Scoring tries a lost art for Wallabies as NZ sets pace
PERHAPS the health of world rugby is no worse than it's historical mean.
Perhaps Australians were spoiled by great Wallaby teams that won world cups, beat the All Blacks regularly and did so in a distinctly Australian manner. That is - creating gaps, scoring tries and trying to out-wit and outskill the opposition.
That was the Wallabies, even if the rest of the world didn't necessarily follow suit. But we proved, just as the All Blacks are currently doing, that you can beat boring teams by scoring tries.
If anyone is under any delusions about the state of world rugby, consider this.
In the England versus South Africa Test last weekend, England centre Manu Tuilagi passed the ball once.
His opposite outside centre Juan de Jongh touched the ball once in the whole Test.
The Wallabies have scored two tries in the past four Test matches. But those who blame refereeing interpretations, negative tactics or whatever are missing the mark.
The All Blacks are scoring tries for fun. They are to rugby like past Aussie and West Indies teams were to cricket - on a different level to the rest.
The All Blacks will eventually slip into some sort of decline, though it is unlikely to be to the same extent as the Windies of the 2000s and Aussies of the last Ashes series.
Even when the All Blacks aren't the best, they're very close. Until then, it is up to the rest to aspire to reach such standards.
In the past 30 years the one team to do so successfully and regularly has been the Wallabies, playing positive rugby. With modern defences and player fitness levels, the best opportunity to score tries comes from first phase, turnovers at the breakdown or kick returns.
Yet Robbie Deans' primary first phase tactic for the Wallabies is crash-ball through inside centre Pat McCabe.
McCabe's replacement against England, Ben Tapuai, showed what could be achieved when a player looks to run into space rather than directly at an opponent.
Unfortunately, Deans seems to have run up the white flag as far as scoring tries as a priority is concerned, following the boring as beige blinds philosophies that England and South Africa so steadfastly embrace.
It stems from the fear of failure and is not something Australians have had to deal with.
It hurts but not as much as the loss of identity that most Wallabies supporters now feel.
Better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees.