Wallabies assistant reveals where NZ players have wood over Wallabies
With the All Blacks boasting an unprecedented win-record over the Wallabies in New Zealand – their last loss came in 2001 – it’s clear that the men in black have a major psychological advantage over their opposition heading into Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup match.
But while Wallabies assistance coach Scott Wisemantel has suggested that any past results are “history” and won’t affect this weekend’s outcome, he has acknowledged that there’s still one major area where Australia desperately needs to catch up on their neighbours.
Following the Wallabies’ captain’s run on Friday – carried out at Mount Smart Stadium, instead of Eden Park – Wisemantel suggested that the All Blacks have named an unsurprisingly high-quality team for the opening Bledisloe of the season.
“It’s a good team, isn’t it? They’ve got so many good players to choose from,” he said. “The thing that really sticks out for me is probably the backrow with Papalii as the fetcher, they’ve really gone down that [ball-contesting] route. It’s a well-balanced team.”
The starting line-up is without any of the All Blacks’ three Barrett brothers, lock Scott and utility backs Beauden and Jordie, who will instead be injected from the bench.
It’s not just the out-and-out ability of Beauden and Jordie that makes Wisemantel envious, however, it’s the flexibility they offer. Former World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden has started tests for the All Blacks in both the No 10 and No 15 jerseys while Jordie offers even more utility value, covering those roles in the past as well as wing and the midfield.
Wisemantel acknowledged that while he’s happy with the men he has at his disposal, the key work-on for the Wallabies and Australian rugby in general is developing players who are capable of commanding multiple spots in the backline.
“What we do need to do is grow the skillset of players,” he said. “You look at New Zealand at the moment and that bench, there’s guys there that can cover two, three, four positions and that’s what we need to do.
“We need to grow our players so they’re not just specialists, they’re very good in their chosen position but they can play other positions [as well].”
One player who could be moulded into somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades is the returning Jordan Petaia, who first debuted for the Wallabies on the wing at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
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The 21-year-old has again been named on the wing for the Wallabies this weekend after recovering from a thigh injury that cut his Super Rugby season shot – but he’s also played in the midfield for both the Reds and the Wallabies in the past, and is now gunning for a different role in the backline.
“It’s good to have him back,” said Wisemantel of the young Queenslander. “There’s a lot of heat and a lot of competition in that backfield. Particularly with those wings spots.
“But Jordie’s actually openly stated to us he has ambitions to play fullback. If we can get him in shape where he can play wing, fullback, 13, he becomes a very, very versatile player.”
Wisemantel stated that current fullback Tom Banks is doing a “great job” but that having a player like Petaia capable of covering multiple roles would open up a slew of options for the Wallabies.
As it stands, head coach Dave Rennie has opted for Matt To’omua and Reece Hodge as the backfield cover for Saturday. While To’omua can cover 10 and 12, Hodge is competent across the backline. Adding Petaia to the list of players who can slot in across the backline would ensure the Wallabies could build combinations to suit multiple game plans.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT from Eden Park in Auckland.
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