Andrew Slack: Good news for Wallabies is they can improve

This is not a bad Wallaby team, but it was a bad performance, says Slack. Photo / Getty Images
This is not a bad Wallaby team, but it was a bad performance, says Slack. Photo / Getty Images

While Australia are copping something of a hammering in England, a cricketing analogy might be relevant for Saturday night's one-sided Bledisloe Cup affair.

The Wallabies came in off their long run, full of enthusiasm and with a cherry red new ball, but the All Blacks just presented a dead bat, until the inevitable bad delivery which was swatted away with something akin to disdain.

The problem for the Wallabies was that the bad balls were far too regular. For each of the six All Black tries, there was a time in the lead-up that Australia was the team in control of possession. A poor pass from a jittery Jesse Mogg was knocked on by Stephen Moore. Try number one to Ben Smith.

Christian Leali'ifano had a straightforward kick out of his own territory. An Aaron Cruden chargedown. Try number two. A regulation kick for touch by Mogg landed in All Black hands. Richie McCaw in for the third.

A pop-gun kick from the Wallabies which Ben Smith returned with interest for Julian Savea to collect almost uncontested. Try four to Conrad Smith.

Number five to Ben Smith came from a Wallaby put in to the scrum, and the six-try rout was completed when Tevita Kuridrani inexplicably lost the ball when tackled.

Smith only had thin air to beat to complete a personal hat-trick.

A brief analysis of that chain of events will be both a nightmare and a blessing for the Wallaby coaching staff. A nightmare because they understand the All Blacks can construct tries on their own without a leg up from their opposition, but a blessing also because Ewen McKenzie and his offsiders have been around enough blocks to know that as difficult as it is to play superbly two weeks in a row, it is often as hard to play poorly twice on the trot.

This is not a bad Wallaby team, but it was a bad performance.

"The big challenge of sport," said McCaw after the match, "is to back up performance."

Or in this instance for the Wallabies, to not back it up.

The Wallabies' mistakes were admittedly the result of the pressure exerted by an All Black side which demonstrated those two characteristics which seem to be their birthright. They were clinical and ruthless.

There's no doubt this is an ageing All Black side, and I would keep the powder dry as to whether they have the capacity to be playing with that energy and power later on in the Rugby Championship, but you can only analyse what's been put on the table, and on Saturday night's evidence, birth certificates are a complete irrelevance.

McKenzie is not given to panic and it's unlikely there'll be many changes for Saturday's Wellington test. Mogg has a future as a Wallaby but is a work in progress and it would make sense to put Israel Folau in the number 15 jersey to give him the best hope of seeing more ball. He's an influential player who was invisible in Sydney. The Wallabies couldn't get the ball to him and the All Blacks kept it away from him.

Flanker Hugh McMenamin was not as influential as McKenzie would have liked, but he may have needed the run after a long time out of international rugby.

Saturday night did have the sniff of a men versus boys contest, but having said that, I am not prepared to change course on my thinking that this is a Wallaby squad of great potential.

Wellington and Dunedin mightn't be their first two choices of venue where they hope to display that, but after a sub-standard start to the McKenzie era, they have no option.

- NZ Herald

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