Rugby: Wallabies blame lean patch on better defence

The Australian Wallabies. Photo / Getty Images.
The Australian Wallabies. Photo / Getty Images.

The injury-ravaged Wallabies will attempt to avoid a Bledisloe Cup series whitewash against the All Blacks on Saturday while enduring their leanest try-scoring season of the professional era.

The second-ranked Wallabies have scored just 12 tries in 10 tests this year, an average of 1.2 a game, compared with the all-conquering All Blacks' 33 tries in nine tests at an average of 3.67 a match.

Overall, Wallabies teams have averaged 3.17 tries a test since the game went professional in 1996 and the only other year they have scored less than two a match was also under Deans in 2009.

Not since 1979, when tries were worth only one more point than a penalty or drop goal and when the Wallabies crossed the stripe just five times in five tests, has the national team struggled so badly to score tries.

Classy utility Adam Ashley-Cooper, Australia's most experienced back, puts the try-scoring troubles down to ever-improving defence in international rugby but injured flanker David Pocock admits the lean spell is a concern both for the Wallabies and the game of rugby as a spectacle.

"It's a competitive football market in Australia," said Pocock. "Whilst in other countries they love scrums and lineout battles, people in Australia want to see tries."

Pocock said the Wallabies' inability to convert pressure into tries had been the difference against the All Blacks this year.

"The past four or five games against the All Blacks, there's only been a try in it."

Statistics supported Pocock's assertion, with New Zealand averaging 1.5 tries a test against Australia this year, compared with the Wallabies' one in two matches versus the world champions.

Deans has had to use 38 different players this year and Ashley-Cooper had no doubt a lack of combinations was also hindering the Wallabies.

"There's no doubting that teams perform well when they can build on combinations," he said. "You look at the good centres combinations around the world like Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith and why they're so good is because they've spent so much time together."

- AAP



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