A dream RWC 2019 draw for Wallabies but does Cheika have the cattle?

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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    You just knew during the Rugby World Cup 2019 draw that Japan is going to run a brilliant tournament.

    It will be as efficiently run as their fast trains. There will be, too, authentic Japanese touches such as a fastidious attention to tradition in the running of the tournament, as befits a nation that sees itself as “the Britain of Asia.”

    At the ceremony to find out who was going to play which other country in 2019, there was a touch of the theatricality of Noh drama as the Prime Minister, the Mayor of Tokyo, the All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and the chairman of World Rugby, Bill Beaumont, pulled out the white balls naming a country to be slotted into the draw, working from the bottom line of the draw upwards.

    And there was an obvious enthusiasm and passion for the occasion.

    The crowd and the officials from the 20 countries expressed their feeling with ‘oohs’ as it became obvious that Japan would be challenged by Ireland and Scotland for a place in the finals, for instance.

    There were barely suppressed groans as the New Zealand ball was pulled out to match South Africa in their Pool B.

    And real groans when it became obvious that England was going to be in another “pool of death” with France and Argentina in Pool C.

    This was the first Rugby World Cup draw I had watched live. It happened because I was being an expert on a panel for a Roar TV video covering the event. I found the experience quite gripping. There was a lot of drama, it seemed to me, in an event that had never struck me as being that dramatic.

    Our panel came to the obvious (it seems now but who knows?) conclusion that England seemed to be trapped in a second pool of death experience in successive Rugby World Cup tournaments.

    We also agreed that Australia looked to have a perfect draw, with only Wales (a team the Wallabies invariably have defeated in recent years) as their only real opposition.

    The Wallabies have never played Georgia, the other nominated side in their pool, and if their scrum holds up, this should be an easy victory for the Wallabies.

    The other two teams in the pool are Oceania 1, possibly Fiji, and Americas 2, probably the USA.

    Something that was not clear at the time of the video is that Australia’s perfect draw in the pool round seemed extends to the finals, if the Wallabies are unbeaten going into them.

    The point here is that the winner of Pool D, hopefully Australia, plays the runner-up in Pool C (probably France or Argentina).

    The winner of Pool D then plays the winner of the Pool A quarter-final, which is likely to be either Ireland or South Africa.

    In other words, the Wallabies could go through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup grand final and not have to face the All Blacks until the last game of the tournament, if the All Blacks can defeat (presumably) Scotland or England in the finals.

    tevita-kuridrani-rugby-union-australia-wallabies-2016

    (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

    To make these points more easily understood, this is how the New Zealand Herald envisages the way the knockout part of the tournament will proceed:

    Quarter-final 1 – Pool B winner (All Blacks) v Pool A runner-up (Scotland)
    Quarter-final 2 – Pool C winner (England) v Pool D runner-up (Wales)
    Quarter-final 3 – Pool D winner (Australia) v Pool C runner-up (France)
    Quarter-final 4 – Pool A winner (Ireland) v Pool B runner-up (South Africa)

    Semi-final 1 – Winner of quarter-final 1 v winner of quarter-final 2.
    Semi-final 2 – Winner of quarter-final 3 v winner of quarter-final 4.

    The Stuff website follows this same predicted outcome, with an additional quizzical flourish: Final – New Zealand v Australia?

    The question mark reflects comments made in a Stuff article that has the heading, ‘All Blacks could face Rugby World Cup final rematch with the Wallabies’:

    “It seems odd that the second-seeded team in the world (England) would be on the same side of the draw as New Zealand but that’s the way it is set up.

    “That leaves the way open for Australia, the third-seeded team, to make their way through the other side of the draw with the likely match-ups against France in the quarters and Ireland in the semi-finals.

    “However, on current form, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has some work to do to get his side competitive after a woeful Super Rugby season for Australian sides.”

    That appraisal is an under-statement, in my opinion. There is a very real problem with the overall lack of Test-quality players in the Australian Super Rugby teams. This raises the question: does Michael Cheika have the cattle to mount a viable Rugby World Cup challenge in 2019?

    This is undoubtedly the worst season the Australian teams have experienced ever in the Super Rugby tournament.

    After 12 rounds, the five Australian Conference teams have accumulated a total of 62 conference points, with 13 wins only, just over a win a round.

    The four teams in South African Conference 1 have accumulated 42 conference points and 12 wins.

    The four teams in South African Conference 2 have accumulated 122 conference points and 26 wins.

    The five teams in the New Zealand Conference have accumulated 197 conference points and 43 wins.

    The woeful nature of the performance of the Australian teams is highlighted by a comparison between the statistics of the Brumbies, the leading Australian side, and the Blues, the last-placed side in the New Zealand conference.

