Grey confident Wallabies can turn defence around

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Saturday’s Bledisloe opener wasn’t easy viewing for Wallabies defence coach Nathan Grey but he is confident he is the right person to help the side turn things around.

Grey was pragmatic on Monday, two days after the Wallabies’ 54-34 loss to the All Blacks in Sydney, in which the Wallabies missed 30 tackles, and let in a record number of points against New Zealand.

“Yeah, it stings mate. It's not great. It's difficult,” he said.

“But as a coaching group and as a team, we sit down and go through it and you have to take stock.

“You have to take the good with the bad and deal with what's going on.

“You have to look for those rays of sunshine when we get things right, which we do.”

Grey said he felt the Wallabies were on the right track, though, with their defensive strategies, positive he was the person to continue that.

“You look at things and as you progress as coach and you look at the situation and how things are going and you are very confident in what you're doing and the support that you have and the players you are working with,” he said.

“I love working with the players and with the coaches and being part of that group.

“At the moment, from a defensive perspective things certainly need to improve and we are looking to do that this week.

“In terms of fixing issues, we are searching for consistency and sticking to what we can try and do, and if we do that we can apply pressure.

“We showed that in fits and starts but no-where near in the level we wanted.”

It wasn’t long ago the Wallabies were lauded for their gritty defensive display against Wales in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, under a system run by Grey, but the assistant said that was all in the past.

“In terms of what's different between now and then, it's chalk and cheese,” he said.

“Players are different, the way we are doing things are slightly different.

“You can't look back and say, "that was really great, why isn't it happening now?".

"You have to look forward and see what is happening at the moment.

“It hasn't been great but we are working towards trying to improve that and get better.”

The Wallabies’ outside backs provided the glaring problems in the missed tackles stakes, providing 17 of 30 missed according to Opta Stats.

Those players are also among the most dynamic when it comes to the defensive pattern, switching away from their attacking spots, with Curtis Rona coming in from the wing to 13 and Samu Kerevi moving inwards among those reshuffles.

The Wallabies had major issues with their defence in the backline. Photo: Getty imagesGrey said players understood the system, the problem came in ensuring they stuck with it when the pressure was on, though that was a responsibility shared across the team.

“There's a few things in terms of where guys are defending positionally and we move guys around a bit. But we train for that,” he said.

“So executing that under the heat of the battle is something we have to be better at and as a coach we are working at that constantly, trying to iron out deficiencies on what we're doing.

"It's across the park. Everyone has that responsibility.

"Clearly I am the defensive coach so in terms of my brief, that's something I have to look after and drive that. 

"But it's a collective team effort in everything we do. From travelling to training to playing to getting ready to go, it's a group effort."

Though another poor defensive outing would be a disaster for the Wallabies, Grey said they wouldn't be looking at an overhaul anytime soon.

“We are not going to be changing things drastically overnight,” he said.

“It will be a matter of assessing what we are doing and how things are going and then if there are little changes to made, we are constantly trying to improve things.

“That's no different this week on the back of a loss.”

The Wallabies are taking on New Zealand in Dunedin this Saturday, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.