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Coach Ewen McKenzie left scratching his head as Wallabies take a break

Head scratcher: Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie now has injuries to Pat McCabe and Nathan Charles to add to his troubles.

Head scratcher: Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie now has injuries to Pat McCabe and Nathan Charles to add to his troubles. Photo: Reuters

Ewen McKenzie will go back to the drawing board after the All Blacks took a nine-inch nail to the bubble of optimism in Australian rugby in Auckland at the weekend.

The Wallabies' hopeful momentum from seven wins on the trot and eight Tests without a loss came to a screeching halt at Eden Park on Saturday, after a 51-20 humiliation at the hands of the World Cup holders. So much for the Waratahs' Super Rugby success. Australia's best players, many in career-best form, allowed themselves to be overpowered, overawed and outclassed by a New Zealand side with a point to prove.

They left Auckland on Sunday bruised and battered, Nathan Charles in a sling with a suspected rib or pectoral injury and Pat McCabe in a neck brace. But the physical scars told just half the story.

1. Marcos Ayerza (Argentina) Click for more photos

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This one – the All Blacks' highest score against Australia and their third biggest points differential – should stick in the craw, fuelling motivation for the get-square down the track. "You have to respond after that," McKenzie said. "We've enjoyed winning over the last period of time and we've been competitive, so it was a massive disappointment."

McKenzie acknowledged the Wallabies had "created expectation" and failed miserably to deliver, and did not rule out big changes for the next Test, against South Africa in two weeks.

"We'd created some expectation there and it wasn't like we came up short, we came up a long way short, so that's really disappointing," he said. "We have to turn it around. The All Blacks went out there, they were under a lot of pressure, and they responded. That's what we've got to do."

The Wallabies may be limited in their capacity to do so, after injuries have run down stocks in key positions, including hooker, wing and halfback. And while the defensive frailties were plain, there was so little time in attack it is difficult to say anything categorical about McKenzie's halves experiment. Nevertheless, the Australian coach did not rule anything out.

"You've heard me say selections are a one-game contract," he said. "You get a chance and you have to go out there and make the most of it. We don't tend to change things after one game but you like to see an improvement and I've already said there are good players missing out. I thought [centre Tevita] Kuridrani did a good job at the back end of the game, for example. There are players itching to get a go and we recognise that. We were getting the performances on the field until last night, so we'll have to take stock."

The Wallabies break for a week before flying to Perth on Sunday to begin preparations for South Africa. The Springboks survived a huge scare from Argentina in Salta to sneak a 33-31 win on Saturday, thanks to a penalty by replacement five-eighth Morne Steyn in the final three minutes. Despite New Zealand's masterclass in Auckland, their 12-12 draw with Australia in Sydney leaves them trailing South Africa by a point after two rounds of the four-nation Rugby Championship.

After three seasons in the competition, Argentina is still without a win, and will travel to New Zealand at the end of the week to play the blisteringly hot All Blacks. After reviewing the tape, McKenzie said the Wallabies gave their opposition several legs up into the game at Eden Park. "The bottom line is, when you go through their point-scoring, predominantly it's off turnovers from us," he said. "Their ability to play from turnovers was exceptional. We weren't able to capitalise in the same way.

"It's very frustrating because when you look through the set-piece stuff, we didn't get near executing the plan that we had and off turnovers, that's what they're good at.

"We were aware of that, but you have to be able to react to that and reorganise. The transitional defence is an important part of that and we didn't get it right."

104 comments

  • The supporters are the ones scratching their heads with some of McKenzie's selections. Why would you mess around with a winning formula and drop Foley from fly half? Was he simply trying to separate himself from Cheika? Foley had been great in the position. Beale was chosen out of position. As soon as Foley came on in game one they were a better team. If they had played him the whole of game one they would have won and would still be in with a chance to take the Bledisloe Cup.

    Commenter
    Ken Dropole
    Date and time
    August 24, 2014, 8:36PM
    • Ken. We all agree the ABs played what was probably the worse game in living memory there in Sydney. If they had glue on their hands the ball would not have stuck. It was a shocker, except in one area - DEFENSE! Australia talked themselves up no end before the game, which one and all have come to expect - basically dissing the opposition by announcing: 'The gap has closed' 'We don't fear the All Blacks any more' . Nick Far-Jones, in his normal blather, 'The All Blacks are ripe for plucking" He was a brilliant player, (god knows how, as his pre-match talk is normally a load of tripe!)