    Brumbies: played ten, won three, lost seven, points for 200, points against 207, BP1 1, BP2 6, table points 19
    Blues: played 11, won six, lost five, points for 332, points against 268, BP1 4, BP2 3, table points 31

    Remember, the Brumbies with their minus seven points differential are the leading Australian side and the Blues with their plus 64 points differential are the bottom New Zealand side.

    If the Brumbies maintain their Australian Conference lead, they will play a home final. But if they drop to second place in the Australian Conference, they won’t be playing in the finals.

    Right now, the Blues are not in the top eight. The Brumbies and the Stormers (26 points) are leading their conferences and are in line for a home quarter-final.

    This means that the bottom New Zealand team has more table points right now than two of the teams assured (so far) of home finals.

    Such is the madness of the current Super Rugby system.

    steven-luatua-super-rugby-blues-2017

    (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    However, John Eales pointed out before the 1999 Rugby World Cup tournament, you only need 15 players on a rugby field at one time. You don’t necessarily have to have 100 Test standard players to have a champion side. You need only 15, with the effectiveness of “finishers” on the bench.

    The question is, then, does Michael Cheika have access to 20 or so Test standard players who could win a Rugby World Cup tournament as Eales did in 1999?

    The answer is that right now he does not.

    This means Cheika needs to jettison the older players who, admittedly, did well for the Wallabies in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

    I think he will do this. A week or so ago, he told rugby journalists: “We’ve been watching players individually in detail, not just established guys but the new ones and there is plenty to like.”

    He went on to insist that he, Stephen Larkam and Nathan Grey were intent on “ushering in a new generation of new players who would be used in the June Tests against Fiji, Scotland and Italy.”

    So far, so good.

    But who should be these new generation players to be ushered in? And who should be ushered in?

    Well, let’s start with the front row, called by the French ‘the orchestra pit’ because the rugby music is made there. It is time to move Stephen Moore on from the captaincy of the Wallabies. He might be retained as one of the back-up hookers.

    But in reality, his time as a Test player is up. Michael Cheika should know from the experience of George Gregan, who stayed on three years too long with the Wallabies as captain, that skippers have a used-by date, as well as other players.

    My choice of captain would be Bernard Foley. I know, I know that Michael Hooper is the Wallaby captain in waiting. But I have been unimpressed with his captaincy for the Wallabies in the past and for the Waratahs. He seems to often take the wrong option, particularly when it comes to turning down relatively easy kicks at goal in the hope of scoring a try from a rolling maul.

    (Image. Tim Anger)

    Tolu Latu, the Waratahs hooker, and Tetera Faulkner, the Force prop, are obvious choices for promotion to the Wallabies front row.

    Latu plays like another loose forward and is particularly effective at turnovers. Faulkner is a terrific scrummager. When was the last time this could be said about an Australian (albeit New Zealand-born) prop?

    A crucial element in the Western Force’s magnificent victory over the Jaguares at Buenos Aires was their strong scrummaging anchored by Faulkner.

    In the second row, Cheika should go for the Arnold brothers, Rory and Richie, and Adam Coleman. Richie Arnold, the one uncapped player in this trio, virtually single-handedly repulsed the driving mauls of the Jaguares.

    These three giants, who are all skilful and physical around the field, will provide the height to compensate for a back row of Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon and Scott Higginbotham.

    A pack built around these players would be a much stronger and competitive entity than most of the packs fielded by the Wallabies in the last decade.

    There is, obviously, a shortage of talented halfbacks in Australian rugby right now. The best and, most importantly, ones with the most potential to develop into fine Test players are Joe Powell (Brumbies) and Jake Gordon (Waratahs).

    There is no obvious back-up for Bernard Foley as a playmaker and I am putting forward something that might be controversial but worth considering for all of that. Why not develop Reece Hodge as the alternative to Foley?

    Hodge has nice passing skills, he is an adroit kicker of the ball, he has speed and good hands and he seems to play with plenty of time. He reminds me a lot of the young Stephen Larkham who fluctuated between halfback, fullback and centre before Rod Macqueen made the inspired switch and moved him to number 10.

    We might never see another Larkham. I rate him with Mark Ella as the greatest of the Wallaby number 10s. But Hodge could be, in his own right, a star playmaker for the Wallabies with the slightly different skills he could bring to the position.

    Reece Hodge of the Rebels

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Early on in the season, Cheika suggested that the Force’s centre pairing of Curtis Rona and Bill Meakes had something going for it. I agree. They both played well, again, against the Jaguares over the weekend.

    Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Kyle Godwin. His performance for the Brumbies against the Lions was ordinary, despite the couple of breaks he made.

    The Wallabies have a potential super star in Samu Kerevi, playing either at inside or outside centre. Kerevi was explosive once again for the Reds against the Rebels and scored the winning try, his second of the match, with yet another smashing run.

