Rugby Union

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How the Wallabies can bounce back

So Robbie Deans and the Wallabies have just seven days to turn around an eight-point deficit. From some of their comments after the disappointing 27-19 loss to the All Blacks in the opening match of the inaugural Rugby Championship, it wouldn't take too long to collate an eight-point list for them to focus on.

But eight points are far too many to focus on in one week. Rather, they need to identify one or two areas where improvement, and a couple of surprises, might provide enough ammunition to challenge the world's best rugby side.

The first question needs to address their strategy and the execution of that strategy. Was it poor strategy or poor execution which cost the Wallabies?

Sometimes it demands more fortitude to assess that the strategy was correct but the execution poor as this means you will advance with a very similar plan. An improved result will bring some solace and perhaps vindication but a similar result will be decorated by an uncomfortable rouge to your cheeks.

The closeness of this scoreline and the fact the Wallabies were somehow in the match until the final minute says more about their character than the scrappy sub-schoolboy errors.

There is no chump-time against the All Blacks; one must work to etch every single point on the scoreboard and likewise scrap to save those agin them.


Outside of eliminating unforced errors like dropping balls under little or no pressure and harried and rash decision-making like taking quick taps when three points are in the offing, I would focus on two areas, pronto – one, accuracy in contact in both attack and defence, and two, the composition of the bench.

One of the most imposing aspects of the All Blacks' performance was their bright and obstinate defence. Defence is only partially about being able to tackle. More so it is founded on a comprehensive and interlinked chain of events, culminating in the ability to tackle.

It starts with slowing the opposition's ball. A stationary target is surer game than a moving target – you don't need to read about ancient Chinese warlord Sun Tzu to understand that.

The All Blacks are the masters at decreasing the revs. They do so mainly through the constructiveness of their first man at the breakdown and the destructiveness of their later arrivals. On the ball first, counter rucking second. Even if they don't effect a turnover, they compromise the quality of their opposition's attacking options. The result is that tackling becomes easy.

So then, as an opposition, when a side is defensively imposing, you must look for ways to counter their consistency. This can be done through speed, building pressure, deception or through a combination of the above. The common denominator, though, must be accuracy. Accuracy in contact facilitates speed and speed, when combined with sound skills and substantive tactics, rears opportunity and opportunity, in turn, delivers hope.

The counter to this, of course, is that Australia's defence was not similarly good, nor was our tackling as we allowed tries through both one-on-one misses and pure deception. A good analysis of the video and some role clarity will help here.

Also, while bench composition is more pseudo-science than science, I would address the five-two make-up of the Wallabies' seven reserves and plump for the inclusion of one Q. Cooper. While I can appreciate the rationale for not selecting Cooper in the starting XV, he should have headlined an enticing arsenal off the bench. He might now go straight back in.

The Wallabies are second in the world for two reasons: we are some way behind the best and have been somewhat better, or at least more consistent, than the rest.

From the evidence of Saturday night, both in Sydney and in the Springboks' comfortable 27-6 victory over Argentina in Cape Town, the latter margin seems the most vulnerable.

From here, the manner in which the Wallabies progress on their recent five victories from six outings against the Springboks and how they handle the challenge of the Argentinians will determine their status in world rugby.