Forget the injuries, Australia have bigger issues

Date published: August 20 2016

New Zealand close to their best. Australia at their absolute worst. Saturday in Sydney was a savaging.

Injuries to key players are one thing and losing Matt Giteau, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne all in the first-half of course set the Wallabies back.

But that doesn’t cover for an unacceptable tackle success rate of 67 percent. Or over-complicating a lineout already under massive pressure, with Brodie Retallick over your shoulder all night long turning in a masterclass.

And worst of all making life more difficult by kicking away possession unintelligently to a side who, brace yourself, are pretty good at running the ball back and exploiting any gaps left in your defence.

The returns of Will Genia, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Giteau were meant to sharpen the Wallabies up after the England series, and yet this at times was brainless.

There’s no hiding in Bledisloe games for Australia because the standard on the other side is so high. It’s astonishing that New Zealand have transitioned from losing McCaw-Carter-Nonu-Smith so well, so soon. Could any other side do that?

This makes Wales’ efforts in the three-Test series look a hell of a lot better. And clarifies the mountain of a challenge ahead for the Lions next year too.

New Zealand didn’t hit a bum note all game, save for Israel Dagg’s wardrobe malfunction, and while Springbok supporters might suggest otherwise it will be a major shock if the Rugby Championship title ends up anywhere else than back in the Kiwi trophy cabinet.

Australia won’t play this badly again in the tournament. But any pre-Championship enthusiasm has now been sucked out.

Nick Phipps’ late try prevented the size of the defeat being a record winning margin. Carry on like this next week and the All Blacks will break that 37 point barrier in Wellington.

The standard they set in Sydney was so high. Yet again. And the gap between first in the world and the rest suddenly feels bigger than ever.

by Ben Coles