    The days of Tevita Kuridrani as an outside centre for the Wallabies are numbered. He might be tried as block-busting type of winger, perhaps.

    Henry Speight and Karmichael Hunt are two players who have pushed their chances forward this season. Speight has been the main attacking player for a Brumbies side that generally finds it difficult to score tries.

    They have scored a three-tries-plus bonus point only once this season. The Lions, Crusaders, Chiefs and Hurricanes have each achieved six three-try bonus points results this season.

    Hunt will be in his 30s by 2019 but right now he is better value for the Wallabies at fullback or centre than Israel Folau.

    Folau comes off contract next year. Unless he picks up his play, especially in the big matches, there is no way the ARU can top up his salary to the superstar rating he currently enjoys and remain credible as an organisation that uses its diminishing resources in a smart and effective manner.

    I remain convinced that the only position Folau can excel at in rugby is on the wing. He lacks the defensive and passing skills for the centre position. He is a poor kicker and lacks any understanding of positional play to be a devastating fullback.

    For more discussion on these matters, I refer to an article, ‘Cheika to tackle generational change’ written by Mark Ella in The Australian some weeks ago where he nominated these players as the sort of new blood Michael Cheika must bring in to the Wallabies, starting with the June Tests: Richard Hardwick, Curtis Rona, Jake Gordon, Duncan Paia’aua, Tryel Lomax (before the All Blacks grab him!), Izaia Perese, Sef Faagase and Izack Rodda.

    I will finish on one further observation. It is immaterial, in many ways, who the players are that might be brought in if the coaching is not up to standard.

    Michael Cheika Australia Rugby Union Wallabies Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship Test Rugby 2016

    (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    And here I would argue that there is nothing in the coaching CVs of Nathan Grey or Stephen Larkham that guarantees them a job with the Wallabies.

    Nicholas Bishop on The Roar has made a convincing case that there is something fundamentally wrong with the defensive patterns used by the Waratahs.

    These patterns are devised by Grey. They proved to be fatal for the Wallabies in the final of Rugby World Cup 2015 and have been disastrous for the Waratahs this season.

    Stephen Larkham is going to become the full-time attack coach for the Wallabies at the end of this Super Rugby season. Under his coaching, the Brumbies have become an ineffectual mauling machine.

    With their defeat by the Lions at Canberra, the Brumbies have lost four games straight and have been kept tryless for the second game in a row. The last time this happened was ten years ago. What a fall from rugby greatness for the Brumbies!

    If anyone is under the delusion that players, not coaches, champion sides they should look at the 2017 Crusaders. Scott Robertson has revitalised this famed franchise with extremely good coaching, an important facet of which is shrewd selecting.

    The rebuilding of the Wallabies, therefore, begins with the rebuilding of the team’s coaching staff.

    And, in all fairness, unless this is done effectively, it doesn’t matter who is brought into the Wallabies squad, whether they are new or well-established players.

    The real question about the the chances of the Wallabies capitalising on their dream draw in Rugby World Cup 2019 may well be this: does Michael Cheika have the coaching cattle to win the tournament?

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (212)

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2017 @ 7:47am
      Sam Taulelei said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      Can’t read much of this article as text is superimposed over the images in Safari and Chrome browser on mobile

      • May 15th 2017 @ 9:48am
        dontcallmeshirley said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        I have seen that a few times recently on my mobile (using chrome).

      • May 15th 2017 @ 1:12pm
        Andrew Browne said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

        Ditto, plus can never see tipping tables

      • May 15th 2017 @ 5:20pm
        Kavvy said | May 15th 2017 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

        Getting that regularly reading articles on the phone lately.

    • May 15th 2017 @ 8:22am
      WQ said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Cheika will be lucky to still be coaching the Wallabies by 2019

    • May 15th 2017 @ 8:24am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      Great article Spiro.
      Pertinent questions around coaching, too.
      One point though. There is a tone of certainty in your assumption of Foley’s selection at 10. (I believe we have a more competent ‘core-skill 10′ option than Foley).
      However your suggestion of developing a’new’ 10 in Hodge is interesting and novel. It worked for Larkham. But 2 things –
      1. Can Hodge pass in a way that deceives defences? If not, will he soon?, and
      2. When Macqueen converted Larkham to 10 it was ‘a different world’. A less intense classroom arguably, in 1997/8 than now.
      Hopefully we get a refreshing change from the Quade/Bernard arm wrestle today.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 12:32pm
        Akari said | May 15th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

        I am wondering, KC, whether Duncan Paia’aua should be returned to his rightful place at 10 at the Reds now that he has gained a lot this year playing outside QC. DP has the vision, pace, deception/guile and kicking game to surpass QC himself and 18 months to show whether he can hack it at 10 and at test level too.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 1:19pm
          jameswm said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

          He’s gone surprisingly well this season. Can play direct like Foley too, and can defend in the front line. I’ve been impressed.

