It’s great news that Rugby Australia is finally starting to recognize the legendary players and style of play from the 1980s, with the new Ella-Mobbs Trophy replacing the Cook Cup for next month’s Wallabies-England series.
I was very fortunate to play with Mark, Glen and Gary Ella as a young kid and they played a huge role in influencing my career and inspired me to play an instinctive running rugby style.
The famous 1977-78 Australian Schoolboys team changed the mindset of rugby and produced many Wallabies that went on to play the best running rugby in the world at that time.
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There were 10 future Wallabies in that team – including all three Ellas. To put it into perspective, the talented Wally Lewis often struggled to crack the line-up and the team ended up unbeaten in a 16-match tour of Europe and Japan. The greatest Australian Schoolboys side of all-time.
Of course before that there were a lot of great players and coaches but to change the style of the game as we did in the 80s and early 90s was a privilege and a time that many rugby fans remember with fondness.
Apart from Lewis and the Ella brothers the future Wallabies in that schoolboys side were Michael O’Connor, Tony Melrose, Michael Hawker, Chris Roche, Tony D’Arcy, Shane Nightingale and Dominic Vaughan.
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BRACE FOR AN ENGLAND KICK-FEST
The weekend’s Premiership final at Twickenham featured more than 100 kicks in general play. I hope that Eddie Jones will not adopt this style. We need to entertain the fans.
But Eddie just wants to win, beat Australia. He is under pressure as England finished fifth in the Six Nations this year. He doesn’t like Australia as he was sacked as Wallabies coach back in the day.
He is not here to entertain us. He doesn’t care about how he wins. But how do we counter England’s kicking game? When looking at the style of rugby to play, we’ve got some really good outside backs.
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We need to create opportunities for our wingers and we’ve got two good finishers, Marika Koroibete and Tom Wright. Andrew Kellaway has also demonstrated he’s a great finisher so why don’t we get the backs to create things out wide? The English won’t like going wide all the time so it will put a lot of pressure on them.
And instead of kicking to the fullback all the time, why not kick into space and try and create more opportunities for us? We have some forwards who have dominated in Super Rugby and we’ve got to go out there and use our strengths. Don’t give possession away, make them think, don’t just hit up and hit up.
We’ve got some really good runners, Michael Hooper is a strong fetcher so back yourselves. We need to contest for the ball and starve them of possession. The more you starve a team of possession, the more desperate they get and the more penalties they give away.
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LESSONS FROM THE SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC FINAL
If you watch the Super Rugby final, the Crusaders played the type of rugby that we used to play in the 80s. They backed themselves, they put the ball into space, only kicked it when they had to and had the confidence, vision, unpredictability and flair to succeed in a pressure game.
Australian rugby, if we are to be successful going forward against other codes, we need to get the players to up-skill and do the basics right all the time. We also need to entertain. If you entertain people they will come and watch.
I would still like to know what style of rugby Dave Rennie is trying to play. We have got some very good young talent coming through and I think they should experiment and get away from this pod structure which came out of New Zealand years ago and we are still trying to play which doesn’t really work.
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The selection of the team is crucial going into a Rugby World Cup next year.
It’s very important at this level that there’s combinations. Quade Cooper is back which is great, he’s a fantastic player and with his vision, flair and unpredictability, other players have got to start to give him options. He can’t do everything for everybody and that’s one of the things that we learned in our era.
Anticipate what’s going to happen, have a go and it starts to come off – passes stick and the tries come. The more you play together the easier the game is.
THE FUTURE IS GOLDEN
There’s some tough rugby coming up but if you want to be the best you’ve got to play the best. Last year’s Super Rugby competition demonstrated we weren’t in a good place but this year we are starting to get better and I hope we continue to move forward.
Maybe in the future we could go back to three Australian teams in Super Rugby so you’ve got all the good players together.
We would be more competitive against the Kiwis and the Wallabies would be a lot stronger.
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I hope that in this England series the coaches allow the players to play and make mistakes. That’s what I do when I coach kids and it’s still very important for players of this generation.
The only way they’re going to improve is try different things if they’re allowed to. It’s a great opportunity to create momentum for the World Cup next year.
We need to entertain the crowds and Australian supporters will be looking forward to a new golden era of rugby. I would love to hear feedback from rugby people about what they think on my Instagram and Facebook pages.
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