Analysis: Australia’s kicking and lineout woes

Date published: August 24 2016

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Our resident analyst looks back on two big areas to improve for the Wallabies after their drubbing in Sydney last weekend.

Kicking Against a Brick Wall

There have been enough articles written about how to beat the All Blacks to paper over the majority of the South Island. One thing that crops up more often than not is that teams playing the All Blacks need to ensure that when they kick from hand it goes to touch OR they kick infield but the chase is good. Australia did neither and they paid for it time after time.

In this first example, Giteau is under very little pressure inside his 22. He needs to send the ball into touch and settle the game down. Inside he perfectly picks out Israel Dagg inside the Aussie half. The full-back has three areas where he can attack the disjointed kick chase. He cuts into the middle and although he doesn’t score a try himself, his run does set-up the opening try for New Zealand, scored by Ryan Crotty.

Australiagaps

Lesson learned you would have thought, but no. Australia continue to kick, and kick poorly. In the next example, Bernard Foley decides to punt away one of the few pieces of attacking ball they had. The kick is poor and the chase puts Dagg under zero pressure.

The final example of how Australia failed to do anything other than invite more pressure with their kicking comes again from the boot of Foley.

Foley’s kick is not good, it’s not very deep and it’s straight down that attackers throat. But, the big problem is that the kick chase is so limp. The winger, Adam Ashley-Cooper needs to sprint up to cut down the options and he needs to be backed up by a solid effort from his forwards.

The Australians looked like an exhausted team, despite playing in the first game of the tournament. A better kicking game might not have won them this game but beating the All Blacks is hard enough without tactically shooting yourself in the foot every few minutes. With the likely absence of Matt Giteau and Matt Toomua next week this might be an area which regresses as the tournament continues.


Lineout Losses

The Australians had seven lineouts with Stephen Moore at hooker and they lost four of them. When Tatafu Polata-Nau came on he lost just one lineout from seven, by that point though the game had gone.

Lineout Loss #1

The first loss, the All Blacks have a plethora of jumping and lifting options. In this case Kieran Read is lifted by a combination of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retalick, both locks also contribute as jumpers further on in this list. They are so quick across the ground that they react almost immediately to the shifts the Aussies make. It’s hard to know what Moore can do any better here.

Lineout Loss #2

This time Retallick is lifted by Read and Owen Franks. It’s a very similar to the first loss with the All Blacks thinking quicker and the Australians sluggishly putting their jumper up. Again, limited blame here at the feet of Moore.

Lineout Loss #3

This one is on Moore. Nobody goes up and he simply overthrows Michael Hooper who has peeled off the back of the line. The All Blacks will have been feeling pretty good, knowing that the Australians are resorting to gimmicky lineouts on the third throw.

Lineout Loss #4

Dean Mumm is up too late here and although he manages to flick it back it’s easily stolen by Whitelock who immediately starts the New Zealand attack. At this point in the second half the game has really got away from Australia but the issues at the lineout are numerous and it’s hard to see how they can be solved within a week.

Lineout Loss #5

A very simple steal, the Aussie lineout is static and Retallick just goes up in front and snatches it for TJ Perenara to feed ‘Canes team-mate Ardie Savea for a big gain. They need to introduce more moving parts and deception to keep teams from out jumping them, but, the fundamentals of the Australian lineout look too weak to add many complicating factors.

Conclusion

Sometimes the biggest losses are the easiest to ignore, Australia are not 34 points worse than New Zealand over 80 minutes. Once you understand that it’s easy to ignore all the faults as simply flukes.

But doing that bypasses serious, fundamental issues which Cheika and his team need to address before they travel across the Tasman to play the Kiwis on Saturday.

They simply cannot expect to compete without a much improved kicking game and the ability to keep hold of the ball at their own lineout.

by Sam Larner

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