How Wallabies’ ‘exact, clever plan’ blunted world’s finest participant and confirmed method ahead


It was late 2004, and the autumn leaves have been spiralling gently out of the timber as I pulled up on the gleaming, all-in-one Welsh nationwide coaching facility close to Hensol, within the Vale of Glamorgan.

The vista opening extensive earlier than me, amid 700 acres of panoramic Welsh countryside, had all the pieces an expert sporting crew might presumably want. There have been two immaculately-manicured exterior coaching pitches, marked out as clearly as the dual cuts of tough at Golf’s US Masters in Augusta.

There was a lavishly-appointed indoor model when the climate closed in; a luxurious resort for the gamers in camp, encircled by huge gymnasiums and an 18-hole golf course, and cosseted by a household of bars and eating places that catered to each style.

On the opposite facet of the property there have been a succession of spacious ‘war-rooms’, with plentiful laptops for all of the scheming minds at work earlier than a recreation is ever performed. Gimlet eyes regarded up as I handed by, on my strategy to meet the brand new Welsh head coach Mike Ruddock.

Mike kicked off the dialog with a quote from the Chinese language philosopher-general Solar Tzu: “Victorious warriors win first after which go to warfare, whereas defeated warriors go to warfare first after which search to win.” At that second, I knew we have been on the identical wavelength, and there was a typical, unified understanding that almost all battles are gained earlier than they’re ever fought.

Wales gained the Six Nations championship and a Grand Slam six months later, and the ache of 27 years of ready was washed away on one sunny, cathartic afternoon in March. Even the Irish didn’t thoughts that a lot once we beat them within the climax on the Millennium Stadium, they understood what it meant to a proud rugby nation which had been starved of success for too lengthy.

If he was wanting down and watching occasions unfold in Paris on Saturday night, Solar-Tzu might need discovered himself repeating one other of his personal maxims: “Assault is the key of defence; defence is the planning of an assault.”

Defensive consistency might be the particular ingredient which Dave Rennie’s Wallabies have discovered most elusive, however one which needs to be added to a tasty and fulfilling recipe for fulfillment. He could like his attacking meat, however there is no such thing as a style with out the basic salt of a strong D.

Regardless that Rennie’s long-term defensive assistant at Glasgow, Matt Taylor was moved apart mid-term, Australia nonetheless had the worst defensive report in The Rugby Championship. They conceded a mean of 32.3 factors, and 4.1 tries per recreation, and you can’t count on to win too many titles with these numbers.

Regardless of the one-point loss to France, Rennie might be very comfortable that the dual targets of correct preparation, and clever on-field defensive execution have been met for extra of the time. He stated as a lot after the sport:

“No-one actually gave us an opportunity to come back to Paris and tackle a French facet that’s been very spectacular over the past 15 months.

“I assumed we defended rather well. Our defensive maul was actually good [again] and our set-piece was moderately strong.

“Our preparation was wonderful this week. They’re a giant crew, nice athletes, it’s a must to bar up defensively and put your physique in hurt’s method, and I assumed we did that basically effectively… The offloading rely was 16 [France] to 2 [Australia], so when they have a bonus, they’re ready to throw the ball round.

“I believe we defended rather well for a giant chunk of the sport, and there was a handful of occasions the place they’d a little bit of time and area, and we have been in a position to scramble and combat for one another and shut them down.

“So, contemplating the quantity of ball they’d, to solely get a few tries [conceded] tonight highlights the truth that we defend them fairly effectively for giant chunks.”

Halving the variety of tries conceded towards a facet which will be so potent in broken-field assault was a wonderful harbinger for the remainder of the tour. There have been no breakdown pilfers towards France, however equally the Wallabies solely gave up 4 penalties on the defensive breakdown as they achieved their purpose of plugging the wealthy gusher of attacking play which derives from 2021 World Participant of the Yr, scrum-half Antoine Dupont.

Australia discovered a number of the classes from Murrayfield, concentrating on Dupont across the base and neutralizing each his kicking and operating video games. Le petit basic of French rugby solely ran for 18 metres on 13 carries with no clear breaks, and his run-to-pass ratio dropped to a measly one run for each 9 passes made. It was all very un-Dupont like.

