Published by Christy Doran, 20 August 2018 on foxsports.com.au
IF you thought the Wallabies’ lineout was bad in the first Bledisloe Test against the All Blacks you weren’t wrong.
In fact, it was the worst lineout performance since Fox Sports began recording statistics in 2007.
The Wallabies won just 38.5 per cent of their 12 attacking lineouts.
It was the first time that they lost more lineout throws (eight) than won (four) and the terrible set-piece showing was one of the key reasons the Wallabies lost 38-13 in Bledisloe I.
Reserve hooker Tolu Latu managed to hit the target just once from seven attempts.
The one time Latu’s lineout throw was successful, All Blacks captain Kieran Read managed to steal the ball off the reserve rake at the rolling maul — albeit illegally, as he came around the side of the maul and stole the ball in the 71st minute.
Meanwhile, second-rower Izack Rodda managed two first half steals.
In his post-match press conference, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said the recent return of Polota-Nau from Leicester wasn’t a factor in their lineout wobbles.
“It’s not like he arrived today, he’s been here for two weeks, had plenty of practice,” Cheika said.
“And it wasn’t just him, it was Tolu (Latu) as well, with the lineout combinations.
“I thought he actually did pretty well, first game of the season, he was right in it.”
The Kiwis will certainly target the lineout again next Saturday in Auckland, and Cheika is hopeful but not certain it can be turned around.
“We’ll find out, won’t we?” Cheika said.
“We need to. I get it, that’s a really important issue that we need to sort out for possession, but it can’t be used as an excuse because some days that’s what happens.
“We’ve got to keep coming back there and putting our bodies on the line to defend, and get the ball back another way, through turnover or aggressive defence.”
Cheika said his side need to throw in much quicker in the second Bledisloe at Eden Park so that the All Blacks don’t have the time to get settled.
“Often with lineouts, when it goes like that, there’s one or two things wrong in different areas that accumulate into a bunch of them,” Cheika said.
“I thought we were just a little bit slow to get set up and going.
“They’re a good defensive lineout, we gave them too much chance to get into the picture.”
Indeed, much of the Wallabies’ lineout struggles stemmed from the All Blacks’ brilliant defensive lineout work.
But the world champions were helped for two fundamental reasons.
First, the Wallabies’ lineout calls were made before the forwards set themselves at the lineout.
That meant that the hooker wasn’t able to change his throw even if the All Blacks had marked up accordingly.
Secondly, the Wallabies lacked any movement and because of that the All Blacks only had to be quicker with their jump than their opponents — which they were.
These two points were touched upon during Fox Sports’ post-match analysis.
“It looked like there was a bit of timing concerns with the lineout,” former Wallabies captain George Gregan said.
“They just weren’t getting to the top of the jump.
“They had (Brodie) Retallick and obviously the centurion Sam Whitelock getting up quite a lot and getting that ball, and incorrect spacing.”
Interestingly, the Wallabies threw to the middle of the lineout for their first seven throws, before using Michael Hooper unsuccessfully at the front of the lineout.
The final four throws all went to the back of the lineout.
All Blacks second-row pair Retallick and Whitelock — the most experienced locking combination in Test history — each made four lineout steals.
The set-piece woes reflected poorly on lineout caller Adam Coleman and new forwards coach, Fijian Simon Raiwalui, who joined the Wallabies in May after a lengthy stint in France as a player and coach.
Raiwalui, who made his name initially in Sydney club rugby, previously coached Biarritz and was an assistant coach with French Top 14 heavyweights Stade Francais and Racing Metro.
The Wallabies have added Brumbies giant second-rower Rory Arnold to their squad ahead of Saturday’s Test at Eden Park.