Rugby World: Eddie find who ‘could be like Kolbe,’ Quade’s hilarious coach stitch up, Carter’s ‘most influential’

Welcome to the second edition of Rugby World, a weekly column dedicated to some of the most intriguing stories from the XV man game. Eddie’s excitement machine Eddie Jones named his 34-man squad to play the northern autumn Tests, including one against the Wallabies, and opted for youth in some key positions. While 22-year-old flyhalf […]

Rugby World: Eddie find who ‘could be like Kolbe,’ Quade’s hilarious coach stitch up, Carter’s ‘most influential’

Welcome to the second edition of Rugby World, a weekly column dedicated to some of the most intriguing stories from the XV man game.

Eddie’s excitement machine

Eddie Jones named his 34-man squad to play the northern autumn Tests, including one against the Wallabies, and opted for youth in some key positions. While 22-year-old flyhalf Marcus Smith has gained most of the headlines, 23-year-old winger Adam Radwan clearly has the hairs on the back of Eddie’s neck tingling and could get an introduction to Wallabies fans next month.

The Newcastle Falcons flyer is rated the fastest player in England, and Jones was effusive in praising his talents in a chat on the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast on Tuesday.

Radwan was brought into the fold last season and marked his only Test appearance with a hat-trcik of tries in a 70-14 victory over Canada at Twickenham.

“I’d seen a little bit of him then I went to the last game of the premiership up Newcastle and he scored this NRL try where he’s on the outside and dives through,” said Jones.

“I thought we’ve got to have a look at this bloke. Then we brought him in the camp, and honestly the first couple of weeks he wasn’t great.”

Jones told his fellow coaches they needed to send Radwan back to his club, but he won a reprieve when a match against Barbarians was cancelled and they played an 11v11 trial instead.

“He was unbelievable. It’s just like someone had lit the fuse, and ever since then he’s continued to grow,” Jones said.

“He’s one of those guys who missed out on all the pathway stuff, had been disappointed. Got an opportunity and found his way and now he’s just so hungry, and is absolutely lightning.

“He could be like a [Cheslin] Kolbe in Test rugby – small, dynamic with feet that if he’s one on one, he’s going to beat you. He could beat you in a phone box at the moment.”

While Jones acknowledged Radwan needed to become a more rounded player, he recalled some advice from his mentor and former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer.

“One of the greatest tips I ever got was from Bob Dwyer: He said always pick the players with the things you can’t coach because you can coach the other stuff – the hard work, the effort,” said Jones.

“Jonny May is a great example in how hard he’s worked at his game. I would have said in the last two years, he’s probably been the best winger in the world, and there’s no reason why Jonny can’t keep getting better.

“But I’m sure he’s looking over his shoulder at Radwan thinking I’ve got to keep working hard here. So I could we could get another even better performances from Jonny over the next two years.”

In a lengthy, and fascinating chat on the podcast, Jones also reflected on the rise of Smith and the potential pitfalls in his way, the state of rugby and how he’s planning ahead for the 2023 RWC.

He first watched Smith play as schoolboy in 2015.

“I thought he went through quite a difficult time at Quins for a period,” said Jones. “He lost his way a little bit, probably wasn’t himself, there could be a number of reasons for that.

“I thought in the last premiership year he found himself and then when he came into camp with us he was absolutely outstanding. Humble, hard working, but a bit of edge about him , which is what you want.

“With those young players, it’s about how they can keep their feet on the ground. Everything’s great at that moment but he’s only got to have one or two bad games and then everything’s terrible.

“So it’s just keeping his feet on the ground, keep progressing, keep moving forward. He’s obviously a very good player, the talent’s one thing it’s how you handle the rest of the stuff that’s going to be important.

“I think, particularly in England, there’s either really great things, or there’s a crisis – nothing in between. And generally rugby is about the bits in between.

“You’re either a little bit better, or you’re a little bit worse, you’re never absolutely massively better, or, or, incredibly poor, and you’ve got to try to find the right balance as to when the bring the players in.”

