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When courage is not enough


John Eales

Before the Eden Park Bledisloe Test in Auckland at the weekend the All Blacks reverted to their own haka, Kapa O Pango. It's one the squad created themselves and they seem to draw on it when they want something special. The crowd sense it and so does the opposition.

This was always going to be a tough night for the Wallabies, for if it's not hard enough playing the All Blacks at their most threatening fortress, doing so when your preparation has been disrupted and theirs was near-perfect requires the most Pollyanna of all optimistic thinking.

One of the hallmarks of this All Black team is consistency, in both selection and tactics. Such consistency builds momentum, week to week, producing performances that snowball on each other – 27-19 the other week, 22-0 last week.

Subtle changes enhance previous tactics and confound an opposition scrambling to play catch-up.

Subsequently, when a stable team like the All Blacks meets an emerging and relatively disrupted team, the performance gap can seem near-impossible to close.

This scenario sums up where the Wallabies and All Blacks sit at present. It is stability v instability, confidence v uncertainty. And forced and unforced changes to the Wallabies squad, and particularly the starting team, only magnify such differences.

Take the All Blacks' use of Sonny Bill Williams. In the first Test he was used primarily as a decoy, whereas in this encounter he emerged as a first-choice attacking option, creating havoc through his size, speed and skill.

Watching him play such a dominant role makes you lament that he is now off to Japan to play less rugby, at a lower standard, while earning significantly more money than playing for the world's best team in the world's toughest competition. There's something wrong, illogical and perhaps unsustainable about that scenario.

Aussie rules and rugby league don't share such a conundrum. Their best get paid the top dollars to ply their trade in Australia, in the toughest competitions in the world in their sports. The TV dollars have followed. Such a luxury is not afforded the Australian Rugby Union, a victim of rugby's global appeal.

SBW's absence will weaken the All Blacks – but not by much – and it won't help the Wallabies because we don't play them again until late October.

It would be easy now for the Wallabies to feel blue. Rightly, they still mark their card against the All Blacks, even though it may not be useful for the All Blacks to do the same against us.

In fact it's possible they have no peer at present and should judge their performance only against their own stellar standards.

The Wallabies, however, should take pride in the courage, if not the clarity, of their display. Persistence and an insatiable irritation must propel them from here.

New Zealanders should enjoy this team and this era for it is special, but it won't last forever. It never does, even though it may be difficult to see it ending any time soon. The Springboks may be their only real measure this year, but that remains to be seen.

The Springboks will also be the measure of exactly how the Wallabies lie compared to the rest of the world. Victory against them will show there is more right than wrong in this regime. A loss will tighten the screws.

One thing is clear, however, and that is that the Wallabies are playing catch-up with the best. As is the rest of the rugby world, I might add. The temptation when you play catch-up is to always look for new ways of doing things. Sometimes however, the solution is to just do the same and simple things better.

Selecting Quade Cooper was a move in the right direction but the Wallabies can't expect such a move to work immediately. They must be patient and build a team over time.

The place to start would be to identify the World XV or potential World XV players in the squad and build the team around them.

This might mean sticking with some players through thick and thin, hoping that after the erratic may come the genius.

The final gesture of Kapa O Pango looks like a throat-slitting action. When the All Blacks first introduced this haka they were challenged about it and emphasised that it was not throat-slitting but rather the drawing of hauora; the breath of life into the heart and lungs.

Either way, as an opponent and as a spectator it makes sense. They play a cutthroat game and take your breath away.

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Stats
AUS 12vs WAL 6 Stats
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00Leicester City Stadium
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
NZL 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs ARG 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs SCO 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 3 3 0 0 97 13
Wales 3 3 0 0 58 13
England 3 1 2 0 1 6
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 3 0 3 0 -139 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 3 2 1 0 -12 8
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 3 0 3 0 -96 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 3 2 1 0 64 10
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 3 0 3 0 -59 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 3 3 0 0 84 14
France 3 3 0 0 72 14
Italy 3 1 2 0 -24 5
Romania 3 1 2 0 -59 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

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