Could we finally be in for a backline treat tomorrow?
Australia's Will Genia. AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Stability and depth have been two major aims of Robbie Deans since he took over four years ago almost to the day.
This three-Test series against Wales has given the Wallaby coach both for the first time in his 60 internationals.
Just 17 Wallabies have been chosen in the three starting lineups. The first two Tests were unchanged, something novel in itself, with full-back Kurtley Beale and lock Sitaleki Timani returning from injury the only changes for the third at Allianz Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
That’s significant for obvious reasons.
Forward and back combinations are working better, and Deans has full confidence in whoever he uses with the genuine depth off the bench.
The big play is when he uses them.
Yet to be seen though is the Australian way to play rugby with the ball predominately in the hand. Rod Macqueen did during his illustrious coaching career, and the main reason why he finished with a 79% success rate, so too Alan Jones resulting in 76%. By far the most successful Wallaby coaches in history.
Deans is on 59% and one of the major reasons it’s one of the lowest success rates is the boot dominates the hand.
Fans are longing for sweeping Wallaby backline moves to the wingers, especially with Digby Ioane one of the world’s best finishers. Adam Ashley-Cooper is no slouch either.
The real bonus, and the real danger to the Welsh, is the return of Kurtley Beale to his best position at full-back where he’s at his most dangerous.
Even his opposite number Leigh Halfpenny was full of praise for Beale yesterday. “He’s one of the very best attacking full-backs in world rugby, and we’ll have to keep him in check, or he will cause us some grief”.
That he will, and in the process give centres Pat McCabe and Rob Horne a new dimension. Both have been playing well, far better than most critics care to recognise.
But any Beale success tomorrow will be dictated to by the world’s best half-back Will Genia. Last week at Etihad Stadium Genia was well below that exalted rating. He reminded us of the last five years of George Gregan’s pedestrian service and wrong option-taking.
Genia made it even worse by overplaying the short side that led to constantly losing possession. For Genia, it was a rare bad day at the office.
If the real Genia turns up to play, life will be a lot easier for fly-half Berrick Barnes, playing some of the best rugby of his career, and will give Beale that extra room to move to create his own special brand of havoc.
Skipper David Pocock apart, who somehow manages to fit 100 minutes into his 80, the Wallaby pack will never be spectacular, but it will be competitive and honest.
If they provide good quick ball, and Genia plays like Genia can, we may well be in for a backline treat tomorrow.
Bring it on.
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