      Here is what I am getting at. On the All Blacks worst night, with a performance that was embarrassing, where the men in gold had 70% of the ball and god knows how much time in NZs half, or inside their 22 meter line. They couldn't do it ...They set their tent firmly in front of the ABs sticks and camped there. Who does that? Which side in world rugby would not be able to grab the points from that position? Australia were weak and unable to get over the line ...

      There is no gap closing. There is no 'catching' up! It's the same old rubbish side that has been running around for years. In fact Australia would have to be the Scotland of southern hemisphere rugby!

      Commenter
      maximus
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 7:17AM
    • and just to finish off my thoughts Ken.... notice I used the word 'FINISH' The very thing Australia do not have the ability to do when it comes to the All Blacks ... to finish off ....

      Stop the blah blah and dissing other sides Australia. Respect teams and their skill ... When the sides play again in Australia, expect to witness complete and utter annihilation of the chaps who run around in gold. Australia are not even in the same bracket as this All Black team!

      Teams don't catch the All Blacks, and certainly not Australia. The All Blacks, at times have a bad night, they play like other teams, this is what happens. Catching up ... good lord!

      Commenter
      maximus
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 7:19AM
    • Agree 100%. Even a novice to the game would not have dropped an in form player (Foley) and replaced him with someone who has not played in the specialist fly half position since 2012 and who has started just seven games at fly half in a 42-Test career spanning 5 years. McKenzie went out on a limb, took a big / moronic gamble and lost. He needs to be held accountable.

      Commenter
      Very Unhappy
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 7:29AM
    • Bit of a stretch to say that Foley would have won the game for the Wallabies.

      By the time he had come on the ABs were ahead 44 - 6. Do you really think they would have allowed two soft tries like that if scores had been level? You Wallaby fans amaze me. The ABs just knocked your "Super Rugby" logic out of the park and yet you're still clinging to it like a doonah on a cold night.

      Foley would have made no difference. I agree he should play at 10 but it was your engine room who was humiliated off the park.

      Commenter
      Gonzo
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 7:53AM
    • Maximums, should be Minimus. Who won the Super15. Me thinks the Waratahs beat the New Zealand mob. I rest my case.

      Commenter
      KP
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 7:57AM
    • Did Foley run over your cat Link? Despite a measurable improvement on Saturday night when Phipps and Foley came on, you single out Kurindrani for a special mention. The whole of Australia are telling you your selection of Beale instead of Foley is moronic, why cant you see it?

      Commenter
      Zaphod
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 8:58AM
    • Gonzo, I was clearly talking about game 1. They were never expected to win game two, especially with the team McKenzie picked but if they had won game one the series would still be alive.

      Commenter
      KD
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 9:22AM
    • KP - Maximums, should be Minimus. Who won the Super15. Me thinks the Waratahs beat the New Zealand mob. I rest my case.

      Perhaps you should go back to supporting league as union seems to be too complex for you...

      Big whoop that the Warratahs won the Super 15 (with some of the worst reffing going for them BTW)...that means squat when it comes to the Rugby Championship...

      Heres a lesson from history for you - NZ come 1st/2nd/3rd in 1998...we lost 5 tests in a row...

      Super Rugby <> Test Rugby

      Anyone who thinks otherwise is dumber than McKenzie...

      PS - Still think hes better than Deans? At least Deans beat the AB's (without rubbish South African Ref assistance as well)

      Commenter
      Mark
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 12:35PM
    • @Maximus - It's clear as daylight that Australia are much better on attack with Phipps/Foley/Beale, rather than White/Beale/Toomua. You only have to see the difference it made in the first 2 games when Phipps/Foley were brought on way too late.

      I don't think it would have made a difference in game 2, AB's were on fire, Wallabies would probably have got done anyway.

      As far as the AB's defense in game 1, they should probably have had more players sent off for continued infringements and cynical play in their own 22. There was 1 period of play where they gave away 3 "advantages" in the space of about 2 minutes and then the ref calls "advantage over" even though they had made no ground and no tactical advantage was gained. A penalty there about 20m out and right in front, and that's the game.

      Commenter
      Bleh
      Date and time
      August 25, 2014, 12:41PM

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Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
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Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
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Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
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Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
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Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
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Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
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