Are the Wallabies great or terrible? We’re still not sure

Jack Quigley Columnist

By , Jack Quigley is a Roar Expert

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    The Rugby Championship wrapped up Sunday morning as the Wallabies defeated Argentina 37-20 in Mendoza.

    The record will read only two wins from six games for Michael Cheika’s men, but also only two losses – both coming at the hands of the best team on the planet.

    The two draws against South Africa have made this Rugby Championship a really tough read for punters attempting to evaluate where this Wallabies team is at.

    The June tests against Fiji, Scotland and Italy only serve to cloud judgement further. The Wallabies were poor in June, they may describe it as ‘underdone’, but either way they made extremely hard work of mediocre opposition.

    Have the Wallabies turned the corner since June? Win those two drawn matches and you’d say absolutely. One blowout loss to the All Blacks in Sydney that could justifiably be recorded as an outlier given the titanic performance in Dunedin a week later and home and away wins over South Africa and Argentina.

    Lose those two drawn matches however, and the picture darkens dramatically. All of a sudden the Bledisloe loss in Sydney appears to be the norm, with the performance in Dunedin considered the anomaly. The wins against Argentina are then dismissed as victories over an obviously weak opponent.

    Not helping the confusion was South Africa copping a 57-point hiding in New Zealand in between the draws with Australia.

    After Perth the general consensus was that the Wallabies had secured a hard-fought stalemate against a Springboks squad seemingly on the rise. Then the ‘Boks went to North Harbour Stadium and were blown away by the All Blacks, causing Australian rugby followers to wonder if the Wallabies should perhaps have done better a week before.

    So are the Wallabies great or terrible right now? It’s hard to say for sure. While we’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Australia at times during The Rugby Championship, we’ve also seen some pretty ordinary stuff, too.

    Bernard Foley is almost a perfect microcosm of the side. He regularly shows glimpses of being a word-class 10 – squaring up defences, making line breaks and slinging precision passes to put team mates in for scores. But in between he’s putting the ball dead in-goal kicking for touch or spraying conversion attempts everywhere but between the posts.

    In Foley’s, and the Wallabies’ case, as the year has gone on, the good has clearly started to outweigh the bad.

    The disorganised mayhem that was the Wallabies’ defence earlier in the year appears to be finding its feet. There are still moments of confusion defensively, but that can be in part due to the fact that the Wallabies rarely take to the field with the same combinations defensively two games running.

    In attack, Israel Folau has been white-hot. In June it was almost in isolation, but now he’s got Kurtley Beale, Foley and newcomer Marika Koroibete getting close to his level. Reece Hodge deserves to call the left wing position his own for the foreseeable future.

    Israel Folau Wallabies Australian Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Skills coach Mick Byrne’s influence appears to be having an impact in the ball-handling department. Byrne comes from an Australian Rules background where getting the arms free and getting rid of the ball in the tackle is critical, and the Wallabies are offloading and recycling the ball more often and at greater speed than they have in a long time. Having the aforementioned backline threats running at backpedaling defensive lines is a recipe for success.

    in the forwards, Adam Coleman shone in every match and at 31 years of age Sekope Kepu is in career-best form – though Stephen Moore’s best days are so far gone that it’s hard to understand how he continues to rack up caps.

    The breakdown remains an area of real concern, though. Michael Hooper has been playing on a different level, but has lacked support. Sean McMahon has looked the best of the rest in that department, but his future in the gold jersey appears cloudy due to his decision to turn his back on Super Rugby. The Wallabies still have David Pocock up their sleeve, but Cheika knows the Wallabies lack quality depth across the back row.

    The Wallabies now get a dead-rubber crack at the All Blacks in Brisbane before heading to Europe.

    The northern hemisphere tour will make fascinating viewing given the hard to interpret results of Rugby Championship 2017 – especially the matches against Scotland and England – where the Wallabies will have a shot at redemption against teams that have given them highly-publicised grief in recent times.

    Jack Quigley
    Jack Quigley

    A long time sports writer and podcaster, Jack has spent the majority of his media career covering football and rugby. He recently joined The Roar on the back of penning a viral Facebook rant aimed at the Wallabies which attracted 60,000 likes and more than 6,000 shares. You can follow him on Twitter @Jack_Quigley.