The Wallabies’ end of term report card

Jack Quigley Columnist

By Jack Quigley, Jack Quigley is a Roar Expert

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    The Wallabies wrap up their home season this weekend with a muck-around fixture against the Barbarians, and it has a real last day of school term feel about it.

    So, in the spirit of the end of school feeling, here’s a report card for the Wallabies’ winter of 2017.

    Attack
    The attack was the one area of the Wallabies game which was notably great all season. Even in the disappointing June Tests, the areas of concern centred around the defence, set piece and application.

    Israel Folau scored tries for fun – 12 in total across the June internationals and the Rugby Championship. Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete made hay while the sun shone, both filling their pockets with tries during the Rugby Championship. Koroibete, in particular, looks great in the Wallabies jumper.

    Kurtley Beale looked in career-best form and, before Folau took home the gong, there was talk that he may even win the John Eales Medal despite not featuring in half the Wallabies matches during the voting period.

    Bernard Foley had a very good Rugby Championship with ball in hand. Foley is an excellent ball runner, underrated and underused in that capacity. This column predicted that the return of Beale as a second playmaker option at 12 would likely see the return of the best of Foley.

    The Wallabies only once scored less than 23 points in a game all season – 19 in the loss to Scotland. If your defence can stand up, that’s a recipe for success in international rugby.

    Attacking grade: A+

    Israel Folau Wallabies Australian Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Defence
    The defensive performance against the All Blacks in Brisbane aside, this was an area of real concern for Australia.

    For all the back-pats Australia received for their attacking prowess, the Wallabies failed to keep any side under 20 points during the Rugby Championship. They also conceded 24 and 27 to Scotland and Italy respectively.

    Some credit must be given to Nathan Grey, as the defence clearly improved as the Rugby Championship went on. But last weekend’s effort in Brisbane – only 11 missed tackles at a success rate of over 90 per cent – does not make Grey a messiah any more than the 56 missed tackles in Sydney made him a pariah.

    Grey was no doubt hindered by the revolving door selection policy during the June internationals as Cheika searched for depth, and it’s no coincidence that the defence tightened up significantly once a first-choice starting XV was settled upon.

    Overall, Michael Cheika teams are not in the business of winning games 12-3, so we shouldn’t expect this Wallabies team to do that. But it’d be nice to see players just step up and defend in their positions rather than hiding (and therefore exposing) them on the flanks.

    Defensive grade: C-

    Michael Cheika Wallabies

    (Photo by Jason O’Brien/Getty Images)

    Set piece
    Mario Ledesma certainly earned his paycheck. The Wallabies scrum that was blown off the park by England a year ago is unrecognisable now. Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu have been good for the Wallabies for a long time now, but both had outstanding Rugby Championships, especially at scrum time.

    The Wallabies set piece stumbled through June but was working pretty well by July and was looking damn near reliable by August.

    Stephen Moore struggled badly at both scrum and lineout time. Moore is one of the Wallabies’ greatest ever servants, but the time to step back from international rugby has come – and perhaps already gone.

    Moore’s performances over the Rugby Championship reminded me of the last days of Ricky Ponting’s Test career. The former skipper clearly still felt he could still do it, and it’s hard to leave a legend of the game out of the side if he says he’s right to play, but the eye had gone and his weaknesses were too easily exposed at the most unforgiving level.

    At this stage, Moore plans to go on the European tour, but many would love to see him go out on the back of the win over the All Blacks on his home turf in Brisbane. After all, if Moore is not going to be around come the World Cup, that spot could better be used to develop Tatafu Polota-Nau’s eventual replacement.

    Set piece grade: B+

    Wallabies coach Michael Cheika (left) and captain Stephen Moore

    Skills
    In the skills department, the Wallabies’ forwards are now taking the ball out in front of their bodies instead of bringing it into their chests. As a result, the option to quickly shift the ball on is now available, and players are going into contact with the intention of getting the arms free to offload, where previously players would not have had the confidence to attempt such a manoeuvre.

    Kicking remains a sticking point. It’s odd that the Wallabies’ skills coach, Mick Byrne, is a former VFL footballer and while ball handling has improved, kicking continues to be an area of real weakness.

