Coach’s Corner Issue 26: Is Dave Rennie thinking outside the ‘Boks?

Thanks to all who contributed a question at call-out time. The Wallabies front row was penalised in the early scrums. Did the ref get it right, or were SA pulling some sneaky moves? – JC Could you try and explain the scrums again this week? I was a bit befuddled by a lot of the […]

Coach’s Corner Issue 26: Is Dave Rennie thinking outside the ‘Boks?

Thanks to all who contributed a question at call-out time.

The Wallabies front row was penalised in the early scrums. Did the ref get it right, or were SA pulling some sneaky moves?
– JC

Could you try and explain the scrums again this week? I was a bit befuddled by a lot of the decisions. There were times when I thought the Wallabies had the ascendancy only for a penalty to be blown the other way. Other times, I thought we were certainly going to concede one and it was blown in our favour. Overall, however, I was left underwhelmed by the mighty Bok scrum.
– Oblonsky’s Other Pun

Agreed. I don’t understand how a team can be penalised for collapsing etc before the ball is even put in.
– Numpty

Although English official Luke Pearce gave a very positive account of himself overall, the refereeing interpretations at the scrum remained as mysterious as ever.

The first three scrums on the Springbok feed all ended up on the deck, with young Angus Bell copping the blame at the first of them.

At six feet and four and a and half inches tall, Bell is about two inches taller than his opponent, the redoubtable Frans Malherbe, and the longer levers create the visual impression of a ‘hinge’ by a taller man. A reset at the first set-piece of the game, at least until the true picture of ‘dominance’ became much clearer, was in order.

The mystery deepened halfway into the first period.

There is no significant forward movement on either side, and as soon as Malherbe feels some pressure underneath his right shoulder, he drops the scrum to the floor. In this case Luke Pearce waved play on as the ball was ready to be played.

Angus Bell conceded his second penalty of the game just after half time.

Again, Malherbe does little more than extend his upper body and fall flat on his face, but he has done enough to force the ‘hinge’ shape in his opposite number that triggers a decision by the referee.

When the scrum stayed at a more comfortable height, Bell looked to be in control, and Australia won slick ball from their own first two feeds. With Malherbe reluctant to drop the scrum close to his own goal-line at the end of the first period, the young Australian loosehead went to work.

This is a real picture of dominance for the loosehead prop. Frans Malherbe’s right foot has left the ground and his right shoulder is at the apex of the set-piece.

The Wallabies squeezed an even bigger advantage out of the battle between Taniela Tupou and ‘Ox’ Nche off the bench. With eight forwards on each side, Tupou discovered that Nche could not defend a shift of weight towards the middle of the set-piece.

This was one scrum before the decisive event, right on the hooter. Nche’s left foot has left the ground and his upper body is angled towards the far side-line. The impression was replicated one short minute later.

Interestingly, Luke Pearce did not award a penalty for any aspect of the South Africa scrum disintegration, but only for the Nic White strip at the tackle afterwards. Fortunately for the Wallabies, it did not matter.

What to do with JOC? Will he just become a super-sub, or given his rugby nous would he better be utilised at 13 as a running 2nd distributor or 15 where he can interject himself as a playmaker?

Does anybody think Quade is now an automatic choice to start at 10? I’m a fan but I am aware that he’s 34 and will be knocked around a lot as he takes the ball to the line and will be asked to do a lot more tackling by smarter game plans than the one from the Boks on Sunday. I also hope Rennie doesn’t just give up on Lolesio. There will be opportunities to play JOC but he’s been injured for months. Let him come off the bench at 10/12 depending on the game situation.

Having both JOC and QC compete at 10 is healthy and given their age, injuries are unfortunately going to be more common than not. Also having them both play 10 (one on bench) will keep them fresh, hungry and offer Noah more mentorship for when he eventually gets the required skills/experience to run the ship.
– Chester B

QC should be an automatic starting 10 until he actually gets a niggle or Noah performs better off the bench. JoC should be on the bench next Game 1MO. So, my question is who should he replace on the bench – Petaia or Hodge?
– PeterK

One ‘amigo’ has just had his Peter Pan-like rejuvenation against South Africa, now it is the turn of another (James O’Connor) to make a comeback from injury.

But if Quade sticks at number 10 for the remainder of the Rugby Championship, as now seems likely, where can Dave Rennie fit in the talents of O’Connor, who was so central to his plans last season?

I doubt he will move him into the back three. fullback or wing may well have been his best position in his younger days, but Rennie will now want him in and around the ball, to make best use of his leadership and communication skills.

That means jersey number 13 could be the answer. It would be harsh on Len Ikitau, who enjoyed his best outing so far in the green and gold against South Africa in Townsville, but Samu Kerevi and O’Connor played together throughout the 2019 World Cup group stages in the centres.

