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The similarities between the Wallabies and the 2012-13 Chiefs

By Alex McLeod

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With three wins on the trot and heavily-tipped to win a fourth over Argentina this weekend, the Wallabies are flying high under the tutelage of sophomore head coach Dave Rennie.

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It’s a far cry from where the Australians were after being swept by the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup last month, but successive wins over the world champion Springboks and a further victory over Los Pumas in Townsville last weekend has restored plenty of pride in the green and gold jersey.

Those results leave the Wallabies in second place on the Rugby Championship standings, and a second straight win over the Argentines on the Gold Coast this weekend will leave Australia in good stead heading into their end-of-year tour of Japan and Europe.

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Jordie Barrett gave the All Blacks backfield confidence with his performance | Healthspan Elite Performer of the Week
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Jordie Barrett gave the All Blacks backfield confidence with his performance | Healthspan Elite Performer of the Week

Speaking on their most recent 27-8 win at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, former All Blacks hooker James Parsons drew parallels between the current Wallabies side and the championship-winning Chiefs teams of 2012 and 2013.

Rennie was in charge of the Hamilton-based franchise back then as he guided them to their first two Super Rugby titles at the first time of asking as head coach.

Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Parsons said there were similarities between Rennie’s Chiefs team and Rennie’s Wallabies side, the latter of which he said is currently playing with a noticeable sense of confidence.

“I think it was a confident side that found their mojo or found a game plan that works for them and, again, a real low turnover count, high possession, high territory, risk-free footy,” the former two-test international said.

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“They’re winning collisions, that’s allowing them to make better decisions in attack and, defensively, tackling at 90 percent.

“If there’s a body, they’re going around the legs, looking to access that breakdown pressure and get some turnovers in and around there.

“Probably didn’t have as much impact as they’d like around those breakdown turnovers, but always tough against the Argy boys.”

Parsons added one of the most pleasing aspect about Australia’s victory over Los Pumas was the work rate of their wings Marika Koroibete and Andrew Kellaway.

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He said the influence of those two players was crucial in the lead-up to Reece Hodge’s first half try in a piece of play that he said evoked memories of Rennie’s championship-winning Chiefs team.

“I think the best exponent of it is the work off the ball by Koroibete and Kellaway,” the former Blues captain said.

“If you look at Reece Hodge’s first try, where he just busts through, it’s the extra body of Koroibete, the blindside wing, that comes all the way around and pops up on his outside.

“If you remember [Len] Ikitau’s second try last week that we spoke about in depth with Kerevi’s down line and then Koroibete getting through and giving the offload to Ikitau to get that try, the work that they’re doing off the ball to take themselves from their blind wing spot to pop up on the open to be that extra attacker, that attracts defensive attention.

“It’s exactly the same [as Hodge’s try]. Koroibete popped outside Reece Hodge, two Argentinian players went onto him, and it made a passive tackle for the inside Argentinian defender on Hodge. Hodge is a big body, he’s just like a Jordie Barrett, it’s all too easy for him.

“It’s those sorts of plays – I think Kellaway scored one late in the game doing the same with an inside ball from James O’Connor – it reminds me a hell of a lot, to be honest, of the 2012-13 Chiefs.

“Their wingers were really hard-working in the kick-chase, really hard-working off the ball to provide maybe a bit of a threat in and around the ruck off nine, or popping up as an extra attacker on the openside.

“That’s the hardest thing, defensively. You’re looking up and you’re saying, ‘I’m on Reece, I’m on Reece,’ and then, out of nowhere, Koroibete pops up and it makes you second guess and hesitate, and because he’s such a threat, they pushed off to him.

“That’s what I mean by the Aussies are making great decisions because they’re buying time for themselves by winning those collisions, Hodge has the ball in two hands, and it’s an easy show-and-go [to score].”

The Wallabies will be without Koroibete for this weekend’s rematch against Argentina at Cbus Super Stadium, as the star flyer has returned home to Melbourne to spend time with family before embarking on the northern hemisphere tour later this month.

In his place has come Jordan Petaia, who will join Hodge and Kellaway in the outside backs in Australia’s final Rugby Championship game of the year.

In Koroibete’s absence, Rennie has called on Petaia to provide similar work rate levels to help ensure the Wallabies keep their best winning run since 2017 alive.

“We have the luxury of looking at footage from a variety of angles, but his work ethic is phenomenal,” Rennie said of Koroibete.

“The amount of very high-speed metres he runs every time he’s chasing kicks or kicks offs, his ability to get back, get to the other side of the field, that’s what we’ve talked to Jordy about.

“He [Petaia] has got a great skill set, but he’s got to work a lot harder off the ball. He’s got aspirations of being a 15, so it’s been a focus and he certainly trained that way this week.”

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The similarities between the Wallabies and the 2012-13 Chiefs

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