Australian rugby lacks player depth

OUR lack of true player depth is a well-known fact of Australian rugby.

It's a topic I have touched on many times.

And a driving factor in the importance to Australian rugby of the five-team conference system in Super Rugby.

Compared to just about any other nation, our numbers are low.

We have an injury or two in any given position, and we struggle at the Super Rugby and international level.

So why then have we been so damn successful on the international stage for the majority of our rugby-playing history?

Firstly, we are a tough, talented, and determined lot with a chip on our shoulder - 'the little man' complex has played a part.

Attitudes like 'We'll show these Pommy bastards a thing or two', for example, armed us with the motivation.

Then we have the simple fact that to survive in Gondwanaland, whether you are the Indigenous people or the white usurpers, you needed to be hardy and tough.

Living and sustaining life in Gondwanaland necessitated a robust and determined populace.

And then our weather and climate played its part, too, allowing our tough and determined populace, armed with the 'little-man' complex, to get out all day long, and all year long and play, honing our skills and talent and developing our toughness.

And finally, you don't need a thousand international-quality players, you just need enough.Or even put another way, you just need more international-quality players than the opposition.

To win a series against the All Blacks, South Africans and the best of the home unions, the British and Irish Lions, and World Cups, for example, you only need about 35 international-quality players.

In addition, Bob Dwyer, the World-Cup winning coach of the Wallabies, has a thesis that to win World Cups, a team must have at least five world's-best players for their position in their squad.

Let's look at the 1991 World Cup-winning Wallabies.

Squads were restricted to 28 members, and I reckon the 28 were international quality.

Did the squad have five world's best players? You bet.

There were five just in the backs: Nick Farr-Jones (half back), Michael Lynagh (five eight), Tim Horan and Jason Little (centres) and David Campese (winger).

But that's not all. There were a few in the forwards, too: John Eales (lock), Viliami Ofahengaue (flanker/No.8) and possibly Phil Kearns (hooker).

That's eight world's best players.

Not bad. And a similar inspection with the 1999 World Cup-winning Wallabies would revel similar numbers, I believe.

So, even though Australia has historically suffered from a lack of true international-quality player depth, our weather and climate, our toughness, determination, and talent, together with our 'little-man' complex has, for the most part, developed at least 35 international-quality players, with at least five of those being the best in the world in their position.Is this presently the case?

Topics:  opinion peter slattery players super rugby

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