Wallabies must maintain attacking rhythm: Gregan
June 20, 2014
George Gregan is pleased with the Wallabies' progress
Australia's third Test against France is of major importance for the Wallabies even though it is a "dead rubber" with the hosts holding an unassailable 2-0 lead, George Gregan says. Sitting on six consecutive wins and heading into the Rugby Championship and a 10-year Bledisloe Cup drought, the former Wallabies captain says the final Test will be important in the further development of experience on the road to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
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Several players have been given the opportunity through the series to earn their first cap or make their first run-on start, with Will Skelton the latest to debut, in the third Test at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Saturday, and Rugby World Cup winner Gregan told ESPN exclusively that Ewen McKenzie is moving in the right direction by putting his faith in the young stars.
"I think it's a great opportunity to [start uncapped players], leading into the World Cup, leading into the Rugby Championship," Gregan told ESPN on the Land-Rover Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. "There's definitely an element of what you know with Kurtley Beale and those experienced players and their playing form, but it also provides competition and keeps everyone on their toes, which I think is a really good aspect to have within a team; this competition for places is a healthy competition. The only way you get experience is through playing and your coach backing you for a certain period of time, and these players have earned their place through their consistency in Super Rugby."
George Gregan took the Webb Ellis Trophy to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney © Land-Rover Trophy Tour
Looking back at the opening Tests, Gregan has had been impressed with the new squad, especially the rookies, and he thinks the difference between the two matches will benefit the side in the long run.
"It's been a good series for Australia, that's for sure," Gregan said. "I like what I'm seeing so far. The way [they] started in the first Test, with a few new combinations with players like Sam Carter and Nic White, having their first run-on Test, along with Bernard Foley, I thought it was a really good team performance.
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"The second Test was just a really tight match; you know it was a different French team with guys like Thierry Dusautoir and Yannick Nyanga back into the back-row, and it became a real arm-wrestle. But Australia persevered and got through that tight Test match. So they had two different sorts of experiences in two weeks, but they came through it and that cliche that winning becomes a habit is something really important that we need to keep trying to maintain."
Inexperienced Test players such as Bernard Foley have impressed George Gregan © Getty Images
Gregan was surprised by the Wallabies' kicking tactics in Melbourne, however, and he said they had to be careful of the mindset of playing out of their own half as they could soon fall into the trap of a kicking game and lose their attacking rhythm.
"I was probably at times surprised that they didn't carry the ball a little bit more, when there was some unstructured kicking by the French," Gregan said. "I felt they were really focused on not playing too much football in their own half, which can sometimes become a bit of a psyche for the rest of the match. So you're focusing more on playing on their side of the half and it became more of an aerial contest; the ball wasn't in play much so it's hard to develop an attacking rhythm. They might play a bit different [in Sydney]; they might look to use those opportunities in counter-attack a bit better."
Gregan said that experience and consistency with the small things alone would create the polished game the Wallabies seek to produce as they develop the habit of winning.
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"Polish comes from playing together; that was only the second Test match in about seven months. Look at the All Blacks across the ditch against England; it wasn't the most polished performance but they found a way to win, which I think is a really important trait to keep developing. It's just the small things that you need to do consistently well in all sports, but especially rugby. Like you've got to have your set-piece right, lineout, scrum time, good catch-pass skills, players in motion when you're attacking, making your first-up tackles; do those things and you build your game up."
Gregan could not pinpoint how France manage consistently to make a quick turnaround from a poor showing, but he said the Wallabies should aim to emulate their passion and mentality.
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"Everyone talks about the French and their ability to one day be a world beater and the next day just play so poorly, just be a shadow of their former self," he said. "I don't think anyone knows why, but they are incredibly athletic and incredibly gifted rugby players. Particularly when they start matches well, they become very, very dangerous; they get that belief, they get that confidence, and we saw that at the end of the game in Melbourne.
"They started getting the offload game, and that inter-passing between the forwards and backs becomes very, very dangerous. I think no one knows the answer to the French, it is a bit like the French mentality: they ride a roller-coaster and it's what you get when you play the French, and their strong mentality is something the Wallabies should look to emulate."
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George Gregan poses with the Webb Ellis Trophy on the Land-Rover Trophy Tour in the Blue Mountains © Scrum.com
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