drawings of muscles and exercise apparatus

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Wallabies - sprinters not stayers

Two months ago, before the start of the 2010 Bledisloe Cup series, I posted an article titled “Are the Wallabies being properly conditioned for the Tri Nations Tests?” I started off by pointing out:

“A characteristic of the Deans era Wallabies is their seeming inability to sustain their performance over the full 80 minutes of a game. This raises the question of whether their training methods are appropriate for the intense physical demands of modern international rugby. In short, is there enough emphasis on strength training?”

In that article I argued that the best way to assess the Wallabies’ performance was in Tests against the All Blacks. This was because “distance travelled 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.”

We have since played another three Bledisloe matches.

On July 2008, in Deans’s first match against his home country, the Wallabies won the second half 17-7 and also won the match. From then on it has been an unbroken succession of losses in both the second half and the overall match. Here is the record of second half scores:

2 August 08 0-18
13 September 08 14-25
1 November 08 14-19
18 July 09 3-12
22 August 09 6-16
19 September 09 6-33
31 October 09 3-19
31 July 10 14-17
7 August 10 0-3
11 September 10 8-17

So that’s our sorry record. Ten straight games; ten losing second halves; ten matches lost.

In the second half we have scored on average 7 points; the All Blacks scored 17.9.

The reason is glaringly obvious – the physical conditioning of the Wallabies is inappropriate. Forget about half time scores; no one cares which horse is first past the post the first time around in the Melbourne Cup. And to pursue the horse racing analogy further, a horse won’t “get two miles” if it’s been trained to run a mile.

Rugby is a physically draining game played over eighty minutes. It is also not really an aerobic sport but rather an anaerobic sport where there is a huge premium on strength and power.

On June 28 the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article titled, “Don’t despair – fitter Wallabies might rise from last in Tri Nations rankings”. The author, Spiro Zavas, wrote:

“It is an open secret that many Waratahs and Brumbies players shirked their full training obligations in the Super 14. An unfortunate feature of the Wallabies, this season and last season, has been the way they have faded in the second half of Test matches. A fitter Wallabies team might convert those half-time leads to full-time victories.”

To address this problem “the Wallabies conditioning coach will monitor the entire squad with GPS tracking devices that will record the intensity of their training.” In other words the focus was on getting the players more aerobically fit.

It would appear that the traditional Australian approach of placing less emphasis on strength and physicality than any of the other major rugby countries has become more pronounced in the Deans era. Rather than pursuing maximum strength the Wallabies’ weights sessions have reportedly seen a heavy focus on bar-speed routines using loads as little as 30% of 1RM.

At what point will Robbie Deans and his strength and conditioning coach Peter Harding face up to the fact that the current approach is not working and requires fundamental revision?

1 comment:

Simon said...

As usual Bruce you are right on the money with your summation of the Wallabies. There certainly would have been a travel factor in Saturdays game for the Australians however, the AB's hadn't played a test match for three weeks. The impact of an athlete such as Jerome Kaino had on the game was clear, he wins more collisions than he loses. The below link is a small insight into our current training, this session was two days before the game.