A dejected Australia during game 1 of the Bledisloe Cup between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, August 19, 2017. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLYChristchurch: Wallabies defence coach Nathan Grey has taken responsibility for Australia’s inept showing on the weekend, saying it “stings” knowing his men conceded 54 points in the opening 48 minutes, but insists he believes he is the right man to help them out of their troubles.
Grey is public enemy No.1 among rugby fans after the Wallabies leaked eight tries against the All Blacks, making the task of regaining the Bledisloe Cup incredibly difficult with a game this weekend in Dunedin.
“We’re not shying away from [the fact] that we weren’t great,” Grey said. “We were poor in that area and we’ve got to be better.
“It stings mate. It’s not great. It’s difficult. Against any opposition, but New Zealand in particular, you have to make sure you’re 100 per cent right. You can’t afford to be five or 10 per cent off and we probably were.
“Clearly I am the defensive coach so in terms of my brief, that’s something I have to look after and drive that, but it’s a collective team effort in everything we do.
“[I’m] very confident [I am the right man moving forward]. I love working with the players and with the coaches and being part of that group. At the moment from a defensive perspective things certainly need to improve and we are looking to do that this week.”
At the same time, as another assistant in Stephen Larkham alluded to on Sunday, the Wallabies believe there are positives to take from Saturday’s 20-point defeat from a defensive perspective.
They do accept there cannot be a repeat performance, but they need to find consistency or run the risk of being thumped again.
“In terms of fixing issues, we are searching for consistency and sticking to what we can try and do and if we do that we can apply pressure,” Grey said. “We showed that in fits and starts but nowhere near the level we wanted.
“Certainly some areas in the game we were able defensively to put them under some pressure and force a couple of turnovers and get a few tries. There’s certainly some positives from that perspective.
“Against quality opposition you just can’t provide little opportunities and little errors here and there because good teams capitalise on it and New Zealand did that quite well.”
Australia’s success at the 2015 World Cup was built on the foundations of tough defence but since then teams have improved in that department while the Wallabies appear to have fallen off a cliff, having conceded 132 points this year from four starts against mostly average opposition.
Grey acknowledged defence strategies had changed significantly since the World Cup and that it was up to the Wallabies to evolve or run the risk of being left behind.
“In terms of what’s different between now and then, it’s chalk and cheese,” Grey said. “Players are different, the way we are doing things are slightly different. You can’t look back and say ‘that was really great, why isn’t it happening now?’ You have to look forward and see what is happening at the moment. It hasn’t been great.
“If you are trying to defend the same way you were in 2015, you know you are going to come unstuck. Teams are constantly looking to change things and pull defences apart, as we are too. The game is constantly changing and you have to evolve.”
Asked whether players’ confidence had taken a battering after the one-sided result, Grey replied: “No, they haven’t been wounded. It’s a matter of looking where we can improve things. The guys are resilient, they’re professional football players. They go through situations where they see things go wrong.”
Grey said winger Dane Haylett-Petty would be “in the mix” for selection after missing Saturday’s match with a torn bicep.