Ahead of RWC, we have the highly anticipated Foster vs Jones showdown to look forward to
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Much of the attention has been on Eddie Jones and the Wallabies for the upcoming Rugby World Cup, but there’s the little thing up front to get fans salivating – the Bledisloe Cup.
In one corner you have Jones with an impressive overall record with England doing things his own way and not respecting the pecking order. He has an impressive start coaching a national team, including his first stint with the Wallabies.
Over time, his personality overrides rationality, which negatively affected his teams, but he showed great results in the early years, which RA reportedly considered nominating him for his second stint.
If we look at just a small sample of the problems England have had since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, there has been genuine concern and poor results have followed. Marcus Smith was supposed to be the new Johnny Wilkinson at 10 but with more flair, after a strong start to his career in England, Smith became inconsistent.
10 is always an area that has affected England by not having someone step up and show a real point of difference with consistency it’s the same issue with Australia with no one showing that he is world class.
The England scrum was not the strength it once was, which then affected the team, with the forward ball regularly hit. England lacked much-needed leadership in both forwards and full-backs, again a major source of problems for the Wallabies.
Australia are now showing much-needed improvement with their forwards, but composure and discipline are their kryptonite. This also applies to the backs.
A fresh start for Jones and the Wallabies could be the catalyst Australia needs, and Jones won’t be afraid to speak to RA about his position in the squad and all things rugby. He will have to make the team play hard but with discipline and encourage the players to have the freedom to play to their strengths and those of the team.
With true depth now created and players returning from injury, the Wallabies look strong going forward. RWC 2023 may be too early for the Wallabies, but beyond that there are real reasons for optimism.
Take away the debacle around RA and Dave Rennie with his departure, Australia now have their man. They have an Aussie coach and an Aussie trainer who understands the Aussie psyche, which is a vital factor.
This year is the opportunity more than any other for the Wallabies to create history and shake the confidence of the All Blacks. It’s a great opportunity for Jones and his players to begin the march to the rankings and provide the fans with much-needed encouragement and belief.
Jones will see the Bledisloe Cup as a major opportunity to establish a marker and source to warn other nations. He also understands that the All Blacks are fragile, with many questionings about Ian Foster, which has more of an impact on the players than most could understand.
After a rocky season and the All Blacks letting winning leads fade away (England the most recent example), Foster needs to bring that killer instinct back to the All Blacks.
Unlike the great teams of the past who scored just before or after half-time and dominated the last 20 minutes, the current one is not at the same level. Fitness has to be one of the priorities this season and it’s both mental and physical. This will help encourage players to be more productive and ruthless at game time.
Foster needs to implement the right game plan around Richie Mo’unga to get the best out of him. In his day, Mo’unga is as good as any number 10, but that doesn’t include a game plan of knocking out every possession.
With Jamie Joseph making himself available as head coach after the World Cup, Foster needs to go all out with consistency in caps and a game plan. With this, the team will have a better understanding and play with the necessary confidence needed.
This year’s Bledisloe Cup will be the most important yet for Foster in his tenure as he needs to show supporters that the All Blacks are on the right track.
A key factor will be the off-court game between Foster and Jones in the media. Jones won’t be afraid to bring it and Foster won’t win the battle of words so silence may be his best weapon.
Foster can talk about the team and leave conversations about the Wallabies aside – any engagement with Jones will have a negative impact on the team.
This will be the most anticipated Bledisloe Cup in a long time. With a manager returning home with expectations from both RA and fans, against a manager who is still trying to decide which game plan will bring out the best in his team.
The Bledisloe Cup is fast approaching with high expectations on both sides of the divide, only one will emerge victorious.
But there is more than the Bledisloe Cup at stake, with momentum and genuine belief being key ingredients in the RWC, as the rest of Europe will follow with genuine interest alongside South Africa.
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