Australian rugby has been so battered and bruised this season — four losses in four games — that anything even remotely better than a hammering is hailed as something akin to the second coming.
That could be why journalists are slobbering over the national team after it lost narrowly to New Zealand at the death in the final international rugby game of the southern season. Australia led for more than three-quarters of the game, but could not hold together in the second half the way it had in the first 40 minutes.
To put the game in context, one has to bear in mind that New Zealand made 12 changes to the team that had beaten Australia the previous week. Given that the silverware on offer for the southern season — the Rugby Championship and the Bledisloe Cup — had both been won, New Zealand coach Ian Foster treated the game as a way to test out some new faces and see their worth. Continue reading “Bledisloe II result needs to be viewed in context”
Australia will be able to regain something of its former glory in international rugby only when it is coached by an Anglo-Saxon. The Wallabies, as the team is known, may go as far as the world cup final, but will not win until a coach who can understand the prevailing dominant Anglo culture within the team is guiding its fortunes.
Australia has won the rugby World Cup twice. In 1991, Bob Dwyer was the coach; in 1999, it was Rod MacQueen. Both white men, steeped in the same culture as the team.
But now, things have changed quite a bit. There are a fair number of non-whites in the team, predominantly from the Pacific Islands. This is partly because the game tends to come naturally to people from that part of the world and partly because the pool of youngsters from whom one can select possible players is getting smaller and smaller. Rugby is a game mostly played in private schools and is an expensive and physically demanding sport; thus, the numbers who take it up are small. Continue reading “Australian rugby needs an Anglo-Saxon coach if it wants to win”
Last Thursday [September 15] the issue of time-wasting in international rugby matches was highlighted after a referee changed a decision from a penalty to Australia to a scrum feed to New Zealand, in the last minute of the game.
The decision was taken because fly-half Bernard Foley was taking too long to kick the ball to touch. And following that, even today there are discussions taking place about the amount of time that is wasted during such matches.
French referee Mathieu Raynal made the right decision when he asked the All Blacks to feed a scrum after he had first awarded a penalty to Australia and then waited, seemingly forever, for the fly-half Bernard Foley to take the kick to touch.
There was little time left to play and after the scrum feed went the All Blacks way, they scored a try through Jordie Barrett to win the game 39-37.
Doubtless the Australians would have felt gutted, doubtless this kind of decision has been rarely, if ever, seen before, doubtless it decided the game the All Blacks way, when it looked very much like an Australian victory was the only outcome.
When Australian scrum-half Nic White was walking off the field after the whistle blew for half-time in the third Bledisloe Cup game on 31 October, he was given a headset and microphone by Fox Sports and asked for his take on the game upto that point.
Australia had been outplayed by New Zealand in the first 40 minutes and were trailing 0-26, meaning that the horse had well and truly bolted and any chance of them making a fight of it had disappeared.
But White seemed to be in an alternate universe. “No disrespect, but they haven’t done a whole lot, it’s just been all our mistakes. We’re just gifting them points,” was what he had to offer.
The focal point of the third Bledisloe Cup game in Sydney on Saturday will be the Australian back-line where two rookies will be playing as fly-half and centre; that, incidentally, is the place on the field which many opposition players slip through when making a line-break.
Noah Lolesio and Irae Simone will be under a lot of scrutiny and it may well be the game that establishes them. Both have come in because of injuries to the regulars in these positions, James O’Connor and Matt Toomua respectively. It will be a literal baptism of fire.
For the second time in as many years, Australia will be going into a Bledisloe Cup game against New Zealand with more Pacific Islanders in its ranks than Anglo-Saxons.
After the first match in the Bledisloe Cup series ended in a 16-all draw, Australian sports writers were on a giddy high, predicting that the dominance of the All Blacks had more or less ended and the big boys had been caught with their pants down.
Well before this hype began, at the end of the game, there was a gesture by the Australian team which showed that its mental state was still very fragile. When the final whistle blew, the ball was still live, so the referee let play proceed.
A thrilling nine minutes ensued, with first Australia, and then New Zealand, threatening to score. Strangely, though, neither team thought of attempting a drop-goal to win the game. After one of the New Zealand forays, the Australians regained the ball and fly-half James O’Connor kicked it into touch, ending the game.