The strain began with the ding-ding of the opening bell nonetheless resonating within the ears:

That is clever strain, coming from Dupont’s blind-side by Nic White and Lalakai Foketi, with ‘Whitey’ taking beneficiant Ali Value-like license with the offside line.

Dupont’s subsequent two exits from kick-off receipts did not make the French 40 metre line and the fourth went straight into spark off his weaker left foot – benefit Australia:

As quickly as Dupont makes a transfer to his left, White rushes up and there are three Wallabies proper on prime of him. On most phases in open play, the Wallaby scrum-half was the ‘spy’ caring for all of the escape routes for Dupont and forcing him to maneuver play away from the bottom:

When White was out of the play, there was at all times one other defender readily available to identify Dupont on the base. On this case it’s Michael Hooper, speeding Dupont within the ‘boot-space’ and flushing him out sideways and in direction of hassle:

The compact, highly effective half-back was additionally the primary focus of Wallaby consideration at set-piece, from lineout drives:

No matter attacking possibilities France have been going to have the ability to conjure on the day, they weren’t going to come back up the heart, not by the maul, not by way of Dupont. In each instances it’s Will Skelton destroying the French lineout drive and forcing Les Bleus to show Dupont on Australian phrases, with the spy (Folau Fainga’a or Hooper) ready to pounce. Issues weren’t significantly better for the mainspring of French offence from scrums:

Within the first occasion, White and Hooper between them comprehensively handle the twin menace of Dupont and Damian Penaud off the short-side wing, whereas Jake Gordon’s scrag deal with within the second provided the Wallabies one final lifeline within the last moments of the sport.

The Wallabies even used Dupont’s kicking recreation as a platform for counter assaults of their very own, not least for a memorable ‘attempt from the tip of the world’ which shocked the house crowd.

Dupont chips by and Len Ikitau regathers within the shadow of his personal posts, earlier than initiating a length-of-the-field counter through which Tom Wright skins Penaud on the outer earlier than making a rating for Foketi. The remaining was silence, at the least a for jiffy.

It was not the one time when a Dupont kick had a greater consequence for Australia than it did for France:

A brief box-kick off 9 solely serves to spotlight the fractured nature of the Tricolores’ chase, with Andrew Kellaway making the incision on the return in midfield. The Wallabies could have misplaced by the odd level, however at the least foundations of their defence have been by no means going to be blown over by Dupont, nonetheless exhausting he huffed and puffed.

The diminutive scrum-half needed to resort to a powerful kick-chase and pilfer to make his inevitable mark on the match:

Dupont takes down Kellaway earlier than reloading to win the turnover on the breakdown and arrange a short-range plunge by Julien Marchand for the rating.


Whether or not or not Dave Rennie and his coaches have learn Solar-Tzu, they lastly regarded to have arrived at a deeper understanding of the significance of defence, and the detailed planning wanted to defuse the primary opposition threats on Saturday night in Paris.

You commit as a lot time to your enemy as you do to your self. You don’t simply decide up your weapons, go exterior and hope to discover a method.

Defence is one official half of the sport, as France’s ladies so eloquently proved of their titanic semi-final towards the Black Ferns on the Ladies’s World Cup in New Zealand. If you’re conceding a mean of over 4 tries and 32 factors per recreation, as Australia was in The Rugby Championship, no one will spend an excessive amount of time admiring your try-scoring feats.

Not earlier than time, the Wallaby teaching hierarchy seems to have recognised that reality. They’d a exact and clever plan for the world’s finest scrum-half Dupont, a plan which was most likely prompted by occasions at Murrayfield the earlier weekend. And it labored.

The Wallabies at all times made certain they exerted as a lot strain across the base as potential, with a spare man able to spy on Dupont and rush his actions. They pressured him to kick earlier than he was able to kick, or to kick off the mistaken foot, or to move when he actually needed to run.

The result was most likely as ineffective a efficiency on assault by Le Petit Generale as any previously two seasons. And when Dupont isn’t absolutely firing, neither are Les Bleus. It was an necessary step ahead for the Wallabies, and hopefully it’s one which might be bolstered within the remaining three tour matches. Once they see each side of the image, and hold seeing it to the tip of the match, the Wallabies are a fairly good worldwide facet in any case.

Please observe that ‘Coach’s Nook’ might be shifting to a brand new slot on Saturday morning till the tip of the autumn collection. Hope to see you then!



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