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What we learnt from the Qantas Wallabies v Scotland Test.
Article by Stephen Hoiles.
In miserable conditions like last night’s Test, it is often difficult to summarise a game.
When we look at most professional sports these days, the stats normally lead you in the direction of the victorious team.
However, in this case, they almost prove what many Rugby supporters proclaim, when it’s wet and miserable you are better off without the ball.
The Qantas Wallabies had 61% of possession. In the modern game, that is massive. What’s worse for Qantas Wallabies fans is that the stat that counts, no matter what the conditions are, is the time spent in the opposition 22.
The Qantas Wallabies spent 10 minutes and 15 seconds in Scotland’s 22 compared to the Scot’s 5 minutes 47 seconds.
The above stat highlights two things:
1: The Qantas Wallabies lack of combinations and an inability to turn possession and territory into points.
2: The determination of the Scottish defence.
In today’s game when there is so little between the top 10 teams in the world, preparation counts for so much.
The Scots have been out here for a week, training and living together. Prior to this they have spent a couple of weeks in training camps back home.
The Qantas Wallabies on the other hand have had players come and go from the FxPro Super Rugby squads. Seven of the starting 15 played in last week’s FxPro Super Rugby round.
Now I know many past Wallabies may read this and say that back in their day they had a mid-week game every week and still backed up and played on the Saturday.
While I appreciate that these tours were jam packed with games of Rugby, we simply cannot underestimate the pace of the modern game and the impact the physical confrontations have on players these days.
Robbie Deans will most certainly have headaches trying to work out why for the second year in a row his team has lost a game they were expected to win to kick start their Test campaign.
Luckily, he and the rest of the squad have little to no time left to lick their wounds. They are playing a game in four day’s time and many players will have to back up. For some players like David Pocock, and Steve Moore, they will have to play three games in seven days.
Tighthead is king:
Many players didn’t get a chance to perform given the testing conditions, but I thought Dan Palmer on debut did a great job holding the Aussie scrum up.
Many people (mainly props) say when selecting your best 22, the first man picked is your tight head and the second man picked is the reserve tight head. Palmer was replaced mid-way through the second half by his University of Canberra Brumbies teammate Ben Alexander, who has spent most of this FxPro Super Rugby season at loose head and occasionally at tight head.
The Scots two best scrums were their last two and while it says a lot about the character of the visitors it also highlights our need for a specialist tight head prop.
I’m assuming Saturday’s game v Wales will be a very different 15 that played tonight, but again, I think time may be against us.
Deans needs to get his preferred backline for this Saturday’s Test and, barring injury, try and stick with it for the next three weeks.
I have always felt in Rugby, you can play around with a forward pack combination slightly more than a backline. Why? Well as a forward, you look to the key positions 9, 10, 12 and 15 for direction and decisions. The more comfortable they are with each other, the more comfortable the eight forwards generally feel.
Deans obviously has little time to come up with a team for next week but I’m sure he had 90% of this Saturday’s Test team penciled in last week. Now it’s time to get them on the training pitch as much as possible.