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Wallabies' win hard to judge due to awful French play

Tight Five

Wallabies forward Michael Hooper breaks away from the French to score on Saturday night in Brisbane.

Wallabies forward Michael Hooper breaks away from the French to score on Saturday night in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images

1. Poor French made it a hard game to gauge.

The Wallabies could conceivably play better than they did on Saturday night and lose this season. When the French decided to take a shot at goal when trailing 22-6 with four minutes to go in the first half, it sent out a message that the first Test of their tour was about damage limitation. They'll push hard in Melbourne or Sydney, because a 2-1 series loss would – somewhat sadly – be enough for them to return to Europe claiming a measure of progress. There was hints of the 2011 World Cup about France on Saturday night.

Having lost their group stage game heavily to New Zealand  in 2011, they cheerily appeared in the hosts' changing room telling them they'd see them in the final – the rationale being they could beat them once, but not twice, away from home. Don't take anything away from the Wallabies – they were good – but this French side looked every inch the side that needed a late penalty to beat Scotland earlier this year. 

2. Strong pass marks for Carter, White and Foley.

Canberra continues to churn them out. Sam Carter just continued with what he has been doing all season for the Brumbies – high involvements rate, mixed with accuracy, at one stage even playing halfback from the base of the ruck with no small aplomb. Nic White was really crisp and accurate, inviting the likes of James Slipper to run onto his flat passes, and his little flick to Adam Ashley-Cooper for a disallowed try in the second half showed some real subtlety around the ruck.

Bernard Foley distributed well – the Wallabies attack has been a different beast since Tevita Kuridrani came to prominence – and the Waratahs No.10 is making that little left-foot grubber kick something of a signature. If the McKenzie philosophy is to reward those in form, Foley and White will start again next week while Carter rues his injury misfortune.

3. Moore's loss has taken the wind out of the sails.

The captaincy issue nothwithstanding, the Wallabies had an opportunity to be world class for 80 minutes at hooker with Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau. The Waratahs No.2 was excellent when he came on, and it's probably an area where McKenzie saw some opportunity come Bledisloe time (especially if Keven Mealamu's calves were to go again).

The Wallabies' lineout functioned impressively – Ben Mowen's absence wasn't an issue at all – and such is the threat that Rob Simmons, in particular, poses on opposition ball that a lot of French possession was at the front of the lineout. The scrum was strong, and the Wallabies even made some healthy yards with a drive or two. The pack traditionally gets more more criticism than praise, but it has not been beaten now for five Tests.     

4. Toomua grows in stature.

When James Slipper and Matt Toomua were withdrawn after 64 minutes, it looked like a compliment. Toomua has become such a valuable player. Soft hands, strength in contact, and a growing knack for making defensive plays that force an error. Think back to Dublin last year, when a heavy Toomua shot jolted the ball free from an Irish ball carrier close to the line – he was at it again on Saturday night, rushing forward and smashing the French.

He looks bigger this year, as if he has packed on another few kilograms onto an already naturally strong frame to be better suited to take the weight and volume of traffic at No.12. And the best thing about the improvement in this Wallabies back line is that it's sustainable. Toomua, Kuridrani, Folau – they're all young men.   

5. England are a problem that isn't going away.

Had All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa been dealt with as severely as Marland Yarde in stopping a try-scoring opportunity, not even the All Blacks might have been able to engineer another late escape on Saturday. England are well coached. full of belief and in Manu Tuilagi have a midfielder of astonishing power.

Regardless of what the rest of their New Zealand tour brings, they are building impressively towards the World Cup – where the Wallabies, of course, have to meet them in the group stages, alongside Wales. And we might have to get used to it. Not only are England the defending under-20 world champions, but their muscular disposal of the baby Wallabies on Friday night showed there is plenty more talent coming in the pipeline.   

21 comments so far

  • Cully.... yep, this French game meant it was too difficult to get a gauge on where the Wallaby currently is.... and to be fair, I think it was always going to be this way. We knew before the game that this French side wasn't their absolute best and really hadn't had the ideal preparation. Nor, mind you , had the Wallaby. But all the same it was a pretty impressive win for the Wallaby and proved that Link is definitely closer to achieving his goal.

    2. All three were good.... especially young Sam.

    3. Devastating for him, his team and we supporters. Go well.

    4. Toomua was outstanding, and for me the 'man of the match'. Sory Sam. I was super impressed with his ability to pass so well, so soft, and so accurately. Add that skill to the rest of his kit and you now have a world class centre. This backline is looking really scary for ANY up-coming opposition.

    5. Ditto.... and I've already taken the liberty of appraising some of our Kiwi friends of that fact. England are a proud nation and it is THEY who are hosting the next RWC.... look out people !

    inner west sydney
    Date and time
    June 09, 2014, 9:15AM
    • Crikey. There must be a break in the Super 15 as I almost agree with Machooka.

