The Roar
The Roar

Matt McIlraith

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Joined October 2014

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Hi Intotouch. Thanks for the feedback. I didn’t really have the space to explain that point in the piece so I will explain now. At test level, the contest at the breakdown is much more physical. Teams are trying to shut the opposition down, as opposed to looking to play with speed themselves, especially in World Cup elimination games which are often a bash fest (remember England in the semi-final). In Super Rugby, the aim is to take the ball away from the contact zone as soon as possible to play with width. In big test matches, teams kick a lot more, apply more set piece pressure than you generally get in Super Rugby, and carry a lot closer to the contact zone. This gradually drains the energy of the opponent while also limiting clear turnover opportunities against a fractured defence: something which can be fatal against teams like the All Blacks. The refereeing is another big factor, referee’s do tend to let away a lot more in Super Rugby, because the emphasis is on the speed/flow of the game, that players don’t get away with in tests, especially with northern hemisphere referees. I had a quiet laugh to myself when an All Black told me after they got back from SA that the reason they had been so heavily penalised at Ellis Park was because the referee was quite ‘technical’. It wasn’t technicality, the All Blacks were defending South African mauls by blatantly pulling them down, something the players had often got away with in Super Rugby but didn’t with Luke Pearce, who is an outstanding English referee, one of the best. To their credit, the All Blacks adapted their defence strategies and it is now one of their strengths. But it is another instance of how Super Rugby – both in the way it is coached and played and the way it is refereed – is becoming increasingly less fit for purpose as far as big test matches go.

The fatal flaw the Wallabies and All Blacks share

We will agree to disagree on that one Shayne. If you check out my response below to Observer’s comment, you will see my explanation as to why. Thanks for reading the piece.

The fatal flaw the Wallabies and All Blacks share

Hi Balmoral. Players can still contribute from the sidelines but it wasn’t meant as a shot at Slips as I made clear in the piece. It was a decision that the senior players did (or did not as the case may be) made. It was not totally dis-similar to what we saw in Melbourne where Foley was trying to slow it down, didn’t heed the referee’s warnings, and no senior player stepped up to tell him to get on with it. Unfortunately, we saw it again in Dublin, even before the final penalty, around the neckrolls. The referee had made it clear to the Wallabies the next one goes and sure enough…bye bye Faing’aa! It’s not just on the captain, all of the senior players have to contribute – leadership is a combined thing – and that ‘art’ just seems to have been lost on the last few generations of Wallabies.

The fatal flaw the Wallabies and All Blacks share

Hi Observer. Thanks for your feedback. You were not to know this, but I was previously media manager of the All Blacks also, so I do have a pretty good understanding of the All Black psyche. I have sat in on many pre-game planning sessions, and been inside the dressing in the immediate aftermath of many All Black test matches, both wins and losses. It was easy for the current All Black hierarchy to suggest afterwards that they would have gone for the win. That was just the immediate and emotive reaction of disappointment: they didn’t have to make that decision – as they had no power over how the game would end unless England gave them that opportunity – which they didn’t. I can comfortably tell you – and I doubt the current team is any different – that the All Black teams I was associated with, which contained the likes of McCaw, Carter, Nonu, Thorn etc, would have taken the same decision England did. Yes, you want to win, all teams do, but you also don’t want to lose big games when you don’t have to, and the senior players would have assessed the odds of the position they were going to be in from the kickoff, and settled for what they had, rather than take the risk of losing it again. It reflects the leadership of that side, which became over time very hard nosed in their attitude. It is why it very seldom lost games in the late stages. They knew how to manage the back end of games, applying an appropriate strategy and discipline to ensure that their opponents had no way back. This is something that has long since been lost from the Wallaby environment and the All Blacks are starting to show the same weakness. Thank you again for contributing.

The fatal flaw the Wallabies and All Blacks share

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