drawings of muscles and exercise apparatus

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are Deans's Wallabies physically conditioned to last 80 minutes?

While there were some very encouraging signs in the Wallabies' performance against England in Perth it is significant that the home side was not able to build on their 14 point lead at half time and in fact lost the second half. This continues a quite worrying trend.

Last year there was intense speculation over the causes of the poor performance of the Wallabies during the Deans era, but one issue that has not been raised is whether their training has been appropriate for the intense physical demands of modern international rugby.

One indication that something is seriously wrong is the fact that the team has very frequently squandered a first-half lead. Of course there are so many factors that can influence how a game plays out that not much can be read into the scores in a particular game. The effects of long distance travel or a country fielding an under-strength team can have a major impact on the pattern of scoring.

However in contests between Australia and New Zealand distance is not really a relevant factor and both nations always endeavour to select their strongest team, so these matches provide an ideal environment to search for consistent patterns evident over a number of matches. Let's look at the last ten matches played between these countries prior to Robbie Deans taking over as coach. Australia is listed first with the first half scoreline, second half scoreline and overall result shown for each match.

15 Nov 03 13-7 W, 9-3 W, 22-10 W
17 Jul 04 0-3 L, 7-13 L, 7-16 L
7 Aug 04 12-12 D, 11-6 W, 23-18 W
13 Aug 05 13-3 W, 0-27 L, 13-30 L
3 Sep 05 5-20 L, 19-14 W, 24-34 L
8 Jul 06 7-14 L, 5-18 L, 12-32 L
29 Jul 06 6-10 L, 3-3 D, 9-13 L
19 Aug 06 20-11 W, 7-23 L, 27-34 L
30 Jun 07 6-15 L, 14-0 W, 20-15 W
21 Jul 07 9-9 D, 3-17 L, 12-26 L

It can be seen that the Wallabies won 3 of the first halves, drew 2 and lost 5. They won 4 second halves, drew 1 and lost 5. Overall they won 3 games and lost 7.

Now let's look at the stats for the eight Wallabies-All Blacks games since Deans has taken over:

26 Jul 08 17-12 W, 17-7 W, 34-19 W
2 Aug 08 10-21 L, 0-18 L, 10-39 L
13 Sep 08 10-3 W, 14-25 L, 24-28 L
1 Nov 08 14-9 W, 0-10 L, 14-19 L
18 Jul 09 13-10 W, 3-12 L, 16-22 L
22 Aug 09 12-3 W, 6-16 L, 18-19 L
19 Sep 09 6-16 L, 0-17 L, 6-33 L
31 Oct 09 16-13 W, 3-19 L, 19-32 L

Here we see that the Wallabies won an impressive 6 out of 8 first halves, but lost 7 out of 8 second halves and 7 out of 8 matches! Once the Deans coaching team had settled in, i.e., after the first Bledisloe match in July 2008, their team has lost very second half and every match. This looks like something more than random chance. The most likely culprit would seem to be inappropriate physical conditioning.

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