The Wallabies are starting to show glimpses of the dynamic side they could be, skills coach Mick Byrne says.
Australia’s clear intent to keep the ball in play in recent Tests has been highlighted by the offloading tendencies of the forwards, especially rookie locks Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold.
It’s a new wave that’s pleased Byrne, who spent 11 years with the All Blacks and has also coached in Japan and Ireland among a number of stops a decorated career.
“I really like to see our forwards playing rugby,” he said.
“Sometimes forwards get put in a box of put your head down, hit rucks, I like to see our forwards use the ball.
“They’re capable of doing it, it’s just sometimes they’re not asked to do it.
“To see them have the willingness to throw it, and it comes down to the attitude of the players as well, two young guys out on the field really enjoying their rugby and expressing themselves, it was great to see.” - Mick Byrne
After close to four months in his new national skills role, Byrne said the Wallabies were beginning to see the winds of change, even in just the slightest shifts during a Test.
“We’re seeing some of the little things,” he said.
“Post-game when you sit with players, when you do skill analysis it’s really subjective.
“If people are working hard in the gym it’s pretty objective; putting another plate on the bar is easy to see.
“Sometimes when you do the analysis with skills it’s a little bit more subjective. There mightn’t be more passes sticking but they’re hitting the right part of the running line, players are running better lines, they’re working really hard on all those little areas.
“We’re just starting to see some things appearing in games from different individuals along the way.”
The former AFL player has worked across the world, including at irish club Leinster, during his career and said the receptiveness for players and coaches to change had grown in recent times.
“The role hasn’t changed greatly but the opportunities to help players have,” he said.
“Over the last 10 years the willingness and openness of the strength and conditioning coaches to embrace the functionality of rugby in their programs has probably been the biggest gain.
“There was a time there about 10 or so years ago where the gym was a silo and players got really big and strong but we weren’t seeing that transfer to the rugby field. - Mick Byrne
“Now there’s a lot of S and C (strength and conditioning) coaches that are working closely with the rugby program in managing not only player load but also the functionality of their players.
“What they’re doing in the gym we’re seeing being transferred out on the field and they’ve embraced that component and I think it’s been great for the players.”
While he said his influence might be starting to manifest itself, there was one spectacular moment that he couldn’t take credit for – Tevita Kuridrani’s centimetre-perfect try against France.
“No, they’re the things you put down to uncoachable areas,” he said.
“That was an outstanding try, an outstanding finish, and some players just have a desire to get the ball across the line and that’s what that was, outstanding to watch.
The Wallabies take on Ireland at Lansdowne Rd on Sunday morning, kicking off at 4:30am AEDT, LIVE on SBS and Foxtel's beIN Sport (Channel 515)._