The Wallabies can defeat England in their quarter-final at Oita Stadium this Saturday if they can frustrate the English out of the rhythm and the areas in which they like to play the game.
It is far easier said than done, but if the Wallabies select the now-available Reece Hodge, their chances of doing so improve.
I say this as Hodge’s ability to not only punt the ball further than most, but also his ability to kick penalty goals from over 50 meters could make him an effective weapon if used properly as part of an overall strategy designed to agitate England.
Eddie Jones’ side enjoys grinding down the opposition through their strong set-piece and powerful ball-runners through the likes of Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje, yet seldom do they use such tactics to work their way out of their defensive zones for multiple phases.
Like any tactician worth their salt, Jones likes England to be constantly applying the pressure of field position and does so through the kicking games of fly-half George Ford and inside centre Owen Farrell.
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If selected, England will look to single out Marika Koroibete with contestable high balls, as it was shown against Wales the powerful Wallaby winger is built for ground warfare only.
Therefore, I suggest the Wallabies select a back three who can defuse such high ball tactics, but can also kick long-distance in return to counter such tactics.
Australia, in the past several seasons, has failed to deliver as a true counter-attacking side from such opportunity. In fact, I would suggest counter-attack is something the Wallabies struggle with.
They traditionally do look to run the ball back at the opposition from a deep kick if there is space to do so.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 16, 2019
Israel Folau did this for numerous seasons, and since his departure, Kurtley Beale and Dane Haylett-Petty have often both followed suit. I suggest England would expect the Wallabies to do so again this weekend.
So, why wouldn’t the Wallabies do what England neither expect nor want them to do and kick long back into their opponents’ 22 and follow up with a strong line chase looking to force the English into error in their half?
If you were the Wallabies, would it not be more advantageous to expel your energy on keeping England down in their half than trying to run the ball out of your own?
If Michael Cheika were to employ such counter-tactics to the English kicking game, it effectively limits England’s ability to use their ‘choke’ tackle and line speed as they like to do so in asserting their authority at the collision.
While I am sure the inevitable long kicking ‘tennis game’ would ensue for a period, yet it may also invite the likes of Jonny May and Elliot Daly, both of whom are dangerous runners of the ball, to counter-attack from deep within their half.
This where the Wallabies must shut the English down, and can do so with a fast yet connected defensive line in kick chase.
Such a tactic would frustrate England, and may force the game to be played more in the middle of the field rather deep in the opponent’s half.
This too could play into the Wallabies’ hands, as if penalties are given away in such an area, they can call upon Reece Hodge to start taking shots at goal.
New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey has compared the way in which Northern Hemisphere unions treats Pacific players to that of 'colonialism' ?https://t.co/1MSDSfeyH8
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 16, 2019
Although Hodge may not have the most accurate boot, what he has is the distance in his kicking, and if he does miss the penalty goal, the game will likely have to re-start from an English kick-off from the 22, thus giving the Wallabies possession again with England defending in their half.
As the Welsh illustrated to the Wallabies in their pool match, one must keep the scoreboard ticking over, and having a long-distance goal-kicker at your disposal enhances a team’s ability to do so.
If the Wallabies find themselves leading or within seven points of the English with 25 minutes to go, that is when they can unleash the bench and look to exploit the gaps that tend to exist in the latter parts of the game.
However, if they try to run over England in the opening 20 minutes, I think that will play right into English hands as they want the collision early.
The Wallabies should look to do everything possible to disrupt and prevent the rhythm he English enjoy to play.
My Wallabies side
1. Scott Sio
2. Tolu Latu
3. Allan Alaalatoa
4. Izack Rodda
5. Rory Arnold
6. Jack Dempsey
7. Michael Hooper
8. Isa Naisarani
9. Nic White
10. Christian Lealiifano
11. Jordan Petaia
12. Samu Kerevi
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Reece Hodge
15. Dane Haylett-Petty
16. Jordan Uelese
17. James Slipper
18. Taniela Tupou
19. Adam Coleman
20. David Pocock
21. Will Genia
22. Matt To’omua
23. Marika Koroibete
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