Australian rugby
Defensive skills lost under Robbie Deans
ESPN Staff
September 12, 2013
The Wallabies have conceded plenty of points in their past six Tests © Getty Images

Robbie Deans casts a lingering shadow over Australia's side, even though he stood down as coach in July after the series defeat by the British & Irish Lions, with John Muggleton blaming the New Zealander for the Wallabies' current appalling defence.

The Wallabies have conceded 191 points in six Tests to date, including 112 points in three Rugby Championship Tests since Ewen McKenzie assumed the reins from Deans. But Muggleton, who masterminded the Wallabies' defensive turnaround under Rod Macqueen ahead of their Rugby World Cup 1999 triumph, told Rugby Gold that holes were the result of neglect under Deans as well as the expansive game plan preferred by McKenzie.

"From experience in different places I have coached where they have the same mantra as the Wallabies have now, as being a full-on attacking team who run the ball at every opportunity, the flip side of that is you are going to give the opposition a heap of opportunities if you turn the ball over," Muggleton told Rugby Gold. "If you look at the All Blacks, they score a lot of points but they don't give a lot away either. If you are going to be a good attacking team, you have to be a good defensive team."

Muggleton said the Wallabies must turn the ball over far less than the recent average of 20 times per game and McKenzie should instil an urgency to re-form in defence when possession is lost.

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"The All Blacks turn over the ball a bit but their desire to get straight into defence in that situation, which is going from unstructured to structured sort of defence is second to none," he said. "Their urgency is great in those next two phases. The hardest part is getting the same urgency in defence as you have to attack. You see how a try is scored and see how a bloke sprints 40 metres into position to take a last pass. That sort of desire to be in position in defence has to be there as well. You have to work as much on defence as you do on attack."

The Wallabies were conceding 23 points per game before Muggleton joined under Rod Macqueen in 1998. One year later they were giving away almost half as many (13.4) and won the World Cup. The former Parramatta and Kangaroos rugby league forward believes improving individual skills in defence played a big part in the turnaround and that the same problem had arisen in the Deans era.

"Certainly in Robbie Deans' time they went away from the individual skillset of defence; your tackling technique, your tracking and being in right positions to make the tackle. I can't speak for the current Wallabies but under Robbie Deans, that wasn't done as well as it should have been," he said. "Playing that brand of football, there is a skill level that needs to be there defensively as well."

"Turnovers are the number one source of tries, and second is kicking," he said. "If you are going to be that sort of attacking team, you have to have two things: a very definite kicking plan and you have to work really hard on two phases after a turnover. If you threw a third one in, and this is a trap they can fall into, if you put too many blokes into defensive breakdowns, then that leaves you short in defence as well.

"Everybody just has to have faith. If they believe in what they're going to do, ignore what people are saying, work hard and it'll come along. Changing a whole style of football for a team, the results are not going to come immediately. It is going to be a road that has a few bumps in it."

Follow live text commentary of the Test between Australia and Argentina on Saturday, September 14, from 730pm (AEST), 930am (GMT)

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