Michael Burgess: Kiwis getting it wrong with Jason Taumalolo

By Michael Burgess in Edinburgh

Jason Taumalolo. Photo / Photosport
Jason Taumalolo. Photo / Photosport

The Kiwis interchange strategy needs tweaking, because at the moment it isn't working.

The most glaring example is the over use of Jason Taumalolo, who has had (by far) the most minutes of any Kiwis middle player in the last two weeks.

The value of the bench is massively important in the modern game, and the forwards need to be rotated efficiently and effectively.

The Kiwis brains trust of coach David Kidwell, along with assistants Justin Morgan and Willie Poching, have fallen down in that area so far.

Taumalolo is the worst case. After being heavily criticised for under-utilizing him during the Perth test (which was an over the top reaction from Australian critics anyway) it feels like Kidwell and co. have overcompensated in the last two matches.

Taumalolo played 74 minutes in the 17-16 win over England, then another 70 minutes on Sunday morning against Australia.

That's far too much. There may have been some mitigating circumstances against England - with Thomas Leuluai leaving the field for a concussion test and both starting props suffering knocks - but in general Taumalolo's impact is being dulled by over use.

It looks like the Kiwis coaches are trying to turn one of the best power forwards in the game into a Paul Gallen type player, which he is never going to be. Taumalolo averaged 52 minutes a game for the Cowboys over the last NRL season, playing 60 minutes or more on eight occasions.

It must be tempting to leave him on as much as possible - as he is such a rare talent - but he needs to be used more sparingly. It's like using a Mack truck as a courier vehicle. Instead of sharpening the saw, they are blunting his power.

If Taumalolo is firing on all cylinders he is near impossible to contain, but he isn't a robot, and his influence is being lessened by being on the field too much.

In contrast, Greg Eastwood saw only 16 minutes of action against Australia (two runs, 10 tackles) not returning after his initial stint. Again, that is highly unusual in a test match and not conducive to the right result. If the coaches didn't have confidence in the Bulldogs forward, then why was he selected? Eastwood's lack of use, combined with Martin Taupau's relatively short stints (total of 33 minutes) meant that Taumalolo played too long.

The use of Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris is also open to debate. Sure, they are usually 80 minute players, but the absence of Simon Mannering has given the Storm duo an extra defensive load (they both made 46 tackles, as well as running for more than 100 metres each) and something has to give. One or both of them need some extra rest.

In contrast Australia's strategy was much more balanced (both starting props played 49 minutes, while starting lock Trent Merrin was on for 41 minutes), which produced a consistency of sharpness and effort, reflected in the end result.

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- NZ Herald

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