Michael Cheika’s Wallabies certainly are record breakers.
Following on from last Saturday’s biggest ever loss against England, Cheika’s side set a whole new host of records against Scotland today at Murrayfield.
In the history of Australia vs Scotland test matches, stretching right back to 1927, the 53 points were the most ever conceded by Australia against the Scots and 29 their biggest ever losing margin. Scotland’s eight tries were also the most they have ever scored against the Wallabies.
But to fully appreciate those three new marks you need to put them in context. The previous highest score by Scotland against Australia was 34, in the controversial quarter final loss at the 2015 Rugby World Cup – that mark was beaten by 19 points.
The biggest ever losing margin before today was nine points, that was exceeded by 20 – and the most tries Scotland had ever managed against Australia in a Test before today was three. That was beaten by a staggering five five-pointers.
Then there were the marks that Scotland almost set. It was the third most points ever scored against Australia in 617 Tests; they became only the third country after South Africa and New Zealand to rack up a half century against the Wallabies (the first northern hemisphere nation) and it was the equal ninth largest lost in Wallaby history (again the largest to a northern hemisphere nation.)
Yes, the Australians played over half the match with 14-men after a mindless and totally out of character shoulder charge by Sekope Kepu but this was insane rugby by any standard.
Scotland have made stunning strides under new coach Gregor Townsend, and this was their second victory over Australia this calendar year, but this was far more impressive than that 24-19 triumph in Sydney.
The Scots were decimated by the loss of their star Stuart Hogg just before kick-off but rather than go into their shell they fully committed to their new-look high-tempo, highly skilled running game.
Even when they went behind 12 – 10 just before Kepu was sent off or when Australia scored first in the second half, the brave Scots refused to flinch.
Their skill levels were breathtaking and despite their break-neck speed their accuracy was impressive with just six dropped passes (eight by Australia) and 23 missed tackles (29 by Australia).
The match showed the Scots nearly-victory against the All Blacks last weekend was no-fluke and Scotland are now right up alongside England and Ireland as Six Nations favourites.
As for the Wallabies – Cheika has to take full responsibility for this debacle. Yes Australia were unlucky against England but there was no luck in this. Kepu’s red card, and Kurtley Beale’s second in two games, shows a recklessness and lack of discipline that stems straight from the coach.
If the coach cannot control himself how can the players.
When they were reduced to 14 men they had to have a plan B – keep it tight, play territory – but they still threw the ball around like it was an end of season Barbarians jaunt. It played right into the Scots hands, and the adoring Murrayfield crowd’s hearts.
Just over a month ago the Wallabies deservedly beat the All Blacks in Brisbane and after a horror spell in Australian rugby, on and off the field, things were finally looking up.
But after record losses to England and Scotland the Wallabies end their season as a dis-heartened rabble and Cheika has to start all over again in 2018.
If the Wallabies are to have any chance at all in the 2019 RWC, or claiming back the Bledisloe Cup before that, Cheika must learn some discipline and then instill that discipline in his team. Or else more dark days like this will follow.
Ireland recorded their biggest win over South Africa on Saturday with a 38-3 hammering at Lansdowne Road.
The Irish ran in four tries – three in the last 10 minutes – to extend the woeful Springboks winless run to five matches.
Especially pleasing for Joe Schmidt was the fact that three of his inexperienced players, Andrew Conway, South Africa-born hooker Rob Herring and the impressive Jacob Stockdale scored three of the tries. Rhys Ruddock nabbed the other.
Here, we take a look at three things learned from Dublin.
For a side that sparkled for large parts of the Rugby Championship, South Africa failed to bring an attacking and physical edge to the Aviva Stadium and were blown away by a strong Ireland side.
Joe Schmidt’s men played with desire and commitment in defence and attack as they hammered South Africa territorially at every opportunity.
They restricted their opponents from attacking the wider channels, with Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale always willing to close down the Springboks back three and prevent any quick breaks from deep.
Although it is unfair to say Alistair Coetzee’s side looked short on confidence, it was the Ireland’s pressurising tactics to keep possession and close down space that caused them problems.
The Springboks failed to keep the ball in hand, threaten the line and out-work the Irish – and that proved costly in the end.
Ireland looked very accomplished from ball in hand during a scrappy contest, with man-of-the-match Jonny Sexton at the fore of their kicking dominance.
He consistently pinned back his opponents deep in their own territory, and converted five out of six kicks in a stellar display.
In the big games, the 32-year-old cements his reputation as Ireland’s ice man with his threatening efforts from hand and off the tee.
Overall, Sexton played the line superbly, both with ball in hand and defensively, and set the tempo for a commanding Ireland win.
