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Why beating the All Blacks must be the Wallaby’s top priority in 2022


Will winning the Ashes ever take second place for an Australian player or fan?

Can beating England in any sport be an afterthought in the Australian sports psyche?

In terms of rugby, that’s exactly what needs to happen in 2022. While Eddie Jones’ England team tour in July will undoubtedly be a flagship event given a recent string of failures against the same opponents, finding a way to beat New Zealand later. in the year will probably be the biggest priority for Dave Rennie.

If England is Mount Kilimanjaro of the Wallabies, the All Blacks represent their Everest.

Australia’s closest trans-Tasman neighbors are the country’s lateral flow test, which influences the mood of Australian rugby in a much more direct way than England ever will.

In 2021, Australian teams emerged from an exciting national competition full of optimism – only to see their lineup put back in Trans-Tasman Super Rugby. The Kiwi franchises have won 23 of the 25 games between the two nations. Even the champions of the Queensland Reds have been humbled, conceding a massive 30 tries in their five games and losing by 28 points to 63 to the Crusaders on their home turf in Brisbane.

Whatever confidence Rennie instilled in her men with a win and draw against New Zealand in 2020, she was swept away by three straight losses in Bledisloe Cup matches a year later. Australia have faced the Kiwis about two and a half times more than England since the turn of the millennium, so finding ways to engage New Zealand teams on a level playing field is vital.

To discover the last period of Australian success against the All Blacks, you have to go back in time to the Rod Macqueen and Eddie Jones era of 1997-2005. Macqueen has won five of his seven meetings with New Zealand, while Eddie has won five of 11. 10 wins from 18 attempts is a golden age for all those concerned with the All Blacks. Since then, New Zealand have enjoyed ample revenge, winning over 80% of matches played between 2006 and 2021.

“Australia has a [season] and a half before the next World Cup and it’s going to be a litmus test for them, ”Macqueen said in 2010, before another crucial clash between Wallaby and Kiwi.

“It’s one of the most important games of the last few years and especially for Australia I think it will be the most important game for them.

“So close to the World Cup it’s a great opportunity for them because they don’t guess, they will know after this next game where they are and what to do.”

Macqueen’s words have a deeper resonance today than he thought they did then.

It’s worth the trip, all the way to 2000 and the “Game of the Century” to find out what the Macqueen Wallabies were doing so much better against the All Blacks. Despite losing one of the greatest games in living memory in the dying moments, Australia came back strong to beat the same opponents in the second leg in Wellington and hoist the Tri-Nations trophy.

As a preface to the action, it’s worth noting how different the game was back then. For example, 11 of the 12 scrums were conducted with a usable ball, with a single free kick and no penalty. The first scrum was only established in the second minute of the match:

It is simply “Maintain” followed by “Commitment” and there is no complex four-pronged engagement process. The ball is rolled more or less in the center of the tunnel and it is hooked back, and emerges at the base in four seconds.
This set the tone for the first score of the match:

Andrew Mehrtens’ kick takes an ill-fated deflection from the fingertips of Wallaby number 12 Jason Little, and ends up in the grateful hands of Tana Umaga for a runaway try.

The Wallabies gave themselves a mountain to climb thereafter, conceding two more tries in quick succession to fall 21 points behind after just seven minutes of play. The economy of New Zealand’s offensive play on the clock was typical, their first four trials of the match cost them only four phases and 10 assists in total.

Compare the Reds’ game against the Crusaders in 2021, and it’s all an eerily familiar story.

Queensland fell 21-0 after a quarter of an hour and 28-0 after 30 minutes, and the first four tries cost the Crusaders just a total of three rucks and four assists to convert.

The difference is that there was no return of the Reds in 2021. The Macqueen-era and early Jones-era Wallabies had a remarkable mental ability to “shut off the noise” and focus on their own. own processes, which they knew would lead to success. , regardless of the score line. Many coaches talk about this rare quality, but very few access it.

The “boxing” chemistry of Australia-New Zealand competitions paved the way for classic battles. Australia liked to open, build stages and control possession. New Zealand were happy to give up possession and look for deadly backlashes on the return. The Wallabies always knew they would be there thanks to this tactical balance.

The blackouts of the time also had a very different skin tone, which further increased Australia’s odds:

Why beating the All Blacks must be the Wallaby’s top priority in 2022

A modern distribution will contain at most five or six players. At the turn of the millennium, there were frequently between eight and eleven. The wide snapshot shows how condensed defenses could become, only being able to cover the distance to the touchline with constant lateral drift.

The second snapshot (with 11 players from both sides stuck in and around the ruck) set the scene for Australia’s first try of the game:

Stephen Larkham flips a switch with Little on the first game to check for drift. As soon as he sees Jonah Lomu well placed inside the left 15m line, he runs outside to retrieve Stirling Mortlock on the Wallaby’s right wing for the test.

The theme of tall men performing sharp lines, with Stephen Larkham drifting in and around them as a wild card in the peloton, was made possible by the unusual size of a back three in which Stirling Mortlock, Chris Latham and Joe Roff were all 6 ‘3 and 95 kilos and more – and the footballers in addition:

It is first Mortlock who takes the hard line of Larkham, then Jim Williams of number 8 who further tightens the defense with a pick and go. This gives Australia the chance to play effectively on their own, with the “wild” still able to play wide in the next game.

Macqueen was a tactical pioneer, stepping up the use of the last three on the 9 or 10 carry straight:

First off, it’s a “big man in the middle” of a branded inside flip by number 9 George Gregan, with Mark Connors (in the yellow hat) sinking deep into the 22 of the New Zealand. During the second phase, Larkham gives in and drifts wide, with Jason Little working in the middle and Joe Roff passing from the left wing to support him.

It’s a different version of the same formula over the next two phases leading up to a Wallaby trial. Larkham throws inside number 13 Dan Herbert, then Chris Latham jumps into the first receiver late after Gregan’s pass. He crosses a gaping hole between the last Kiwi striker (Kees Meuws) and the first fullback (Umaga) to score:

Why beating the All Blacks must be the Wallaby’s top priority in 2022

The work rate of the three Wallaby full-backs was truly impressive, with some powerful left-kicking play from Latham and Roff to support it all:

All of Mortlock, Latham and Roff come into play in the first streak, while Roff’s left foot exit would be a 50/22 in the modern era and result in an offensive line-out throw to Australia.

Summary
It may seem odd to say it, with the Wallabies having lost their last eight games directly to England since 2016, but the priority for Australia in 2022 is to beat New Zealand. It’s that simple and obvious.

Whether it’s wins at the provincial level in the all-new Super Rugby Pacific competition or wins at the Bledisloe Cup later in the year, there has to be a boost of confidence against the oldest of foes no matter what. ‘be the source.

The current Wallabies may not yet be in the same class as their Rod Macqueen-era ancestors, but there was an undeniable and growing resemblance to their five-game winning streak in 2021. They had the power in the centers with Samu Kerevi and Len Ikitau, and the pace of work in the last three with Marika Koroibete and Andrew Kellaway. They had the joker in the pack with Quade Cooper.

Potentially Australia has the tools to make life uncomfortable for the All Blacks. As Ireland proved on the recent year-end tour, a well-constructed possession offense can rob the Kiwis of the counter-ball they thrive on. It happened 20 years ago, now it’s up to Dave Rennie to rediscover the silver lining – or a constant golden glow – in rugby history.

The future is not all black, not a long chalk.




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