Revamped Wallabies search for scoring touch
October 2, 2013
No Nathan Sharpe, Kurtley Beale, Digby Ioane, Tatafu Polota-Nau. The list goes on and on.
Michael Hooper is one of only for Wallabies players who played in the same fixture in 2012 © Getty Images
The Wallabies line-up to take on Argentina in the wooden spoon Rugby Championship Test in Rosario on Saturday will bear scant resemblance to the side that played the corresponding Rugby Championship final round game at the same venue last year.
There are just four forwards from the 2012 starting line-up backing up - props Ben Alexander and James Slipper, flanker Michael Hooper and lock Sitaleki Timani - and not a single back. In fact, there isn't a back amongst the entire current Wallabies squad who was in Rosario when Australia triumphed 25-19 on October 6 last year. Retirement, injury, players shifting overseas and poor form have contributed to the high turnover of players in a Wallabies team struggling badly for form and results.
A scrappy 14-13 home win over Argentina has been their only success in the championship amid heavy losses home and away to both the All Blacks and Springboks after the 2-1 home series loss to the British & Irish Lions which ended Robbie Deans' coaching reign.
One worrying constant lingers from Deans's time - the inability to score multiple tries. They're still averaging just one try a game under new coach Ewen McKenzie. That's the backdrop as McKenzie's men go into Saturday's game needing to win to avoid the ignominy of finishing last in the southern hemisphere competition.
Veteran front-rower Alexander believes experimenting and adjusting to different playing patterns under McKenzie has taken time.
"It's hard to put a finger on it," said Alexander of the team's muddling form. "There's a new coach in Ewen (McKenzie) and we're changing a fair bit how we play. You've seen a lot of different styles from us with mixed success as we try new things to figure out what works and what doesn't. Hopefully soon something will click."
But Alexander feels the form slump isn't a sudden occurrence under McKenzie, and that Wallabies haven't played well for almost a year, though wins helped to mask that.
"If you look at our results from the second half of last year we didn't play great rugby but we were still winning. We won here, we drew with the All Blacks, we had a terrible game against France but still won the last three games on our spring tour. We've been playing some great opposition this year but we haven't played well and we need to be better. We're letting a lot of people down, ourselves included."
Alexander said the team hadn't contemplated losing to Argentina and the ramifications of it and said they were just concentrating on transferring their hard work in training to game time.
"We're not thinking about that, we're just thinking about playing well and the results will look after themselves."
Alexander said they planned to watch some video of last year's game to try to give the newcomers a taste of playing at the sell-out Estadio Gigante de Arroyito cauldron. He rated it as one of his favourite wins of his career and said the team could use the volatile atmosphere to pump themselves up.
"It was a unique experience, it was the best atmosphere I've been a part of in the warm-up. It's chockers and they're right on top on so it's unbelievable. The fans are just so loud and passionate and it generally lifts the home side but can lift us as well."
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene