Southern Hemisphere skills have nothing to do with sorcery
Hours of deep practice in a perfect environment go into effortless Aussie execution
Australia’s Israel Folau uses those size 13 feet to rise high and claim yet another kick against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
I had the pleasure of a pitch side ramble pre-kick-off on Saturday. Standing feet away from the Australian back line was a pretty sobering sight. I’m told fullback Israel Folau has size 13 feet at the end of his 6ft 4in frame.
I’m not sure is it their technical training or Porter’s Diamond that has them playing rugby as they do. Michael Porter outlined in The Competitive Advantage of Nations his belief as to how how certain industries become competitive in certain locations.
Playing the All Blacks regularly might have that effect on your game. Playing Richie McCaw regularly might have that effect on your breakdown technique.
Up here in Six Nations land, a relieving kick to touch from your outhalf is applauded by the crowd; not so in Sydney.
Australia, similar to New Zealand, have many startling players such as Folau but their “average” players are far superior to our legends.
All Black number eight Kieran Read is no Zinzan Brook and unlikely to drop goals in the Aviva next Saturday but he is simply phenomenal.
This gulf is often mistaken for magic ability but it is their ability to execute the basics at full flight that impresses.
With time running out on Saturday sub prop Jack McGrath got on to a great ball, deep in Wallaby territory. In heavy traffic he did very well, carrying before eventually going to ground. No issues there, but All Black props Tony Woodcock or Owen Franks would not have gone to deck and the ball would have remained alive; ditto Wallabies James Slipper and Sekope Kepu.
Small margins, possibly, but spilling clean lineout catches; missing touches; missing penalty kicks; choosing to go down the line with 20 minutes to go while spurning three points; box-kicking into Folau’s bread basket; and not converting scoring opportunities all add up for an Irish side that is obviously trying to rid itself of the shackles of previous styles.
Many of Ireland’s players were simply not good enough on Saturday but I’m of the opinion that for the new management messages to bed in and eventually bear fruit we need more exposure to Porter’s Diamond.
Having observed their warm-up drills while pitchside on Saturday, it was no coincidence Australia’s tries all came from this warm-up.
Quade Cooper would take from Will Genia and drift slightly with the pass. All the while his 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 would sprint into a very flat line all expecting to receive. The skill, the outrageous skill, is Cooper’s ability to loiter laterally with ball in both hands as he owls his head infield to survey the gold line of attackers before selecting one, generally around the outside third channel of the pitch.
It was one thing to do this unopposed in warm-up drills but in the green heat of an Irish defensive line, Cooper looked laid back and almost sleepy in repeating ad nauseam the warm-up drill.