Jones was also quizzed about the style of the international game right now, and where it might be headed.

“We go through this [style debate] periodically. The 2007 Rugby World Cup final, there were 96 kicks. Was there anyone in South Africa who was unhappy?

“It wasn’t great rugby, but the game keeps on cycling through. We go through slow periods, and then people get sick of it we get to a fast period, and then the referees get sick of enforcing the laws at the breakdown and it becomes slow again, and it’s just keep cycling through.

“That’s a great thing about our game – it keeps changing all the time. Players and coaches have got to adapt to what’s happening and at the moment we’re in a good cycle. The referees are being tough at the breakdown, we’re getting quick ball and allowing teams to attack.”

He said England’s staff were focused, as always on what’s next.

“Like all the other teams in modern sport, we’ve got a data and analytics team that looks at everything and they can predict where it’s going. At the moment, 99.9% of Tests, up until this year, were won by the team that kicks the most. That’s fact.

“But now it’s starting to even out that the teams who can run, if you get a balance between your running and kicking, you’ve got a greater chance to win Test matches.”

Quade’s delicious coach stitch up

One of Eddie Jones’ long time deputies, Scott Wisemantel, made the switch to the Wallabies under Dave Rennie last year and has been credited with helping spark Australia’s attack under Dave Rennie.

The mere mention of his name brought a smile to Quade Cooper’s face on a press call this week when the Wallabies playmaker was asked about Wisemantel’s impact.

It gave Cooper, who had shared an Instagram video of him embarrasing Wisemantel with some quick feet at training, the chance for a stitch up he richly enjoyed.

“He’s a great bloke,” said Cooper. “For me it’s not so much his football brain, and he is a great football brain, but it’s the conversations that I’ve been able to have with him just in and around the environment.

“Talking about who he is as a man, the things that he stands for the morals, the values that he holds dearly to him. We’ve had some phenomenal conversations about mindset, about what he does in his time away from the game or some of the things that he’s learned in his long career as a coach.

“I really love him as a man and as a human, first and foremost, and then when you get out onto the football field, I have that much respect for him as a man first. And that’s why I still feel pretty dirty about what I did to him the other day on the training paddock.”

This is the moment he was referring to.

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A post shared by Quade Cooper (@quadecooper)

Rennie has compiled an impressive assistant crew, and prop Allan Alaalatoa has praised the impact of Wallabies forwards coach and Brumbies boss Dan McKellar.

“Our set piece has definitely grown … I think Dan’s involvement has really helped,” he said this week.

“I know that a lot of the boys in the squad respect him and what he has to say so I think definitely there’s been a huge improvement around our set piece.”

The ‘absolute genius’ who influenced Carter

All Blacks legend Dan Carter, doing the media circuit for his new book, has revealed former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith was the most influential in his career.

“Absolute magician, absolute genius. I’ve never met anyone who works as hard as he does,” Carter told Newstalk ZB of Smith, who was Graham Henry assistant in 2004, as Carter emerged as All Blacks No.10.

“He challenges you, he gets the best out of you. He’s a good friend. He was a big part of my journey.

“It is really hard to nail one coach because I had so many amazing coaches with Steve Hansen, Graham Henry, Robbie Deans, some absolute legends of world rugby.

“But the fact that Smithy could drag me to Japan for a couple of extra years at the end of my career goes to show how important he was to me.”

Steyn retires from international rugby

Springboks legend Morne Steyn has quit international rugby to focus on getting more playing time with the Bulls.

The 37-year-old played in the recent Rugby Championship, but told Springboks management he wanted to spend more time with his family and play more regularly in the twilight of his career.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about things and it has been difficult over the last few months being away from home with touring and being away from my kids,” Steyn said.

“I said to Jacques [Nienaber] that I haven’t been the No.1 choice for a while now, and it doesn’t make sense to wait for injuries for a chance to play. I have a year or two left in my career and I would rather spend it playing for the Bulls than sitting on the sidelines. I really want to enjoy my last two years of rugby.”

