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The view from Australia – wrap of 2005

by Rollo Manning

19 December 2005

The year of 2005 will be one the Australian Rugby Union will want to forget as it moves ahead in the quest for the Rugby World Cup in 2007. The organisation has been shaken by the departure of the number one coach (Eddie Jones) and the Chairman of the ARU (Dilip Kumar) as the results are scrutinized and excuses sought for the blackest season in Wallaby history since 1973. In that year the Wallabies were beaten by the touring Tongan team playing in its first official International Rugby Board sanctioned tour.

The 2005 points for and against flatter the scene with 386 for to 302 against - the early year Test wins against Samoa and Italy when 143 points were scored for to only 28 against help flatter the result as does five wins and eight losses sounds better than six losses in a row.
There are three components to a successful Wallaby team – the players, the coaching staff and the central administration. On each count and based on 2005 the ARU has failed.

The players battled on with injuries a plenty but this only helped to emphasize the lack of depth in Australian rugby. The priority in the minds of the ARU Board should be to quickly get a competition in place that will emulate the National Provincial Championship in New Zealand or the Currie Cup in South Africa . When the All Blacks can change an entire 15 players (as they did v Ireland ) and still win with flying colors it brings into focus the shallow base Australian rugby is built on and the dire need for greater local competition between Super 14 and club rugby.

On the coaching front Eddie Jones could not have gone quickly enough. This former hooker with the Randwick Club in Sydney took Australian rugby from a high after the 1999 World Cup through a miraculous victory over the All Blacks at RWC 2003 to its lowest point since the late 60s early 1970s era. One of his most recent gaffs was to take on the Spring Tour of Britain three rookie players (Loane, Houston and Wallace-Harrison) and not give them a game. While Jones's career as the National coach hinged on winning, the win at all cost attitude only holds the game back in developing young players. They were on tour to play and not just for a bonding exercise. It appeared Jones went ahead picking his best team to save his own soul and failed.

The replacement for Jones is the subject of speculation and time must be taken to find the best available. The Wallabies do not play a game until June 2006 and that time will give a new coach to work with the Super 14 coaches in identifying talent.

The final component for success – sound administration – is not in a healthy state. Gary Flowers, CEO of the ARU after John O'Neill, has failed to meet the expectations. This is due to the fact that running an organisation like the ARU needs people skills better found in a former State-wide bank manger (O'Neill) than a partner in a law firm (Flowers).
The teamwork needed across the board in the ARU will be almost as important as selecting the right players. A strong CEO will motivate and guide development – Flowers has since his appointment in May 2004 shown a far too conciliatory approach with out the “grunt” being called for in the Wallaby front row.

Bring on 2006 – it has to get better than this!


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