Defensively O’Connor is well-versed in the duties at outside centre from his time with Sale in the UK, which means Samu can remain at 12. On attack, JOC can link directly with the outside backs, which is so often his function at the Reds in any case.

O’Connor and Kerevi enjoyed a good understanding together at the World Cup.

Imagine Quade making the final cross-kick instead of Bernard Foley, and you have the perfect balance of functions!

If James O’Connor comes back on the bench, either Reece Hodge or Jordan Petaia could move into the starting fullback role, with the other riding the pine alongside O’Connor.

What are the Wallabies getting wrong with their backfield kicking/kick receipts and exits in general? Is this a personnel issue, and if so, who could/should come in? Or is it a tactical issue that they could tweak? The Wallabies turned over a lot of ball on or near halfway, particularly in the 2nd half.
– Numpty

Stop the infatuation with box kicking from our 22! Get set, and once the ball is ready at the back, pass quickly to option kickers. Cooper, Banks etc…
– Hoy
What I seem to have noticed is that because the defence can rush so fast now, if the 10/12/15 isn’t perfectly positioned, and unless the pass from the 9 is perfect, then that split second it takes to get set can mean they are under so much pressure from the defence that the kick is often rubbish.
– Oblonsky’s Other Pun
I’m keen to know whether we are capable of being a top 3 side with McDermott starting, if he does not improve his kicking.
-Oblonsky’s Other Pun
Tate was pretty poor. Say what you like about a minor injury, but for me White replaced him on the back of Tate’s performance.
– Bobby

I remain convinced their respective skill sets are way better suited for opposite roles – White starting and McDermott finishing.
– Ozinsa

I have no doubt that Tate McDermott’s recent performances ta number 9 have left him well in credit with the Wallaby coaching panel, but the kicking game still lags behind the rest of his play, and this makes the box-kick exit a much less attractive option with Tate starting than it is with Nic White in ‘the box seat’!

There are a number of different aspects that influence the effectiveness of contestable kicks. South Africa reclaimed all of their first three high kicks, while Australia lost all five of theirs. Aggression on chase was a big factor.

It’s a decent effort by McDermott in the first instance, but Andrew Kellaway stops short to make the safe tackle, whereas Sbu Nkosi charges straight through the aerial space and knocks over Tom Banks in the process.

It is really a foul because Nkosi has no chance of catching the ball himself, but South Africa pick up the shrapnel and play moves on. The Springboks are prepared to play much closer to the edge in order to win the ball back.

In the English Premiership, referees tend to require number 9’s to play the ball far more quickly once it reaches the base, and on occasion the faster cadence seemed to hurry Tate before he was ready to kick.

There were also problems associated with the set-up phases before the exit was ever made.

You don’t really want McDermott having to make a longer pass off his left hand so close to the goal-line! In the second half, Lachie Swinton also lost control of the ball twice on easy, ‘surrender-tackle’ type phases in preparation for the box exit.

What are the best solutions? Especially in matches of the strategic variety which the Wallabies will encounter against both the Springboks, and on the end-of-year tour in Europe, it makes sense to start Nic White for accuracy on the box kick.

The ball lands in the danger zone where the chase can attack the receiver and generate a turnover.

The other major option is to make far more use of Len Ikitau’s left boot kicking towards the left side-line. This is a tactic which Wales (with Jonathan Davies) and Ireland (with Rob Kearney) have used successfully for many years. Ikitau’s left boot is possibly longer and more accurate than both,

A big thank-you once more, to all who made a genuine contribution at call-out time!

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‘There’s so many guys OS who could play for Australia’: Kellaway says ‘scrap Giteau Law’

In his press conference ahead of his record-breaking 60th Test match as captain of Australia on Friday, 29-year-old Michael Hooper referred to 25-year-old Andrew Kellaway as “a kid”. Hooper didn’t mean it to belittle the man. It was more that in terms of Test rugby, Kellaway’s six Test matches placed him well into the rookie […]

‘There’s so many guys OS who could play for Australia’: Kellaway says ‘scrap Giteau Law’

In his press conference ahead of his record-breaking 60th Test match as captain of Australia on Friday, 29-year-old Michael Hooper referred to 25-year-old Andrew Kellaway as “a kid”.

Hooper didn’t mean it to belittle the man. It was more that in terms of Test rugby, Kellaway’s six Test matches placed him well into the rookie category.

Yet Kellaway has been around the block. And if his comments in the official Rugby Championship Test match program are anything to go by, he’s not backward in coming forward.

Asked about the so-called ‘Giteau Law’ that places restrictions on which Australians can play for Australia, Kellaway says “the law’s got to be scrapped”.

“If you’re Australian you should be able to play for Australia. That’s regardless of where you’re playing in the world.

“The game’s changing, the world’s changing. If we don’t change with it, we’re going to find ourselves far worse off than we are now.”

(Photo by Getty Images)

Kellaway points to his former team, NSW Waratahs, who didn’t win a game in 2021. He worries that the Wallabies could look like that one day.