The Ulsterman was an inspirational presence against the Springboks, taking on possession at every opportunity.
One of the best in the business under the high ball, the 21-year-old showed his stellar pace, solid tackling ability, good positioning and lethal finishing under the bright lights of the Aviva Stadium.
He made a superb break to execute a key pass for Rhys Ruddock’s try and capped off a fine performance with a clever finish just before full-time.
If Schmidt has one eye on the World Cup then he needs to give this industrious winger more chances to continue developing his skills on the international stage.
At 6’5, he can act as an option for full-back, centre and wing and should get the nod for the matches against Fiji and Argentina.
A blast of winter sun will be met with mixed feelings by waylaid Wasps prop Matt Mullan this Saturday. Instead of running out at Twickenham amid plunging temperatures as England welcome Argentina for the first of three – Australia and Samoa are to follow – autumn internationals, he will be in Dubai’s The Warehouse combining recuperation from an untimely tricep injury and providing expert analysis of the action more than 7,000 kilometres away.
Sport360° caught up with the 17-cap forward to discuss rugby’s plague of injuries, maverick head coach Eddie Jones’ penchant for “chaos” and the emerging Ellis Genge.
You picked up this latest injury a day before meeting up with England. What are your feelings about the situation?
The timing is the most disappointing, if anything. Injuries are part and parcel of what we do, but the day before you fly off to England camp [in Portugal] is particularly gutting. I had an operation on Monday, which was the first step to getting the recovery done. You work so hard and we had a good time in Argentina [Mullan came off the bench in both Test wins], having a successful tour.
Particularly, I was part of a young group. I missed out on the British & Irish Lions, but it was nice to be part of that [England tour]. I was getting back into some form and being recognised for that, so it’s not ideal [the injury]. I think it’ll be about a threemonth lay-off, so the end of January. The Six Nations starts a week after I’m due to be back, so I’m not looking at that.
Wasps have endured a crippling injury list this term. How much do players think about the long term impact of rugby union’s heavy knocks?
You don’t think about that day in, day out. The game is getting quicker and the players are getting bigger and stronger. That is just a fact of life and it will continue that way. As players, you just have to try and adapt. If the club decides they need you to be bigger and quicker to win matches, you just buy into it.
In terms of the period later in life, you see people who have retired and they are aching. But I don’t think you sit there and think about it, day to day. You might joke after a tough game, saying ‘how will we get up when we are 40?’ But, you are just there to enjoy the moment.
What has Eddie Jones been like since you were pulled out of the squad at the last minute?
His main focus was getting the team ready for Portugal, but he text me the day it happened to wish me luck. He is normally good at keeping in contact, whether it is good or bad he lets you know what he is thinking. He is considerate in that way, letting you know what he is thinking and is always really honest about it. You cannot have any complaints about not knowing what he is thinking.
Is there any trepidation when his name pops up on your phone? Sometimes it is nerve-wracking, because you think ‘what is he ringing about?’
The only thing you want is honest, open communication. It is up to you then to work on it. If you are not showing any signs of listening, you can’t sit there and moan about not getting picked.
Jones has novelly talked about creating “chaos in the house” before the 2019 Rugby World Cup. What does that mean?
It is different to any other type of practice I’ve done, but it makes a lot of sense when you are doing it. He wants to make training challenging, replicating game scenarios. He makes it hard physically and mentally, so when you are in the heat of the battle on a Saturday afternoon you can almost take a deep breath and think ‘this is easier than what I did in the week’. You feel so well prepared and that is the bottom line.
All eyes will be on emerging Leicester prop Ellis Genge. How important are the autumn internationals for him?
It is a good opportunity for him, especially with Joe Marler missing the first game because of his ban. If he can reproduce some of his early-season form for Leicester in an England shirt, he’ll definitely be pushing his case forward to being involved in this group for the next few years. Anybody that is in the 33-man squad will be doing whatever they can to be in Japan.
Argentina and Australia are the standout games. What do you expect to happen?
Any England v Australia game will be tough, they’ll always be up for that game. Eddie sees it that you’ve got to beat everybody. If we can get a 3-0 outcome in this series, then it’ll be objective achieved. As for Argentina, they are on the back of the Rugby Championship so they’ll be battle hardened.
They’ve been together for several weeks and most of the players play for the same club team [Jaguares] in Super Rugby. For England, they’ll have been together for a week. New combinations because of injuries. It’ll be a challenge. Argentina will be determined to rectify the summer results, where we beat them twice. (38-34 in San Juan and 35-25 in Santa Fe).
Mullan will be appearing at The Warehouse, Le Meridian Dubai Hotel and Conference Centre for Saturday’s coverage of the autumn internationals.
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