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2017 @ 5:24pm
            Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

            Akari, James. I guess the question is, is he a natural flyhalf like Bernie, or is a 12 who will be greatly diminished by playing 10 like Giteau was.

            From what you say he grew up playing 10?

            • May 16th 2017 @ 12:20am
              Jameswm said | May 16th 2017 @ 12:20am | ! Report

              We will see

    • May 15th 2017 @ 8:41am
      Neil Back said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      There’s no doubting something pretty major needs to happen to Australian rugby if they are to a.) get to this RWC final and if then facing the AB’s b.) not suffer an embarrassing blow out of a loss. And I’d agree, that means on and off the pitch.

      But is there time? I doubt that. In fact, even with a seriously ageing Irish side (with little indication from Schmidt to do much about it) and a still flakey French, there’s two decent barriers to them progressing which seems to be getting lost by some who are fixated on an ‘easy’ Wallaby run. Not sure where the confidence is coming from for that – or is it just relief they are dodging the AB’s and England …..

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2017 @ 8:50am
        Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Well given that Ireland just snuck past an extremely young Wallabies side in 2016 in Dublin (who then went on to lose to both Wales and Scotland in the 6N), and the Wallabies B team beat the French in France I think it is fair to say that the Wallabies should be feeling fairly comfortable with their draw.

        It couldn’t really get much better than what we have. We dodged the two best teams in the world, and after the All Blacks and England the standard drops off very quickly.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 7:48pm
          Jock Cornet said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

          ROARERS are delusional. We will get flogged this year. I hope they blood some new positions

      • May 15th 2017 @ 9:22am
        BBA said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        To be fair, I do think it is relief that not only did they avoid NZ and England in pool play they may not meet either of them until the final (assuming they get that far) is about as good a draw as you can get.

        It is also hard to see who got a better draw than Aus and Wales.

        On the other hand, as in 2011 one upset (and it wasn’t a major upset in the sense of Japan vs the boks in 2015) Ireland beating Aus through what was also perceived as an easy draw for Aus to one from hell.

        In any case it is all just idle speculation for us to debate. What self respecting rugby fan cant take the most miserable of advantages and spin it into something massive.

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2017 @ 11:06am
        Poth Ale said | May 15th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        Seriously ageing Ireland with little indication from Schmidt to do anything about it”?

        Ireland v Australia 2016

        Kearney, Trimble, Payne, Ringrose, Earls, Jackson, Murray; McGrath, Best, Furlong, Henderson, Toner, Stander, van der Flier, Heaslip
        Subs: Cronin, Healy, Bealham, Dillane, O’Mahony, Marmion, Carbery, Zebo

        Let’s assume R Kearney, Trimble, Payne, Earls, Toner, O’Brien snr, Best, Heaslip are out by 2019 by being 31+.

        Schmidt has capped 16-17 players since RWC 2015.

        Ireland 2019 Possible.

        Zebo, A Byrne, Ringrose, Henshaw, Sweetnam, Carbery, Murray, McGrath, N Scannell, Furlong, Henderson, Dillane, O’Mahony, Van Der Flier, Stander
        Subs: Tracy, Healy, John Ryan, James Ryan, Conan, Jackson, McGrath, Conway.

        Second team:
        Porter, Marshall, Bealham, Molony, Treadwell, Leavy, J Murphy, O’Donoghue, Marmion, Sexton, Gilroy, McLoskey, Aki, Adeolokun, O’Halloran.
        Subs: Cronin, Kilcoyne, Bent, Roux, SOB Jnr, R Byrne, Gibson-Park, R Scannell.

        That’s 46 leaving out the likes of McFadden, Olding, Marshall, D Kearney, and possible residency caps for 2-3 players.

        June tour to USA and Japan will be instructive in relation to wider squad development.

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2017 @ 11:14am
          Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

          It’s sad for Aus that Ireland currently have three fly-halfs better than the first choice Australian one.

          • May 15th 2017 @ 11:20am
            Jake said | May 15th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            Don’t be so hysterical. Foley goes well.

            Toomua, Beale, CL and even Quade and JOC are all ok at 10 and certainly not below the 2nd/3rd choice for Ireland.

            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2017 @ 11:38am
              Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

              I fail to see how what I wrote can be interpreted as ‘hysterical’.

              Okay, CL is out with Cancer, Toomua is o/s and isn’t an option, ditto with JOC, Quade can be great when uninjured, but he isn’t the same player as he was pre-knee injury, Beale was actually better than most gave him credit for, and wouldn’t be against him being trialled there agin.

