Queensland Reds help to rediscover Australia’s running rugby soul
The Lions finally came face to face with the style I hope they can get from the Wallabies
While Quade Cooper did play the gain line exceptionally well against the Lions but he did not manage the game well and I do not expect him to be added to the Wallaby squad. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images.
Like the memory of a cherished childhood holiday, the Lions tour seems to have been going forever. In reality it is nine days since the first match.The Lions are evolving, growing and being revealed as the tour unfolds.
The team understands that geographically Australia is a giant country. In a few short days they have journeyed from Hong Kong to Perth, Perth to Brisbane and now Brisbane to Sydney via Newcastle. That is a serious amount of air miles.
The team will enjoy a week in Sydney, my home.The exceptionally mild winter weather in the harbour city will ease their travel weariness and the still warm waters of the Pacific Ocean outside their hotel will make recovery sessions a pleasure.
The Lions now understand that the east coast is where the heart beats in Australian rugby.
I have to pay a large tribute to the Queensland Reds. The style and attitude at the core of their play on Saturday was extraordinary. On a wet night, with a team comprised mostly of provincial journeymen, they came out and played exhilarating, running rugby.The Lions finally came face to face with the style I hope they can get from the Wallabies.
It was a highly entertaining performance that captivated the wonderful crowd of 50,000 fans. They turned a drizzly evening into a memorable event. “Brisvegas” was on fire Saturday night, as the Reds and not the Lions were the unexpected stars.
Never give a Queenslander a chance to brag. Thank god the Lions won. We would never have heard the end of it.
High tempo game
The coaching mantra is “give the opposition a game they don’t want to play”. The Reds gave the Lions what they did not want. They played a fast paced, high tempo game. They ran the ball wide and the Lions looked fragile. The Reds have set the tone for how Australian teams need to play this series.
In the set play the Lions were imperious. The scrum was solid at the beginning and dominated as the match progressed. The lineout in both attack and defence was powerful.
It was in general play that the Lions appeared vulnerable. Robbie Deans would have watched in fascination as Queensland rediscovered what is in the DNA of Australian rugby.They played the running game.
Australia is not the ruthless powerhouse that is New Zealand rugby. Australians do not possess the incredible genetics of the Afrikaans people.
In its soul Australian rugby has running, attacking, in your face, high energy, “expect the unexpected”, rugby. Thank you to Ewen McKenzie and the Reds for rediscovering Australia’s rugby’s soul.
As I have written before, the 1927 Waratahs, developed “gain line” rugby. After the first World War rugby had died completely in Queensland and was a minority sport in New South Wales behind rugby league, as it had begun its century long domination of the rugby codes.
The Waratahs toured Europe and searched for a way to match their opponents’ power and structure. They created the gain line theory. In its simplest form it is running fast at the defensive line. Commit the defender then pass to the energetic, never ending, support runners.
Thus was born Australia’s obsession with openside flankers, who link the attacking ball carrier with support.Incredibly, the gain line philosophy remains relevant and still works today. It is Australia’s heritage and its strength. When Wallaby teams play fast accurate gain line rugby they win. If the Wallabies run the ball, they have a chance of beating the Lions.
Brave but not smart
I am not a Quade Cooper fan. However, he did play the gain line exceptionally well but he did not manage the game. While the Reds were brave they were not smart and I do not expect him to be added to the Wallaby squad.
James O’Connor will wear the 10 jersey and Kurtley Beale will be at 15. That is an exciting pair of tactical match managers. It will be wonderful if Kurtley has been able to pull his life back together.
I know he has been training with the Wallaby squad. I admire him in confronting his demons with alcohol and seeking help.
The next seven days are paramount for the Lions. The match against Combined Country on Tuesday will be little more than opposed training, however it is essential for the Lions to again experience the pace and style of gain line rugby against the Waratahs.
The bulk of the Test team must play against the Waratahs. Don’t be surprised to see Geoff Parling selected. He has been the best secondrow on tour.
Sam Warburton must play. There is pressure on him holding his place in The Test team as he was poor against the Reds.
Next Saturday night, at the wonderful Sydney Football Stadium, the Waratahs will wear the traditional sky blue jersey, made famous by the amazing deeds of the men from 1927.
Let’s hope they remain true to their heritage and run the ball.
The Lions need to again experience gain line rugby before they play the Wallabies. Australian rugby needs to return to its traditions and remember who we once were and can be once again.
That is, the rugby nation that plays the running game.