Tapuai thrives in first Test at No.12

By Russell Jackson, Russell Jackson is a Roar Guru

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    Ben Tapuai’s sparkling performance at inside centre for the Wallabies in their win over England suggests he could become much more than just a stop gap in the position.

    Tapuai was shifted in a spot from outside centre after the more direct-running Pat McCabe was diagnosed with a neck fracture which will keep him out of the game for at least three months.

    With versatile veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper restored to outside centre, it was Australia’s eighth centre combination used in 13 Tests this year but they looked every bit a seasoned pairing.

    Playing just his fifth Test, 23-year-old Queenslander Tapuai proved a revelation with his quick feet, neat passing game and clever kicks adding a creative and dangerous edge to the Wallabies’ attack as he clicked with five-eighth Kurtley Beale and Ashley-Cooper in the 20-14 success at Twickenham.

    Coach Robbie Deans was clearly impressed with what he saw and looks set to stick with Tapuai in the role as the Wallabies look ahead to their clash with Italy in Florence on Saturday.

    “Benny clearly enjoyed being a little bit closer to the action getting his hands on the ball,” Deans said.

    “He squares up the attack well and provides voice for Kurtley (Beale) as well.”

    Beale thrived with Tapuai on his hip while Ashley-Cooper clearly enjoyed playing outside the talented pair, with Australia’s midfield looking reborn.

    Their success was no great surprise to Tapuai, who grew up playing No.12 as a schoolboy and has plenty of experience there for Queensland too.

    “Adam and I were always confident we could get the job done,” Tapuai said.

    “He’s such a great communicator. I think what helped me was having Kurtley and Adam around me. The more they talked to me, the easier it made my job.”

    While Australia scored only one try against England, they looked more threatening with England several times giving up penalties when looking likely to have their line crossed.

    “Obviously, we would have rather have scored tries,” Deans said.

    “But when your opponent concedes penalties, the momentum is gone. Sometimes you’ve just got to bank it, and come back again.”

    With McCabe out of the tour, Tapuai is keen to make the most of his opportunities against Italy and Wales.

    “It’s sad for Pat McCabe and I can’t replace what he does but now I’ve got the chance and I don’t want to let go,” Tapuai said.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • November 20th 2012 @ 5:46am
      Justin2 said | November 20th 2012 @ 5:46am | ! Report

      But for injury we’d have never seen it…

      • November 20th 2012 @ 6:44am
        mark said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:44am | ! Report

        Deans gave him his test debut 12 months ago ie fast tracked him in.

        • November 20th 2012 @ 8:34am
          post said | November 20th 2012 @ 8:34am | ! Report

          At 13. Taps is a 12 through and through as shown in this game. Shuffling taps and AAC just for mccabe is simply unjustifiable

        • November 20th 2012 @ 8:47am
          soapit` said | November 20th 2012 @ 8:47am | ! Report

          and then forgot about him until injuries forced his inclusion 6 weeks ago and even then it took further injuries before he was shifted to 12.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 6:46am
      ADSA said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      The thing i cannot work out about Deans being so staunch with a limited crash, bash and tackle centre at 12 with Mcabe is that it is such a radical departure from his Canterbury days. I think he would have had Mertens/ Carter & then Carter / Mauger as the inside back combos – the creative ‘second 5/8’, it worked a treat for him. Seeing Tapuai step during one move and redirect the English defence showed how much we have missed a decent no.12.

      • November 20th 2012 @ 6:47am
        mark said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:47am | ! Report

        a. is because we don’t have the talent of the crusdaers and b. it is test rugby

        • November 20th 2012 @ 10:23am
          soapit` said | November 20th 2012 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          please refer to the match on the weekend.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 6:46am
      mark said | November 20th 2012 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      lets not get carried away. he played well but also did some poor kicks so it wasn’t sparkling it was good. he also played at outside centre from set pieces and we played centre a side as we have been all season. So we need to forget the traditional role of the 12. ie he didn’t play off beale’s hip at all.

      • November 20th 2012 @ 7:08am
        Justin2 said | November 20th 2012 @ 7:08am | ! Report

        Mark you are right in the he did play 13 at times which I find amusing. He is better with ball in hand than AAC and again you are right with some of this centre aside and with Barnes coming in to distribute often. Frankly we ave been doing it all season and it hasn’t worked.

        • November 20th 2012 @ 7:31am
          mark said | November 20th 2012 @ 7:31am | ! Report

          patience my friend. when beale and oconnor share the 10 and 15 shirts it will all make sense and we will have the cutting edge we desire.

          • November 20th 2012 @ 7:39am
            Justin2 said | November 20th 2012 @ 7:39am | ! Report

            Neither are great distributors, their first instinct is run. Nothing wrong with that but they can’t be central playmakers too.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 8:16am
      Crash Ball said | November 20th 2012 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Can’t replace what McCabe does? What’s that Ben? Barrel directly at towering loose forwards who each outweigh you by 15-odd kegs? Hit the gain line almost vertically to affect maximum turnover potential? Ensure any flowing backline movement is frustratingly and consistently cauterised two passes from the ruck? Ben, the fact that you can step, kick, pass, offload in the tackle, spot and hit a hole, instinctively pre-empt what an unpredictable flyhalf will do next all indicate to the casual observer that no, you can’t replace what McCabe does.

    • Roar Guru

      November 20th 2012 @ 9:22am
      Dasher said | November 20th 2012 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      This is a revelation to everybody who didn’t watch the Reds this year or last. I’m extremely happy to see him in the side and at #12 now. Took far too long though.

      • November 21st 2012 @ 4:38pm
        Carnivean said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

        I watched all but 1 Reds game this year, and Tapuai did not impress at any point. He didn’t feature in a number of the games, due to injury.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 10:17am
      Albo said | November 20th 2012 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      Whilst I have been an advocate for Taps at 12 I think we should remember one thing. His age. There is every possibility that had he been blooded as a walk-in too early, he may very well have relaxed into the role and done just enough not to get dropped. Now that he’s had to fight to get to his preferred position he is, as he said, going to do everything he can to retain it. The hunger is greater and we will probably see the best out of him for longer because of it.

      If by some miracle I’m right for once, do I think that Deans has had this plan all along? No, I don’t think so. But it could be a positive by-product.

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