    Plenty has been written about Bernard Foley’s inconsistency with goalkicking – he’s seemingly either red hot or ice cold on any given day – but general play kicking across the whole team is still not very good. Will Genia can barely get two kicks away without one of them being charged down, and two out of the Wallabies back three don’t kick the ball at all, despite one of them having played in the AFL.

    Skills grade: B-

    Wallaby fly-half Bernard Foley lines up a kick at goal

    (Photo by Tim Anger)

    Overall: B

    As poor as the Wallabies looked in June, credit must be given for consistently improved performances. But for a fistful more points, the Wallabies could have won both Springboks Tests and perhaps the Dunedin Bledisloe as well.

    On the whole, five wins from nine games doesn’t sound great, but only three losses in nine games sounds decent. An overall grade of B is probably fair enough.

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • October 27th 2017 @ 2:41pm
      Connor33 said | October 27th 2017 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

      Good read, Jack. B+?

    • October 27th 2017 @ 3:04pm
      Dave_S said | October 27th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

      Fair summary, and I’m enjoying your pieces thanks Jack, especially:

      “muck-around fixture against the Barbarians, and it has a real last day of school term feel about it.”

      🙂

    • October 27th 2017 @ 4:56pm
      waxhead said | October 27th 2017 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

      hey Jack ………
      I’m not interested in end of term report cards and even less in this disgrace of a game a non Wallabies team is playing this weekend. All rugby fans should be boycotting it imo due to involvement of convicted fascist law breaker A Jones.

      I would, however, be interested in an end of year report card after the November tests are done and dusted.
      Why can’t people just hold the judgements until they have something meaningful to say ?

      • October 27th 2017 @ 5:14pm
        Adrian Denyer said | October 27th 2017 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

        😊

      • October 27th 2017 @ 6:10pm
        Riddler said | October 27th 2017 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

        I don’t see the issue..

        I am in the northern hemisphere and I think it is an interesting read considering the wallabies have played 10 tests so far..

        Considering how we were being death ridden by 80% of the people here on the roar after the Italy game.. I have enjoyed our comeback a lot..

        The end of year tour is always a joy for me.. mainly because it is at more public friendly drinking hour!

        And also it means chrissy is next and then the 6 nations..

        For us rugby tragics ip here it is a wonderful time of the year. .

      • October 27th 2017 @ 6:39pm
        Dave_S said | October 27th 2017 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

        “Why can’t people just hold the judgements until they have something meaningful to say ?”

        Looked in the mirror lately?

        • October 27th 2017 @ 7:21pm
          Morsie said | October 27th 2017 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

          Hahahaha, touche.

        • Roar Rookie

          October 27th 2017 @ 8:33pm
          Paulo said | October 27th 2017 @ 8:33pm | ! Report

          Dammit Dave, you beat me to it.

      • October 27th 2017 @ 7:55pm
        Jcr said | October 27th 2017 @ 7:55pm | ! Report

        Like this comment?

    • October 27th 2017 @ 5:03pm
      Adsa said | October 27th 2017 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

      Feel better now you got that off your chest Waxhead?

      • October 27th 2017 @ 5:56pm
        Shaun said | October 27th 2017 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

        Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed

        • October 27th 2017 @ 8:45pm
          RahRah said | October 27th 2017 @ 8:45pm | ! Report

          No its just a permanent state of mind

    • October 27th 2017 @ 6:42pm
      Highlander12 said | October 27th 2017 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

      Nice one Jack. Agree with your report

      A lot of negativity around the Wallabies this year and a lot of it warranted – especially around over complicated defensive patterns.

      However- upon reflection- with luck and elimination of a few costly errors they could have won every test except the AB’s in Sydney and we’d be celebrating one of the best seasons on record including a Bledisloe.

      The fact is they’re just not quite good enough yet to earn the luck you need to win the tight ones like the current AB’s and the Eales era Wallabies . Also execution under pressure still needs to improve ( ie Genia and TPN V Scotland and final receipt from kick off in Bledisloe 2) . But definite green shoots and I’m looking forward to watching the development of some of the young guys that have emerged and and Karmichael’s continual improvement.

      In 12 months time – we could be very easily be looking at an A mark if we keep improving. I suspect AB’s And England will will have noticed the progress and be hoping it doesn’t continue.

