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Target the No.10: Cipriani may be chink in Rebels' defence


Matt Burke

Potent in attack ... Danny Cipriani.

Potent in attack ... Danny Cipriani. Photo: Getty Images

Before most games, a team is usually able to do some kind of analysis of the opposition and assess its strengths and weaknesses so coaches and players can form a strategy.

This week the Waratahs go in blind, or at least a little hazy, against the Rebels as they had the bye last week and their trial form was nothing to write home about. That is no excuse for the Tahs to get it wrong.

The Waratahs learnt an invaluable lesson last weekend about closing down a game. Coach Michael Foley was philosophical about the loss but, really, the game review should take no more than 30 seconds - its focus, the last 30 seconds. They should be viewed as a learning experience, and not draw harsh criticism.

What the Waratahs do know about the Rebels so far is that they have retained most of the forward pack of last year. They have a strong front row to choose from with Rodney Blake, Nic Henderson, Adam Freier and Laurie Weeks all big threats. They have height in the second row and an aggressive back row of Gareth Delve and Jarrod Saffy. They have recruited well in the off-season in James O'Connor and one of the Waratahs' own, Kurtley Beale. And perhaps most significantly, they have a defensive coach, John Muggleton, who gets results.

Last season the Rebels won three games. Many of the losses were high-scoring affairs, but the common denominator was the high points conceded. Muggleton will hope to ease the pain in that area.

In spending big on O'Connor and Beale, the Rebels would hope to up the ante in the try-scoring stakes. As it turns out, the Rebels, like the Waratahs, go into this game with some non-starters. Stirling Mortlock and Beale will watch from the sideline as O'Connor tries to work some magic as inside-centre. The problem is there will be a sense of deja vu for the recruit - different jumper but same responsibility of having to do something special every time he gets the ball. He might get a little help from No.10 Danny Cipriani by means of ball delivery, allowing him to play a little wider, but the responsibility will rest on O'Connor's shoulders.

What the Waratahs need to reflect on perhaps is their second game against the Rebels last year. It was tight until half-time and then they ran away with the game. This week will be no different. The intensity at the tackle is going to be huge.

Yet you still have to question the defensive capabilities of the Rebels even though they have had five months of getting their systems sorted. The Chiefs, in an earlier trial, put six tries on them. While it might be foolish to read too much into a trial, I would prefer to have scored the six than let them in. So perhaps there are still some mixed signals when it comes to this team's defence.

If I was the Waratahs coach I would be asking my runners to make a beeline at the No.10, just to make the experience as uncomfortable as possible. Try to isolate Cipriani as much as possible, creating extra work to nullify the other parts of his game.

I would employ an almost no-kick policy (has your jaw dropped?) as Mark Gerrard is a competent No.15 who is rarely caught out of position. If you do kick, kick shorter so a great amount of courage is needed to come in and gather possession.

This game will not be one for the razzle-dazzle but about the basics. I spoke with Bob Dwyer last week about not having to play flashy. Basics will prevail every time. Hands up for an early receipt of the ball. Draw and pass, commit the opposition, get a second touch and make your tackles. Any coach will pat you on the back if that's all you have done in a game.

2 comments so far

  • Rebels to win by 50

    Date and time
    March 02, 2012, 12:26PM
    • LOL @ JimmyOC...

      Captain Hindsight
      Date and time
      March 03, 2012, 12:21AM

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