Nienaber is also missing Faf de Klerk, Cheslin Kolbe and World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit for their Autumn Nations Series Tests against Wales, Scotland and England.

De Klerk is sidelined by a hip injury, Kolbe is absent because of a knee problem and du Toit is recovering from his shoulder injury.

“It’s always unfortunate to lose players due to injury, but we have good depth in our squad and these are established players who have proven themselves at the highest level,” Nienaber said.

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How Dave Rennie’s Wallabies are pushing the limits in contact

If there is one aspect of the game that defines Dave Rennie as a rugby coach, it is the breakdown. If there is one area the Wallabies were hoping to improve under his stewardship, it is their work in contact. That was never a point of strength in the Michael Cheika era, but it is […]

How Dave Rennie’s Wallabies are pushing the limits in contact

If there is one aspect of the game that defines Dave Rennie as a rugby coach, it is the breakdown.

If there is one area the Wallabies were hoping to improve under his stewardship, it is their work in contact. That was never a point of strength in the Michael Cheika era, but it is rapidly becoming one under the auspices of the mastermind from Upper Hutt.

Rennie has always made work at the ruck a central tenet of his coaching, in terms of both focus and innovation. As coach of the 2015 Chiefs in Super Rugby, he was the first to realise that a ruck could not be formed if there were no defenders in it.

Therefore, there was no offside line for the defence on the following phase and they were free to jump to the opposing side of the play. There is an excellent summary of the consternation caused by the Irish analytical journalist Murray Kinsella.

A couple of years later, Italy dug out the same tactic against a very flustered England side at Twickenham.

When asked by England forwards Dylan Hartley and James Haskell how England could best create a ruck, and therefore an offside line, French referee Romain Poite gave a response for the ages: “I cannot say. I am the referee, not the coach.”

Eddie Jones should probably have been pointing the finger at Dave Rennie, not Italy’s head coach Conor O’Shea after the game.

With his Wallabies preparing to play France in the decisive third Test of the summer series, it was the breakdown that was Rennie’s focus in the media.

“We’ve talked about post-tackle and they are very strong there,” Rennie said.

“I’m not saying it’s always legal and we’ll get clarification over some things there. We’ve got to be mindful we’ve got to win races and be brutal around that [breakdown] area. We cleaned out really well for a chunk of the game [in Melbourne] but we lost key moments and that hurt us.

“We spoke about it after the first Test. If you get caught on that side [of the ruck] you’ve got to roll east or west. They tend to get on their hands and knees. Other than our nines tripping over to milk a penalty, they have got no right to be there.

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“[Referee] Brendon Pickerill after the first Test said [future referees] need to be strong around that. We felt [France] were able to slow a lot of our ball down in that fashion.”

At the time, I examined some of the problems the Wallabies experienced with the French in general, and centre Jonathan Danty, in particular, at the post-tackle.

With their high proportion of on-ballers, and such a big emphasis on physicality in contact situations, South Africa were always going to represent the biggest hurdle for Australia to overcome in the Rugby Championship.

It is therefore worth investigating just how well they succeeded, on both sides of the ball. In the process, the Wallabies showed that they are truly becoming a team built in their head coach’s image.

On attack, Dave Rennie wants more, much more than simply passive protection of the ball at the breakdown. He wants his cleanout players to push the envelope, and stretch the boundaries of what constitutes a ruck to the edge of legality.

Look at the actions of Samu Kerevi and Folau Fainga’a after they attend the ruck built over a terrific run by Rob Valetini. They don’t retire passively ‘onside’, they move forward in much the same manner that a number 9 would anticipate a break with their line of running in support – ahead of the ball.

Their objective is to maintain the split between the two most likely defenders on either side of a future ruck (Duane Vermeulen and Lood de Jager) and open a pathway up the middle.

It is no accident that Michael Hooper’s weaving break goes in between those same two players.

Rennie wants the squeeze the last drop of juice out of every cleanout at a ruck on attack.

