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'It's systemic': How indiscipline is hurting the Wallabies

Even Dave Rennie was left empathising with disillusioned Australian rugby fans after presiding over the Wallabies' inglorious first-ever loss to Italy. (Getty Images)

Damning statistics have revealed the Wallabies’ discipline is worsening despite repeated warnings, supporting a blast from former Test skipper Stirling Mortlock about “systemic” problems within the team.


Assistant coach Laurie Fisher also served up a brutal assessment of Australia’s lazy play before they departed on their five-Test spring mission to Europe, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

The tourists were penalised an incredible 16 times in their first ever loss to Italy on Saturday – compared to nine penalties conceded by the hosts as they clinched a memorable 28-27 victory.

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Flanker Fraser McReight was the worst offender, conceding three, while halfback Jake Gordon was unnecessarily yellow-carded, with the Azzurri piling on two tries and 14 points while Australia were a man down.

Against France, the Wallabies gave up 18 points via penalties en route to another one-point loss.

Dave Rennie’s side’s penalty record this year makes for ugly reading. They have conceded an average of 13.8 penalties across their 12 Tests – the most of any tier-one team – while the 16 against Italy was their highest in 2022.

Describing their performance against Italy as a “train wreck”, 2007 World Cup captain Mortlock said the indiscipline was a problem from the top down.


“I need to have a look at the data and stats but we’ve gone from being a very, very disciplined team globally to being one of the worst,” Mortlock told AAP.

“It’s systemic, so captains are getting penalised, senior players are getting penalised, young players are getting penalised.”

While Wallabies skipper James Slipper was rested against Italy, the prop is a regular target for referees.

In the six-game Rugby Championship tournament, Slipper was the most penalised player, giving away 14 penalties. The next worst offender was Argentine flanker Marcos Kremer, with 12.


Slipper conceded two against France and one in their last-gasp one-point win over Scotland to open the tour.

Fisher came on board midway through the Rugby Championship after the departure of defence coach Matt Taylor, and gave a cutting assessment of their short-comings.

“Discipline comes from doing your basics well,” the veteran coach said.

“If you’re good in front-end collisions, if you’re good around breakdown, you’re not giving away the penalties.

“You’re not under pressure. If you’re getting in front defensively and not slacking, you’re not giving away offside penalties.

“This tour is all about really, really developing our basics, valuing our basics and bedding all that down. Ground zero. We’re going to get that right and we’re going grow from there.”

Far from growing, the Wallabies could wind up back down to ninth in the rankings, their equal-lowest standing, if they lose their last two matches of the tour against the top-ranked Irish this Sunday in Dublin and then to Wales in Cardiff.

Such a sorry scenario would also leave Australia with just four wins from 14 matches (28.6 per cent) in 2022 – their worst strike rate since 1958.


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