By Lee Stace
Poor coaching is not the only issue plaguing the Wallabies’ class of 2012.
YOU CAN blame the coach all you want, but at the end of the day Australia simply doesn’t have the players at present to challenge the All Blacks.
Many of them are handy footballers at Super Rugby level; a step up, however, and they seem to struggle. You only have to look at the Wallabies’ limited and somewhat peculiar tactics during their 0-22 loss to a far-from-perfect New Zealand side at Eden Park last Saturday for proof.
So far the media has torn strips off coach Robbie Deans. They have said he is standing on soil far shakier than the stuff back in his native Christchurch after yet another loss on the big stage to his countrymen. His record since 2008 against the All Blacks now stands at three wins and 14 losses. Terrible.
Deans has to take some responsibility for that; wear some of the blame for his questionable selections – for instance, how can he justify having so many players from the Waratahs in his run-on XV given their dreadful Super Rugby season? – and a game plan which is focused on stemming the flow of the All Blacks and kicking the ball away.
But what the back-to-back losses against the Kiwis have highlighted are the limitations of some of the current Wallaby players at international level. They looked bereft of ways to break down the All Blacks in both tests.
So much so that it is debatable whether someone as tactically astute as Ewen McKenzie, the man many are pushing to take over from the embattled Deans, could do any better with the current cattle representing his nation.
Deans always had an uncanny knack with the Crusaders of being able to get the best out of middle-of-the-road players. He has found the going a lot tougher across the Tasman due to the fact that that same group of athlete over there is nowhere near the standard he was used to mentoring back in New Zealand.
In fact, Deans has probably boxed well above his weight to achieve the victories he has against the All Blacks and Springboks during his tenure, not to mention the Tri Nations title and No 2 ranking in the world.
But I urge you to ask yourself the following questions: if the current Wallabies team fielded a second-string side, say against England, Scotland or Samoa, could you say for certain they would win?
What about New Zealand and South Africa? If they did likewise against the same opponents, would they get the desired result?
It was obvious that things were going to be difficult for the Wallabies in 2012 during Super Rugby.
Three of the five worst teams in the competition this year were Australian: the Waratahs (11th), Rebels (13th) and Force (14th). Australia provided just two of the top ten teams, and only one of the six finalists.
As the weeks rolled on, it became painfully clear that some of the Australian players currently earning a crust in Super Rugby would struggle to crack the wider training squads of the New Zealand teams.
Some will argue otherwise and will no doubt launch a personal attack or two this scribe’s way.
The truth hurts, I suppose.
There are plenty of mouth-watering clashes on offer this weekend.
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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen named a 38-man training squad and there are a couple of oversights worth highlighting