              That said, I would take Carbery, Jackson and definitely Sexton over any of the options we currently have. Let’s just hope that Lealiifano comes good after his recovery.

              • May 15th 2017 @ 12:44pm
                Hello said | May 15th 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

                I would agree with you Fionn.
                We really need to find some flyhalves

              • Roar Rookie

                May 15th 2017 @ 1:21pm
                Dave_S said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

                It is odd there are so few coming through. Are all the good schoolboy 10s going to NRL maybe?

              • May 15th 2017 @ 4:14pm
                Cynical Play said | May 15th 2017 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

                Your not the only one saying it Fionn. IT’S A CRISIS !!!

                https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/11/wallabies-favourable-rugby-world-cup-draw-tempered-by-fly-half-crisis

                The Northern Hemisphere press generally rate Foley as world class.

                Allow me to quote form the Guardian article above regarding the lack of world class 10s in Oz, with which I agree…

                ”No team can win a World Cup without a world class fly-half. The All Blacks needed four fly-halves to win the 2011 World Cup. While Wallabies incumbent Bernard Foley is up there with the best, he’s one head knock away from a lengthy spell on the sidelines. In fact, Foley’s long-term health would be a major concern for the Wallabies medical team. His recurring symptoms are troubling. A lay-off à la Charlie Ngatai wouldn’t surprise. …. Quade Cooper isn’t the answer. That much is clear. Foley may or may not be in good health come 2019. And there’s nobody else who genuinely stands out. Identifying and developing two credible fly-half options in the next two and a bit years is Cheika’s highest priority. If he fails in this task, a favourable draw – if that’s what it is – will amount to nought. The Wallabies will be sitting ducks.”

                Cue the tirade from North of The Wall…

              • May 15th 2017 @ 4:54pm
                Cynical Play said | May 15th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

                Choices to work up over the next 2 years for 10 are Hunt, Beale, Lance, Hodge. Hunt and Hodge need work on their short kicking game. Hodge can exit form anywhere. All are proven defenders.

              • May 15th 2017 @ 5:17pm
                Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

                Ross Byrne and Bill Johnson have potential to make it 5

                Dave it’s not odd given the performance of the under 20s. Sexton is the only flyhalf named that didn’t come through as an under age star

            • May 15th 2017 @ 6:23pm
              Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

              Foley is rated highly in Europe due to the fact that he plays his best Rugby here.

              Sexton started to come through properly under Cheika at Leinster but starting to think he was pushed to play him due to Knox coaching the backs. It is clear that Knox’s coaching heavily influenced Sexton as uses the loop regularly and tactical short kicks.

          • May 15th 2017 @ 5:35pm
            Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 5:35pm | ! Report

            Fionn forgets to mention that Ireland were up comfortably at half time and the lead was only gone through playing with a scrum half on the wing (most of the tries conceded were out wide) and a forward in the back line. Ringrose played the whole match out of position at 12 which was his first proper start

            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2017 @ 5:44pm
              Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

              Fair to say, Bakkies, and ireland were hit by a horror run of injuries, but at the end of the day it is a match that Ireland should have won by 30+ points given their forwards dominance for the first 35 minutes. In the end that Australia probably should have won, and might have were it not for Dean Mumm’s incompetence.

              Ireland then went on to lose to Scotland and Wales. I don’t think that is the mark of a great team. Do you? Overall, they may well be a better team than Australia, but, as I said, the Wallabies couldn’t ask for a much better draw, could they, Bakkies?

              • May 15th 2017 @ 6:08pm
                Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

                Bit hard to win by 30 points against a top 3 side when you run out of subs

                ‘Ireland then went on to lose to Scotland and Wales. I don’t think that is the mark of a great team. Do you? ‘

                Ireland won in SA which only NZ managed to do last year with 14 men. At least 6 starters were missing and some players only made their début in the Six Nations earlier in the year. Ireland still came second in the 6 Nations beating England who were playing for a Grand Slam and NZ’s successive win record.

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 6:18pm
                Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

                Well they weren’t out of subs at the end of the first half when Ireland were only leading by about, what was it, 10 points? Whatever way you cut it, Bakkies, Ireland should have won much, much more comfortably given the possession and dominance Ireland had over Australia in the first half.

                ‘Ireland won in SA which only NZ managed to do last year with 14 men. At least 6 starters were missing and some players only made their début in the Six Nations earlier in the year. Ireland still came second in the 6 Nations beating England who were playing for a Grand Slam and NZ’s successive win record.’

                None of that has anything to do with the fact that they were beaten by Scotland and Wales. I’m not saying Australia is better than Ireland (I actually think whichever team played at home would be the favourites currently), but that doesn’t change the fact that Ireland is a long way behind New Zealand and England (despite their good win), and are a super hot and cold team. Current form considered, Australia couldn’t hope for a better run than Ireland in the semifinals.