Izack Rodda doesn’t just sit on top of the ball or the tackled player passively, he moves up on Vermeulen and performs what is known in American Football parlance as a ‘wall block’. In other words, he intentionally walls off both the Springbok number 8 and the main defensive organiser around the ruck (number 9 Faf de Klerk) from the pathway of the next attacking phase.

The intended play is a reverse pass from Tate McDermott to fullback Tom Banks, and in the event de Klerk does very well to circle around from one side of the ruck to the other to fill the running lane. But the intent is crystal clear.

Australia’s breaking or scoring phases tended to contain a lot of cleanouts ‘right on the limit’.

Samu Kerevi makes the bust from lineout, but the actions of Andrew Kellaway and Michael Hooper in support are also of great interest. Kellaway ensures that he takes out Handré Pollard, even though Pollard is already on the ground; and Hooper ensures that he pushes Siya Kolisi out of the intended running lane for the next phase. It’s not strictly a ruck because nobody is bound together, but it does represent positive, if ruthless attacking intent.

As the last two examples illustrate, Faf de Klerk is one of the key pieces of South Africa’s defensive jigsaw around the ruck, and he needs to be accounted for on scoring phases.

It’s a great around-the-corner cleanout by centre Len Ikitau on de Klerk – not just neutralising any threat to the ball, but burying him on the left of the ruck to open space for Tate McDermott on the right.

Deprived of its main organising voice for a couple of phases, the Springbok short-side defence had still not recovered its shape in time to prevent the scoring overlap which led eventually to Taniela Tupou’s no-look pass, and Marika Koroibete’s try.

Dave Rennie and his coaches formulated an equally good plan for the defensive breakdown. Michael Hooper was a workaholic in the middle throughout the tournament, finishing top in dominant tackles (7), top in combined ruck attendances, and third in steals on the ground.

When play moved into either of the 15 metre channels, the Wallabies went to the counter-ruck against South Africa’s smaller and less powerful outside backs.

In the first two cases, the formula is very similar. The counter-ruck is led by number 13 Len Ikitau, and followed in by a back-rower (Rob Valetini in the first instance, Hooper in the second) plus another outside back (Marika Koroibete or Tom Banks).

Not only is the ruck ball slowed down, but de Klerk is knocked away from the base and cannot bring organisation to the next phase of attack.

In total, Australia either turned over or spoiled 11 Springbok rucks by counter-ruck over the two games, a massive 9per cent of their total delivery from the breakdown. Here are the two most seminal examples of all.

As soon as the play shifts into the 15-metre channel, the usual suspects are on hand – Valetini leading, with Hooper and Ikitau adding in the first example; Marika leading, with Hooper and Ikitau (and later Valetini) adding at the second. The one rapidly becomes a rolling wave of three in both cases.

It is also notable that under the new breakdown guidelines, the ball-carrier can no longer hang on for too long on the deck, and that creates an immediate target for the counter-ruck. Franco Mostert tries to retrieve the ball and is penalised in the first example, Makazole Mapimpi could as easily have been pinged for playing at the ball twice in the second.

Summary

Dave Rennie is bringing some of the Chiefs mana at breakdown time to the Wallabies. The man who invented a previously unknown offside line at the ruck in Super Rugby is steadily moving in the right direction at Test level: pushing the envelope on attack, getting more prolonged and meaningful contact at cleanout.

Thinking about protecting the ball for sure, but anticipating the next phase of attack along the way. Finding the meaningful angles, taking out the key men on defence.

On defence, his Wallaby protégés are developing a real ferocity at the wide counter-ruck to support Michael Hooper’s on-ball ability in the middle. Powerful outside backs like Len Ikitau and Marika Koroibete are leading the charge, with able support from Hooper and Rob Valetini. Over the two games, they were far too much for their Springbok opposites.

With Tolu Latu also in the mix on the end-of-year tour, there is every chance for further improvement to be made. The lessons taught by Shaun Edwards and Jonathan Danty back in July will not been lost in the dark days of a European November. They will stand the Wallabies in good stead against the likes of England and Wales at the tail end of the most difficult season in memory.

Source : The Roar More   

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