Michael Cheika’s Australia narrowly overcame the Barbarians in an 11-try thriller at Twickenham on Saturday. But with fixtures against Wales, France, Ireland and England looming large, what have we learnt from this Wallaby win?
1. Australia have an insatiable appetite for the offload
Over the last two years, the Waratah’s attacking fluidity has shown that Cheika is a strong advocate of the offload. And Saturday’s performance proved that this is still the case.
The Australians are certainly no strangers to this philosophy. But during Cheika’s maiden match, the Wallabies showed an unyielding desire to keep the ball alive, with an abundance of ambitious and accurate offloads.
Of course they are less likely to throw so many risky passes in an actual Test match. However, every player in this Australia squad is an accomplished footballer and as they showed on Saturday, they certainly have the confidence and the capabilities to get in behind defenses with some precise pop passes.
2. Kuridraini is a force to be reckoned with
Barbarian’s coach John Kirwan devised some cunning tricks, which asked plenty of questions of the Australian defense. But his side had no answer to the Wallabies’ Fijian-born juggernaut, who amassed a staggering 141 metres with the ball in hand.
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Tevita Kuridraini used his searing pace and awesome power to decimate the Barbarian defense. Every time he galloped over the gain line, his teammates were queuing up to get on his shoulder, as the big man always displays good awareness and deft passing, to bring the support runners into play.
Wales, France, Ireland and England will have highlighted Kuridraini as Australia’s biggest attacking threat. And they will now all be working out ways to stop him, or at least slow him down.
3. The Australian scrum is still awful
The Twickeham ground staff must dread the arrival of the Australians, as the Wallaby front three always seem to spend their scrummaging sessions with their tails up and their heads down, while they gaze on the Twickenham turf.
While their first-choice props, James Slipper and Sekope Kepu, watched most of the scrums collapse from the safety of the bench, the duo are have also been known to revert to crumple-zone scrummaging, when they are struggling.
Fortunately, the sagging set piece did not spoil an exhilarating match. However these collapses have become an Australian characteristic. While Jaco Peyper has refused to acknowledge this, other referees have not.
If the Aussie front row is prevented from slithering underneath opposing packs in the coming weeks, they will struggle.
4. Sean McMahon is due a Test debut
When Australia’s substitute flanker went streaming through the heart of the Babarian’s defense with his first carry of the match, the majority of the spectators frantically flicked through their programmes to find out who no. 20 is.
Just a few short months ago, McMahon was captaining Australia’s under 20s side in the IRB Junior World Championship, and now he is on the cusp of making his Test debut against Wales, after an explosive debut against the Barbarians.
The 20-year-old is the youngest player to have represented Australia Sevens team, and he showed the world why on Saturday afternoon when he displayed plenty of pace, power and a keen eye for a gap.
McMahon, rarely failed to get his team onto the front foot, imposed himself on the breakdown and capped off an exhilarating performance with a well-taken try.
5. Will Genia and Quade Cooper will not start next week
Last November, the Queensland Reds duo treated spectators to a half-back master class at the Millennium Stadium, when Australia rounded off a successful autumn campaign with a 30-26 win over Wales.
But injury had kept both players out of the international fold, until they were reunited on Saturday afternoon. Welsh fans may have been dreading this reunion, but they would have been pleasantly surprised by both players’ poor performances.
Genia re assumed his sweeping duties and nullified most of the Barbarian’s probing kicks, but he will be the first to admit that he was nowhere near his best. The scrumhalf usually sets and raises the tempo for the Wallabies, but he lagged behind during the early exchanges and struggled to hold on to the ball at times.
Cooper never really got out of the blocks, he did not carry with his characteristic intent and his flat, fizzing passes were unusually wayward.Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps will surely start at the Millennium on Saturday.