After six rounds of Super Rugby we have enough performance under the belt to assess the players this season. I’m going to lay down my Australian team of the tournament based on form displayed this year alone.
It’s worth noting that Super Rugby and Test rugby are different beasts. Some players suit one environment more than others. Other players aren’t doing so well partly as a result of being in poor team circumstances.
So, who would make a starting XV based on what they’ve done on the field this year?
1. Greg Holmes
2. Stephen Moore
3. Paddy Ryan
4. Hugh McMeniman
5. Peter Kimlin
6. Ben Mowen
7. Liam Gill
8. Fotu Auelua
9. Nic White
10. Matt Toomua
11. Digby Ioane
12. Ben Tapuai
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper
14. Alfi Mafi
15. Jesse Mogg
A few notes on the selections:
Remember when Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau were 1a and 1b when it came to the best Australian hookers? This year and last Moore has shown he is the premier hooker of this generation.
Ben Mowen, Liam Gill and Fotu Auelua would make a great Wallabies back-row. There’s lots of size, work ethic and potential disruption there.
I would ask Auelua to get fitter. I’m not sure he’d go close to lasting the 80 in a Test match, he’s always blowing hard.
Picking a halfback was interesting.
Based on 65-odd minutes, Will Genia proved he is by far and away the best in Australia and probably the world when he steps up to the plate. But I didn’t feel like it was fair to pick him from only on part game.
Nic White hasn’t been as good as last year and has missed a game now, but overall has been very safe and is a good field general.
Some may point to the kind of influence Quade Cooper had in the Reds win over the Bulls and ask why he isn’t my choice over Matt Toomua. I’d rebut that claim by saying Cooper hasn’t done that nearly enough all year, while Toomua has calmly led his side around the field and done all the basics very nicely.
Inside centre was a tough choice because Ben Tapuai and Kyle Godwin are both having very strong starts to the year.
They are both wonderful on attack but Tapuai has just pipped Godwin due to his ability to stone people on defence. Tapuai also won the head to head while playing on a losing side.
Selecting some second-rowers wasn’t fun for this purpose. I literally looked through every team-sheet to try and work out where the good performances were lurking. They just aren’t there for the most part.
Going on what’s been done on the field this year, Peter Kimlin and Hugh McMeniman have stood out from a mediocre field. I’m really looking forward to some improvement from James Horwill as the season progresses because the cupboard is pretty bare.
One person to watch is Ed O’Donoghue. He’s not yet the full package but has shown willingness and ability to get involved often. He needs to become a better lineout option to be truly considered a good second-row exponent.
If you’re wondering why I selected Mafi in this side; check out some of his 109m running and 137m kicking on the weekend.
He seems to average around 30m per kick from hand. That shows he’s fairly competent in that area. And he’s reached more than 90m running in a match three times this year, for the Force. That cannot be overstated.
I didn’t come into this exercise intending to pick a bench for the team. I think a first XV is enough to get a picture of where the performances are coming from in Super Rugby. This isn’t a fantasy football experiment or a Wallabies selection.
However, I’ll admit picking a bench did cross my mind while I was putting together the first team. Then, as I thought about it, realised there weren’t really many stand-outs that leap at you beyond these 15.
Australia needs the experienced players that are flat-lining and some more of the young guns to really step up over the next couple of months.
We have two good teams in the competition but not many individuals have been performing consistently well through the early part of the season.