              • May 15th 2017 @ 6:25pm
                Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

                ‘Bakkies, Ireland should have won much, much more comfortably given the possession and dominance Ireland had over Australia in the first half.’

                You can talk as much as you want in terms of theories. Reality states that the Wallabies ran down three tries (at least) down the wing that Marmion was defending (the reserve 9). He played around 50 minutes in that position.

                Earls also made 3 position changes and O’Brien pulled out an hour before kick off which changed the balance of the back row.

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 6:30pm
                Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 6:30pm | ! Report

                Bakkies, I don’t disagree with you that they scored a lot of tries there.

                But again, doesn’t change the fact that Ireland almost lost a match that should have been over 30 minutes in (seriously, did Australia have the ball more than 5 minutes in the first 30?).

                Also, doesn’t change the fact that Irleand lost to Scotland (who are actually decent right now) and Wales (who are not).

                As I said, the Wallabies should be ‘fairly comfortable’ with the draw relative to the other teams that they could be set up to play in the semis (England and New Zealand). Do you disagree with that? Likewise, Ireland should be ‘fairly comfortable’ with their draw. The best two teams (NZ, ENG) will likely play each other in the semis, while the weaker top 2 teams will should play each other on seedings.

              • May 15th 2017 @ 6:32pm
                Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

                For the 10th time. Ireland had a full compliment of players at 30 minutes and were well in control. The lead dwindled when they ran out of back line subs. Try win a game when you run out of back line subs.

                ‘As I said, the Wallabies should be ‘fairly comfortable’ with the draw relative to the other teams that they could be set up to play in the semis (England and New Zealand). Do you disagree with that? ‘
                I disagree because cockiness has cost the Wallabies before and the depth is dwindling while other nations are increasing theirs

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 7:06pm
                Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:06pm | ! Report

                Ireland were up 17-0 (from memory) but should have been up much, much more. You can stress the fact that they were in control at the 30min mark, but no one dominates for 80 minutes at international level except for the All Blacks, when you have that level of territory and possession you need to make it count and put the game out of reach, Ireland didn’t do that and they almost paid the price when the momentum changed. All that is fact, you can disagree on what the facts mean, but not on those facts.

                ‘I disagree because cockiness has cost the Wallabies before and the depth is dwindling while other nations are increasing theirs’

                Disagree completely that noting France in the quarters and Ireland in the semis is the best possible result is ‘cockiness’,. I think it’s just thankfulness/relief that, on 2016-17 international form, they have what appears to be a winnable quarter and semi, even if they aren’t favourites. It could have been much, much worse for them.

              • May 15th 2017 @ 7:25pm
                Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

                Did you watch the 2011 RWC when the Wallabies underestimated Ireland?

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 7:32pm
                Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

                Are you listening? Stop straw manning what I say. I’m saying that the Wallabies will be happy because it is winnable match. The Wallabies have to have a top 4 seed in your semi, and Ireland are better for the Wallabies than either than of England or New Zealand.

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 7:42pm
                Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

                It’s a dream semi-final for Ireland too.

              • May 16th 2017 @ 9:03am
                scottd said | May 16th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

                Ireland are good enough to beat anyone as is Australia, England & SA. Unfortunately to win a world cup that isn’t enough. You have to be good enough to beat everyone!

      • May 15th 2017 @ 5:11pm
        Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

        Ireland’s not ageing only Heaslip and Best are heading towards their mid 30s. McCarthy and Ross have retired. Schmidt had capped about 20 new players last year.

        The likes of James Ryan, Darren Sweetnam, Adam Byrne, Andrew Porter and Rory Scannell may make their débuts on the Summer tour.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 7:11pm
        Bring Back...? said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

        All fair points Neil but the Wallabies were written off completely after the 2014 November tour. We’re now 2 years out and the players referred to in the various posts below are the foundation of a (potentially) competitive team. A lot of planets need to align but Cheika can start by telling Moore, slipper, Simmons, Douglas, Mumm and Horne that their services are no longer needed.

    • May 15th 2017 @ 8:51am
      krasnoff of noosa said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Cheika does not have the nous of a successful international coach. Under his watch the Wallabies were made ‘rope-a-dope’ fools of, by England in 2016. His insular, abysmal team selections and bench replacement policies led to disastrous results against the All Blacks. He continues to harbour Larkham and Grey as support coaches despite their failure in the Super Rugby competition. All three have ignored comments by MacQueen who said: ‘We need to adjust to the way the game is going. Multi-skills are just so important now. There is no doubt the game the New Zealand sides are playing is very much about vertical running and offloading and having the understanding and skills between the forwards and backs’. For all the above reasons 2019 will be a train wreck unless drastic changes are made to senior coaching. NOW.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 12:27pm
        Clifto said | May 15th 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

        Totally agree 1000%

        • May 15th 2017 @ 8:34pm
          DaveR said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

          Also agree 100% Krasnoff. The big problem for Cheika and Australian rugby supporters is that some of the Wallaby stand out selections are not playing for the Waratahs. With McCalman out, given he should not be considered for selection, the stand out No8 is Higginbotham, and he has been for the last few years. But guess what – Mumm will get the gig! The SR f-up is hiding the problems with Cheika as well.

