Who should play second row for the Wallabies?
Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore (left) and captain James Horwill (right) sit out the Australian team training session (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
With Nathan Sharpe hanging up the boots at the end of the year and Dan Vickerman about to do the same, the Wallabies are looking thin on the ground when it comes to locks.
Sharpe and Vickerman have been mainstays of the Australian side for the past 10 years. The Cape Town-born Vickerman made his debut in 2002 and has 54 caps, while the evergreen Sharpe also made his debut in 2002 and has 102 caps. Both have been great servants of Australian rugby and will be sorely missed.
James Horwill earned his first cap back in 2007 and has established himself as a leader and a standout player. But as the Reds and Wallabies captain is out of action for the rest of the year with a hamstring injury, Australia’s lineout appears weak.
In the 90s and early 2000s, the lineout was a weapon that the Wallabies wielded with relish. We had Rod McCall, John Eales, David Giffin, Matt Cockbain and Justin Harrison, while Owen Finegan could also play lock. In this period we had some of our greatest second-rowers of all time, and coupled with some decent hookers, could rely on the lineout to work under pressure. Our scrum might not have scared the opposition but our lineout was world-class.
That hasn’t been the case for the Wallabies in recent seasons. And with Sharpe and Vickerman pulling up stumps, and Horwill struggling with injury in recent years, there’s a big hole.
Queensland’s Rob Simmons and NSW’s Sitaleki Timani have been vying of late to pair with Sharpe in the green and gold. Both have potential but neither have been able to really shine yet in Wallaby colours.
Considering his size and strength, Timani should be man-handling the opposition on a regular basis. Simmons is the more experienced of the two but is only 23 years old and his best footy is ahead of him.
Apart from these two, no-one else in Super Rugby has really put their hand up and demanded selection. The Reds have a number of ageing locks in Radike Samo, Van Humphries and Adam Wallace-Harrison who won’t be around for much longer, while David McDuling is a youngster who is yet to make his debut.
In Tah-land Dave Dennis is more of a flanker, Dean Mumm is heading overseas, Greg Peterson is uncapped for NSW and Kane Douglas is a future hope.
In Canberra, Mark Chisholm has departed and Sam Carter, Leon Power, Ben Hand and Peter Kimlin in competing for the five and four Brumby jumpers. Kimlin has two caps but hasn’t been sighted in a Wallabies jersey since 2009, while Hand is the veteran at 30 years of age. Carter and Power, who are both new to Super Rugby, are having huge years in Super Rugby and could push for a spot on the spring tour.
Across the country in Perth, Toby Lynn qualifies for the Wallabies, despite his Kiwi background. He has been mentioned as a possible lock. His Western Force teammate Sam Wykes might be more of a chance looking to play for Australia down the line, while the man with one of the best names in rugby – Phoenix Battye – is 21 and has just nine caps for the Force.
Down in Melbourne Adam Byrnes has played for Russia, James King is a Kiwi and Alister Campbell is a 32-year old former Wallaby with four national appearances under his belt. A lot is expected of the pair of Cadeyrn Neville, a relative newcomer to the sport, and Huge Pyle, the young ex-Brumbies Academy player.
Simmons and Timani are at the moment in the box-seat to replace Sharpe and Vickerman, but a lot can change in the next few months. Behind them are Pyle, Neville, Douglas, Wykes, Carter and Power.
Simmons and Timani can help cement their spots in the Wallaby 15 with a strong showing today and in the next few Tests. Pyle, Neville and Douglas are next in line and can earn a seat on the plane to Europe in November or even a bolter spot in the Rugby Championship by displaying what they can do over the final Super Rugby rounds. Carter and Power might even be able to sneak a squad spot for the spring tour if they feature brightly in the Brumbies finals charge.
The field is pretty much wide open. It remains to be seen who will be our next stars in the lineout, and if we can possibly recreate the recent glories of the Australian second-row.
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