Can next season be a winner for the Reds?
The Reds didn’t quite get their 2012 season to the level that was shown in 2011. But how is 2013 looking?
Although the Wallaby season rolls on for the rest of the year for many Reds players, incoming head coach Richard Graham and Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie need to look to their squad now.
In actual fact they were probably looking at it months ago, but they forgot to call me and ask my opinion.
The first thing is that the Reds need some forwards.
That might seem an odd statement given that twice this year the Reds have finished games with the best halfback in the world Will Genia playing at flyhalf, but the fact of the matter is they had a lot of injuries at playmaker. Four flyhalves have been out injured at one point of the season. That can’t be planned for.
It is in the big men department that the Reds have a real worry.
The Reds forwards are just not quite good enough to mix it with the best Super Rugby packs. During their title-winning 2011 season they overcame the difference by playing with intensity and accuracy.
In 2012 they have failed to do this, and they need to fix it for 2013.
In the front row the Reds don’t have a genuine tighthead. I believe Shepherdson is still in the squad but he does not appear to be getting a look in.
Slipper is being played at tighthead whenever he is fit, but plenty of observers (including Bob Dwyer, Robbie Deans and resident Roar scrum guru ‘jeznez’) see him as a loosehead.
One of Sekope Kepu, Paddy Ryan, Dan Palmer, Ben Alexander or even Salesi Ma’afu should be high on the Reds’ target list. If they have to trade Holmes, Slipper, Daley or Anae away for a genuine tighthead, then so be it.
Horwill should be back next year, and with Simmons and Wallace-Harrison will give the Reds the best second row in Australia by a decent margin. The problem is that AWH is 32, Van Humphries, the squad’s fourth lock, is 36 and Samo as number-eight-cum-lock is about 40 (despite claiming to be 36).
They have McDuling in the extended squad but he’s yet to play a match.
In the backrow, things are even more dire. Other than the aforementioned Samo, every loose forward on the Reds books is a flanker and not a number eight.
Higginbotham has been improving and developing his game well in the last two years and will be a good Wallaby number eight if Palu goes down injured, but he is off to the Melbourne Rebels in 2013.
That’s a big loss given the plaudits he received from the New Zealand and Australian press this season. Gill and Robinson are genuine on the ball opensides while Schatz, Quirk and development squad member Butler are all flankers without the size, set piece skills, or running game of an eighteen.
I know that all three as well as McDuling have played at no.8 in age-group / grade rugby, but I don’t see them as capable of making the step up. The Reds need a big angry enforcer of a number eight and I have no idea where Graham and McKenzie will find one.
In the backline all is rosy except for the massive injury list which will hopefully clear by the start of next season (although where the injured Peter Hynes fits into things is still something of a mystery).
This is my current understanding of the Reds squad (30 players plus five development players) and as you can see there is one glaring open spot in the back row as well as the potential weakness in the front.
Props: Daley, Slipper, Holmes, Shepherdson
Hookers: Hanson, S. Fainga’a
Locks: Horwill (c), Simmons, Wallace-Harrison, Van Humphries
Loose Forwards: Samo, Robinson, Gill, Schatz, Quirk, +1
Halves: Genia (vc), Frisby, Lucas, Cooper, Lance
Centres: Harris, A. Fainga’a, Tapuai, F’Sautia
Outside Backs: Ioane, Morahan, Shipperley, Toua, Davies
Albert Anae (Prop/Hooker)
David McDuling (Lock)
Jarrad Butler (Flanker)
Sam Lane (Flyhalf)
UJ Seuteni (Flyhalf)
Random additional squad member:
Peter Hynes (Wing/Fullback)
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