          • May 15th 2017 @ 10:56pm
            Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 10:56pm | ! Report

            Higginbotham only just moved back and didn’t meet the overseas criteria while he was in Japan

            • May 15th 2017 @ 11:26pm
              DaveR said | May 15th 2017 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

              Yes, but he was heavily ignored before he went.

              • May 16th 2017 @ 7:06am
                Bring Back...? said | May 16th 2017 @ 7:06am | ! Report

                He’s been given a few chances in the gold but never really taken them. Not saying he doesn’t deserve another go but I think your statement about him is a little emphatic. Surely Timani is in the discussion.

      • May 16th 2017 @ 8:17am
        Zero Gain said | May 16th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        You said 2015 would be a train wreck. How did that prediction go? In fact, it is all you ever say!

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2017 @ 9:03am
      Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      Bernard Foley for captain, god, that thought makes me break out in hives. Spiro, you yourself said in September last year: ‘Cooper, for all his exasperating faults, is the only player of genius currently eligible for the Wallabies (and this includes the disappointing, coasting Israel Folau).’ Now you want Foley at captain? Even if he is first choice fly-half, what indication has he ever given of being a good captain?

      Hodge at 10 would be a nice change, someone who can actually defend in the position.

      The captain should be TPN, Genia, Hunt or DHP.

      I think the Wallabies should be peaking in 2019, if they have a terrible tournament there is no excuse given the draw we have. We have some good up and coming forwards, if we can find a 6 (RHP?) and an 8 by then then we should be looking okay, assuming we are well coached.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 9:20am
        concerned supporter said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        In 2013 Reece Hodge was captain and played 10 for Manly Colts.

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2017 @ 11:51am
          Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          I’d love to see him tried though, although at SR level would obviously be preferable to internationals. If there was ever an international series to trial someone at 10 though then it would be this June one.

          • May 15th 2017 @ 1:21pm
            jameswm said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

            His hands aren’t good enough for an int’l centre, so how can he play 10?

            At junior club level fine, but there’s a slight change in standard just quietly.

            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2017 @ 1:29pm
              Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

              I think his trouble more comes down to the fact that, at 12, he isn’t sure whether he should be running or passing. But it’s a fair point, as I said, I would rather it was tried in SR level.

              Foley’s pass is really poor, too, and is more of a ‘running 10’.

              We don’t have any world class 10s running around.

            • May 15th 2017 @ 7:54pm
              Jigbon said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

              Not a huge change in standard here in oz. I often wonder watching sr and club rugby. 😳

        • May 15th 2017 @ 12:42pm
          Akari said | May 15th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

          Interesting as I still can’t picture Hodge being a 10. I like him at 15 although I’d prefer him at 13 but with a good 12 like Duncan Paia’aua alongside him. If he can play and is IMO very good at 15, I can’t see why he can’t excel at 10. Bring it on.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 15th 2017 @ 12:59pm
            Paul D said | May 15th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            How often does he take it at first receiver at present? I don’t see him doing much of the creative work. Even the majority of his tries from last year appeared to be just a matter of supporting the line break and then running hard.

            He seems to be the guy that supports the play, not someone who creates it.

            • Roar Rookie

              May 15th 2017 @ 1:24pm
              Dave_S said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

              Yeah I haven’t seen that Hodge has the hands. Could be a good running 10 maybe, but then why not play 12 or 15 if running is your strength?

            • Roar Guru

              May 15th 2017 @ 1:54pm
              Jay Dunbar said | May 15th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

              I don’t exactly see much creativity from Foley, either. Personally I’ve always liked the idea of trying Hodge at 10. He never looked like a 12 to me, but I could absolutely see him as an uber-athletic fly half. He’ll never have Larkham’s passing game, but we could do a lot worse at 10 with a hard running, big bodied athletic freak who can kick it a mile.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 15th 2017 @ 2:15pm
                Paul D said | May 15th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

                Firstly, he can kick it a mile, but only if he has time. He takes too long to put boot to ball and risks getting charged down. His kicking is better served from 15.

                Foley is as it stands too reliant on running for a international 10, but despite your claims to the contrary he is far more effective a playmaker than Hodge has demonstrated. To go from Foley to Hodge would be a significant step backwards, not forwards.

