4 lineouts and gives great territory and possession to the English forwards. This is the third game in a row where his throwing has rivaled Hardman’s efforts for Qld and guess where he ended up? That’s right, riding the pine. I knew Paul would get the start but year after year he gets found out at this level and normally it’s in the scrums.
England played in the same style as the bulk of them did for the Lions in their tour so you would have thought Eddie would have had some idea of what there tactics should have been. Keep it in tight and occasional use the width of the field from one side and back to the other quickly to open up the gaps for the backs. And it worked particularly with the rolling maul where it was easy meters up the guts.
England’s backline were running onto the ball at pace and it was one thing that the Wallabies were not doing well with a makeshift flyhalf. Good one Chucky! In Grey’s defense he played a good game and is tackling was good but he is not a 5/8 and it showed.
England won the game but I believe that their continual negative play will eventually cost them badly and I am hoping in the RWC. Most of these problems are at the breakdown:
- On attack the habit of attempting to bind onto the first defender next to breakdown (e.g. Drugio grabbed hold of Gregan’s leg to help open up the gap for the first try). Or attempting to dislocate the defense pillars by driving at them to open up the gaps when you don’t have the ball.
- On defense the continual slowing the ball down (it lets their backline reset and usually results in a poor pass to the next receiver) by playing the ball on the ground, reaching over to slap the ball or grab hold of the player (e.g. Rogers and Lewsey’s spat when the arms started flying) during a ruck, etc.
What really gave me the shits was that Johnston was told by the ref that “next time someone goes to the bin” and then another infringement and there is no yellow to be seen. I hate that sort of poor enforcement by a ref and really makes you understand what the SA bloke did to the same ref.
So England did exactly the right thing that allowed them to win. If the ref ain't calling it you continue doing it. It’s a tough job for the ref if you call everything (Dickinson) you are criticized for not letting an expansive game occur but if don’t use the yellow a team can really capitalize on its negative tactics. What burned me was that the Wallabies didn’t wake up to the tactics and didn’t counter them. If they clear you out then return the favor with interest, if they hold on you drag them back into the ruck and explain the finer points of brail with your studs.
I was disappointed that Sharpe wasn’t fully fit during the game as his main turnover when he smashed into the two Poms was one of the highlights for the wallaby forwards. The other was that Kefu and Lyons worked very well together in attack especially when the England pack tired in the last 15-20 minutes.
So well done to England on a win and the tries you scored were good to watch but just wait until the RWC and we will return the favor.
Issues for the wallabies squad for the Tri-Nations
What I love is the dissection by the media after the gate has shut and England has waltzed away with the Cook Cup. There is a “lack of power in the forwards” no shit Sherlock, and the “backs lack spark”, well duh... Very little of this was stated before the game with plenty of glowing stories about the new centre combination etc.
Lets look at the forwards. Unfortunately there is not much to say but my call over Cannon was correct and Paul has been found out again. I would love to see McIssac’s get a go but he probably isn’t in with a shot unfortunately. While, there is little improvement in the rest of the front row that can be made.
The second row is as strong as it gets if Vickerman gets the nod to run on instead of Giffin. The loosies were superb but there is no third lineout option. Lyons has played very well in 6 and should not be substituted for Finegan.
Finegan is a penalty magnet and he can be a liability while Cockbain was one of the players of the tour at the end of last year, played a great Super 12 and of course no one in the media are talking about him. While I think Heenan is a player of the future he is still really a year off. Either Chucky should be blooding him now in all games or give him another year to develop. While you don’t lose that much with a Smith/Waugh swap.
The backs are another matter. It pains me to say it but Latham let his RWC opportunity slide again with some poor handling. Rogers/Larkham/Tuqiri are the fullback options and I think Larkham should get the nod at fullback as the notion of a one-legged Burke being reinstated by all the southern media is giving me the shits. If Burke is included it is a step backwards.
Burke was the second choice fullback for NSW. While with Burke at fullback the Wallabies will continually try and win or preserve the lead in the tight games with kicks and not via tries and this policy has backfired badly in the past. What amazes me is that the media keep forgetting that Burke’s kicking is fallible and he has had some shockers that have cost us matches (for example in the last 3 years: SA in Perth, the first Lions match, England last year when they tried to preserve the lead via Burke’s boot, The game against France, in France, etc).
If Mortlock is still out I want to see Tuqiri play at OC as he is the better choice and with his previous combination with Sailor (as Sailor and Roff were probably the best preforming of all backs in the last 3 games) it should be exploited and not ignored.
I still believe that Flatley is the better option at 5/8 as he takes the line-on and in my opinion has a better passing game than Larkham. While if fit I think Giteau should have a shot at IC or put in Rogers as he made some telling breaks in the second half.
I would like to see(9-15): Gregan, Flatley, Roff, Rogers/Giteau, Mortlock (if fit else Tuqiri), Sailor, Larkham
Bench: Whitaker, Tuqiri (or S Kefu), Giteau/Rogers and/or Latham
I mean, the kicking options become Roff, Flatley (both better averages than Burke in the Super 12 again, rated 3rd at 4th respectively according to http://www.tarik.com.au/rugby/ets12prevfinal.html#7 ), while Rogers and Tuquiri have both kicked in the NRL.
This would provide a more dynamic backline with better strike power. So if the forwards can get at least parity then the backline should be able to run riot. As the last thing that we need to happen this year is to lose that big old Bledisloe trophy!