      The NH tour is really important for this team. If they were to return undefeated – or only dropping one closely – they’re all of a sudden a very confident and dangerous side- genuine contenders.

      • October 27th 2017 @ 10:58pm
        PiratesRugby said | October 27th 2017 @ 10:58pm | ! Report

        I refused to believe all those who said Australian rugby lacked talent, depth or heart. With the performances of Genia, Folau, TPN, Coleman, Hodge, Korobeite this TRC, we saw the potential of Australian rugby. Just like we saw Pocock and Fardy in RWC15 showing our potential. But let’s look also at what is holding us back. Foley is our designated playmaker and kicker while being minimally competent in both. In order to sandbag Foley’s spot, Cheika refuses to have any competition in the squad at all. Just like he held out Arnold, Coleman, Jones, Higgers and Timani from RWC15 in order to sandbag Skelton and Mumm. Remember those guys? Now he’s protecting Hanigan and Dempsey. What can those guys do that Jones, Higgers and Timani can’t? This selection bias undermines the Wallabies. How many tests have Skelton and Hanigan chewed up and for what benefit? To be fair, Dempsey has gotten better with each game and looks a fair prospect. But why didn’t Jones get the same indulgence? And Foley! Canpese had lousy defence but was brilliant in attack. Foley is just as lousy but is he brilliant at anything? Even on his best day, was he ever brilliant at anything?

        • October 28th 2017 @ 10:42am
          mikeylives said | October 28th 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          Timani – I kind of agree. He hasn’t set the world on fire, but he is a big human that makes the advantage line. I think there are questions over his work rate.
          Higgers has not made much of his multiple chances with the wallabies.
          Luke Jones has not impressed me. Arnold, Coleman, Rodda are all ahead of him. He may sneak in ahead of Simmons – think Jones and Simmons are similar players.

          Foley runs straight, takes the ball to the line and offers a running option and therefore attracts defenders. He is a good attacking 10. He has a major flaw in his kicking out of hand, but this has gotten better this year. His defence is below average, but scrambling defence is excellent. He is not the best in the world, but is clearly the best in Australia at present.

          We have to stop dreaming that Cooper can offer a running option any more – He doesn’t. Sad as he was wasted during the conservative Deans era and destined to be great prior to the injury.

          Agree that Hanigan has had minimal impact, but with bulk may be a good prospect. He certainly tries to get stuck in and my money is that he will be very valuable to us in 2019.

          Weren’t you clamoring for Hooper to be dropped? Can’t see that in your posts anymore.

          • October 29th 2017 @ 5:57pm
            PiratesRugby said | October 29th 2017 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

            When Pocock is available, Hooper must step aside. But won’t.

          • October 30th 2017 @ 12:20pm
            Fionn said | October 30th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

            I’d like to see Luke Jones at 6 or the lock/6 hybrid on the bench. He won’t play lock so I don’t know why he is being compared to Arnold, Coleman and Rodda.

            Some people keep banging on about Hanigan’s ‘potential’. What potential? He takes some line outs (lost two to Jones on the weekend). He makes zero meters when running the ball (someone said -10 on the weekend, if that is true….!), he is ineffective at attacking rucks and normally just decides to guard them, and he makes some tackles. So he makes most of his tackles and is okay at the line out without being great. Is the bar in Australian rugby really that low that this is showing good potential? Let’s be honest, it isn’t.

            Some people keep talking about how Higgers has failed in gold. He hasn’t. He has been precisely okay without being spectacular. That being said, he has shown way more than Mumm or Hanigan has. Unfortunately, Higgers is injured.

            Funny how we’re questioning Timani’s work-rate while talking about how Hanigan is a good prospect.

      • October 28th 2017 @ 8:12am
        Andy said | October 28th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        It’s funny Tom mention a lack of luck costing a team games when they scored two intercept tries against the run of play, luck could’ve also added another loss or two.

    • Roar Rookie

      October 27th 2017 @ 8:44pm
      Paulo said | October 27th 2017 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

      As a Kiwi and an AB supported through and through, I think for the most part, from people of apoken with, we are happy that they have improved and hope it continues. It is better for us to be challenged and need to keep ahead than be alone at the top. I dont want to go back to the Eales period of 5 bleds in a row though… im not that gracious.

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