      While the quality of the victory might be difficult to gauge in the last 5 years we've seen the Wallabies play lesser teams than this and not do as well (remember Samoa and Scotland). 50 points is always good, and if there is any chance we play France next year at RWC this is a nice number to have sitting in the back of the minds of the French players.

      Foley looked good but has a little way to go. But I hope McKenzie sticks with him and let's him settle into the position. He's played great footy for NSW and not many 5/8s start out really well with a new combination inside and outside them.

      And on a totally unrelated matter, team of the week goes to Italy. It was a real pleasure to have them here in Suva, a good game, and even better that Fiji beat them. While the comments about the ABs from the former Samoan player last week were very distasteful, it has to be said that the Pacific appears to be well ignored by Aus and NZ. Maybe the respective unions are doing heaps, but it doesn't seem too evident.

      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 4:26PM
  • At the outset, I admit I didn't watch any of the game. So I'm open to criticism. I knew what the result was going to be. Rwemeber the last time the French were here? They were so bad, there were questions about their performance from all sections of the sporting community. Spectators wanted refunds. Experts questioned whether 3rd rate sides demean the value of tests. Why anyone would pay to watch this is beyond me.

    Date and time
    June 09, 2014, 11:16AM
    • We went to see the Wallabies.if they were playing Uzbekistan , we would still go. It was a great night out.

      West End
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 12:32AM
    • Oh dear you admittedly didn't watch the game but still feel you are somehow qualified to comment. For your information the French looked like the team that would score first and whilst they aren't the ABs it was still an exciting test match more or less.

      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 1:33PM
  • Who won again>
    15 in a row......maybe impressive only to some. I recall all Oz scribes praying for any sort of win...even as ugly as this
    Would any other side have the self belief in last 5 mins??
    AB's were way off pace in almost everything AND STILL WON. As Jonah Lomu said...England will have no excuses if they lose.
    Will still be 3-0
    As for" Manu Tuilagi"...........pleeeeeease........he was the playing inside Conrad Smith the whole game he was so far offiside. The ONLY way he could handle Nonu and Smith. The AB's will now have his number........besides being in ref's and press ear all week!!
    Keep bashing AB's and praise the will make no difference.............unlike wallabies they only care what they think of their own performance not the press.

    headed off
    Bogota, Colombia
    Date and time
    June 09, 2014, 11:30AM
    • You know I don't mind people throwing it out there.... but gotta say you and @ Johnny-boy are two peas in a pod. Both of you appear to have no respect for what is the thrust of most stories here. Combine that with-in context of what is actually reported and you both, most often, show scant regard for that or any opinion other than your own.
      It's a shame really 'cause both of you exhibit a passion that would be better served with some more accurate attention to detail. Meaning that your continous self agendas are your downfall. It's OK to have opinion but really guys.... change a gear or two and the rest of us might sincerely engage you, as oppose to deriding you at any given oppportunity.
      I really and sincerely look forward to a 'new you' (if that's at all possible) :)
      Viva la difference....but ??

      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 2:48PM
    • @ Machooka
      I couldn't have said it any better. If the AB's had lost to England do you think the man of no fixed address in Colombia would have even commented on this forum? If he did comment it would have been to blame everything and everyone except England for the AB's defeat. And as if to prove your point, the other drongo makes a typically insane comment directly below yours. Thankfully these two "gifted" contributors are in the minority.

      Old Hickory
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:29AM
    • Well Machooka I have no issue with you reading or even responding to anything I write however to place me on same planet as the kid from the north is just simply insulting so I had to respond. Read his article below as a typical sample of his hate for all things kiwi related.....hell anything not Oz! He is deranged
      So, I would appreciate you to not make that comparison again
      As I say I read your blogs.....and while I utterly cringe at your sycophantic style of valediction the articles writers especially..........I have got used to it and continue reading your thoughts etc.
      Otherwise I may have to send you to the wall and make you take up the black!(how ironic would that be)!!!

      Headed off
      Villavicencio, Colombia
      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 10:35AM
    • I was also thinking Machooka after I re-read what I wrote,,,,,,,,,,,,,,please enlighten me as to what was either inaccurate OR so contentious??
      I note this morning BTW that Tuilagi has been moved to wing position..............his continuous offside play may be more obvious? or not??
      Again read the two blogs written here you liken to each other..................I cannot see any similarities.......other than the kids blog to.... YOU....he continuously writes to the article writer in a personal way as if you guys are "buddies" etc............guaranteed to get printed I guess.............but I am still calling it out as sycophantic. Nevertheless I read and will continue to read your thoughts but fairly quickly realise his style and skip to next blog

      Headed off
      Villavicencio, Colombia
      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 12:06PM

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