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'If we shut up shop here in Australia, we are done': Former Wallaby makes grave prediction over calls to go with a walled-off Super Rugby AU

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

After the opening two rounds of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman resulted in a 10-0 ledger in favour of the New Zealand teams, there have been calls from one side of the ditch to revert back to a closed internal competition in Australia.


Speaking on this week’s Aotearoa Rugby Pod, former Wallabies prop Ben Darwin who now runs GainLine Analytics, warned about the dangers of taking such an approach and explained that the Australian teams just have to ‘take the medicine’.

“In Australia, what’s actually being called for on social media, is for us to not play New Zealand any more. Just close it off. There are people saying let’s just have Super Rugby AU and my response to that is, sometimes you’ve just got to take the medicine,” he told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

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Spirit of Rugby | Episode 2
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Blues hooker James Parsons explained that familarity will bring tighter results, and the only way to get that is to continually play each other. After only playing Australian teams for two editions of Super Rugby AU, it will take time.

“I think it’s better for athletes to get out there, and in the ring, sometimes you’ve just got to take a few punches on the snout to learn how to take them and get better,” Parsons said.

“I think it’s better for World Rugby, it’s better for New Zealand Rugby for Australia to be strong as well. It’s better for audiences to tighten up again.

“And the only way for the competition to tighten up again, is to continually play each other.


As an example, Parsons highlighted how the Blues have put such an emphasis on covering Richie Mo’unga in defence having played the Crusaders so much and learnt his tendencies.

“The things that have beaten the Australian defence, I’ll use Sevu Reece’s first try,” he explained.

“When Ethan Blackadder hits a short tip ball and he offloads to Richie Mo’unga, then he runs and links up with Reece, Hamish Stewart stays wide defensively in the Reds.

“But we know Richie Mo’unga is always out the back of that forward pod, he’s always looking to run and split that gap, and you never stay wide there.


“You always have to have a defender on Richie Mo’unga out the back there. Never leave him on his own.

“And they left him on his own and he takes that, all day.

“We [the Blues] have played Richie so much, we know his ins-and-outs over the last two years, the Aussies don’t know that yet, but the more they play him, they are doing to learn that.

“It is crucial that they get time on the grass so they learn the intricacies of these players.

Ben Darwin spoke of his own experience at the Brumbies in his playing days, how they would have to approach the ruck completely different against New Zealand teams to generate the recycle speed they wanted.

“I certainly know at the Brumbies in my time, we had to re-plan around playing the New Zealand teams in terms of putting more guys into the ruck,” he said.

“We knew with the early games against the other Australian teams or South African teams you could get away with putting two in the ruck in attack and it wouldn’t be a problem, you would get quick recycle.

“Whereas with the New Zealand teams, we’d basically have to do it completely different.

“You get into these habits that work against your own country, but don’t necessarily work against other opposition.

The former Wallaby warned against calls for a closed Super Rugby AU competition, explaining the plight of Japanese rugby in the 90s which went down that path to their own detriment.

“That notion of being a ‘closed’ competition, really hit home if you go back to Japanese rugby in 1995.

“They did not really play other countries particularly a lot of the time, they played against Korea quite a bit. People were very happy with it, because internally they were doing very well, but then they got the shock of their lives when they went to Bloemfontein, they lose by 145 to New Zealand and it’s like ‘ok, now we know where we are’.

“They just had no notion that they were so far behind. And they’ve caught up, they’ve caught up and they’ve got a much better standard, they’ve got foreign coaches, they’ve got some foreign players.

“Playing against good opposition, versing good scrums, made a massive difference for Japanese rugby over time.

“So if we shut up shop here in Australia, we are done.”


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