'Headless' Wallabies now one direction
November 14, 2013
Quade Cooper is providing direction in the No.10 jumper, Rob Kearney says © Getty Images
Australia are a much better side under Ewen McKenzie and with Quade Cooper calling the shots, Rob Kearney says after likening the team defeated by the British & Irish Lions to "headless chickens".
The Ireland fullback described the Robbie Deans-coached team as poor and without direction in slumping to a 2-1 home series loss to the Lions four months ago, but he said the squad that would play at Aviva Stadium on Saturday had "changed a huge amount".
"I thought during the Lions tour they were pretty poor," Kearney said. "They've got a lot of new players in, they've got some fresh faces, and just the style of their play is very different, too; there seems to be a little bit more direction.
"They know where they're going.
"I think, during that [Lions series], they were a little bit guilty of not really having a clue where they were going next, and what they were doing at that moment in time.
"They do have a lot more direction."
Rob Kearney struggled with injury on the Lions tour of Australia © Getty Images
Deans' controversial selection of James O'Connor, who had barely played any senior rugby at five-eighth, ahead of specialist playmakers such as Cooper, Matt Toomua, Berrick Barnes and Christian Lealiifano backfired as the utility struggled with his option-taking. Australia also weren't helped when Leali'ifano, playing at inside centre, was knocked out in the first minute of the first Test, which they lost by two points.
Kearney - kept out of the Lions No.15 jersey by Leigh Halfpenny and injury - said he sensed the Wallabies had played like a team under pressure as Deans lost his grip on the job. But he felt the Wallabies could well have taken the series.
"Even though they were playing poorly in those first two Tests, they could still easily have won them," he said. "You could still see that they had a lot of raw talent. Raw talent does keep you in games even if you don't necessarily have that coaching structure behind you."
Australia have since won just three of nine Tests under McKenzie, but they have scored 18 tries in their past four games. And Kearney believes they will be dangerous opponents at the redeveloped Lansdowne Road, with Cooper and Toomua combining well at No.10 and 12 outside Will Genia.
"Genia controls a huge amount of what they do and how they play so between the two of them [Genia and Cooper], if we can focus a huge amount on trying to limit them as much as possible there, it will go a long way to changing the outcome of the game," he said.
Matt Toomua is developing his combination with Quade Cooper © Getty Images
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