Within 24 hours of the Wallabies finally managing to deliver their fans some good news, the All Blacks ran onto Twickenham and put the Australian achievement in perspective.
The local rugby press is crowing about the obvious positive to come out of the draw with Wales – we’ve found a good half-back as the Matt Giteau experiment worked. While George Gregan was in Tokyo as the non-playing captain of the Prime Minister’s XV, Giteau took the first step towards fighting it out with Sam Cordingly to be Australia’s first-choice No 9.
The other important feature of the match has received much less acknowledgement.
At least in the first half-hour, the Wallabies caught up with where first-class rugby has been heading this century – players managed to keep the ball alive by unloading the thing in the tackle or popping it from the deck.
That had been the key to Wales’s resurgence under Scott Johnson and one of the reasons for the All Blacks’ superiority. With Johnson as John Connolly’s deputy, the message has finally made it home that there is no such thing as fast ruck or maul ball.
The third bit of good news was that we didn’t lose, which is a nice change for the Wallabies on tour. That achievement’s lack of stature was sharply demonstrated early this morning as the All Blacks ran up a record 41 points against England at Twickenham, destroying the rose petals in every facet of the game. What’s scary is that the Blacks claim to have stepped up from Tri-Nations form.
Which brings the Wallaby faithful down to earth to focus on the remaining problems. We’re still short one international first-class back to play either five-eighth or in-centre, as Stephen Larkham can’t do both and Matt Rogers is good bench quality, but still bench.
The scrum remains well below international par. It seems that half-back is the only backline position where we have the luxury of two quality players. And we’re still a metre or two short in the speed business.
Next weekend NZ plays France for the unofficial crown of world’s best while Australia has a run against Italy. At least we’ll win.