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the trials faced by the Wallabies throughout the Rugby Championship

The Wallabies have beaten every team they’ve played against this year except for the All Blacks. They may have won if not for Mathieu Raynal’s call in the dying minutes of the game.

The Wallabies have the gameplan, skill and players to win consistently, so what is missing?

Dave Rennie often speaks about mentality and the changes he wants to see around effort areas and mental toughness. But the emotional capacity of the team appears to only last for the first game against their opposition. Whatever Dave Rennie is drawing on, it must change.

Mini-series like the England series and the Rugby Championship will continue to be part of the calendar and the Wallabies can’t go into them being happy with a single win. Gameplans shouldn’t change week-to-week, but you do have to expect a smart opposition to adapt and target weaknesses they see.

Rennie is very good at staying his course in terms of strategy, but it would be fair to question whether he has been outcoached and outmanoeuvred by the likes of Eddie Jones, Michael Cheika and Jacques Nienaber. Then again it could be argued he outmanoeuvred all those coaches in their initial clash.

Dave Rennie looks on during a Wallabies training session

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

However, this comes down to the headspace the players are bringing to the second test against these teams, and it does not bode well for the Eden Park test looming over the Wallabies. If this is a motivation and headspace issue Rennie must fix it and quickly.

Now, to the controversies this far in the rugby championship:

Marika Koroibete’s tackles on Makazole Mapimpi and Caleb Clarke

In both instances, Koroibete hit low, made no contact with the head and wrapped his arms. The controversy surrounding either of these hits baffles me. Clarke bounced out of the initial hit too fast for Koroibete to affect a complete wrap, but arms were used. In the case of Mapimpi, Rugby Law 9.17 says a player cannot tackle ‘an opponent whose feet are off the ground.’ Mapimpi was in the act of jumping therefore putting himself in an illegal position.

Furthermore, if it was ruled he was in the action of diving for a try then the law about tackling in the air is usually voided by referees as players are understandably allowed to do most things to prevent a try. There is no situation where Mapimpi scores that try or Koroibete attracts a sanction. This precedent was set in the Chiefs v Highlanders game in this year’s Super Rugby Pacific when Peta Gus Sowakula jumped over Aaron Smith.

Makazole Mapimpi of the Springboks is tackled by Marika Koroibete of the Wallabies during The Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks at Adelaide Oval on August 27, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Makazole Mapimpi of the Springboks is tackled by Marika Koroibete (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Faf de Klerk strike on Nic White

When de Klerk hit White right in front of the referee’s eyes, he contravened Rugby Law 9.12 which sanctions any player that physically abuses another player. The poor acting that happened afterwards by White could have been avoided if the referee had sanctioned de Klerk right there and then.

The referees are focusing so much on head-high tackles as per the directive of World Rugby but are turning a blind eye to deliberate “foul play” as Law 9 is labelled. There is an argument the same could be said for the Darcy Swain/Johnny Hill incident during the first England test. Hill should have been sanctioned for his initial double-handed push to Swain’s face right in front of the referee.

Referee Mathieu Raynal speaks to Nic White and Bernard Foley of the Wallabies during The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Marvel Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Referee Mathieu Raynal speaks to Nic White and Bernard Foley (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Mathieu Raynal

The call was legal under Rugby Law 9.7(d) “unfair play” under the heading foul play. The sanction is a free kick. Therefore, although this was within Raynal’s powers, he awarded the wrong sanction and in the words of Dave Rennie the call “lacked feel for the occasion.”

Darcy Swain’s clean-out on Quinn Tupaea

Swain contravened Rugby Law 9.20(d) which states you can clear the “jackler out of the contest at the ruck but must not drop their weight onto them or target the lower limbs.” The sanction for this is a penalty. Raynal took this a step further and awarded Swain a yellow card. This is a fair interpretation as Raynal has elevated the sanction at his discretion and the sanction is reasonable for the offence.

It is not a part of the game and should be stamped out, hence a card was awarded. You do the crime; you do the time, but you can’t rule on the outcome.

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