                If he had any playmaking ability for duties higher than Colts for Manly, then you would see him chiming in from fullback like Hunt or Debz. Lord knows the Rebels need some variety in attack.

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 2:26pm
                Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

                Who then, Paul, wait for Jackson-Hope and hope that he develops? Duncan Paia’aua? Neither Quade nor Foley is where we want to be by 2019, but they’re looking more and more likely.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 15th 2017 @ 3:04pm
                Paul D said | May 15th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

                Quade and Foley will both serve us well enough with decent preparation and if we can get the many other moving parts sufficiently aligned. As will Lance. In the meantime if a JJH, Mack Mason, Duncan P etc etc come out of the blocks with a stellar year then give them a closer look next year.

                We don’t so much as need to uncover a new saviour for Australian Rugby who will make all our problems go away as much as tweak the formula and get everybody fit and working together on their skills. If someone waved a magic wand over Beauden Barrett and suddenly made him a Wallaby, we still wouldn’t win the RWC without sorting out the rest of the issues.

                We won’t win the RWC with the best 23 in Australia. We need a coordinated approach across the Super Rugby franchises for a solid 2 years, led by the Wallaby coaching staff to build a cohesive squad brimmed with multiple options all singing from the same book. I do not think playing more people out of position is the right place to start.

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 3:41pm
                Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

                Fly-half is the biggest problem, other than fly-half and number 8 we have (at least some) depth beginning to develop almost everywhere else.

              • May 15th 2017 @ 7:27pm
                Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

                Bugger all depth at tight head and blindside flanker

              • May 15th 2017 @ 8:51pm
                dontcallmeshirley said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

                no options at 9 are s bigger problem.

              • May 15th 2017 @ 5:14pm
                Akari said | May 15th 2017 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

                Fair points, Paul D. The experimentation with Hodge at 10 could start at NRC or super rugby next year. Time is running out but worth consideration.

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 7:35pm
                Fionn said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

                Timani, Ross Haylett-Petty, Hanigan (McMahon if required) at blindside; Kepu, Ala’alatoa, Lomax at tighthead. That’s more depth developing than they’ve had for years.

                Hooker (if TPN is out and Ready doesn’t continue developing) and fly-half are the biggest issues, and to a lesser extent no. 8, as we really only have Higginbotham.

              • May 16th 2017 @ 10:54am
                MitchO said | May 16th 2017 @ 10:54am | ! Report

                Agree with Fionn’s mentions below. Also whilst smallish Hardwick is an excellent player and Liam Gill would probably play blindside for food. McCalman should be a pretty good blindside but I am not sure his body would hold up. Gus Cottrel is 27ish and is tall enough and tough enough. Naisarani at the Force is real prospect. Not sure if they can play biindside or 8 but I thought Rodda and Lukhan Tui from Qld both have potential. I know he’s short and can’t really jump but David Pocock will be back in 2019 and for all the talk about team balance he’s pretty good to have in the 23.

                Dunno what to do at 10 but surely Toumua would come back for what would likely be his last world cup opportunity and I’d like to see Lance given a go because with better players around him you may find it would work. I vaguely remember years ago when the Wallabies were trying to find a 10 and really did not want to use boring David Knox but eventually had no choice and it worked pretty well because he was competent. Seems like we have two years to improve the passing of Kerevi and Beale and to teach Kerevi to defend at 13 but in two more super seasons Kerevi will either work out defence or he won’t. I don’t mind Beale at 10 but leave him in the line. Hooper/Pocock/McMahaon can get over there and protect him on one side and a tough 12 like Meakes can protect him on the other. Beale Meakes Kerevi with DHP at full back and two wingers is a pretty effective backline. I prefer DHP at fullback because in a good team he will shine but if you to pick Hunt then DHP moves because he’s a better winger than Hunt. Prefer to make a choice though. I like wingers to play wing. Defending on the wing is a real skill and should not be disrespected. You can’t just stick someone out there because they are fast or can’t tackle.

                Timani, Ross Haylett-Petty, Hanigan (McMahon if required) at blindside; Kepu, Ala’alatoa, Lomax at tighthead. That’s more depth developing than they’ve had for years.

                Hooker (if TPN is out and Ready doesn’t continue developing) and fly-half are the biggest issues, and to a lesser extent no. 8, as we really only have Higginbotham.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2017 @ 11:35am
        Timbo (L) said | May 16th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

        I think we need to be realistic,
        If (When) the Force get canned, both Dane and Ross H-P will be playing in Europe.
        Rosco is an emerging talent and a great fit to replace Fardy and Mumm.
        Higgers is a great 8.
        I don’t care who Hoops is replaced with, There are 1/2 dozen guys that can do the job properly and they all know how to attend a ruck, which for me is an essential service for a 7. Pockock and Gill will both be back for the RWC, Alcock and Smith for this years internationals.

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