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The more things change, the more they stay the same

Having lost a few wisdom teeth, and gained a few days on the couch, I’ve stumbled across ‘The Running Game’ on Stan Sport.

It’s a nostalgic documentary on the 1981 Wallabies tour of the UK and Ireland. Now, I’m not sure if it’s the rain, the scotch, or the oxycodone – but I think I’ve had an epiphany…

Cast your mind back to the good old days – the days before mobile phones, twitter, and Justin Harrison in commentary.

It’s now the heyday of amateur rugby. In full technicolour the Wallabies are on the way up. With names like Poidevin, Slack, and Ella, there was so much promise in the way they played.

Fast ball movement, interchange of backs and forwards, shifting to space – they had it all. A lot was expected of the ’81 tourists, but they limped home on the back of a hiding. Which begs the obvious question – why?

Having played 23 games through the worst winter of the twentieth century – including tests against the four home nations – they chalked up a disappointing 1-3 record in Tests.

Despite comfortably outpointing the dour northerners in tries scored (7-3), moustaches worn, and phases built, they won everything but the score.

Passages would start with the hosts kicking the leather off the ball. The Wallabies would try and run it back, pass to space, and create phase after phase of joyous attack – ultimately to be turned over, with possession kicked away, and the sequence restarted.

The home sides kicked their goals and built score board pressure, then defended to a man. It was like watching déjà vu all over again.

Except this time, I’d seen it before. I’d seen it over and over. I’d seen it just last weekend, and in Sydney ’03, in Marseille in 07’, and in Oita in ’19.

Ever been to Twickenham, coz you’ll sure see it there. This was Test match rugby, and this was how you win.

For all the skill, courage, and enterprise the ‘22 Wallabies have shown, they still lost the series…at home…to England.

Looking back at the old footage, and despite the game looking totally foreign, the message is the same. Test match rugby is about playing for territory, kicking your points, staying ahead on the scoreboard, and feeding off the pressure it brings.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. And ain’t that the honest tooth.

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