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Different strategy needed against All Blacks


John Eales

Australian Wallabies' prop Ben Alexander (R) celebrates after defeating Argentina's Los Pumas. Click for more photos

Wallabies down Pumas in Rosario

Patched-up Wallabies overcome crowd misbehaviour to beat Argentina. Photo: AFP

There were two really important victories for Australian rugby over the weekend, both cliffhangers. The first occurred in Auckland, where the Australian Schoolboys, in a composed and expansive display, came from behind to beat the New Zealand Schoolboys for the second year running.

In the second, a scrappy but determined Wallabies surmounted injured bodies to beat the Pumas 25-19 in Rosario, Argentina, completing the inaugural Rugby Championship with a credible three victories and second place.

Although compromised by available stock, the Wallaby selectors made a couple of big statements in their selection for this match. One was selecting Kurtley Beale at fly-half and Mike Harris out of position at fullback. While Beale was very strong at 10, it was difficult to determine how successful Harris was in the 15 jersey, but he was accurate as ever with the boot and that in the end was the difference.

The other remarkable selection was naming 203 centimetre, 120 kilogram lock Sitaleki Timani in the back row when specialists Scott Higginbotham and David Dennis were also available for selection.

The argument for selecting the heaviest and one of the tallest Wallaby packs ever revolved around physical presence and freeing Timani up for his damaging, wrecking-ball runs out wide. The arguments against were focused on mobility, or lack thereof.

In the end it became somewhat of a moot point when Higginbotham replaced Kane Douglas in the ninth minute due to concussion.

There is a natural prejudice to select taller people in various walks of life; it's often termed "heightism". A survey of male Fortune 500 chief executives in 2005 revealed they were, on average, 6.4 centimetres taller than the average American male. Further, 30 per cent were at least 1.88 centimetres tall, where only 3.9 per cent of the overall US population was that height.

Of course, there is no evidence to suggest a causal relationship between height and capability to lead, yet that bias exists. Successful and popular political leaders like John Howard and Bob Hawke may have never led our nation if electors had got out the tape measure.

Now there is no question that in rugby, when variables such as mobility, capability and commitment are equal, you generally take the bigger man over the smaller guy for the natural advantage in responsibilities like lineout jumping or lifting, but bigger is not always better.

Take it from me, sometimes it is a downright disadvantage; air flights in economy class and buying a shirt off the rack tailored under the assumption that sleeve length increases proportionally with neck, chest and stomach measurements are a couple of examples.

Due to Douglas's injury we cannot determine Timani's effectiveness as a loose forward at this level but there is risk in using that same combination against the All Blacks in Brisbane in two weeks' time when a high work rate, combined with superior ground skills and mobility, will be what is required to thwart the All Blacks.

In saying that, Timani has very quickly implanted himself as an important member of this team, stepping up his consistency and impact and therefore usefulness. He is now using his considerable mass to great effect in both defence and attack and I would think he will only get better.

Of most concern for the Wallabies throughout this series was their inability to maintain pressure for long periods and subsequently turn pressure into tries. In the six matches they scored seven tries, the same as the Pumas and, incredibly, the Springboks' Bryan Habana!

Handling errors for both teams in this match were alarming. High balls were spilt under little pressure and what seemed like simple passes were continually put down.

Success comes more from the culmination of pressure mounted by excellent execution of basic skills than through the brilliant play of individuals.

When combined with brilliant play by individuals you have the All Blacks, who won their 16th Test on the trot to complete the championship undefeated.

In Brisbane on October 20 against the Wallabies they will attempt to equal the world record for major rugby nations of 17 consecutive test victories (Lithuania secured 18 consecutive Test victories but none against top-tier rugby nations), so there's significant motivation for the Wallabies to end the domestic season with a win.

29 comments so far

  • The schoolboys game was another example of the utter failure of the ARU marketing dept. Absolutely no promotion and also no promotion by you rugby scribes. This is the first mention I have seen in Oz press and then only as an adjunct to the major "story"
    You wonder about Oz rugby's future?
    It was broadcast on Fox 3 and I only saw 45 minutes because I was looking for an ITM know, where all the fringe and future AB's are still playing
    Other than that
    Handling errors for both teams in this match were alarming. High balls were spilt under little pressure and what seemed like simple passes were continually put down.
    You mention the skill issue with handling, high balls etc........this was a shocker of a game from both teams
    I lost sleep to watch a great game in SAv AB...well worth it (esp as AB fan)
    Brisbane result will depend on AB selectors. Will they 'rest" their first team and send the 'reserves" etc (all of whom would walk into the first 15 in ANY country). Will they have an eye on European tour or want to continue their stranglehold on Oz team
    Either way their skill level will be far above wobblies
    PS ........I have a business colleague who is 204 cm and we travel a lot together so I know about seat issue re his problems but I think it may have been a long time since you saw the inside of economy class!

