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Thread: Wallabies benefit from centre pairing of Quade Cooper, Digby Ioane

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    Wallabies benefit from centre pairing of Quade Cooper, Digby Ioane

    By Wayne Smith
    November 09, 2009 Almost by accident - indeed entirely by accident - Wallabies coach Robbie Deans appears to have hit upon the backline combination he has spent the past two years searching for.

    Had it not been for the tour-ending injuries suffered by Stirling Mortlock and Berrick Barnes over the past week, the Wallabies would have employed a fairly conventional back division for their spring tour.

    Deans confirmed that had Mortlock not torn his calf muscle a second time, preventing him joining the touring party in Dublin as expected, he almost certainly would have been rushed straight into the side against Ireland next Sunday.

    But when the deposed Wallabies captain and the tour vice-captain were both ruled out, Deans was forced to roll the dice with Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane as his centres against England at Twickenham and they came up as winners, both individually and as a threatening midfield combination.

    Ioane, admittedly, did not represent too much of a gamble at 13. He had played sensationally there for Queensland in the Super 14 earlier this year and, after making a storming return to the Test arena as a right winger against the All Blacks in Tokyo, the chances always were that he would prove a handful for England when moved in one position.

    Cooper, however, was another matter. He might have earned seven caps before Sunday but as Deans adroitly remarked, England basically represented his Test debut in the big time. Yet he handled it with all the aplomb of a young Tim Horan and right from the outset provided the Wallabies with a second genuine playmaking option as he alternated with Matt Giteau at first receiver.

    The English media was agog that Giteau often was sent wide to cause havoc running onto Cooper's long passes, yet just as often it was Giteau at first receiver probing the defence with darting runs that more than once threatened to slice England wide open.

    Although the Wallabies scored only two tries, they could easily have claimed half a dozen and while their finishing needs more work, the exciting thing was how dangerous the new-look backline appeared.

    Certainly England hero Jonny Wilkinson was quick to acknowledge what ferocious pressure the Wallabies applied through their attack.

    "We spent a long time in our own half and what we were trying to do to relieve that pressure was right, but that pressure kept coming," said Wilkinson. "The Australians did a great job of pinning us down there. And when they were down there they had a lot of possession and the possession they had was going forward, going forward, going forward.

    "And when you're a team defending against incredibly quick ball, against guys going forward onto the ball for that long, you'd be a fool to think you could keep a team out forever."

    In the end, the England defence did magnificently to restrict the Wallabies to only two tries, although to be fair the try tally should have been considerably higher had the Australians executed better.

    Ironically, having wasted so many opportunities during the Tri Nations through their impatience, the Wallabies might have erred on the side of caution close to the tryline, with Ioane, prop Benn Robinson and even captain Rocky Elsom hanging on too long rather than risk 50-50 passes.

    Still, Deans should have been delighted that his side finally raised its threat level, especially in the backs.

    "Well, they did well today and, yes, we're pleased with the balance,"said Deans, reining in any hint of enthusiasm. "I think it offered us something. But as so often is the case, it's week two that's the key."

    Week two, of course, brings arguably the most difficult Test of the Grand Slam tour, against Six Nations champions Ireland, Grand Slam winners themselves.

    And where Cooper and Ioane confronted a no-name midfield pairing of Shane Geraghty and Dan Hipkiss, on Sunday in Dublin they will be tested by arguably the greatest centre combination in world rugby, Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll.

    "Next week is going to be a good workout," Deans said. But despite the poker face, he must have been hugely relieved to finally notch a win with the Wallabies, only their second in the past eight Tests.

    "It's certainly better than the alternative," he quipped, when asked what effect the victory would have on team morale. "Sooner or later, you've got to get up. We're hopeful that we can create a habit. But we go to Croke Park next week against an Irish side that's brimming."

    At least the Wallabies will fly to Dublin sure in the knowledge that their defence is back to where it has been virtually throughout the professional era - the best in the world. So well did the entire Australia team defend to keep England tryless that it would be wrong to single out Cooper's defence, except for the fact that that is precisely what England did, funnelling all its early attack straight at him.

    "They targeted Quade's channel early on and if they had made headway through there, who knows, they might have kept coming," Deans said.
    When that didn't work, they tried every trick in the book, even a couple by Geraghty that aren't to be found in any coaching manual.

    "England threw everything at us. They tried width, they tried the short route, they tried to turn us and the boys stood up," he said.

    http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,...016959,00.html

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    Cooper and Ioane did well against England and may be fine for the NH tour. However, playing two 10s at 10 & 12 can leave you outmuscled when you come up against a side with two true, world-class centres at 12 & 13 (ABs and SA).
    Cooper at 12 has the same problem as JOC at 12 - the outside centre has to cover in defense rather than attacking his opposite number; which he could do if he had confidence in his partner's defensive abilities.

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    Both Ma'a Nonu and Jean de Villiers the other 12s in the Tri-Nations tests are about 105kgs but both Conrad Smith and Jaque Fourie are about 94kgs. Makes me wonder what it would be like to have a big, rough, tough 12 and Giteau at 13. Hell people have talked about playing him everywhere else. WRF had a similar idea with JO'C but after a decade of Mortlock was hard to imagine but I'm starting to see the light. It would be interesting to see anyway- the traffic is moving faster but is certainly a good 10kgs lighter and if Barnes or Cooper sent a cut-out to Giteau he could then distribute from there or run it himself and because he's very fleet-footed he'd make the defenders think twice.

    The only thing we are lacking is the big rough tough 12 at around 105kgs.

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    Like I said in another thread :Cooper at 10, Ioane at 12 and Cross at 13 using Gits as an utility back on the bench

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    Quote Originally Posted by pieter blackie View Post
    Like I said in another thread :Cooper at 10, Ioane at 12 and Cross at 13 using Gits as an utility back on the bench
    Pete check your wood it has termites in it...

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    The big 12 works if he can get up to speed quickly enough, otherwise it's like having a forward in the backline. As defenses have got better at closing down the space it's made sense to have more nimble guys at 10 and battering rams at 13 where they can get up to speed.
    Being born a pom I grew up watching Carling at 12 and Guscott at 13, where Carling was the archetypal crash-ball centre and Guscott the finesse speedster (basically a winger who could tackle - although not that well). That the ABs and SA are putting larger guys at 12 shows that things do follow cycles.
    From what I've seen of Ioane he's got good acceleration, so trying him at 12 would be interesting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by travelling_gerry View Post
    By Wayne Smith

    The English media was agog that Giteau often was sent wide to cause havoc running onto Cooper's long passes, yet just as often it was Giteau at first receiver probing the defence with darting runs that more than once threatened to slice England wide open.
    Oh come on Wayne, not even Mudskipper's one eyed enough to swallow that load.

    Every time Giteau decided to run, he was swallowed up and spat out by Wilkinson (not a noted tackler by the way) It was so bad that by the end of the first half, I thought it was a set-up for offload plays in the second.........it appears that wasn't the case.

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    C'mon the

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    Quade still needs some coaching on defence - there were some soft/non-tackles and on a number of occasions he was seen leaning with one hand on a ruck, not in there assisting.

    Improving in attack (but I still hate the bunny hop!!)

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    You're right Timbo, my point is, it's a sorry state of affairs when Quade (who really has some developing to do) is more of a threat than our first pick flyhalf.

    Gees Gits must train up a storm off the field!

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    Actually, GIGS, Wilkinson is noted for his tackling. His problem is that he's more enthusiastic than technically sound in that department and it's the cause of a number of his injuries.

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