David Campese exclusive: Rugby Australia needs an overhaul after ‘one of the darkest days in Wallaby history’

James While
Wallabies legend David Campese on Australia's Rugby World Cup loss to Wales.

Wallabies legend David Campese on Australia's Rugby World Cup loss to Wales.

Following a 40-6 win for Wales over Australia in Lyon on Sunday, we bring you Wallabies legend David Campese’s five takeaways from the Rugby World Cup clash.

The top line

Wales become the first nation from Pool C to qualify for the knockout stages as they put in a magnificent performance of calculated, low risk rugby to slowly dismantle Eddie JonesAustralia, who look as if they now have little chance of qualifying, with Fiji only needing five more points to progress ahead of them.

“To watch such a naïve and un Australian performance is one of the lowest points I’ve experienced as a former Wallaby,” Campese told Planet Rugby in an exclusive interview.

“Wales were absolutely brilliant in their preparation, patience and simple rugby IQ. To watch the manner they reacted to how Australia tried to play was a lesson in rugby intellect. For a large period of the first half, the Wallabies were blasting through on collisions and gave the Welsh defence a torrid time. But to stay in the fight and to pick off the jackal and turnover chances the way they did is a credit to their thinking and leadership.”

Outcoached

“Going in without any form of recognised openside flanker was always a massive risk, especially when the coach has chosen to leave one of Australia’s finest, Michael Hooper, watching the game back home on the sofa.

“I am absolutely sure that this didn’t escape Warren Gatland’s attention and the try from Gareth Davies was a brilliant, pre-planned move designed to exploit this selection. The switch pass back from Nick Tompkins to Jac Morgan allowed the Welsh openside to go through exactly the space where the Wallaby seven should have been defended, as both Tom Hooper and Rob Leota, blindsides by nature, were pulled wider into the second defender role.

“Of course, it needed to be executed well and Morgan did that brilliantly, but rest assured, that was a spot from Gatland on how to exploit yet another whimsical Eddie Jones selection policy and Gatland’s quiet understatement and overdeliver underlines the difference between how these guys approach and talk about the game.”

Naivety

“The first half staggered me in how unreactive Australia were to the small advantages they created. For fully 30 minutes, the forwards and back carriers did a fantastic job in winning the collisions, and if you couldn’t see where they were on the pitch you might think Australia were on top,” Campese said.

“But winning collisions in the middle third of the pitch is completely pointless if you don’t use the momentum you’ve created. It became so predictable, with truck up after truck up, that it became more and more easy to defend. And as any coach will tell you the moment you’ve defended seven collisions, your chance of a steal doubles with every ruck thereafter. It’s therefore no surprise that Wales managed three steals on ruck seven and eight over that period.

“It begged for a change up – either in tactic or tempo. Look what Gareth Anscombe did in terms of one change up move when he executed a chip for the outstanding centre Nick Tompkins to crash onto and score. You might argue that Australia’s pendulum defence completely failed here with nobody covering in the boot, another basic coaching issue, but the Welsh move was rugby intelligence, changing the point of attack and executing a simple skill with great precision, the antithesis of how Australia played all evening.”

Turning point

“Even the simplest tasks seemed to be beyond the scope of these blokes to get right,” Campese continued.

“At 10-6 down, choosing to go to the corner to use the lineout and maul power that people believe the Wallabies have is an admirable move. But the execution thereafter was laughable. Firstly, the kick goes not to the five metre line, but 11 metres out – inexcusable from a Test match kicker, putting further pressure on his teammates. The ensuing lineout was rushed and Dave Porecki literally threw it to an imaginary jumper, overthrown, collected and fly hacked down the pitch. From there, Australia concede a penalty under the posts and Anscombe (who really came good under pressure) slots three.

“That’s not a three pointer – it’s a 10-point shift – from the try the Wallabies should have executed to the penalty they conceded. It was a huge momentum swing and one that summed the game up in a microcosm.”

Repercussions

“Firstly, I’d like to congratulate Wales, Warren Gatland and their exceptional young skipper Jac Morgan, whose leadership and rugby intellect shone through in this match. Morgan was exceptional – a highly skilled player with mature and pragmatic leadership – and I was also very impressed with the centre, Tompkins, a player that tends to go under the radar. Wales have the IQ to damage a few sides in the knockout stages and I wish them well. They were fantastic and deserved winners.

“As an Aussie, former Wallaby and a rugby lover I am absolutely devastated but unsurprised we find ourselves in this position. This is the first time in our history we’ve failed to qualify for the knockout stages.

“This match now means a total reset of the sport in Australia. We cannot continue with a coach that thinks he’s bigger and more important than the guys that are trying to deliver. We cannot allow selections to be based upon compliance, we need people with balls to shape and own the game on the pitch, not to deliver an old man’s vision of archaic bland rugby structures.

“Most of all, we need to remember what our rugby DNA is – skilled, pacy, unpredictable, intelligent – the complete opposite of the structured snorefest we saw today.

“Mark my words, this is one of the darkest days in Wallaby history and it is now time for a complete overhaul of Rugby Australia, its governance and its coaching staff. It really is that big.”

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