David Campese's heartfelt advice for Wallabies
October 22, 2013
David Campese announced himself to Britain with a string of star turns in 1984 © Getty Images
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As far as a key member of Australia's famed 1984 Grand Slam-winning tour is concerned, emulating such a feat this year revolves around the Wallabies grasping the basics, showing respect, and the upstarts getting a good smack in the chops if they deserve it.
David Campese was an integral part of one of Australian rugby's most important moments, when the Alan Jones-coached touring team overhauled England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland in consecutive weeks almost 30 years ago. The 2013 Wallabies will shortly embark on a similar tour, and Campese said this is the time for Ewen McKenzie to get his priorities right even though no-one is giving them any hope of winning a Grand Slam. Campese said in an interview with ESPNscrum that McKenzie had faced a "tough task" since taking over from Robbie Deans as Australia coach midway during the season.
"He's just come into the job, and has a really difficult assignment," Campese said from his home near Durban in South Africa. "He has South Africa one week, Argentina the next, then on to face the All Blacks, has a week off, and then he has to go to the other side of the world to play England. Bizarre.
"What Ewen really needs with his team is no games for a while, which gives him the time to sit down, give the guys a rest, and try and plan where his next generation of players is going to come from. He also has to drill into those he has at the moment the basic skills.
"The reason why the All Blacks are so far ahead of everyone else is that all they do is the simple things right. They don't have a lot of forwards out in the backline. They get their backs against forwards, and off they go. We have too many guys hanging around the fringes."
Campese said the 1984 Grand Slam team devoted themselves to ensuring their run-pass-catch skills were faultless.
"In 1984, we had the required players and the style of rugby we played was great," Campese said.
Mark Ella, David Campese and Andrew Slack celebrate the victory over Scotland © Getty Images
"But what Alan Jones did at training was at every session for an hour-and-a-half we focused on the simple drills. He knew we had the required flair on the field. All we had to do was get the basics right. So what we did in the slop for a hour-and-a-half was hold the ball, go over and wait until the 'socks' came over you and placed the ball out. That's all we did at every session for every game.
"It's no good building the house if you haven't got the foundations. We were fortunate to have a great set of forwards, and had two 10s as playmakers [Mark Ella and Michael Lynagh]. Then we had a No.13 [Andrew Slack] who was a playmaker, who gave the wingers and fullback room to move. So we had players who were very good in their position. And people still talk about the style of rugby we played during that tour. We also were a team. It was a case of: 'If one goes, we all go.' We were always playing for each other.
"At the moment watching the Wallabies, you feel that the players don't know what their roles are. They haven't got the next skill level, so what they need to do is the simple things right and not be fancy."
Harmony and respect are also important.
"Alan picked guys who he knew would do the job for him," Campese said. "He picked the team he wanted, and melded it together as there were experienced performers and a lot of young guys. There was a lot of respect in that group, and you shut up and learnt. There were no real ego issues. And if you did have an ego problem, the forwards would punch the crap out of you at training. I copped that once. I think it was in Wales, and I remember Chris Roche just belting me for not doing something properly."
Chris Roche presented a strong physical presence © Getty Images
The team also had time to evolve.
"What made the tour so memorable was that you had 18 games. You had Saturday/Wednesday/Saturday/Wednesday matches for 18 games, and you had a different roomie every time. So everyone got to know everyone else. That's what the Wallabies have lost in recent years. The traditions have been lost.
"Nowadays with hardly any midweek games, you're either in the team or you're not. And in our days, when you went off, you'd refuse to come off because you didn't want to give anyone else the chance. But now there is rotation, and guys get 10 minutes. So if you're on the bench nowadays, you have to look upon yourself as an impact player.
"I remember we played Ulster in Belfast, and I was on the sideline. I said that if I got on, we would do this move down the blind side and that we would score. So I was subbed on. The first move we did, I got the ball, gave it to Peter Grigg and he scored in the corner, because that is what the impact player must do: observe the defence during the game, and come up with moves which will trouble it when he comes onto the field.undefined
Mark Ella takes a moment to reflect after the final match of the tour © Getty Images
Mark Ella wasn't known as a kicking fly-half © Getty Images
"In 1984, Alan Jones encouraged players to contribute. And you have to remember that in those days the coach was not seen on the field. So we had to sort the problem out, not the coach.
"These guys come on nowadays, and it's a case of 'Well what are we going to do now?' They should look upon it as their chance to impress the selectors and get into the starting line-up. You basically have to tell the coach: 'You can't drop me. You have to promote me.'"
What advice would Campo give McKenzie?
"Ewen has been there. He's played in a World Cup, and understands what's required. He is trying to get the traditions, the heritage, back into the team, which is good. He has to take it Test by Test, and stick to the basics. Don't kick the ball away aimlessly. If you have to kick it, make certain that it is at least a 50-50 ball and you have a chance of getting it back. Australian rugby has always been about the forwards doing the hard work, and the backs getting all the glory.
"But with the Australian backs at the moment, there is no combination. So they have to improve their confidence, and once they do that, they can try things; but not before. The guys have to look at every Test as their first and last."
Alan Jones' Wallabies won 13 matches on their 1984 tour of Britain © Getty Images
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