Super Rugby: How long can Richard Graham last?

I have written before on this blog about the performance of the Queensland Reds this season and my regular lament has been about the seeming drop in skills and discipline in the team during the 2014 season. Yet again last night we saw a Queensland Reds outfit that was ill disciplined both in attack and defence; viz, yet again the Reds were prone to make a mistake in almost every key moment and were punished for it by a workmanlike and consistent Force outfit.

Obviously the team has been decimated by injury but this is not the first time the skills gap between the Reds and an opponent has been obvious. Indeed, the last time I wrote calling for the head of the coach the Reds were fielding an almost full strength line up including the team’s half stars, Genia and Cooper and on that occasion, against the Rebels, poor discipline and errors were the deciding factor in the game.

Additionally, last night’s game was another fixture in which the Reds highly vaunted forward pack was, frankly, completely dominated by an opposing pack. Make no mistake: this game was won by the Western Force in the exchanges in the forwards, particularly at the breakdown and in set piece play where the Reds lacked enthusiasm as well as technical precision.

Richard Graham was always going to be compared to Ewen McKenzie when he took over the stewardship of the Reds and the one key comparison I would make is the fact that from basically the same playing group that last year made the finals, Graham has produced a rabble whose skills fall far short of the level likely to challenge most teams in this competition currently. Injuries can take part of the blame as can the form of the players BUT a large part of the blame must rest with Richard Graham and his coaching group.

All of the words coming from the QRU have been that Richard Graham will be the coach of the Queensland Reds in 2015. I get that he has a contract that the Reds are keen to fulfil but based on the confluence of results and the type of rugby the Reds are / have played this year he must be close to having lost the confidence of team management on the one hand and the players on the other.

Absent a must improved performance next week, Queensland will, and this is the hardest admission a Queenslander can make, be thrashed by New South Wales next week at Lang Park. There can be no greater insult. If that happens then in my opinion Richard Graham’s tenure as Queensland Reds coach must considered by the QRU and brought to an end so that a fresh start can be made in 2015. Absent such a start I can not fathom how a team coached by Graham can or will improve on this year and that, as a Reds fan and a Wallaby fan, is a terrible position for the Reds and the Wallabies.

Postscript: The ongoing chase for James O’Connor’s signature, seemingly at the behest of Coach Graham does nothing to enhance my opinion of his coaching acumen. The fact is that O’Connor is a terrible influence, indeed a divisive one, on the dressing room and the last thing the Reds need is another injury prone winger (when he is not beset by scandal).

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