Keo, in the Argus, writes the Poms win
against Australia was their final.
You need a scrum to win the World Cup.
Australia hasn’t had one for years and in
front of 60 000 here at the most fantastic
of stadiums the Australian pack was
England won by two, but when you consider
Jonny Wilkinson missed three penalties and
three drop goals, there should never have
been just a kick separating the two teams.
England had the pack and Australia the
potency in the backs. But with Australia’s
numbers one to eight getting pulverized in
the set piece and in the tackle the backs
could never influence this result.
Australia, in the Pool Stages, had played no
team of significance. Their win against
Wales was given perspective when Fiji
bundled Wales out of the competition. And on
Saturday the Springboks’ 36-0 trouncing of
England earlier in the tournament also put
into perspective just how well the Boks
played in Paris that night.
Australia’s pack had not been tested in
France and despite Wallabies coach John
Connolly insistence that his tight five had
improved, they were as diabolical as they’ve
been since Matt Dunning was carried off on a
stretcher at Twickenham a few years back.
The Australian scrum disintegrated again,
with Dunning ineffective and tighthead prop
Guy Shepherdson beaten to a pulp by his
opposite Andy Sheridan, who was named man of
The only surprise was that Australia won the
first two penalties at the scrum, despite
Dunning collapsing them. Once referee Alain
Rolland had woken up to the cunning of the
Australians they never won another penalty
and in fact never won a decent ball from a
The result continues the Springboks
incredible run at this World Cup because it
eliminates the Australian threat – a team
that despite its deficiencies at scrum time
have always troubled the Boks.
Defensively, both teams were good with just
17 tackles missed in the match, but England
have no attack and that made Australia’s
defensive task a simple task.
England were ambitious in how they wanted to
play, but they lacked confidence and
conviction in using the width of the pitch.
Instead they relied on scrumhalf Andy
Gomarsall’s kicking game from the base and
on the 10 and 12 kicking options provided by
Wilkinson and Mike Catt.
This was England’s final. They were
courageous and the bulldog spirit, absent
against the Boks, growled. Admittedly it was
allowed to because the Australian pack was
more poodle than pitbull.
England won’t advance beyond the semi-final
because they don’t have the all-round game
to achieve a result that will require more
science and as much mongrel as they took to
Their victory against Australia was inspired
because it was true backs-to-the-wall stuff,
but when you looked at the rugby they played
they were awful. They managed just one
linebreak in 80 minutes and their midfield
and outside backs did not have the bulk,
pace of skill to trouble Australia.
On the odd occasion Australia’s backs were
worked into the game through decent phase
play they cut England’s defence to shreds,
with the simple use of width in their
There will be the usual English media
emotional outpouring and England’s World Cup
prospects will be talked up, despite the
obvious limitation of this team. The reports
will be of the bravery of this side and of
the magnificence of the occasion. The prose
will be purple, the writing will be
inspirational but the adjectives are
unlikely to reference anything about English
skill. Quite simply they don’t have the
skills to win this World Cup.
Saturday’s win was not a case of England
being good, but of Australia being a
disgrace in the scrum and of their forwards
being battered at the breakdown. Australia
was pitiful and England were strong enough
to win the slugfest.
South Africa in Paris showed how poor
England are and England in turn showed
Australia to be a pretender and never a
genuine World Cup contender. Often
Australia’s intelligence in approach and
ability to manipulate the referee and the
situation at scrum time has won them
matches. Not so at the Velodrome, even if
the referee’s interpretations at the opening
quarter suggested the Aussies may actually
get away with it again.
Thankfully they didn’t because rugby union
is a game played with a scrum and for
Australia to have triumphed by somehow
avoiding a scrum in 80 minutes would have
been a catastrophe.
Scrum sanity triumphed in Marseilles and so
did the team with the better pack.
In the next two weeks it will take more than
just a better pack to win because the
tournament survivors all have packs as good
as England, if not better.
England must enjoy the win because they
won’t get another one in France this month.
Australia must accept the humiliation
because they’ve side-stepped too often the
reality that this is union and not rugby
league. This game is played with 15 and not
13 men. This is a game played with props
like Sheridan and not imposters like
MARK KEOHANE |
keo.co.za | Sunday, 7 October 2007 |
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