The Waratahs win over the Crusaders could be put down to events outside of Rugby, but it was tactically impressive nonetheless. The Waratahs used a brilliant kicking game to keep the ball away from the Crusaders strengths, and that is worth highlighting here. This match provided an intriguing insight into the Waratahs 2019 tactics.
Their captain Michael Hooper would summarise it best.
“42% possession, we are now building wins off defence. We get tries when we can, and create a good wall to stop these guys”
In this article, you will discover just how the Waratahs created that Blue wall as well as how they capitalised on the Crusaders poor form.
How to Avoid Poor Field Position | Waratahs 2019
The Waratahs had a very clear exit strategy from the outset. Every time they got the ball behind their own 10m line, they kicked.
They would then back their blue wall defensive line to chase well and pin the Crusaders back. It was a well-rehearsed process.
Below, the entire process is set all in motion. The Waratahs purposefully keep the ball in play and away from the Crusaders dangerous lineout, asking them to run it back.
Provided the Waratahs keep the Crusaders pinned back in their own half, they have won this engagement. The Blue wall makes a good start, but this is only a tiny piece of why the Waratahs defence worked so well.
In these next clips, the reasons for the Waratahs’ defensive dominance of this game will be revealed.
How the Waratahs Frustrated the Crusaders | Waratahs 2019
It appears the Waratahs were trying a defence-first approach here, a tactic also used by the Highlanders this season. For them, it didn’t work. Find out why below.
In contrast, it’s time to find out why the Waratahs defence-first approach did work against the current champions. It starts with numbers at the breakdown.
There is one blue jersey in that ruck above versus 3 white ones. The Waratahs like to keep plenty of bricks in the blue wall, and the placement of those bricks matters as well.
Watch their defensive organisation below. The big men ensure they are closer to the ruck, leaving the tougher decisions to other players further out. It’s old-school and simple but effective defence.
After 10 phases of this, the Crusaders make a mistake and the Waratahs grab a turnover. The Waratahs’ defence-first approach has won.
They then shuttle the ball to the sideline to make an attacking kick. There weren’t many situations in this game in which the Waratahs wouldn’t kick. They truly trusted their defence above all else.
The Waratahs’ kick at all times strategy worked here on attack due to one player in particular.
How Israel Folau Stunned the Crusaders | Waratahs 2019
Israel Folau has to be a candidate alongside Liam Williams for the best player in the air at the moment. The Waratahs kicking tactics were suited perfectly for his skill-set, as we will find out.
Below, a kick is dropped into the centre of the field. Only Folau could somehow claim this.
He is able to flick an offload away and the Waratahs go in for a try. The Crusaders were struggling to deal with the Waratahs relentless kicking already at this early stage.
This next clip is a classic cross-field kick that presents a 50/50 situation. Folau is built for these situations. He disrupts the Crusaders defenders and pounces on the ball for another try.
These tries were built on the defence-first tactics we have discussed. We have seen England in particular deploy these defensive kicking tactics to beat Ireland, but the Waratahs approach is unique due to its high number of attacking kicks as well.
Is this defence-first approach the future? It has certainly worked to great effect in the 6 Nations this season. Let us know your thoughts below.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes