Australian rugby lacking fitness from top to bottom

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Australian rugby is lacking a fitness edge at Super Rugby level and it has carried through to the Wallabies, according to Michael Cheika.

Fitness has been a talking point for the Reds and Waratahs in particular this year - two teams capable of playing high quality rugby for 40 to 60 minutes before switching off for a costly quarter or two.

The same could be said for the Wallabies in their first two Tests.

There have been quality patches of play but the old adage of not playing the full 80 minutes has come to fore in the last 48 hours as the team searches for answers in the wake of the loss to Scotland.

"We spoke about it at the coaches meeting and we spoke about it in general that we need to lift the standard of our fitness level across the board - from the start of Super Rugby right through to us as well," Cheika said.

Cheika says the Wallabies must build a better fitness level if they are to improve. Photo: Walmsley"We then need to elevate that and take it to another level because that is what’s required.

"The game goes faster.

"When it goes faster it becomes more powerful, collisions are bigger, there’s not more game time necessarily - the game just goes faster and you have to be ready for it."

It was a blunt message from the national coach, who has also kept a close eye on the performances of the Australian U20s in Georgia.

They faded out of the fifth place playoff en route to a disappointing loss to Scotland on Sunday after taking a 10-3 lead into the sheds.

"I thought they could have done a heap better if they had more preparation time," Cheika said.

"I felt for the coach there - he didn’t get a lot of prep time and had eight players playing Super Rugby, who got on the plane with no training sessions to go to Georgia.

"This team, that had such a strong Super Rugby contingent in it, should have been better prepared and that's no fault of the coaches.

"It’s about us giving them access to the players so they’re ready to go."Cheika said more will be invested in the Australian U20s program moving forward. Photo: World Rugby/Levan VerdzeuliCheika said more funding will be devoted to the Australian U20s program in the years to come.

That is long overdue, as the difference in preparation between finalists England and New Zealand compared to the resources available to Simon Cron is alarming.

"That’s an important growth point for our players coming through - for them to achieve success at that level - and we’re going to be investing more in that program going forward," Cheika said.

"The struggles, even from a fitness point of view as well, getting them fit enough to have them playing footy but still being able to have access to the national 20s program so they’re ready for that tournament.

"Everyone wants to see them do well - it’s on every year and then we will have a generation of players that come into Super Rugby off the back of it - it’s something we have to get better at."