Five things I’d like to see from the Wallabies against the All Blacks
By Sam Ryan
After a horrific start to the Bledisloe Cup in Sydney back in August, the Wallabies have improved each time they’ve taken the field in recent months and have shown a number of genuinely positive signs for the years ahead.
The obvious improvement though will mean very little unless Australia can produce a similar performance against the All Blacks in the final Bledisloe Cup match this year.
While on paper it’s a dead rubber, Saturday’s match is far more important for the psyche of Australian rugby and a win in Brisbane could be exactly what the Wallabies need heading into a tough UK tour and a crucial 2018 season.
Here’s five things I’d like to see from the Wallabies on Saturday night.
Finish each half strong
If a Test match is decided by five or so key moments, the All Blacks have an uncanny ability to win more of those moments than not. They typically come in the back end of both halves, when the Kiwis superior fitness and skill level takes charge.
The Wallabies look to be fitter than they’ve ever been and Michael Cheika has clearly had the group working on their basic skills under fatigue, which may be exactly what is needed to not just match the All Blacks in those key moments, but to win them.
Continue to evolve in attack
The Wallabies attack, particularly off set piece, looked sharp against South Africa and Argentina and although the execution wasn’t always perfect, the combinations are clearly starting to come together.
With Bernard Foley playing straight and flat, the Wallabies now have numerous attacking threats throughout the backline and have looked impressive when they’ve played with two lines of attack off front foot ball.
Wallaby forwards break the advantage line
Sean McMahon and Jack Dempsey have been two of Australia’s best in recent matches, repeatedly getting the Wallabies over the advantage line in attack, but that is a whole lot harder to do when you’re facing a wall of black jerseys.
Still just 23, Dempsey in particular has tremendous upside and it will be interesting to watch him on Saturday against the Kiwis.
For Australia’s flat attack to fire, the Wallabies forwards must break the All Blacks advantage line.
Limit turnovers & easy possessions
The All Blacks have re written the book on counter attack over the past decade and are at their most devastating best in unstructured play. The Wallabies can’t afford to give New Zealand an opportunity to attack against a broken defensive line and will need to limit the amount of turnovers they concede.
When Australia do kick, it must be either contestable or sent into row 36, or that reoccurring nightmare I’m having of Rieko Ioane charging down a sideline might not go away.
It’s been a really tough year for Australian rugby fans and I can only imagine how tough it’s been for the players and coaches, who have lived and breathed it every day.
After coming heartbreakingly close in Dunedin, a win against the All Blacks in Brisbane on Saturday night is exactly what Australian rugby needs.
It certainly won’t solve things on or off the field, but it would be a massive step in the right direction.