Wallabies need to move with times, says Mitchell

FLORENCE: Returning Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell says the growth of ”elaborate” defensive structures in world rugby means Australia’s once-vaunted attack must take on a clinical edge.
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Mitchell, along with Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor, was an integral part of the Wallabies’ expansive style that won hearts and eyeballs during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, but now believes the days of easy opportunities are gone, and the Wallabies must adapt.

”We’d all like to go out and play this sort of flamboyant type of rugby, but sometimes the defence doesn’t allow you to do that,” he said.

”More than anything in world rugby, the defence has come on a lot more than the attack has. Defensive structures and systems have become so elaborate and disciplined that it actually makes it harder to find those types of gaps and spaces and opportunities.”

The 28-year-old’s career hit a major snag the same year the lights began to dim on the Wallabies’ attack. Mitchell broke his ankle in April last year and by September the Wallabies back line was enjoying less and less cut-through as rivals upped their defensive games. The World Cup was a low point for both.

One year on, there are positive signs for player and team. Mitchell will start against Italy in Florence on Saturday after learning he could run on his right leg despite having ruptured the tendon supporting the arch in that foot, and the Wallabies are showing the first encouraging signs of long-lost potency in attack.

But the Brisbane-born winger says for the Wallabies to keep entertaining fans, territory and possession cannot be squandered on the basis more chances will pop up.

”There’s going to be limited opportunities in a game. We will get some but they may be limited and we have to make sure we make the most of the ones we are presented with,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Florence share a colourful past. The last time he played at Stadio Artemio Franchi, in Australia’s 32-14 victory over the Azzurri, he ended up with his pants down on television as a clutching tackle revealed a paper-scissors-rock tattoo on his backside.

”I didn’t necessarily mind about the back end, because just prior to that the front end was catching a bit of wind, so I just had to get rid of the ball pretty quickly,” he said of his cheeky run two years ago.

Back on track after the most trying two years of his career, Mitchell’s daily routine is a far cry from those of his younger, less battle-scarred teammates. The mysterious nature of his ankle injury – there is no good reason why his right arch should not collapse at any second – has him lining up outside the physiotherapist’s door for daily treatments.

”It’s an ongoing thing and it’s something I’m going to have to do until I hang up [the boots],” he said.

As for when that day might come, Mitchell neither minds nor cares to predict. He is looking no further than the Test match on Saturday.

”I’ve stopped [looking ahead] because it seems every time I try and look too much further down the track, I hit a bit of a crossroads before that,” he said.

”You don’t necessarily know how many times you’re going to get to pull the jersey back on and it’s something that I certainly hold dear, to be able to get that opportunity, and it’s something that I certainly savour.

”It may be my last – hopefully not, but that’s the attitude I’ve got to go about it with. What comes of that in the future is not necessarily my choice.”

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