Wallabies' defensive tweaks the key to avoiding Bledisloe sweep: Genia

by Sam Phillips

Defence wins championships and that's the area of the Wallabies' game which has been put under the microscope internally as they desperately try to avoid a Bledisloe Cup clean sweep in Japan.

In both Bledisloe Tests to date this year the Wallabies have hung tough with the All Blacks in the first half before the world champions ran them ragged in the second.

The difference in those halves? Pace of play.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika hinted as much when he spoke to reporters in Sydney last week.

"(We need to) understand that we need to do those things, that we were doing in those games, for longer," Cheika said.

"We have made a few changes as well to the way we do things, from those two games, around the defensive picture, so we will see how they go against the same opposition." 

The pace of the first halves in both Sydney and Auckland were in the Wallabies' favour.Will Genia is confident the Wallabies can avoid a Bledisloe Cup clean sweep. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThey were controlled, somewhat muddling minutes which slowed the game down and allowed the Australians to set up shop defensively.

The half time scoreline in Sydney (6-5) and Auckland (7-14) suggest that's when the two teams are relatively evenly matched.

Both Tests have become ugly for the Australians when the tempo kicks up a few notches.

That's what happened in both Sydney and Auckland and that's when the All Blacks appear to be at their unbeatable best.

They piled on 61 points in the two second halves combined and the challenge this Saturday, according to Wallabies halfback Will Genia, is to control that tempo so the match doesn't follow the same path in Yokohama.

"The focus has pretty much been on defence," Genia said of the Wallabies' week so far.

"Not allowing them to play so quickly, whether it’s off quick lineout throws or quick taps.

"(Not) playing at the pace that they want to play at.

"As an example, kicking the ball and we put it out, making sure we chase and don’t give them the opportunity to play the quick line out.

"Also getting set quickly in the lineout so they don’t play at the pace they want, getting the jumper up quickly.

"Just managing the pace and tempo of the game and playing it in a way we want to play.

"The way that the game goes, they’re going to get the momentum, they’re going to play at that tempo, but making sure we have the opportunity to control the game in that sense as well."

Doing that is easier said than done but it will set the Wallabies on their way at Nissan Stadium.

The second half in Salta - in which the Wallabies racked up 38 spectacular second half points to record an historic win - gives Genia the belief his team can walk the talk.

"More than anything it was a case of getting some reward for the hard work that we put in," he said of the win.

"It’s no secret, we haven’t been consistent in terms of results and things have been down, so to get some reward for the work that we’re putting in that certainly gives us a lot of confidence moving into this weekend."

The confidence accrued from the win in Argentina should prove invaluable to a team which has cut an indecisive outfit at times this season.

Beating the All Blacks is another matter altogether and Genia knows that better than anyone.

He first played the Kiwis in 2009 and has endured a decade void of Bledisloe Cup glory.

"You get sick and tired of losing to them but you also love playing them," he said.

"For me that's a privilege because I love playing the best so you can't get hung up completely on the fact that we lost and the disappointment.

"I'm probably at a point where I appreciate every opportunity more than I ever have before playing against the best team in the world."

The Wallabies face the All Blacks in Yokohama on Saturday, kicking off at 5pm AEDT, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Channel Ten and RUGBY.com.au radio.