By Dave Campbell
IT'S NO surprise that four of the five Australian Super Rugby franchises are struggling for form.
That’s the word from new Japan coach Eddie Jones after the latest round of action left the Reds, Waratahs, Rebels and Force languishing in the bottom eight of the 15-team competition.
“Australia’s just got too many teams,” Jones told Rugby News.
Jones, who recently named his first Japanese squad for the 2012 Asian Five Nations tournament, says the establishment of the Melbourne Rebels franchise has further diluted Australia’s playing stocks after a similar situation occurred when the Force entered Super Rugby in 2006.
“Each side has been watered down because there are too many of them, and that’s a real concern for the Wallabies, because you don’t have your best players playing with each other,” he says.
Contrary to the belief of former Wallabies like Jeremy Paul, who rubbished the notion that the Australian conference is the weakest in the SANZAR competition, Jones says, in reality, it’s a fact.
He feels the standard of Super Rugby this season has been “pretty disappointing” across the board.
“There are definitely different levels [of competitiveness] between the conferences and the level of play, particularly the attack, is pretty orthodox. But the defence and breakdown work is of a good quality.”
Jones says teams that are doing well – like the Stormers and the Highlanders – have a good work ethic and “high team cohesion”.
The former Brumbies, Reds and Wallabies mentor says teams have not been helped by the usual exodus of players that occurs after a Rugby World Cup.
“It comes down to personnel, really. A lot of the good players have moved on – some have gone to Japan and some have gone to Europe. That’s taken the depth out of teams.”
Jones has also been disappointed with the standard of refereeing, particularly at the tackle-ball area, although he says any game former Super Rugby player Glen Jackson controls is worth watching.
“The refereeing, apart from Glen Jackson, has just been indifferent,” he says.
“They’re [referees] now giving mixed messages about what players should do at the tackle-ball area, and because of that, teams are more indecisive about whether they should keep the ball or kick the ball.”« Back to Articles
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.