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New England defence coach has singled out the Wallabies dangerman

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

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New England defence coach Anthony Seibold has singled out Nic White – a familiar face from the Gallagher Premiership – as the dangerman when the Wallabies visit Twickenham next Saturday in the latest round of Autumn Nations Series. The 31-year-old scrum-half was with the Exeter Chiefs from 2017 through to 2020 and he has since gone on to become Dave Rennie’s preference as Australia’s regular No9. 

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The Wallabies had arrived in the UK on the back of a winning five straight matches in the same season (outside of a World Cup year) for the first time since 2008 when Robbie Deans was in charge, but they were upset by Scotland last Sunday and will now look to bounce back against England in what will be Seibold’s first major Test as Eddie Jones’ defence coach. 

It was early September when the ex-South Sydney Rabbitohs coach, whose most recent full-time employment ended disastrously as the Brisbane Broncos boss in August 2020, was confirmed as a new England assistant following the sudden defection of John Mitchell to Wasps.  

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England came through their first match with Seibold in charge of their defence without conceding a try, a Courtney Lawes-led side defeating Tonga 69-3 last weekend, but the arrival of the Wallabies at English rugby HQ will present a very different challenge – especially with half-back White knowing so much about the calibre of player he is facing due to his time at Exeter.

“Nic White has been at the forefront of a lot of what they have done well over the Rugby Championship this year,” reckoned Seibold when asked to assess the threat posed by the Wallabies. “They didn’t get the result on the weekend but their previous performances I thought they built, even in a couple of games against New Zealand. I see Nic White as a key figure for them. 

“He has got a lot of experience now for the Wallabies. I know that Tate McDermott comes off the bench and replaces him but he is at the forefront of what they do well. Michael Hooper is obviously a world-class player. One of the areas we have seen significant improvement from the Wallabies is their ruck attack and it is off their ball-carrying ability. I expect those two and (Rob) Valetini, their No8, to be at the forefront of that.”

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Seibold is following a well-trodden pattern of coaches who have honed their reputation in rugby league making the crossover to work in rugby union. They may be different codes but one aspect definitely features dominantly in both sports when it comes to defence. “One of the good things of all union and league defences is it is all built around attitude, it’s built around working hard for your mate and you build that trust over a period of time,” he said. 

“What I would like you to see is that we are a team that works really hard for each other and they turn up for each other. It is not always going to be perfect but the attitude to get the job done is a starting point. I am a very defensively biased coach. I have been a professional coach for 15 or 16 years. Making sure the players understand their roles initially and then have the attitude and make the right choices to perform is at the forefront of what I do. 

“In any sport where you are trying to get from one end of the field to the other, speed of ball is key. What it does is it puts you under pressure. If it is fast ruck speed it is going to create some instability on defence at different times. It is about winning the first contact and making sure that the initial contact is solid.

“If you do that you are a chance of slowing down the ruck speed but if you don’t get that initial contact, teams create instability by getting one-on-one tackles. You see that in world rugby at the moment.

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“Any time there is a one-on-one tackle there is quicker speed of ball so for us, it is about making sure we have two in the tackle. We believe that if we can do that and work hard for each other then you are a chance, but teams create instability when there is quick ruck speed.”

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