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Analysis: How the Wallabies 'fake maul' set up Speight's try

By Ben Smith

The Wallabies head to Millennium Stadium this Saturday, and it’s fair to say the Welsh defence will pose a much harder task this weekend than the Japanese Brave Blossoms did over the weekend. The Australians triumphed 63-30, and it will be tougher to find and isolate weak defenders like they did on this set piece lineout move. However, this play illustrated the Wallabies still have some ingenuity in their playbook.


This lineout play starts with a well designed ‘fake’ maul, with Sean McMahon (8) looking to bind on Coleman before breaking off and feeding the halfback Phipps. McMahon’s ‘trap’ freezes or engages members of Japan’s forwards, which will play a big part in getting the one-on-one matchup Australia wants.

It’s a trap! McMahon breaks off the fake maul

Japan’s pack is caught crowding the fake maul, and the key loose forwards Michael Leitch (6) and more specifically Nunomaki (7) are still stationary. Neither of the two has started tracking towards the backs to provide cover defence.

The screen play with options for Phipps

Phipps is tasked with making an option read on a simple screen, to either hit Kuridrani (13) flat on a crash or provide the ball out the back to makeshift first five-eighth Hodge (10), however on this play Kuridrani is used as a decoy. We can also see the blind winger Speight is looming as an inside option for Hodge.

Kuridrani’s decoy line is going to effectively block these defenders from being able to touch Speight, much like a ‘rub’ play in the NFL by engaging in light contact and forcing them to either go around him over or under, giving Speight a window of opportunity.


As Hodge receives the ball, Kuridrani is blocking the path of the cover defence. Hodge now has two options highlighted, Speight inside and Beale outside.

Japan’s first five-eighth Matsuda has made a bad read by biting on the Kuridrani line when he had inside cover and is now trying to recover back. Hodge is showing his hand early, hips squared and ball out ready to feed Speight on the inside with no other defenders yet in the picture.

Matsuda scrambles to recover, while Hodge shows his hand early
Hodge’s pass was released a little early, but it didn’t matter

Hodge’s pass is released a touch too early, but he still managed to commit his opposite into contact. A better defender may have read the inside option coming and kept both tackle decisions open. Kuridrani has done his job perfectly, causing a traffic jam amongst Japan’s forwards. Speight is now one-on-one at full speed against a back-peddling Matsuda.

Matsuda is no match for Speight’s power & speed and struggles to put a finger on him. The play design did a good job of isolating him in a one-on-one situation against a power athlete, but Japan’s decision-making nous was lacking in this case.

This will be the difference between Japan and Wales, the defensive reads will be better and the gaps will be smaller. On this occasion, the Wallabies deserve credit but the execution but will require just a touch more polish to pull off the same move against a more distinguished side.

However, it looks like they may have got inspiration for the move from the All Blacks who used a very similar play in the third Bledisloe test. The All Blacks start the play with a fake maul and have Sonny Bill Williams run the decoy line before Waiseke Naholo makes the line break.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.



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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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