Rugby

‘Cardinal sins’ the Wallabies have highlighted they must fix to stand a chance in Bledisloe Cup

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A typically forthright Tate McDermott says the Wallabies are in a “world of hurt” but remains confident the adjustments in the Wallabies’ game plan under Eddie Jones are essential to become a threat at this year’s World Cup.

Winless from their opening two Tests of the year, the positivity off the field has yet to transfer onto the pitch after last weekend’s heartbreaking loss to Argentina.

It has left Australian rugby supporters on edge ahead of their annual series against New Zealand, where Ian Foster’s All Blacks have come out of the blocks firing after strong victories over Argentina and South Africa and are heavy favourites to keep hold of the Bledisloe Cup for a 22nd straight year.

But McDermott says an emphasis on “error recovery” after committing “Cardinal sins” in general play can make a world of difference, as the Wallabies attempt to flip the script ahead of their return to the Melbourne Cricket Ground next Saturday.

“A lot of it’s around working hard early,” he said. “We were slow to set, slow into position and slow to open our mouths. We’re in a world of hurt. It’s an easy fix for us, but we’ve got to make that shift and we’ve got to make it pretty quick.

“We had put in a hell of a lot of work and it didn’t receive much out of it. Two disappointing performances but at the end of the day, we’ve only got ourselves to blame. We licked our wounds, we reviewed, and then we moved on bloody quickly because we had to.”

The Wallabies have highlighted their “error recovery” as an area of importance to fix ahead of the Bledisloe Cup. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Following the Wallabies’ dramatic 34-31 loss to Argentina, Jones labelled his side’s decision-making around the ball as “poor”.

Three times in the first half the Wallabies squandered possession as quickly as they got their hands on the ball.

On all three occasions when Allan Alaalatoa (breakdown steal), Carter Gordon (intercept) and Dave Porecki (loose pass) managed to grab hold of the ball near their own line, the support cover at the next ruck was too slow to react.

“What you just touched on is a Cardinal sin,” McDermott said.

“Sixty per cent of the game is unstructured, so when we get those opportunities we’ve got to be excited by them. If we’re slow to react, slow to take advantage of that unstructured opportunity in attack, then we’re behind the eight-ball.”

It comes as no surprise therefore that the Wallabies have targeted the area as one they must improve ahead of their July 29 showdown with the All Blacks at the MCG.

“We’ve got a massive focus on our error recovery,” McDermott said.

“We’ve accepted and we’ve acknowledged that we’re going to make errors given we’re in a transition period where we’re trying to change how we play as Wallabies, so we’ve had a big focus on that.”

Tate McDermott of Australia at the end of the Autumn International match between Italy and Australia at Stadio Artemio Franchi on November 12, 2022 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Timothy Rogers/Getty Images)

Tate McDermott says he’s confident the Wallabies are on the right track. (Photo by Timothy Rogers/Getty Images)

Since the Wallabies’ loss in Sydney, Jones has got on the front-foot and attempted to plant a seed of doubt inside Foster’s All Blacks.

Jones told the All Blacks to “look out” last Saturday, before doubling down on his belief the Wallabies could upset the rugby powerhouse by saying he “fancies ourselves against New Zealand” on Wednesday.

It’s a bold call given the contrasting nature with which the trans-Tasman rivals have started their season, with the All Blacks racing out of the blocks on both occasions to set up comprehensive victories.

Last weekend, the speed of the All Blacks’ recycle at the breakdown saw Aaron Smith help cut the Springboks to pieces.

McDermott, who said their mini four-day break between Tests had come at a “good time”, added shutting down the time and space the All Blacks have to call their shots was essential to getting their season back on track.

“You’ve just got to take away their time,” he said.

“You give someone like Richie [Mo’unga], Beauden Barrett, Will Jordan time to make the right decision, they’re going to make it 100 per cent of the time.

“Obviously, we’ve watched that game but the focus this week’s been a lot on what we need to improve on.”

Eddie Jones has got on the front-foot ahead of the Bledisloe Cup, warning the All Blacks to “look out”. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Asked whether they were confident they had the time to implement the change required, McDermott said he was buoyed by what he’d seen on the training paddock.

“We know that what we’ve done in the past hasn’t worked for us,” McDermott said.

“This new game model, there’s going to be growing pains and there’s going to be adjustments, but every week at training I’ve seen improvements in the areas that we need to mix it with the best.

“There is a short runway but everything we’re doing is to accelerate that process to make sure that we’re getting results that Australia can be proud of.”

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