Five Things We Learnt from a Wallabies-France nail-biter in Melbourne

Tue, 13/07/2021, 12:43 pm
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Tom Wright blunder denies some Koroibete magic

The Wallabies played far better in losing 28-26 than they did in winning which is a head-scratcher from this suddenly invigorating Test series against France. 

The magnitude of what Les Bleus achieved in Melbourne on Tuesday night will likely be overlooked by many. 

Get your tickets now for the Wallabies final Test against France!

To win their first Test on Australian soil since 1990 with an under-strength side was superb because it has flushed out stars like flanker Cameron Woki, who will now rise to the frontline for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. 

Wallabies’ fans will be more interested in how their team found themselves down 13-3 and 25-16, clawed back a lead at 26-25 and lost it at the death. 

Coach Dave Rennie got it right when he said “there was some good footy in amongst it” from a team working really hard but so many areas could have been far slicker. 

1 THE BREAKDOWN 

The French operated at a different level to the Wallabies at the breakdown for the second straight Test. Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper may have pinched a turnover just after half-time at a key point but the French had hungry hands across the park thieving Australian ball. 

Rennie counted nine breakdown turnovers given away. 

The French were invariably quicker onto the tackled player and, ultimately, it was doing just that over Lukhan Salakaia-Loto that ended Australia’s last attack. 

You could fight fire with fire and bring Fraser McReight onto the bench for the deciding Test in Brisbane on Saturday night. He’s the best breakdown disrupter in the Wallabies squad. 

That would mean taking time off skipper Michael Hooper, who was in everything in Melbourne. 

Hoops is all heart

2  MARIKA KOROIBETE 

That was some Test from winger Koroibete with 15 runs for 181m. When players on both sides were running into defenders, he was slicing through. 

He’ll be sorely missed when he heads to Japan next season. His workrate was immense and you hope wing partner Tom Wright was watching. Koroibete always found a way to stay in field unlike Wright.  

Wright did it in Super Rugby and he did it again in Melbourne when trying a low-risk dance on the outside of a tackler just a metre or two from touch and conceding possession by being shunted over the sideline. 

If you want to be harsh, centre Matt Toomua was practising that high, floaty forward pass to his outside man during Super Rugby too. In most other areas Toomua was way ahead of his invisible display in the first Test.

3 BETTER FROM BANKS 

The Wallabies have needed more from fullback Tom Banks and he gave it to them in Melbourne with more thrust as an attacker. 

There is barely a move to be seen from the Wallabies’ backs as yet so it was an old Brumbies’ play that opened up the French. 

Flyhalf Noah Lolesio’s sharp inside pass found Banks on the burst on halfway and he set up the key Hooper try. 

There’s still not a lot of scheming from the Wallabies’ backs. Lolesio could learn to stay in the play with two-touch involvements in moves to create more linkages. 

Taniela Tupou with a pearler to Jake Gordon

4 A WALLABIES’ TEAM UNDER CONSTRUCTION   

It’s true. There are positives there but so many little things that need improvement. 

When you do the hard graft to go ahead 26-25, you just have to control the kick-off. The Wallabies did not. 

When it’s your put-in to a scrum late in the game, you have to nail it. The Wallabies didn’t because young front-rowers Angus Bell and Lachy Lonergan were mangled to present the French with their winning penalty goal. 

Hooker Lonergan’s lack of size didn’t help either when a rolling maul was set, he rolled to the blindside and was barged over the sideline in a three-on-one tackle. 

More experienced Wallabies’ sides better deal with such key moments. 

5 THE DECIDER 

Brilliant to have a decider at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. The Melbourne Test was enthralling. Just what sort of team do the Wallabies put out with four days of rest? There will be plenty of players backing up for a third Test in 11 days but some new faces too. 

Flanker Rob Valetini has been less imposing than his Super Rugby form suggested he might be. Rob Leota has that fierce, dynamic way about him that might make him a bolter for Brisbane.  

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