Chris Rattue 's Opinion

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

Chris Rattue: Powder puff forwards make Aussies cannon fodder

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The All Blacks snuffed out any hint of a renaissance by the Australian forwards. Photo / Dean Purcell
The All Blacks snuffed out any hint of a renaissance by the Australian forwards. Photo / Dean Purcell

Sorry Michael Hooper but you are wrong. Dead wrong. Your Wallabies are broken all right because the forwards are as bad as they've ever been.

Australia can forget about any World Cup challenge next year, no matter what their ranking, unless they lose their powder puff pack.

Australia were not only wiped off Eden Park, any confidence about being on the right track was obliterated by Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Richie McCaw, and co. Be afraid Australia, very afraid.

The All Blacks went from the almost ridiculous to the near sublime, casting aside the soggy Sydney memories and mixed recent form with a muscular destruction of the Wallabies. The Aussies weren't beaten, they were beaten up. It has taken only two tests for the same old story to emerge.

The All Blacks weren't in top gear by any means - the forwards were tremendous as were Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden in the halves, but there was a disconnect in the outside backs.

Overall, though, it was a thumping, physical performance beyond anything these Wallabies are capable of or able to deal with.

Sport doesn't get much better than rugby the way the All Blacks are capable of playing it. The game can be just about unwatchable, as it was in Sydney. But when the All Blacks click, union combines a range of skill, physical impact and fluidity in a way that other similar codes can't match.

The Rugby Championship is another contrived rugby competition with all the authenticity of a politician's apology so it's the drama and skill of the individual contests which matter most, and the All Blacks delivered at their Auckland fortress.

The confidence with which they launched a counterattack from near the dead-ball line, including a beautifully delivered Aaron Smith pass under pressure near his posts, said it all. The move was halted by some Hooper excellence, but like everything the Wallabies did, it was a footnote to a script dominated by the men in black.

And this All Black team is still missing powerful ingredients: Charles Piutau would add significant clout on the wing, Ma'a Nonu's credentials need no introduction, and Luke Romano gives the locks more ball- carrying ability. Kieran Read is building back to his rampaging best and if he can reclaim his rugby form, Sonny Bill Williams will add physical punch in the backs.

For the Wallabies, though, it's the same old problem. Sydney was a watery mirage. They have only three world class forwards - prop James Slipper, the injured hooker Stephen Moore, and Hooper while the backs aren't strong enough to compensate.

On rare days, the Aussie pack can reach the necessary heights. But they struggle to string top performances together and simply don't have the muscle that teams like New Zealand, England and South Africa can call on.

Indeed, the Wallabies have gone backwards since the heyday of locks Nathan Sharpe and James Horwill. Unless Ewen McKenzie is a miracle worker, they'll be World Cup cannon fodder again.

Tough nuts needed
The last three weeks have been among the most disappointing in the Warriors' history. Before that they looked like a team who could give the NRL playoffs a shake. They were a tired, embarrassing shambles against the Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium. The Warriors' latest late season slide adds more weight to the argument they need more players who have been through the tough Australian systems. At the moment, the balance between locally produced players and tough nut Aussies or Kiwis raised in Australian teams isn't right. This, no doubt, is the reason why the club has signed Ryan Hoffman. The key is getting the right players, of course. The Warriors have signed plenty of dud Aussies over the years.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

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.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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