The Australians came, saw, and were conquered by England at Twickenham—but the Wallabies didn’t lose, according to the Australian media, they were robbed.
One columnist said referee George Clancy, his assistant referees and the video referee “had absolute shockers”.
Before the game, many commentators predicted an unbeaten northern tour by the Wallabies.
Now, Sydney rugby writer Spiro Zavos wants Clancy sacked.
“I believe that the chief executive of the ARU Bill Pulver and the chairman of the board Michael Hawker should insist that Clancy, at least, be relieved of Test duties for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Putting excuses aside, England were the better side. For example, they kept Australia scoreless in the second half.
Brown shines, Folau fails
Mike Brown was a revelation for England, showing all the fullback skills and being named man-of-the-match.
Brown was picked for England as a winger in 2007 aged 21, but has failed to cement his place.
Following an outstanding season with the Harlequins he was picked at his favoured position.
Against the Wallabies he proved he is a Test match player, dispelling the belief that his only strength was consistency.
His performance was highlighted by his opponent, Wallaby fullback Israel Folau. The former league star was picked for the Wallabies in his first year playing rugby union.
Despite his outstanding athleticism, Folau doesn’t understand the complexity of fullback play.
In rugby league, he played on the wing, and at the age of 18 he was the youngest person to play for the national side. In his first match against New Zealand he scored two tries.
A winger is a finisher, his prime job is to score tries. A fullback is a creator, who joins the backline to confuse the defence by creating space for other players.
Folau tends to revert to instinct when he joins the backline, gaining territory, often brilliantly, then going to ground in the tackle—instead of doing his job, which is to create space.
Brown showed why intelligence and understanding one’s role is the key asset in rugby. He did his job.
Former All Black coach J.J. Stewart simplified this, saying players had only three choices, to run, to pass or to kick. The brilliant players made the right choice.
Folau’s lack of understanding applies more-so in defence, where positional play is the key. His lack of knowledge was exploited by the All Blacks, and may prove costly for the Wallabies this tour.
Cooper tapped on shoulder
Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper continued on his road to redemption, by playing better than most.
Cooper was sacked by former coach Robbie Deans, after a bitter disagreement. The controversy divided Australian rugby followers, who had grown tired of Cooper’s off-field behaviour.
The Cooper-Deans divide increased focus on the performance of Deans, whose reign was marred by the off-field misbehaviour of some of his players.
In the end, Deans was sacked and Cooper was brought back into the Wallabies by new coach Ewen McKenzie.
Before the England game McKenzie named Cooper vice-captain: “Being vice-captain is a great honour,” Cooper said.
When McKenzie called Cooper aside to inform him, the flyhalf feared he was about to be dropped.
“When you get the tap on the shoulder you are often looking to see if you are selected,” he said.
The decision so shocked Cooper that he was left speechless.
Redemption aside, McKenzie’s two wins from eight games means the knives will soon be out for McKenzie—and Cooper.
On Saturday (Nov 9) the Wallabies play Italy, which will be a much-need easier game.
Meanwhile, sacked Wallaby winger James O’Connor played his first game for London Irish, who lost to Northampton on Sunday (Nov 3).
While southern hemisphere fans are dismissive of northern rugby, O’Connor was surprised by the quality of play.
“The speed of the game was very surprising,” he said. “I though Super Rugby was fast, but I was really blowing out there. That’s for sure.
In other matches, New Zealand take on France—their bogey team—in Paris. Meanwhile, South Africa plays Wales in Cardiff.
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said: “Wales are an unbelievable team. They have shown they can beat the best.”
While Wales coach Shaun Edwards promised fireworks.
“If you like your rugby as gladiatorial, then get a ticket for Saturday because this will be no place for the faint-hearted,” Edwards said.
In Paris, New Zealand will try to maintain their unbeaten record. They have 11 wins from 11 games this season.
France coach Philippe Saint-André said six of this 30-member squad were injured.
He may be foxing, but he added: “The All Blacks, in their last 30 games, have 28 wins, one draw, one defeat – but we want to show that sometimes the statistics are not worth anything.”
New Zealand rugby fans know that France regularly wins “impossible” games against the All Blacks.
France’s ad-hoc brilliance seems to be a foil for the All Black’s ruthless control.
I predict that the three southern teams will win each of the three games. Though France and Wales have the ability to win.
Peter Lalanabaravi is a rugby writer with over 30 years experience.