Ly­nagh says lack of depth hurt­ing Wal­la­bies

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Wal­laby leg­end Michael Ly­nagh be­lieves a lack of depth lies be­hind Aus­tralia’s post World Cup slump. Michael Cheika’s men re­turn to Twick­en­ham yes­ter­day for their Rugby Cham­pi­onship fi­nale against Ar­gentina in their first match at ‘head­quar­ters’ since a World Cup fi­nal de­feat by New Zealand just over a year ago. Few would have fore­cast then that loss would mark the start of a run of six straight de­feats for Aus­tralia, al­beit all the games con­cerned were against the world cham­pion All Blacks and a resur­gent Eng­land coached by for­mer Wal­laby boss Ed­die Jones. Aus­tralia head into this week­end’s match in Lon­don hav­ing won just twice in eight games, with the ini­tial op­ti­mism en­gen­dered un­der Cheika, who took charge fol­low­ing the shock res­ig­na­tion of Ewen McKen­zie in Oc­to­ber 2014, now a thing of the past.

“We thought that un­der dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, the team and Michael Cheika per­formed very well to get to the fi­nal,” Ly­nagh, 52, told AFP in an in­ter­view on Fri­day at the Lon­don of­fice of fi­nan­cial me­dia firm Dow Jones Cor­po­rate, where he works as the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for Europe, the Mid­dle East and Africa. “They played good rugby and it’s not that much dif­fer­ent to the team that’s been trot­ted out this year,” ex­plained for­mer fly-half Ly­nagh, a key mem­ber of the Wal­la­bies’ 1991 World Cup-win­ning side.

Ly­nagh, whose 911 points in 72 Tests re­mains an Aus­tralia record, added, how­ever: “There’s been some is­sues. (David) Po­cock hasn’t played a lot of games and he was ar­guably one of the play­ers of the tour­na­ment at the World Cup. “The Eng­land games we were down to our fifth in­side cen­tre which, when you are a na­tion such as Aus­tralia that strug­gles with depth, is not great and it’s the same now.

“When you look at them, (Matt) Giteau, (Kurt­ley) Beale, (Matt) Toomua and (Chris­tian) Leali­ifano are all out.”

Last week’s 18-10 de­feat by South Africa was typ­i­cal of Aus­tralia’s re­cent prob­lems, with the nor­mally ef­fi­cient Wal­la­bies fail­ing to make their pres­sure count.

“When you get more than 50 per­cent of the ball, you look at the Wal­la­bies and you think they are go­ing to score a lot of tri­esthat was the case at the World Cup-and they nor­mally win games,” said Ly­nagh. “But it’s been a real strug­gle this year to score tries. Whether that’s be­cause op­po­si­tions have worked them out, whether they don’t have enough ver­sa­til­ity in their ar­moury, we’ve yet to see.

“But we are in a re­build­ing phase. We lost six in a row there but all six of them to the num­ber one and num­ber two teams in the world (New Zealand and Eng­land) so it’s not too bad.”

Ar­gentina head into yes­ter­day’s match with just one win, over South Africa, in this sea­son’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship. But Ly­nagh in­sisted the Pu­mas, de­feated by Aus­tralia at Twick­en­ham in last year’s World Cup semi­fi­nal, will still be one of the “teams to beat” at the 2019 edi­tion in Ja­pan.

Right now, he reck­ons they are pay­ing the price for the first sea­son of the Jaguares team-the Ar­gentina side in all but name-in the Su­per Rugby club com­pe­ti­tion.

“They had a tough Su­per Rugby tour­na­ment-it was their first time in there and I think play­ers deal­ing with the travel and it’s a long sea­son and it’s al­ways the same group of play­ers,” Ly­nagh said. “They wanted to in­cor­po­rate more teams and I think that’s di­luted the prod­uct a lit­tle bit.

“I can un­der­stand want­ing Ar­gentina to be there, but when you’ve got an ex­tra South African team, an­other Aus­tralian team and a Ja­panese team who play home games in Sin­ga­pore as well. More is not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter. “But Ar­gentina play a pretty good brand of rugby. They are pretty dan­ger­ous and they’ve been very close (to more wins) and they’ll go close again yes­ter­day. “I think that with teams in both th­ese championships, they will re­ally ben­e­fit and they will be one of the teams to beat at the next World Cup.” Tele­vi­sion an­a­lyst Ly­nagh, who over­came a life-threat­en­ing stroke in 2012, fin­ished his play­ing ca­reer with Lon­don club Sara­cens, now the reign­ing English and Euro­pean cham­pi­ons.

Sara­cens boss Mark McCall has led crit­i­cism of last week’s Eng­land train­ing cam­p­which in­cluded a judo ses­sion-that saw Wasps flanker Sam Jones break his leg and Bath wing An­thony Wat­son frac­ture his jaw.

“It’s just lu­di­crous,” said Ly­nagh. “You can’t have a guy play­ing for Sara­cens or who­ever on a Sun­day, then go­ing do­ing judo ses­sions on Monday and Tues­day and then play­ing Wasps yes­ter­day. It’s just too much.” —AFP

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