Is Liam Gill the answer to Wallabies’ woes?
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Australia's flanker Liam Gill. FP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE
There would be many things running through Ewen Mackenzie’s mind in regards to his team selection for this Saturday’s return Bledisloe Cup Test; one being who the right man is for the number six jersey.
After being praised for his selection of Hugh McMeniman, it must be said that the man they call “madness” was not as his best on Saturday night.
The injection of Liam Gill in the 51st minute brought a notable shift in the Wallabies forwards, as the ball retention for the New Zealand side was no longer straightforward.
With Australia trailing 1-0 in the series and the Bledisloe Cup all but lost for another year, the addition of Gill to the blindside flanker position could provide some invaluable experience.
In the 29 minutes Gill spent on the field, he made more runs than McMeniman (6) and was involved in six rucks/mauls, one more than McMeniman and the same number as his flanker partner Michael Hooper.
Gill’s Super Rugby stats for 2013 show a similar work rate as he lead the competition in pilfers with 11, finished fourteenth in tackles made with 190 and had the fourth highest number of pick and drives with 27.
While some may argue that Gill does not provide the aggressiveness and large body that McMeniman offers, perhaps it is necessary to look at the use of the two flankers as a pairing differently.
For years the “big six” and “ball hunting seven” strategy has been employed by the Wallabies and with a drastic lack of silverware in the cabinet, it could be time to have two ball hunters on the park in attempt to slow down some of the All Blacks ball.
Who knows, with a bit of luck the combination of Gill and Hooper could provide the platform for two Wallaby wins in New Zealand – a feat not accomplished since 1986.
False hope you say? Maybe, but if no changes are made this weekend then the overriding smell of pessimism will hang around Australian rugby for another year without doubt.