Wallabies need to address their high-tackle issue to stay in RWC mix_1

The Wallabies have qualified for the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals but have done so in unconvincing fashion struggling with one of the game's most straightforward rules.

Learning how to tackle is one of the most basic rugby skills and is imparted on juniors and reiterated through every strata of the game.

There have been no significant changes to the game's tackle laws for the Rugby World Cup, but referees were given a new dangerous tackle framework as the game seeks to address head injuries.

Wallabies struggle at tackle time

Officiating surrounding high tackles and dangerous cleanouts has been inconsistent, but Australia have found it hardest to keep their tackles down raising questions about their technique and coaching.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika did not take kindly to the suggestion that his players may be technically deficient in contact, initially.

After voicing his strong opinions on the referees early in the tournament, Cheika turned to sidestepping questions about the Wallabies high tackles.

After Australia's victory over Uruguay Cheika said that the Wallabies were giving away too many penalties while refusing to address the question of high tackles.

"I think maybe we can talk about something else to be honest," he said when asked about the number of times his players had been pinned for high shots.

"We're just giving away too many penalties, full stop, no matter what it's for, you can't be winning the game by 45 and still losing the penalty count. "I don't know what the break-down for them was. Just those little things we definitely need to tidy up."

A few days later Cheika would come around and admitted that the Wallabies were working on their tackling technique, in order to address their penalty problem.

"We are addressing that, we have some ideas on how we can be better at that,” Cheika said in the lead up to the Wallabies final pool match against Georgia.
"Maybe because no matter how you see the pictures, the penalties are real, so you have got to do something, because whether it is truth or perception, we are getting the arm raised against us and we are losing players to the bin, for things that we shouldn't be.
"So we have to improve our tackle area as a whole. Just getting a bit better there.
"We have worked on some things, I am not going to go into detail here but we have worked on a few things that we want to try and do in this game and we'll see if they work for us, to give us a better defensive line and better height in the tackle.”

Coach-killing penalties

The first penalty Australia gave away in that final pool match in the pouring rain would be a high tackle by Matt Toomua and the Wallabies would see another player sin-binned for dangerous play when Isi Naisarani went in high on a clearout.

Cheika has been critical of Australia's likely quarterfinal opponents England, at least the treatment they have received from the disciplinary channels. It won't be a good look for him as an already under fire coach to go down to an England team coached by a legendary Aussie. The source of the latest beef between two nations with a rich history of intense rivalry was the failure to suspend England's Piers Francis for a similar offence to the one that saw Reece Hodge miss out on Australia's last three Pool matches.

World Rugby's failure to further sanction Francis will be irrelevant when England meet Australia in the first Rugby World Cup quarterfinal. If the Wallabies are to stand any chance against England, they must address their discipline.

The Wallabies need to be in the game at the hour mark to allow their impact players to come off the bench and test England's legs. Eddie Jones' side is a nightmare for an ill-disciplined team though and will punish the Wallabies if they cannot avoid the referee's ire.

Cheika has never got the better of England as a coach with his Wallabies side losing the last six Tests against the Roses. Australia's best chance of victory lies in utilising their efficient set-piece play and finding a counter to England's shortside based attack.

If Australia allow England to dominate territory and dictate the play they could find themselves out of the match by half-time.

The first Rugby World Cup quarterfinal will be the third instance of Australia facing England in the last eight, the Roses won both, in 1995 and 2007.