Huge Task In Front of Wallabies New Coach

IN his interview with Re:Union last week new Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie admitted that it would be hard to win back the Bledisloe Cup if they didn’t win the first test in Sydney.

Article By: Tony, Johnson, Monday, 19 August 2013 12:16 p.m.

IN his interview with Re:Union last week new Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie admitted that it would be hard to win back the Bledisloe Cup if they didn’t win the first test in Sydney.

You’d be foolish to write the Wallabies off altogether, but hard has become highly unlikely, with just a one week turnaround before the second in Wellington.

The affable McKenzie already faced a herculean task, taking over a side mid season after a soul sapping loss to an average Lions side and then having to make some sort of imprint in a very short time ahead of home and away tests with the All Blacks.

Often in sport a change of boss can spark an instant change in fortunes - how often does an English soccer team win its first game after a coach has been sacked?

They certainly looked fired up at kick-off, but even when this Wallaby side was allowed back in the game after a bad start, gifted points to be within touch at halftime, to be just three points down seven minutes into the second, they still never really looked like they believed they were good enough to win.

It has become the norm in Australian rugby to focus a massive amount of their attention on their Trans Tasman opponents leading into such big encounters.

It reached record heights ahead of the World Cup semi-final, when all the talk was about how the pressure would get to the All Blacks, how they couldn’t succeed without Dan Carter, and precious little about the issues facing their own team.

It wasn’t quite that bad last week, but there was still a heavy focus in the Aussie media on the ageing members of the All Black side, and you could be excused for thinking the Wallabies brought into it.

Their tactics seemed to be to try and run them around in the hope that because a few of them are on the dark side of 30, they would somehow empty their tanks, ignoring the fact that this New Zealand team is quite likely the fittest and best conditioned in the game’s history.

When that didn’t work they kicked, but the kicking was not good. There was no effective chase on their attacking kicks, and defensively their exit plays were woeful.

Jesse Mogg was cruelly exposed for not just being left foot-only, but being left side dominant in everything he does, while Israel Folau was practically unemployed on attack, and lacking in any sort of urgency on defence, as demonstrated in his ambling run back when Aaron Cruden intercepted and kicked ahead.

The All Blacks were very good, at times a bit sloppy, but at others a mix of brutal and scintillating. They still have a good 15 percent improvement in them. The lineout needs tidying and they were undisciplined at the breakdown.

They have a few more injuries to deal with too, but one of the best things about this victory was the way another newcomer Steven Luatua was able to step into test rugby after just one and a bit Super Rugby campaigns behind him and look every inch an international player.

They have taken a firm first step towards their defence of the Rugby Championship, have a hand on the Bledisloe Cup already, and inflicted more doubt and pain on a Wallaby side that had tried really hard to put space between the now, and the sundry disappointments of the Lions series and the tail end of Super Rugby.

They could in time become a very successful side, but for any immediate change in fortunes will need to make changes in selection, they will need a better game plan, far greater accuracy and a transfusion of self belief.

Finally the new scrum laws may have been designed to “tidy” the game up and reduce scrum collapses, but in these very early stages they appear to have made things ever more lottery like.

I hate to think how many games are going to be decided in the coming months by incorrect scrum feeds.

It’s illogical. If the sanction for a crooked lineout throw is a scrum feed to the opposition, then why should the sanction for a crooked scrum feed be a penalty?