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Defeating Dragons means that all is well … for now


15. Israel Dagg (New Zealand) Click for more photos

International team of the week - june 10

Paul Cully selects the form team from the weekend Tests. Photo: AFP

Sport, and the careers of countless individuals, revolve around ''what ifs'', missed opportunities and seizing the moment.

What if Wales five-eighth Rhys Priestland had grabbed that wild pass from his captain Sam Warburton in the 61st minute of the Test with a three-man overlap outside him? What if he hadn't fumbled it and Wales had gone on to score to take the lead?

What if shortly after the Welsh defence hadn't been bamboozled by some terrific sleight of hand by Wallabies halfback Will Genia in the lead-up to the Pat McCabe try that instigated another triumph at their favourite venue - Suncorp Stadium?

If only … Wales five-eighth Rhys Priestland fumbles.

If only … Wales five-eighth Rhys Priestland fumbles. Photo: AP

What if the Wallabies had gone through their usual rigmarole and fell apart in the final minutes - which was highly likely considering the calibre of their opposition, who through becoming Six Nations grand slam victors know everything about winning tight ones?

I can assure you if any of the above had occurred the state of Australian rugby would be far more dire than it is today.

The Wallabies win, and they merrily travel to Melbourne with heads held high. Players were again laughing. The coach was even cracking gags. Life was absolutely spiffing. This had a lot to do with the whole group knowing how close they were to being marched towards the guillotine.

Had the Wallabies lost, yesterday would have been D-day for the code. There would have been high-level meetings, secret gatherings, Deep Throat phone calls. There would have been discussions over whether it was time to consider dramatic midseason changes, going right to the top. Questions would have certainly been asked at the Australian Rugby Union whether it was time to seriously contemplate an alternative for head coach Robbie Deans.

The loss to Scotland in Newcastle on Tuesday night had irritated senior ARU figures. Those in charge at St Leonards don't like to be shown to be second rate, or their decisions revealed as faulty.

Criticism of staging a Tuesday Test was widespread, but even more venomous was the public anger towards a team that could not put away the 12th-ranked side in the world. While Deans had the excuse of having only a few days to prepare, his growing number of detractors countered that he actually had several months to prepare for the Newcastle experience.

Long-time supporters of the game were even hoping the Welsh belted the Wallabies, believing it would be the only way for the code to be cleaned up.

Adding to the instability was that some hours before the Brisbane Test, the David Nucifora-led Australian under-20 team had lost to Argentina 15-3 in the junior world championships in South Africa.

It was bloodletting time. One almighty explosion was looming. However, as the Wallabies have so often done, they performed when it was absolutely imperative, outpacing the Welsh, and with it Deans is safe (for the time being) while several out-of-form players chose the moment to remind all they are of Test quality.

This has given the Wallabies some breathing space. But there's no time to relax - if they lose the next two Tests to Wales, fear, loathing and reprisals are inevitable.

Those who have hung around this team a long time know they are the masters of dropping their standards when the pressure is off them. For decades, the Wallabies have failed to reach their full potential because they can't back up.

This time around there is the tantalising attraction of playing the same quality opposition three times in a row. This just adds to the tension, improves the tactical strategies and heightens the drama.

Tuesday Tests don't work, but three-Test series certainly do. It just adds to the Coliseum ''throw them to the lions'' effect.

98 comments so far

  • On the contrary Gerg, nothing had changed and we will all be subjected to the same cycle over and over again. Despite his brilliant night, Genia's flippant remarks and attitude at the post game press conference pretty much sum up all that is wrong with this team, or at least some of its major players.

    And meanwhile the "amigos" still carry on like tossers.

    Date and time
    June 11, 2012, 12:43AM
    • @Expat - on the money. There has been something not right in many players' heads since the start of professional rugby. Genia's tricks worked against the Welsh, but the Scots hammered him and he completely disrupted his own backline. Same player, different day. Most of the Tah's players picked did well, note change of coach, and maybe more importantly, environment.
      The game has almost no juniors and the private schools are beginning to play AFL.
      Australian Rugby is in deep trouble, headed down the soccer route of irrelevance.

      Date and time
      June 11, 2012, 12:55PM
    • Chris, how are you making that observation about juniors? The timing is interesting considering there was a NSWJRU state championship on at the weekend.

      Date and time
      June 13, 2012, 9:29AM
  • If the 3rd last paragraph is true, "those who have hung around the team a long time etc.........." how can the current coach or any coach be blamed. If it is true that it has been a problem "for decades" it is more the psyche of the modern day Aust player that is the problem. I think it is time to leave the coach out of the equation and place all the blame where it belongs, at the feet of the players who either drop their bundle when the heat is applied or get a big head and think they are indispensable when they win a couple of games.

    Date and time
    June 11, 2012, 1:05AM
    • spot on! i couldn't agree more. immature and foolish and have been given too much spotlight. the "superstar" culture has to be eliminated.

      Date and time
      June 12, 2012, 6:41PM
  • And you wanted to drop man of the match Genia - so much for your knowledge of rugby. When are you going to praise the Wallabies. All you ever do is critisise them. Shame on you. You cannot be an Australian.

    Date and time
    June 11, 2012, 2:32AM
    • I can understand some of the people panning Greg Cowden - but analyse all Games frodm the time he took over and we have been a loosing side. The players like the Waratahs are interested in Kicking and when tyhey do kick they only send it to the Opposing Player not away from him. The trend of Kicking is a long last hope for the Forwards - maybe when the Ball is in the last 5 Metres of the Field, but why kick. Scrummaging is very important and in the years I played - there was never a Scrum collapse. Lindfield Burke Cup and Juniors - Army - What is wrong with these players - No strength or guts to remain standing.

      Peter Wilson
      Chester Hill
      Date and time
      June 11, 2012, 1:42PM
  • May be Greg, but if the ARU have their heads screwed on they won't dump a world class coach who is doing a great job with a team lacking depth in international standard players. And before all the usual whingers start peddling their normal tripe, let's all just take a chill pill and face reality. Lack of depth means that any normal first up pick who is injured is not easily replaced. Remember Deans would probably have picked Horwill, Beale, O'Connor and Cooper if all were fit, yet the replacements still stood the test on Sat night against what is recognised as quality opposition who were only missing one of their normal team. At RWC, what could this team have achieved if Benn Robinson wasn't injured, yet they still came 3rd, only one position below their world ranking.
    What does this say about RD's coaching ability. Let's get off his back and stop griping about him every time the Wallabies lose, support the team and be generous in our praise of a good performance. Be real supporters, not whingers and Growdens. Playing the top 10 to 12 nations, every international rugby game is tough to win, even with an adequate depth of players. We aren't NZ where EVERYONE plays the game.

    Date and time
    June 11, 2012, 2:35AM
    • Let Beale and Cooper continue doing what they are doing and let Ashley-Cooper, Barnes, Pocock, McCabe, Higginbotham, Palu, Kepu and Genia carry out the test duties.

      Tests require real men with level heads.

      Date and time
      June 11, 2012, 3:17PM
    • There's less people in all of NZ than NSW. Aus has more registered players and more money than NZ, we should be doing better.

      Date and time
      June 11, 2012, 4:27PM

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