Oval Talk

No excuses for Mitchell as Wallabies wilt

Oval Talk

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The current Tri-Nations series has been plagued by ill-discipline and referee Craig Joubert's hard-line stance in Australia's 49-28 defeat to New Zealand should be applauded.

Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell felt the wrath of Joubert - and Oval Talk is throwing its considerable weight behind the South African official.

The irony of a South African dishing out the cards isn't lost on OT. After all, the Springboks have had a man suspended after all three of their Tri-Nations maulings thus far.

Mitchell was initially sin-binned for a late, no-arms tackle on All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

And the New South Wales Waratahs man was then shown a red card in the third minute of the second half when he slowed down play by knocking the ball from full-back Mils Muliaina's hands.

Rugby is a game born out of tough tackling and aggression alongside honesty and respect.

OT has long sneered at the time-wasting - no, cheating - that is rife in football's Premier League, and there is no room in rugby for Mitchell's petulance.

Joubert had already warned both captains, McCaw and Rocky Elsom, about delaying the restart and the punishment that would follow - a yellow card.

And Mitchell's inability to follow clear and consistent orders left his team, already trailing the game and eventually to concede seven tries, with an impossible task with 37 minutes still to play.

Saturday's loss was the Wallabies' eighth straight defeat against the All Blacks and the vultures are now circling above coach Robbie Deans.

Beating the All Blacks on a regular basis is par for the course for any Australia coach but, with Graham Henry's men at the height of their powers, this Saturday's showdown in Christchurch will leave Kiwi Deans feeling blue.

Deans will demand a response from his forlorn troops, knowing that an unlikely Tri-Nations turnaround hangs in the balance.

The Wallabies must defeat the All Blacks in their two remaining clashes, the second coming in the Tri-Nations finale in Sydney on September 11, and pray for a Springboks victory when New Zealand travel to Johannesburg later this month.

Unlikely indeed. More like impossible. But the over-riding motivation for the Wallabies should not be Tri-Nations success. Instead they should be casting their minds ahead to next September's World Cup.

OT has already had its say on the cruel path the peaking-too-soon All Blacks, without a World Cup triumph since the inaugural event in 1987, could well be taking.

But, as Bob Dylan once sang, the times they are a-changin' and the All Blacks are continuing to inflict the psychological damage on all those who stand before them.

The pressure will be on when they look to end their disastrous World Cup run on home soil in 13 months' time.

But the Wallabies must look to hammer an early blow on Saturday if they are to keep more than their Tri-Nations dream alive.

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