“At some stage we have to sit down and ask is it about winning or about nurturing the future,” he says.

“If it’s the latter, I would be extremely worried. The Wallabies might look like the Waratahs [did] this year.

“And unfortunately for those guys, it must’ve been a horrendous year to have to sit through that. None of them are to blame, it’s the people who thought it was okay to run what was essentially an academy side out of a professional team.

“That’s probably not a popular opinion and a little bit heavy.

“But I think it’s an absolute no brainer.”

The man is uniquely placed to comment. His rugby journey’s taken him from Gladesville to Randwick to Armidale to Northampton to Pukekohe to Melbourne to Abiko in the Chiba Prefecture east of Tokyo, and back to Melbourne.

His plan out of school was to play for NSW – which he achieved – and then the Wallabies, which took longer.

Andrew Kellaway scores a try

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

After that he assumed it’d be take the cash in France. He thought that’s just how rugby careers happened.

What happened to Kellaway was injury. Followed by the sad but sure realisation that he was on the outer at the Tahs. He signed with Northampton. It was the making of him.

“It was such a weird time in my life, leaving the Tahs and feeling really unfulfilled, there was no closure. I thought I had more to offer and I went to Saints, not ‘reluctantly’ but not super positive about footy either,” he says.

“I was 21, 22, away from home for the first time in this little town in the Midlands and wasn’t really that pumped about it.

“I was in a strange place but the people allowed me to be me and be comfortable being me. And it taught me about footy on the way, too.

“I still say now I’d drop everything and go back in a heartbeat.”

Kellaway’s biggest takeaway from Northampton was perspective. At the Waratahs he’d “stubbornly” and “arrogantly” fought against being a utility back. He wanted to play fullback.

At Saints he filled in at centre for injured Rob Horne before playing wing, fullback, wing and centre again.

“Northampton taught me that it doesn’t matter where you playing as long as you’re playing,” Kellaway says.

“I’d have played maybe 30 games either bench or starting and while I can’t say I played the best footy of my career, jeez I loved it. I was genuinely happy, is the best way to put it.”

Then a phone call begat a huge call. Melbourne Rebels had an opening though the money was a quarter what he was on. It was less even than his contract out of school with NSW. He took it anyway.

Brumbies Rebels

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

On the way home he picked up a ten week contract with Counties Manukau playing fullback. There followed a few good games for Melbourne Rebels when COVID struck. There followed an offer from NEC Green Hornets in Japan, money that was “too good to turn down”.

The Rebels were good about it. They appreciated that he’d taken the haircut to come home. Told him he’d earned it. Just come back to us as you left.

He did.

And then they picked for him Australia.

And here he is, a 25-year-old man who says he doesn’t want to be an “example” to his fellow professionals. But he would like to be a “reminder” of what’s possible. That no two journeys need be the same.

“I remember being told the number of Australian players currently playing outside of Australia and I remember being really shocked by the number. But it needn’t be the case,” Kellaway says.

“Hopefully with coming home and giving it a nudge, it’s a reminder to guys that it’s still an option if you’re willing to make a choice and do what’s necessary. It wasn’t easy to accept 25 per cent of the deal that I was on in England. That’s a tough thing to do. You talk about life after footy, that probably set me back.

“But then I look at where I am now and that choice was instrumental in putting me in this position. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Kellaway acknowledges his decision wouldn’t work for everyone. That the money in Europe and Japan can be just too enticing for some men and their families.

Andrew Kellaway scores debut try for the Wallabies

(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

“We’re not stupid, it’s not always possible because of the nature of the game and the way things are in our country,” he says.

“But we do want as many guys playing in Australia as possible. And guys might see me and think, ‘He was shit when I played against him, if he can do it so can I!’.”

The interviewer laughs. Kellaways says that he’s “deadly serious”.

“You laugh but there’s so many guys overseas who could be playing for Australia,” he says.

“And there could come a time when we’ll see them playing for Japan. In another life they’d be playing for Australia.”

But wouldn’t our local franchises and greater competition struggle if the best players were in Europe, Japan or the USA?

Kellaway acknowledges that “guys will slip through the cracks” should the law be removed. Yet he argues it’s happening anyway. And that Australian rugby is the worse for it.

“I hear the argument about Super Rugby dying if we let guys come and go. But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really buy it,” he says.

“If it were the case that any Australian at any stage of their career could just leave and go to another team, easily… it isn’t that easy.

“There aren’t infinite amount of spots for Australians to play rugby and vanish into good teams. It just doesn’t happen that way… I don’t buy it.”

As Hooper told reporters, Kellaway will “question things if he thinks they can be done better”.

“But he’s open to learning as well.

“The kid’s had potential and I say ‘kid’ because he’s still pretty young although it feels like he’s been around for ages.

“We’re starting to see him really grow now and it’s fantastic for him.”

For Australian rugby, too.

All power to him.

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