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Wallabies halfback Tate McDermott slams 'embarrassing' defence

By Sam Smith
Tate McDermott. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

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Following last month’s two shell-shockings at the hands of the All Blacks, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie suggested that the secret to scoring a victory over his home country was in keeping the All Blacks to under 20 points – or thereabouts.

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“What we know is you have got to defend well against the All Blacks and clearly we didn’t do that well enough,” Rennie said in the post-match of the second test. “If you can reduce them to around about 20 points or less, they lose more than they won. That was certainly a goal heading into [the first two tests] and will be the goal again in the third test.”

That’s a theory that stacks up well to scrutiny – and defence has unsurprisingly been a big focus for the Wallabies ahead of the third test of the series.

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While it’s a dead-rubber from a Bledisloe Cup point of view, with back to back defeats ensuring Australia would have to wait another year before reclaiming the prized trophy, the Rugby Championship is still very much wide open and a win on Sunday could pave the way for a golden run for the Wallabies.

Halfback Tate McDermott has acknowledged, however, that they won’t have any chance of tipping over the more-fancied All Blacks in Perth if they can’t recover from their “embarrassing” defensive display in the second test, which saw the side concede their worst ever score against the men in black.

“We’ve got to hold the ball, we’ve got to respect the ball and then on the flip side it’s about our defence,” McDermott said. “It was nowhere near good enough, especially in that second test, when we conceded 57 points.

“To call ourselves a tier-one nation and do that is really quite embarrassing.

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“That’s one area that we’ve really got to lift. Scramble defence, but also our set-piece defence as well.”

The All Blacks have travelled to Perth without three of their key players, captain Sam Whitelock, halfback Aaron Smith and first five Richie Mo’unga. Their absences, however, aren’t of any consolation to McDermott, who suggested on Wednesday that the three players who are selected to take their place will be equally as potent.

“You know very well who they are going to replace them with and it’s just as much experience, if not exactly the same,” he said.

“Guys like TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, if we’re taking them lightly we’re kidding ourselves.

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“Yes, they did leave behind three of their key players but they’ve replaced them with three world-class players. Whoever wears that black jersey, they always do a job so we’ve got to be on them.”

22-year-old McDermott, with just seven caps to his name, has been one of the Wallabies’ best and brightest throughout 2021 but could find his spot in the starting lineup under pressure form Nic White, who made his injury return in the most recent Bledisloe Cup match.

There have also been some suggestions that New Zealand-born pivot Quade Cooper could make his Wallabies return on Sunday.

Whoever starts in the 9 and 10 jerseys, however, they’ll certainly be facing new opposition, with the All Blacks needing to swap out their first-choice combo due to the absences of Smith and Mo’unga.

Both sides will be named on Friday afternoon.

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Wallabies halfback Tate McDermott slams 'embarrassing' defence

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