The Wallabies tight five need to play more dynamic rugby




The Wallabies may have been pipped at the post by the All Blacks again in the Bledisloe Cup in 2022, but nobody can say from the 39-37 loss that they have lost their historic reputation as a team that should never be underestimated.

They are playing tough, exciting rugby and what matters right now is for them to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go again.

One area where they can immediately improve became apparent during the match on Thursday night. The All Blacks tight forwards particularly the mighty ‘Guzzler’, lock Brodie Retallick, and their outstanding starting hooker Samisoni F. Taukei’aho, were noticeable for running wide and using good footwork.

They ran totals of 32 meters and 26 meters respectively, both averaging about three meters a run. In fact Taukei’aho’s scored one of his two tries for the night using a swerving run to get him over the line.

In contrast none of the Wallabies tight forwards made double figures in terms of meters run, with loose forwards Rob Valentini and Pete Samu, the latter including a 50 meter run with the backs, making the meters for the Men in Gold.

The team attacking stats shed more light on the difference in the way the two teams use their tight forwards. Despite possession running at 50/50, the Wallabies ran the ball 73 times, passed 79 and made 14 kicks.

The All Blacks only ran it slightly more often, at 87 times but passed far more often at 115 times and kicked it 22 times. The extra 36 passes were virtually all made by the two halves, Aaron Smith and Richie Mounga.

The difference in the statistics must at least partly reflect the relatively long periods of time where the Wallabies picked and drove near the All Blacks line, the longest series of which resulted in a heartbreaking turnover by the All Blacks, just short of the line.

In contrast the All Blacks seem to place greater priority on running the Wallabies around with their kicking game, then getting a ball wide through the halves to their big dynamic forwards like Retallick and Taukei’aho, to create mismatches and break open the Wallabies defence.

While the All Blacks undoubtedly do this intuitively, there is no reason why the Wallabies cannot start to bring this into their game starting next Saturday night.

When they find themselves picking and driving, the Wallabies fly half who is most likely to be Bernard Foley again, should look for a time when one of the Wallabies best ball running tight forwards is free, then have the halfback direct him out to second receiver , in readiness to run the ball.

Bernard Foley of the Wallabies. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Taniela Tupou with his supreme speed and power is the obvious choice for this role if he has recovered from injury.

Also now that Darcy Swain looks set to be suspended, his Brumbies teammate Nick Frost – who is a 120kg lock – showed he could keep pace with the Reds outside backs on a kick chase this year. He could be used to rip the All Blacks defensive line apart.

Perhaps the big fellas need to spend a bit more time on agility training and touch footy this week, to sharpen the skills they really need to make an impact in space.

Wallabies supporters can only be feeling a shadow of the pain that the Men in Gold feel from Thursday night’s cruel Bledisloe defeat.

It is certain that the Wallabies will be looking to channel their pain towards evening the series ledger, by beating the All Blacks at Eden Park for the first time in 36 years next Saturday.

The year of 1986 was so long ago that I can remember being a Kiwi kid sitting on the couch at my grandparents place, listening to my grandfather swearing at David Campese like the ex-soldier and meatworker that Pop was.

So I know first-hand how much more losing to the Wallabies in their spiritual fortress would hurt the Kiwis, than Thursday night’s loss hurts us.

As an adopted Wallabies fan to imagine similar reactions on couches all over the Land of the Long White Cloud would, to paraphrase then Wallabies Captain Simon Poidevin after the 1986 match, “make life very livable”.

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