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Waratahs play waiting game for the big pay-off

Date

Matt Burke

Power in the front row ... Benn Robinson.

Power in the front row ... Benn Robinson. Photo: Getty Images

With only one win in this year's competition, the question for Waratahs coach Michael Foley is how he can get across to his players that they are on the right track.

Being 1-2 doesn't sound right and doesn't sit well with the players. The Waratahs would be 2-1 if not for a poor decision and, maybe, if luck had gone their way, 3-0. Yet, as reality sets in, they have to realise that the structure they put into practice over the summer will pay off for them as the season goes on.

It could be so easy to slip back into a style of play that doesn't fit with the 2012 mantra. What we have seen from the Waratahs so far is that their forward play is going to be a strength. Foley in his day was a perfectionist in this area and no doubt his longevity in the national team occurred because of his attention to detail. You can see that coming through numbers 1-8 at the Waratahs this year. Is it maturity or a clearer understanding of each individual's role?

For the back line, this is a win-win scenario. A solid scrum means you can ask for different types of delivery that allow a better angle to attack, and ever so slightly put the defence on the back foot. You can ask for ball at two, four or six in the lineout and isolate where you see a weakness in the opposition.

The backs are showing signs of having the confidence of playing the ball for what it is. If it's on to play fast, go with it and catch the opposition reeling. If it's slow, understand that you have to manufacture some momentum then play off that.

The only drawback I can see is the midfield combinations. The 10, 12, 13 unit has to be a slick machine. It has to communicate, be able to break the line and be safe as a bank.

Let's dissect these positions. Rob Horne at 13 is the only choice there for mine. Big, strong and fast, he has the attributes to stay in this position for a long time. How does he improve? He can be more assertive in attack.

The 12 role is up for grabs as there are several players who can play that role. Berrick Barnes is there for the moment, having displaced Tom Carter. The 12 role has to float from being a ball player to an intimidating ball runner and ruthless defender. My thinking is that this position will create the most headaches for the coaching squad.

The five-eighth has to be one of ego, control, calm and arrogance. Knowing when to speed up the game and when to slow it down. Daniel Halangahu has the jumper at the moment and the combination with Barnes at 12 is a work in progress. Why not think outside the square and mix up the positional play of the two ball players? Barnes shows more speed and urgency than Halangahu in that role, so swap them at times.

I was questioned by my nine-year-old daughter last week as to why he was running so slowly. I used to get that from my old coach Bob Dwyer - that I had the Eastwood lope (learnt from Marty Roebuck) and I needed a cattle prod to get me moving. I think Bob still has that prod for special occasions.

So why all the talk of the three-quarter line? Well, this is where the Tahs will gain the advantage over the Force. James Stannard has been something of a one-man band this season, especially after the departure of James O'Connor to the Rebels.

Rory Sidey and Patrick Dellit are playing too flat and not providing the injection that a coach would want from his centres. When you play the game, you want as many contributions with the ball as possible. Unfortunately these guys are not bothering the statistician.

Where the Tahs will have to be on their game is the shutting down of the Force back row. They play a very narrow game at the breakdown but rely heavily on David Pocock stealing the ball to regain possession.

5 comments so far

  • It will take a miracle for the Force to knock off the Tahs. I'm concerned that Foley & Co will think that the win confirms Hangers at 10 is the way to go, whereas against the best teams he will fall short. This Force game would have been the ideal time to beef up the midfield with Horne at 12 & AAC at 13. I'd like to see Barnes at 12 swapping with Foley at 15 & see how the young fella goes directing play.

    Commenter
    Blinky Bill
    Location
    Bellingen NSW
    Date and time
    March 16, 2012, 3:02PM
    • Praise the rugby gods, a miracle hath been delivered!

      Commenter
      piru
      Location
      Perth via Rakaia
      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 12:28PM
  • Love the analysis, especially the insight that the Force centres play too flat. Matt, please stop saying "for mine". Your English teacher at Joey's would be cringing. Beyond awful.

    Commenter
    FredClark
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    March 17, 2012, 8:46AM
    • Matt, you are too close to the team, and blind to their flaws. They are not on the right track. Tonight just proved that.

      They need to stop believing that they're any good. They need to be told to prove it, each and every time they get on the park.

      The Tahs are a mere shadow of the Reds, despite significantly more firepower, at least potentially. They won't make the finals this year, and it will be nothing more than we deserve.

      Commenter
      Carnivean
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 18, 2012, 1:01AM
      • What was the point in signing Adam Ashley-Cooper? He is a quality Wallaby player, sits on the wing & the ball never gets past the inside backs.

        The teams defence is excellent but the attack need a whole new approach. The ball was kicked away in the last few minutes of the Reds game & cost them the match.
        Last night the ball was kicked away all night & again they lost.

        Commenter
        Firey
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        March 18, 2012, 4:48PM

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