“But despite the early success, the Wallabies only attempted two other driving mauls for the match. And the Wallabies won 13 lineouts in Paris, too; it’s not like they didn’t have more than just three opportunities.”
ESPNscrum.com: As tempting as it might have been to take last week’s lessons and substitute ‘France’ for ‘Wales’ – because we all know they’d still apply – the Wallabies do genuinely have new issues to deal with before they take on Six Nations Champions, Ireland, this weekend.
Worryingly, and while the starting scrum held up quite well against France in Paris, many of the issues I outlined last week remained, particularly once all the bench forwards came into the game. From a Wallabies perspective, it was fortunate that France weren’t able to take advantage of this. And while it would be very easy to drop into yet another analysis about the Wallabies scrum, there are other areas to look at this week.
And so here are this week’s lessons, as the Wallabies lob back in the city that brought them undone off the field last season, the Irish capital of Dublin, namely that i). without gain line metres, flat passing is just ball shovelling; ii). trust Cheika knows where he wants the team to go, and iii). forwards need their thinking caps on…
New French wunderkind Teddy Tomas bursts away from the Australian defence in Paris on Saturday. Image: ABC Grandstand
ABC Grandstand Digital: Dan Lonergan and I this morning on Grandstand Breakfast reviewed the Wallabies’ 29-26 loss to France in Paris yesterday morning our time, and tried to contemplate where Michael Cheika and the team might go from here.
Though the scoreboard indicates a tight affair, it really didn’t feel like that, and if anything, flatters the Wallabies. The French defensive and breakdown pressure won this game for Les Bleus, and won it pretty comprehensively, in all reality. Though they hit back to bring the margin back to 3 points, the Wallabies were never really a chance of winning this match. And so on they go to Dublin.
Also, we address the Kurtley Beale-shaped elephant in the room, with the midfielder recalled to the Wallabies squad over the weekend. Fair to say it’s not gone down well in all quarters…
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has made just the one change for France. Image: ABC Grandstand
ABC Grandstand Digital: On Grandstand Breakfast this morning, Joe Sullivan and I preview the France-Australia Test, kicking off in Paris at 7am tomorrow morning AEDT.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has made minimal changes from the side which accounted for Wales last weekend, while French mentor Phillipe Saint-Andre has also kept the faith in his side, which beat Fiji 40-15 in the first of their three November tests last weekend as well. Curiously though, Saint-Andre named a 12-man bench, which I’m yet to see has been trimmed down.
But the big talking point is the overnight news that Kurtley Beale, along with Queensland backrower Jake Schatz, will be joining the Wallabies squad. Beale is not replacing anyone due to injury, and has been added to the squad a fortnight after very nearly having his contract torn up. He was fined almost fifty grand for his sins in the whole Di Patston episode, but was not suspended.
And aren’t the conspiracy theorists having a field day this morning…
The scrum penalty try: “the worst offender here for mine is replacement lock Will Skelton, who on the tighthead side has his head far too high, has a terrible bind on Simmons, and his backside is significantly higher than it should be. Kepu is getting towelled up in front of him, and despite 140kg of bulk, Skelton is offering nothing.”
ESPNscrum.com: Look, a win’s a win. With the up-and-down season the Wallabies have had in 2014, it was important to start the Spring Tests with a win and Michael Cheika’s team have done that.
And yes, it was a long way from perfect as colleague Greg Growden outlined so well on Monday. When referee Craig Joubert did finally blow fulltime on the Test against Wales at the Millennium, you would at least like to think there were some elements of relief intertwined with all the jubilation.
Nevertheless, the unbeaten streak again Wales has now cracked double figures, and the Wallabies have touched down in the City of Love, where they will take on the equally brilliant and spectacularly mercurial Les Bleus at the Stade de France in the early hours of Sunday morning.
But there are a few lessons I hope the Wallabies took in on the flight over the Channel this week, namely that i). physicality isn’t a defence-only thing, ii). head down, bum down, Will! and iii). playing smarter is a welcome concept.