Nic White’s speed at the breakdown

Published on: August 21, 2015

Filled Under: Analysis, International

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 barbz

Author’s note: Unfortunately I wrote this before Nic White was axed by Michael Cheika in order to accommodate half a dozen bloody wingers (what’s the count at?) for the World Cup. Personally I think Nic White is above Will Genia in the pecking order, considering he has the best pass and boot of the scrum halves, and can even kick goals.

Why?

The Wallabies really struggled to get anything going vs the All Blacks in last Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup decider, with Nic White and Quade Cooper taking a lot of the blame. I’m somewhat of a Nic White fan and when I heard criticism being thrown at him, I decided to have another look at the game. I have focused specifically on his service from the rucks, to see if there was any merit in the criticism. I watched up until Quade’s yellow card because it kinda got too painful and I don’t think there is any meaningful analysis to be pulled from that point after. The Wallabies had decided that the game was over and played like it.

Key Points

  • The All Blacks did a fantastic job of disrupting the Wallabies’ game plan and not allowing them to play Cheika ball. In the first half, the Wallabies only had two sets of multiple attacking phases (5:30 & 18:15).
  • Wallabies struggled to get quick ball at the ruck, followed by Nic White taking too long when it did become available.
  • Even when the Wallabies did get quick ball (which was rare), either: a) Nic White would be half a step slow to the ruck, b) Nic White would take half a second to assess his options, or c) the forwards weren’t in position.

In-depth look

The first period of multiple attacking phases by the Wallabies starts at 5 mins 15. Quade manages to take a high ball and the ensuing counter-ruck from the All Blacks forces Nic White to take the ball into contact. This causes Nic White to be slow to the next ruck.

The Wallabies should have known Nic White was at the bottom of the last ruck and someone else should have gone in to move the ball quickly. Possibly a communication error.

Nic White gets there a little slow and the All Blacks are well set in defence. They take their time to reset and get things moving. The ball comes quickly from the ruck but Skelton, Sio, Kepu and Horwill are all not in position for the next run.

Wallabies opt to kick and get a turnover Savea’s offload.

The Wallabies enjoy a few good phases of go forward but the ball is not as quick as they would like. One of the rucks was slowed by McCaw falling the wrong way in the tackle, another was White not busting his ass to get across to the far side of the field like we are accustomed to seeing Phipps do.

He did have to play 80 mins due to the bench composition so maybe this is a consequence of that.

Another good run from Kepu puts the All Blacks on the back foot and Woodcock’s loitering in the passing channel gets exploited by White. Nigel warns him about milking the penalty but in White’s defence, he pumped it once or twice and Nige did fuck all so I can understand why he threw it into him. Genia and Smith usually just throw it straight up.

Wallabies get three points and despite the slow ball, that was the best the Wallabies looked all night.

The second period of multiple attacking phases was at 18 mins and was definitely the turning point in the game. This was the first real chance the Wallabies had to execute their game plan and the end result was a try to the All Blacks.

The All Blacks continue their plan of gang-banging the Wallaby receive when he lands. Folau is pounced on by McCaw, however, the Wallabies manage to secure the ball, but it is slow.

The wallabies manage to find significant gains through good offloading and strong running. White follows the action closely and manages to keep things moving quickly. The All Blacks are scrambling and manage to get bodies in the way to slow Wallaby ball down.

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Even still, Moore and Sio are slow to realign and White is forced to wait.

The Wallabies are not clinical at the next ruck and the ball pops up in the ruck.

McCaw grabs White before he can pass it (or has a chance). The ball wasn’t out past last man’s feet nor had White grabbed it before McCaw moves up but I imagine the ball popping up counts as being out as well (can someone let me know?).

Could have easily been a penalty if Nige wanted to protect attacking ball (#salt).

From this point on, the Wallabies do a few pick and drives from slow ball to reset. They eventually get some quick ball which gets thrown out to Quade but the move is stopped behind the gainline and results in more slow ball for the Wallabies. A few more one-out runs are stop behind the gainline and White throws one poor pass behind Moore.

Eventually they throw it out wide and Speight is brought down near the sideline but offloads into an All Black player for a Wallaby lineout. The Wallabies maul it and it’s eventually turned over and eventually Dane Coles scores.

This whole passage was a mixed bag for White but I do think the forwards could have worked harder to get into position quicker. Maybe he should have been whipping them into action more.

Thoughts regarding other areas

Nic White was everywhere in defence. He seemed to be showing up everywhere when breaks were made or kicks got put through. Phipps was a monster in this area in 2014 but seems to have dropped off a bit in 2015.

Nic White kicked well for the most part. There was one mediocre clearance and one charged down box kick, but other than that, his kicking was very good.

Verdict

Yeah he was a bit shit. Although, the Wallabies only had limited opportunities to execute the Cheika ball death push. Even when they did, most of the time it was the All Blacks slowing it down with counter-rucking or falling the wrong way. But there were times when the Wallabies did have quick ball and there were a few times it was slowed down by White doing his best Gregan/Genia ‘take your time’ impression. Still, I only really saw one inaccurate pass and I don’t recall him putting anyone under pressure like Phipps did last week, despite the shit ball he was getting fed from the forwards in comparison.

Cheika can decide whether it is easier to coach White into speeding things up or Phipps into improving his accuracy.

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