It’s great news that Rugby Australia is finally starting to recognize the legendary players and style of play from the 1980s, with the new Ella-Mobbs Trophy replacing the Cook Cup for next month’s Wallabies-England series.
I was very lucky to play with Mark, Glen and Gary Ella as a kid and they played a huge role in my career and inspired me to play an instinctive rugby style.
The famous Australian Schoolchildren’s 1977-78 team changed the rugby mentality and created many Wallabies who continued to play the best running rugby in the world at that time.
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There were 10 future Wallabies on this team – including all three Ellas. To put it in perspective, the talented Wally Lewis often had a hard time breaking the lineup and the team ended up undefeated on a 16-game tour of Europe and Japan. The most important aspect of Australian students of all time.
Of course there were a lot of great players and coaches before that, but changing the style of play like we did in the ’80s and early’ 90s was a privilege and a time that many rugby fans remember fondly.
In addition to Lewis and the Ella brothers, the future Wallabies on that side of the students were Michael O’Connor, Tony Melrose, Michael Hawker, Chris Roche, Tony D’Arcy, Shane Nightingale and Dominic Vaughan.
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NYRA FOR A KICK-FEST OF ENGLAND
The weekend Premiership final at Twickenham included more than 100 kicks overall. I hope Eddie Jones does not adopt this style. We have to entertain the fans.
But Eddie just wants to win, to win Australia. He is under pressure as England finished fifth this year in the Six Nations. He does not like Australia, as he was fired by the Wallabies coach the day before.
He is not here to entertain us. He does not care how he wins. But how do we deal with the English game? When we look at rugby style to play, we have some very good outside backs.
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We have to create opportunities for our wingers and we have two good finishers, Marika Koroibet and Tom Wright. Andrew Kellaway has also proven to be a great finisher, so why not have the back to create things? The English do not like to go sideways, so it will put a lot of pressure on them.
And instead of constantly kicking back, why not kick in the gap and try to create more opportunities for us? We have some attackers who have mastered Super Rugby and we have to go out there and use our strength. Do not give possession away, make them think, do not just knock and knock up.
We have some great runners, Michael Hooper is a strong player, so come back. We have to claim the ball and deprive them of possession. The more you starve an occupation team, the more desperate it becomes and the more penalties they give.
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LESSONS FROM THE FINAL SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
If you watch the Super Rugby final, the Crusaders played the kind of rugby we played in the ’80s. They supported themselves, put the ball in the void, kicked it only when needed and had the confidence, vision, unpredictability and talent to succeed in a pressure game.
Australian rugby, if we want to be successful in front of other codes, we have to make the players improve their skills and do the basics right all the time. We must also have fun. If you amuse people people will come to watch.
I would also like to know what style of rugby Dave Rennie is trying to play. We have some very good young talent and I think they need to experiment and get away from this pod structure that came out of New Zealand years ago and we are still trying to play something that really does not work.
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The selection of the team is crucial for next year ‘s Rugby World Cup.
It is very important at this level to have combinations. Quade Cooper is back, which is great, he is a fantastic player and with his vision, talent and unpredictability, other players have to start giving him options. It can not do everything for everyone and this is one of the things we learned in our time.
Predict what is going to happen, take a step and it starts to come off – the passes stick and the efforts come. The more you play together the easier the game is.
THE FUTURE IS GOLD
Some difficult rugby is coming, but if you want to be the best, you have to play the best. Last year’s Super Rugby competition showed that we were not in a good place, but this year we are starting to get better and I hope we continue to move forward.
Maybe in the future we could go back to three Australian teams in Super Rugby, so you have all the good players together.
We would be more competitive against the Kiwis and the Wallabies would be much stronger.
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I hope in this England series the coaches allow the players to play and make mistakes. This is what I do when I train kids and it is still very important for the players of this generation.
The only way they can improve is to try different things if they can. It’s a great opportunity to build momentum for next year ‘s World Cup.
We have to entertain the crowds and Australian fans will be looking forward to a new golden age of rugby. I would love to hear comments from rugby people about their opinion on my Instagram and Facebook pages.
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