Australian Rugby Union assistant coach Nathan Grey.
Australian Rugby Union assistant coach Nathan Grey. PAUL MILLER

Wallabies assistant Grey argues a case for the defence

WALLABIES defence coach Nathan Grey says he is "pleased for the players" after the side rallied from the defensive nightmare of Sydney and re-built a gold wall in the subsequent Rugby Championship games.

Grey's work as defence coach copped enormous heat in the wake of the All Blacks' 54-34 victory over the Wallabies in August, in which the Kiwis scored six of their eight tries in the first half and led by a record 40-6 at the break.

The missed tackle count only ended up being 31 but far too many were cold, inexcusable misses.

The Wallabies and Grey endured heavy criticism ahead of the second Test in Dunedin but after saying they wouldn't change much - which was also pilloried - the team turned it around hugely in defence and almost won the game.

Since then, the Wallabies defence has continued to improve and in Tests against the Springboks and the Pumas, the team only conceded two tries in each.

"It's always a work in progress," Grey said.

"I am pleased for the players, who are getting a bit more consistent reward for the work they're doing.

"In terms of having belief of what we want to do as a collective, and then really buying into that and delivering on that.

"I am pleased for them from the perspective of we can start to display and put pressure on the opposition when they have the ball, in a consistent manner."

The Wallabies actually missed more tackles in Dunedin and Canberra than they did in Sydney, but the quality of their scramble and a far superior linespeed and aggression halted their rivals' ability to build pressure and points.

After letting the All Blacks get over the advantage line in 75% of their runs in Sydney, it fell to 50% in Dunedin and then 44% in Perth. It climbed again to 66% against the Pumas but that didn't translate to trouble, giving up only 7 linebreaks.

But Grey said one stat never tells a complete picture.

"You can't really put it down to the one thing that says "that's a measure we are defending really well"," he said.

"It is a real collective result of 1) not allowing a team to execute how they want to and 2) being able to dictate terms to opposition defensively, rather than sitting back and being reactive.

"If you are organised and energised, you have the ability to be nice and aggressive and take the space."

After howls for his removal post-Sydney, Grey is back under the radar. He said the only option in a week like that is to accept the public scrutiny and trust in your plans.

"That's the world we're in, that (pressure) is all part of it" Grey said.

"You just have to have confidence as a collective and as a coaching staff about what you want to do and then back that. And then be diligent about your work, because you believe it is going to work."