Richard Loe 's Opinion

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Aussie teams looking weak

9 comments
Scott Higginbotham of the Reds. Photo / Getty Images
Scott Higginbotham of the Reds. Photo / Getty Images

It's still early days, I guess, but you'd have to say the fifth Australian Super Rugby franchise hasn't done their rugby any favours.

I haven't seen all the Australians' games, but what I have seen hasn't been that flash.

In years past, you'd expect Australian teams to be well-organised, particularly on defence, and with smart backs good at passing and moving guys into gaps.

Hasn't been that way so far this year, has it?

I am not getting at the Rebels - the newest franchise - specifically, even though I don't think they are much cop. Instead, you'd have to say that the fifth franchise has tended to flatten things out rather a lot across the whole Australian rugby landscape.

The Rebels aren't much up front but have Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor doing their thing behind the scrum - but even someone with Beale's talent hasn't fired that consistently yet.

The Western Force aren't bad up front but have little behind the scrum - although I did pick them, wrongly, to do the double over the Waratahs on Friday night, simply because the Waratahs have been so awful.

The Reds have fallen apart and the Brumbies have done well with what they have but you'd struggle to describe them as one of the competition's most attractive teams nor would I really expect them to be in the play-offs.

I was talking to an Australian guy in the know this week and he reckoned Robbie Deans was a bit worried about some positions for the coming international season - and well he might be.

In past years, with so many Wallabies playing together, teams like the old New South Wales and Queensland sides were able to play together week-in, week-out; developing those combinations that are so valuable in test matches (or any matches, come to that...).

Now, however, that has been diluted across five franchises and we have seen quite a few players looking well below their best.

Wycliff Palu, the storming No 8 for the Waratahs, comes to mind.

He looks a shadow of his former self, though that is probably due more to recurring injury than anything else.

The Reds have been hit by injuries too but their biggest disappointment this season has been halfback Will Genia. Without Quade Cooper outside him to keep defenders guessing, Genia hasn't been able to impose himself on games and on opponents - and he has looked downright hesitant and vulnerable sometimes; yet we know what he can do.

Crack winger Digby Ioane is another playing well below his best and looking out of sorts.

Overall, the Australians look a bit weak. I know it is post-World Cup year; that some players have moved on; and that injuries are hitting hard in some cases - but it isn't just that.

They don't seem to have a lot of oomph in the front row still - though the Brumbies trio of hooker Stephen Moore and props Ben Alexander and Dan Palmer are doing well.

There is similarly not much to be worried about in their second row and a lot of their back play has been only solid, at best, although Berrick Barnes has shown flashes of form for the Waratahs.

About the only position where they are doing well is flanker.

Scott Higginbotham of the Reds would be about the best Australian player on view at the moment and I have noticed the Aussies have found a couple more good loosies to stand alongside David Pocock at 7.

This young lad Michael Hooper of the Brumbies and Liam Gill of the Reds seem promising.

The Wallabies will need them - this is a position where players get broken regularly.

You also can't translate Super Rugby form into internationals, of course. I have always said that - but that lack of combinations could hurt the Wallabies this year.

If you've lost a match to an Australian team so far this season, you know you're having a bad run - right, Blues?

I shouldn't say that, as the Highlanders lost to the Brumbies - but at least that was an away match and the Highlanders had a rare bad day at the office.

- Herald on Sunday

Richard Loe

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

Read more by Richard Loe

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 11 Jul 2014 00:42:35 Processing Time: 1228ms