Who should partner Horwill in the second row?
115 Have your say
Blues Michael Hobbs is challenged by Reds James Horwill. AAP Image/SNPA, David Rowland
To drive a big nail, you need a big hammer. Who should be the Wallaby locks during the coming internationals?
With the woes of the Wallaby scrum over the last decade, there has been a lot of scrutiny of our front rowers.
However, the rest of the tight five need to shoulder responsibility not just for the scrum but also for our power in the breakdown.
Locks are not just there to win lineouts, they have to do a large amount of the heavy hitting in the rucks and mauls as well.
Good lock play is shoulder to the wheel stuff, rarely glamorous and often noticed more when it is missing than when it is there.
Brad Thorn stands as a case in point, getting almost universal acclaim for his value as a player, post playing for the All Blacks. He is receiving much more praise right now than he received during his last two years actually representing them.
In a number of key tests last year, the Wallabies got smashed off the ball at the breakdown and the right locks will go long way to fixing this.
So who should be the Wallaby locks this year? Last week I nominated Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore and Dan Palmer as my starting Wallaby front row with Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu on the bench.
Who should be completing the tight five for the men in gold?
If we just wanted to pick a strong lineout then the leading candidates would be Sam Carter, Dan Simmons and Hugh Pyle.
If we just wanted a strong scrum then James Horwill, Sitaleki Timani and Kane Douglas would be at the forefront.
If we looked for 80-minute workhorses who have impact around the field then Scott Fardy and Luke Jones stand out for their running and tackling respectively.
We need to pick for balance and my view is that James Horwill and Scott Fardy are the leading pair with Kane Douglas or Hugh Pyle on the bench.
Horwill is the incumbent Wallaby captain and after a fairly quiet start to the season, has blossomed along with a few of this Reds teammates to find form in the last few weeks.
He has genuine size, aggression and is getting around the field well and impacting strongly.
Fellow incumbent Simmons is performing well in the lineout and getting around the field well, however he is too often dominated in contact. Second rowers need to be the ones dishing out hits in contact not being on the receiving end.
Sam Carter is in the same boat. Both these guys are young and will fill out in time – the challenge for them will be to increase strength while maintain their mobility.
They also need to re-examine their technique in contact to improve this facet of their game.
Scott Fardy is not the biggest lock running around and has been sighted in the back row this season as well.
Packing him in tight, does subtract from his running game a little but I thought he found the right balance of cleaning out and running on the weekend against the Hurricanes.
He was strong in contact for the full 80 minutes and when a couple of Hurricanes each decided the other man should tackle Fardy, he was able to draw the last man and put his locking partner through the gap for a well-worked try.
Sitaleki Timani has suffered this year from not having an off-season. His time in Japan was misspent with him losing fitness while not getting a break from rugby.
He and Douglas are also hampered by Michael Foley insisting on giving 80 minutes most weeks to the penalty magnet Dean Mumm.
Unfortunately on the weekend, Timani hurt his shoulder and is running out of chances to build fitness and regain the form he had at the end of last season.
Hopefully he can regain this form in the back end of the season but he just doesn’t appear to be ready for the upcoming June tests.
Douglas, meanwhile, was one of the few Waratahs to step up on the weekend. He pushed hard for the 60 minutes he played on the weekend, his locking in the five jumper for the most dominant scrum in Super Rugby this year should not be underestimated.
He is always strong in contact and has made a few breaks in recent weeks. He needs greater patience when he gets in space to find the right support runners but is looking good this season after disappointing a little last year.
Caderyn Neville may have been the one to nab two tries on the weekend but Pyle has been performing for longer in the Rebels jersey.
Neville, in only his third season of rugby, needs to refine his body position in the clean out and just lift his effectiveness in that area.
Question marks will sit over both these two, based on the poor performance of the Rebel scrum this year, but they are young and have the size and attitude to develop and will warrant further consideration in time.
Neville showed better endurance on the weekend, lasting the full 80 in reasonable form, while Pyle faded badly from the 50-minute mark before eventually being subbed with 10 to go.
Normally Pyle can play the full 80 so I am not sure if he was playing ill or suffered a knock.
As I say both are promising but at this stage Pyle is displaying slightly better breakdown technique and is the key lineout man for the side, so sits slightly ahead in the pecking order.
Luke Jones has unluckily been suspended at exactly the wrong time, but is another young lock making a name for himself.
He gets through a mountain of work in defence and right this minute is looking more like a back rower than a lock.
Before suspension with the injuries in the backrow, he found himself playing six and it will be interesting to see what happens with his game and frame in the next few years.
Nathan Sharpe and Dean Mumm were not considered as they are retiring or moving off shore. The only other lock playing extended minutes in Aussie Super Rugby is Toby Lynn who has been workman like but isn’t showing the promise of some of the youngsters above.
Sam Wykes has unfortunately been ruled out injured for the season.
So my Wallaby tight five is Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Dan Palmer, Scott Fardy and James Horwill, starting with Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu and Kane Douglas on the bench.
Douglas narrowly beats out Pyle for the bench spot due to the power he has in his game.
Let me know what you think of the selections and stay tuned for a backrow review later in the week.
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