Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Fretful McKenzie looks wrong choice as coach

Ewen McKenzie. Photo / Getty Images
Ewen McKenzie. Photo / Getty Images

Ewen McKenzie already looks and sounds like a beaten man without a rescue plan.

The opening to his Wallaby reign is so unimpressive that it is already time to consider that the Wallabies chose the wrong man in overlooking South African Jake White.

McKenzie patrolled the cheap seats like a wise older brother when in charge of the Reds, but he stalks the back of the coaching box impersonating a trader during a financial meltdown in his new role as Wallaby coach. He looks and sounds stressed, lacking the demeanour to put a confident air into his struggling team. And they are playing confused.

Two years out from the World Cup, McKenzie should be playing an assured medium-term game, but the short-term one has already got him stewing.

His whingeing after another emphatic Bledisloe Cup win by the All Blacks constituted the usual one-eyed coach-speak that makes for regular newspaper copy. As always there are grains of truth there, but they are exaggerated in the name of obscuring the real problems.

McKenzie was almost certainly right in saying that referee Jaco Peyper should have used the video referee to adjudicate on the Stephen Moore no-try ruling, that the Wallabies were robbed. I say almost certainly, because it's not quite clear why Peyper ruled out the try or a video investigation so quickly.

"We score from those moments and it is a totally different ball game," claimed McKenzie. Totally different? Really? Come on pal, we didn't all arrive here with the last shower.

McKenzie moaned and groaned about a professional foul by Kieran Read, but it wasn't so blatant as to deserve anything more than the penalty it received.

There's always another side to the story, though. McKenzie failed, of course, to mention the outrageous work of his No8, Ben Mowen, who negated a back-pedalling scrum by reaching into the second row to secure the ball. He also described the scrums as a lottery, whereas they were actually a winning ticket for the All Blacks. The Wallaby scrum was chewed up and spat out by a magnificent All Blacks shove.

The Wallabies are in the ballpark, but they have no sluggers.

The All Blacks strike when the opportunity presents itself, with forwards and backs finding the necessary skills when the openings arise. They are physically stronger and more aggressive. Their range of performance, individually and as a team, is far more reliable.

In contrast, the Wallabies have players - including influential ones - who have shockers every time, Will Genia and Adam Ashley-Cooper being the latest.

Man for man, there is virtually no position where the Wallabies are superior, and that includes halfback where the once great Genia is getting his butt kicked by the snappy Aaron Smith.

There are some positions, including wing, where the Wallabies could hold an edge now and then. But there is no place on the park where they are assured of an advantage.The performance of their bench on Saturday night suggests there is no cavalry in sight.

But the Wallabies can play better. They have been so bad as to make the All Blacks look better than they probably are. The hallmark of White-coached teams is simplicity, organisation and clear direction - factors missing from McKenzie's recipe so far. White might have been the better choice.

For now, New Zealand have the better players, and the better ones coming through. Change that and, hey presto, all those terrible decisions will magically start going Australia's way.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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