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Australia’s selection policy risks turning the Wallabies into Fiji



Ireland’s 29-20 win over the All Blacks on the weekend was a joy to watch.

Both played terrific rugby and it was a great teams advertisement for the game. The interplay of passing between both teams’ forwards and backs was superb.

After this brilliant match of rugby, I sat down to watch the Wallabies’ 32-15 loss to England.

It was like night and day. The match was an error-driven, penalty-filled affair that could turn you off the game for good.

Hunter Paisami of Australia is tackled by Owen Farrell of England during the Autumn Nations Series match between England and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on November 13, 2021 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Ben Darwin, the former Wallabies prop, has a company called Gain Line Analytics, which analyzes team performance.

Their research has shown that the performance of a team is directly linked to the cohesion of that team, whether it is in a corporate or sporting environment.

He made this comment on this Twitter after the withdrawl of the Japan-based players:

Going by the two games I saw on the weekend, Darwin might be onto something.

Here is how many different provincial teams each country had players from:
Ireland: four
New Zealand: four
England: ten
Australia: ten

On top of that, 13 of the Ireland 23 came from their top provincial team Leinster with another six from their second top team Munster.

Eight of the New Zealand 22 came from their top team the Crusaders and another seven from their second top team the Blues.

If you look at all the great international teams of the past few decades, they are generally made up of a lot of players from one provincial team.

The Wallabies’ golden era team of the late ’90s and early 2000s was packed full of Brumbies.

The All Blacks team that won the 2011 and 2015 World Cups had many Crusaders in their line-up.

Which provincial team did we select the most players from? Eight came from the Brumbies.

Nic White of the Wallabies runs the ball

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

But wait a minute, the Reds won the Australian Super Rugby comp and in fact have beaten the Brumbies three times this year.

There were only three Reds players in our 23, the same number as the Waratahs, who didn’t win a game all season! That just doesn’t add up.

The nine-ten combination is one of the key areas in rugby. We started with a Red James O’Connor at ten and a Brumby Nic White at nine.

We finished with the opposite – Noah Lolesio, a Brumby, at ten and Tate McDermott, a Red, at nine.

Surely with all the disruption already present in the team it would have been wiser to keep the same combos as Super Rugby?

Ireland was the stand-out team of the weekend. They started with Jonathan Sexton and Jamison Gibson-Park from Leinster and finished with Joey Carbery and Conor Murray from Munster. They are some logical selections.

Jonny Sexton

(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Our five wins in a row looked like the team was building some good momentum. But our three Japan-based players have now left the side. Add in five European players and a few injuries and it looks like the team is back to square one.

Now the injuries haven’t helped us, but only 12 of the 23 on the weekend played in our great 30-17 win over the South Africans at Suncorp.

A lot of people were calling for the scrapping of the Giteau law but we have already seen the major problems with bringing players in and out of team.

The five overseas players we brought in for this game all came from five different clubs.

Will Skelton has been overseas since 2017. He has hardly played a game with most of the squad. It’s a pretty tough ask to come into a new team with a week or two training and perform at a top level.

Do we really want to turn into Fiji? Fiji has plenty of rugby talent and a large number of players to draw from but their players are dispersed all over the globe.

They have to struggle with clubs for releases from contracts. Very few players have even played with each other before going into camp. They don’t get the chance to build any cohesion or combinations.

I don’t really know what the answer is but the more I think about it, the more I think Ben Darwin is right and we need to work on team cohesion and stick with combinations that have some experience with each other.

What do you think?

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