    headed off
    Guatavita, Colombia
    Date and time
    October 08, 2012, 9:30AM
    • Too right. The Schoolboys game was a cracker. I had no idea it was on and fluked it by scrolling through Foxtel on Saturday night . What a fabulous last try in the dying minutes to give the Australian schoolboys victory. The Schoolboys ran the ball. Coached by Steve Philpotts. A team to watch. There are some " boys" in that team who could go immediately in to the S15 such as the fullback.
      John Eales is on the board of the ARU and is too obtuse in his comments in this article . When it comes to Timani and Liam Gill it is no contest. Gill got two turnovers whithin the first 4 minutes of his coming on. A backrow of Hooper , Higginboptham and Gill would be infinitely better than what has been "trotted" ( intentional use of the word.) Samo with Kane Douglas in the locks make a far better team. James Hanson as hooker and get Tatafa to recuperate would be a fast and mobile pack. Maybe Tatafa has problems with lineout accuracy due to the many head knocks he has had. Maybe that is flippant but he certainly is consistently inconsistent. The Reds didnt get success without such men as Hanson, Higginbotham and Gill. Saia Fainga is a good man but Hanson is slightly better and does not conced penalties as easily and throws well,

      30mm tags
      West End Brisbane
      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 11:34AM
    • Yep the schoolboys game WAS indeed a cracker - including some outrageously NZ-biased reffing.
      and no promotion by the authorities or media is a hopeless state of affairs.
      Geez when are we gunna get our act together I wonder ?

      NZ/boks game was good too - and boks were totally outclassed -
      NZ so dominant now it's all just a battle for second -
      Superb guts by wobblies in their win though - inspiring really, despite being a crappy game -

      AND despite the unadulterated arrogance of AB's coaching staff issuing tips on their competitors ... ??!?!? WTF ???? Love it when the AB's think they're God - bring back the classic CHOKE!!

      .. and is it just me or does Steve Hanson look like the schoolyard bully from Casting Central?
      After Graham Henry's geography teacher form Casting Central, it's getting funny ...

      Date and time
      October 08, 2012, 3:37PM
    • I thought you lived in Colombia? Can you get Foxtel there?

      Date and time
      October 09, 2012, 9:02AM
    • 30mm Tags.

      Good Queensland centric piece by you. Polotau-Naus contribution on the weekend was huge so to repalce him with Hanson would be stupid. Gill is not a six-hes a seven and might be okay for late impact on the ball but not for a whole game. Higginbotham is a natural six. Timani is vastly superior to Kane Douglas in the physicality stakes and should be a starting lock.

      Its not rocket science unless youre blind.

      Date and time
      October 09, 2012, 9:10AM
    • I think ESPN does all the rugby in South America. They do a good job too. It is mainly based out of Argentina but I suspect that is where Heading Off gets his rugby fix. He must have had a big night out to lose sleep though because the AB v Bok game was on at around midday here...

      Date and time
      October 11, 2012, 5:47AM
    • "
      AND despite the unadulterated arrogance of AB's coaching staff issuing tips on their competitors ... ??!?!? WTF ???? Love it when the AB's think they're God - bring back the classic CHOKE!!

      .. and is it just me or does Steve Hanson look like the schoolyard bully from Casting Central?
      After Graham Henry's geography teacher form Casting Central, it's getting funny ..."

      Mate, you can't start gloating about choking when your team is routinely getting rounded up.

      And keep picking coaches based on looks, it's worked so far hasn't it?


      Perth via Rakaia
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 4:53PM
  • I lost you somewhere Eales, what is this article actually about? Half way through an article about different strategies you start going on about height. ????

    Date and time
    October 08, 2012, 11:40AM
    • Have to agree. Having a personal whinge about how hard it is to find shirts and find leg room in economy doesn't cut it for me. I would have liked a decent article about why the Australian schoolboys are so successful against NZ schoolboys and why the First XV comp in Aus isn't televised like it is in NZ.
      The schoolboys great victory needs to be put in perspective NZ were selected from only year 12 players and there were some odd selections, four centres, two first fives and two openside flankers in the run on side. Waikato u20 team beat them 37-11. The NZ Barbarian side of year 11 boys was a much more balanced side. Still you take your opportunities as you get them. Australian boys were extremely well coached especially individual skills and played to a structured pattern with everyone knowing their job, they could have scored more tries, the fullback and number 8 looked especially good prospects.

      Date and time
      October 09, 2012, 8:37AM
    • I hope Headed Off isn't telling porkie pies.

      Old Hickory
      Date and time
      October 13, 2012, 2:05PM

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