Rugby World Cup 2019: Why another Isi Naisarani brain fade could doom the Wallabies


ANALYSIS: The warm up is over, Australia survived the group stages to advance to a quarter-final against England. So what do we know about these Wallabies?

We know they are yet to get their discipline in hand. Coach Michael Cheika targeted “zero” penalties in the leadup to his side’s final pool game. Instead he got a yellow card.

Isi Naisarani’s clean out was illegal, the call was correct. Giorgi Nemsadze’s head and neck were the only body parts visible above the tackling player, Tolu Latu.

Against Georgia, ranked outside the top 10 Test nations in the world, the Wallabies could take the hit. Last week against Uruguay, ranked 18th, they could take the hit twice (Adam Coleman and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto).

Isi Naisarani of Australia is shown a yellow card by referee Pascal Gauzere during the gam against Georgia.

Stu Forster

Isi Naisarani of Australia is shown a yellow card by referee Pascal Gauzere during the gam against Georgia.

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Isi Naisarani is tackled by the Georgia defence.

Cameron Spencer

Isi Naisarani is tackled by the Georgia defence.

But against England in Oita next week a brain fade like Naisarani’s will cost Australia a World Cup semi-final.

We know there is still no certainty over who Australia’s No.10 should be against England.

Matt Toomua was flat and direct in attack and brought a solid kicking game early on, slotting three consecutive shots at goal in the first half before missing his next two in worsening conditions.

On the other side of the ledger, it was Toomua who over-committed in defence when Georgian winger Alexander Todua sped away for his team’s first try in the 71st minute.

Toomua had shifted across to second receiver by then, making way for Christian Lealiifano, who appears to be the front runner for the No.10 jersey against Toomua. James O’Connor moved on to the wing to cover Jordan Petaia, who played 57 minutes as the Wallabies continue to ease him into the Test arena.

Wallabies loose forward Jack Dempsey attempts to break a tackle against Georgia.

Cameron Spencer

Wallabies loose forward Jack Dempsey attempts to break a tackle against Georgia.

Leali’ifano was a solid addition, but with Bernard Foley in a form black hole, Wallabies fans who noted Queensland re-signing baby playmaker Isaac Lucas until 2023 would be forgiven for wondering why the 20-year-old didn’t get the third playmaker’s berth.

While Cheika can legitimately claim credit for the resurrection of the Australian pack, he has not brought through the next generation of five-eighths.

Wallabies captain David Pocock interacts with fans after beating Georgia.

Cameron Spencer

Wallabies captain David Pocock interacts with fans after beating Georgia.

We think – we don’t know yet, but we think – some tough love has worked on Taniela Tupou. The Tongan Thor showed glimpses of his athletic, rampaging best in Shizuoka, with a stunning piece of link play to connect a break by Rob Simmons (in his 100th Test) with veteran halfback Will Genia, who scored on the stroke of 80 minutes.

Tupou also gave a glimpse of why he is the highest-paid prop in Australian history when he chased down a Georgian back earlier in the second half. His work in broken play and restored set piece strength must make him a very tempting prospect for a showdown with England.

We know the Wallabies will be praying for fine conditions over Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.

The rain and wind worsened over the 80 minutes at Ecopa Stadium but there was no excuse for the handling errors from Australia.

And there was no demonstrable kicking game from them either. Cheika’s preamble gag about whether the Wallabies had a tactical kicking game was no joke. Georgia made 201 tackles to Australia’s 46 and, until the floodgates opened five minutes from full-time, they restricted a ball-running Australia to two tries in the wet.

We know the Wallabies can find a way. Credit where it’s due. With the exception of a 29-25 loss to Wales, they have managed to win games against teams playing three vastly different styles of rugby. They have belief, attacking talent, physicality and solid – if not stunning – set pieces. Jack Dempsey’s 75th minute try was a nice reminder for Eddie Jones that maul defence should be on his list of ‘to-dos during England’s luxurious quarter-final build up.

But are they genuine contenders for the Webb Ellis Cup?

The evidence so far isn’t convincing. The Wallabies have demonstrated neither the accuracy nor strategy to convince any fan they can match a New Zealand, South Africa or – ominously – an England when it counts.

Spirit abounds in Cheika’s side. But now it’s time to bring credibility to the table. “If we don’t know what we’re doing, the opposition won’t either,” the Australian coach joked – only half-joked – at the start of the tournament.

What do we know? We’ll find out next Saturday.

 

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Publish date : 2019-10-12 17:59:00

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