Half
way through the tri-nations series, the Australian Rugby Union should be a
reasonably happy ship. Yes, the Wallabies are one from three and Saturday night
exposed some very serious shortcomings, but the improvement is coming and
Knuckles Connolly’s new coaching team is paying dividends.

Instead,
sniping at the ARU bunker grows apace and there are hints that Knuckles isn’t
really in charge of the Wallabies, that King George and his court are too
powerful.

Gregan
should not have started in last Saturday’s Test. It was time to find out what
Cordingly could do against the world’s best, and Gregan’s sub-standard
performance underlined the immediate need for change.

Now
Connolly is going through a public farce about whether Gregan will be “rested”
from the European tour when the question is really about how to drop him as
captain first and half-back second. Knuckles is left playing a straight bat while the Terror‘s Peter Jenkins is getting behind the spin with the reality of
So long skipper”. Most damaging though are Greg Growden’s SMH
lines
: “It is also believed the
Wallabies management is uncertain how to handle Gregan, who has extremely close
links to several Australian Rugby Union powerbrokers who have often backed the
wishes of the Test skipper.”

As
for Saturday night, the ugly truth is that the Wallaby backs were too slow and
too dumb. The Kiwis all seem a couple of metres faster than their opposite
number.

Tactics
can try to cover that physical deficiency but the Wallabies played old rugby,
exemplified again by the image of Mortlock making a half-break and doggedly
pumping his legs for another metre without even looking to unload. Fast ruck
ball against the Blacks is an oxymoron. Sadly, most of the time there wasn’t
Wallaby support to unload to anyway. Was
the $6 million Gitteau on the field?

And
as for Jeff Wall’s comments yesterday, no, rugby doesn’t need Bill Harrigan,
but it needs Alain Rolland even less. Rolland has made a goose of himself and
the game on each occasion he’s reffed Australia. The ARU
deserves a rocket for accepting him back in the country again.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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