Who should be in the Wallabies pack for Bledisloe 2?
Wallabies player David Pocock takes the ball forward. AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Before the Rugby Championship began, I argued that against the All Blacks a forward pack that can turn up with intensity and in numbers to the breakdown for the full 80 minutes would be required.
After Saturday night’s performance I am even further of this belief. Particularly in the tight five, we need players who will belt rucks and who will also hold up their requirements in the set piece.
Throughout the entire match the All Blacks dominated the breakdown. The Wallabies needed many more players in the breakdown to secure their own ball and then were slow in positioning themselves to recycle and re-use.
Getting to the breakdown quicker will solve some of this problem. If they can arrive early, hit it hard and then release the ball quickly they should be able to commit less numbers.
Will Genia will no longer be looking at the ball at the back of the breakdown and seeing no one to pass to and an increase in pace will put greater pressure on the defensive line.
All simple things to say, but who can Robbie Deans turn to?
I thought it prior to the Rugby World Cup and I believe it even more after this season that Greg Holmes must be tried in the number 1 jersey. Benn Robinson has scrummaged ok this year but little else.
Holmes has scrummed well and hits breakdowns, he has performed in both his primary and secondary roles and has to be given a go.
Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau remain our best choices at hooker. I think Moore for the first 50-60 minutes and Polota-Nau for the back end of the game give us the best balance for the pack and the stronger running threat has a greater chance of paying dividends when the defence is tired.
The injuries to Keiran Longbottom, Paddy Ryan and Dan Palmer mean the tighthead cupboard is fairly bare. Sekope Kepu is injured, but he and James Slipper on the bench does strike me as the best options available to the Wallabies right now.
What we’ll do without Kepu is a worry.
In the second row I think Simmons needs to take time away to strengthen up and build size. He is a prodigious talent but very young for the role he is taking on. He just isn’t ready yet.
Sitaleki Timani I have been a big supporter of but needs to keep improving his fitness, the Wallabies is not the place to do this. I’d like to set him and Kane Douglas the target of building peak fitness ready to try and crack the side for the end of season tours.
The second rowers that I think could get the Wallabies where they need to be for this rugby championship are Nathan Sharpe, Caderyn Neville and Adam Wallace-Harrison.
Sharpe is being asked to hang on and mentor the younger group, his breakdown work and scrummaging have never been his strongest points but his lineout keeps him there for me.
I’ve thought that Neville’s contact work was not quite there yet but he has the size and the fitness levels to contribute at the level required. Hopefully his breakdown work has been getting refined in camp and he’d be ready to go.
Wallace-Harrison was outstanding after the injury to James Horwill and has the required fitness levels and mongrel to address some of the issues in the pack.
With David Pocock injured, Michael Hooper looks the readymade replacement. He brings a stronger running game which is a plus.
At blindside Dave Dennis remains a hard working player, giving him second rowers who hit the breakdown with him will help. It may also free him up to bring his running game to the fore, something we saw for the Tahs this year but are yet to see at international level.
With Wycliff Palu injured I think we need to persist with Scott Higginbotham, at times during the year he has played nice and tight and we just need him to channel that into his play. I believe he has the attributes to make it at international level, he just needs focus.
The reserve backrower for mine would be Scott Fardy, he can cover second row and blindside. In a pinch either he or Dennis would have to cover 8. He is another breakdown merchant with an ok running game as well as being a lineout option.
If Deans persists with the 5-2 split on the bench then Liam Gill can be there to back up Hooper. It certainly makes more sense having him there to reserve for Hooper than it did for Hooper to be back up to the 80 minute player Pocock.
Personally I’d keep the more traditional 4-3 split, particularly with the question marks over Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and Drew Mitchell who will all potentially be involved.
1. Greg Holmes (Reds)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
3. Sekope Kepu (Waratahs)
4. Nathan Sharpe (Force)
5. Caderyn Neville (Rebels)
6. Dave Dennis (Waratahs)
7. Michael Hooper (Brumbies)
8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds)
16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs)
17. James Slipper (Reds)
18. Adam Wallace-Harrison (Reds)
19. Scott Fardy (Brumbies)
The only hitter in the pack is Tatafu Polota-Nau on the bench which is a bit of a worry but as a group I’d back these guys to turn up to clean out and then position themselves to run or support much better than the group we saw last weekend.
With six genuine jumpers in the pack the team may be able to compensate for the weak throwing come lineout time. Question marks will be there about the scrum but there should be enough weight and talent there.
Benn Robinson, Sitaleki Timani, Rob Simmons and Radike Samo are the selection casualties with Pocock also changed due to injury. It is quite a few changes but after the performance of the side on the weekend I think big changes are necessary.