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Watch: Wallabies season review 2017

By Dan Thomson
It’s been a tough year for the Wallabies

The Wallabies’ record defeat against Scotland on the weekend capped off another disappointing season from the Australians. There were glimmers of hope of a new beginning as the Wallabies progressively improved throughout the Bledisloe Cup, but other than that it was a season filled with wins against tier two nations and struggling against the more competitive teams.

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No one had much expectation of the Wallabies in 2017 after an average 2016 campaign and the Australian Super Rugby sides having one of their worst seasons to date. They kicked off their season with an expected win against Fiji in AAMI Park in Melbourne. Israel Folau showed he was going to be another key player in 2017 as he scored two tries in the 37 – 14 win.

Next up they took on the Scots who are always a tough match and this was no exception as the Wallabies fell short in a hard fought 19 – 24 loss in Sydney. They then took on Italy in Brisbane which was another expected win however it was only 28 – 27 with five minutes to play until two quick Wallaby tries pushed them out to a more respectable 40 – 27 score line.

The opening of the Rugby Championship gave everyone an idea of how far apart the Wallabies and All Blacks were, as the All Blacks went into half time leading 40 – 6. The Wallabies flicked a switch in the second half and crawled back into the game but the abundance of tries the All Blacks scored in the first half proved too much as the final whistle blew at 54 – 35.

A week later they headed to Dunedin, fired up to redeem themselves from the previous poor performance. Spectators were shocked as they read the score as 29 – 28 with one minute to play. But once again Beauden Barrett found a way to crush Australia’s heart as he crossed the line in the final minute of the game to steal the victory.

It was a thrilling encounter when they took on the Springboks in Perth but it ended in a 23-all draw, leaving both sides disappointed.

Australia claimed their first win of the Rugby Championship when they took on Argentina and came out on top 45 – 20. It was a traditional tight contest in the first half, but the Wallabies made the most of their opportunities in the second half against a tired Argentina side and finished an impressive performance.

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Both teams were out to settle the scores after a previous draw but unbelievably the two sides drew again 27-all in Bloemfontein. These matches were definitely a disappointment for the Wallabies as they wanted to be able to close out the game in these tight contests, which they had struggled to do in 2017.

Another victory over Argentina away from home was their final game of The Rugby Championship, which put them in second place one point ahead of the Springboks. Two wins, two draws and two losses summed up a fairly mediocre campaign, but there were signs of potential and the introduction of young players like Lukhan Tui and Jordan Uelese showed this was a developing side that was building depth for the future.

Following the Rugby Championship was Australia’s biggest highlight of 2017, and probably their most meaningful win in recent years. The Wallabies broke the drought against their rivals from across the Tasman in the third Bledisloe Cup test thanks to man of the match Reece Hodge. A late penalty from Hodge cemented a 23 – 18 win.

The Wallabies then took on a Barbarians side in Sydney which was stacked with fellow Australians, giving Cheika a good look at the players at his disposal before the end of year tour. The Wallabies ended up winning the exhibition match 31 – 28 and was our first look at many players in gold such as Duncan Paia’aua, Bill Meakes, Liam Wright and more.

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On their way to the UK the Wallabies stopped in Japan where they beat the Cherry Blossoms in a predictable 63 – 30 win. The Wallabies started their tour of the UK strongly by continuing their winning run against Wales with a 29 – 21 victory.

The end of their tour didn’t end as smoothly, as they lost 30 – 6 to England despite some extremely questionable refereeing decisions. Things didn’t get any better for them the following week as they were demolished 53 – 24 by Scotland. It didn’t help that they were playing with a man down for half the game but Michael Cheika made it clear that they can’t blame that for their collapse.

Overall, it was a frustrating year for Australia as they struggled to build momentum. The victory over the All Blacks was a big moment for them, but when they get demolished two weeks in a row just a month later they can’t be holding onto that.

A standout for the Wallabies once again was Israel Folau who was nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year. The main positive from this season was we got to see Cheika continue to introduce new and exciting players which are certainly going to be necessary if the Wallabies want to be a serious contender at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Results:

Australia 37 – 14 Fiji

Australia 19 – 24 Scotland

Australia 40 – 2 7 Italy

Australia 34 – 54 New Zealand

New Zealand 35 – 29 Australia

Australia 23 – 23 South Africa

Australia 45 – 20 Argentina

South Africa 27 – 27 Australia

Argentina 20 – 37 Australia

Australia 23 – 18 New Zealand

Australia 31 – 28 Barbarians

Japan 30 – 63 Australia

Wales 21 – 29 Australia

England 30 – 6 Australia

Scotland 53 – 24 Australia

8 wins, 5 losses, 2 draws

READ MORE:

Watch: All Black season review 2017

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Shaylen 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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J
Jon 11 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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