By 2019, the Wallabies will have the best back three in the world

Simon Douch Roar Guru

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    After the Wallabies’ performance at Yokohama on the weekend, I’ve hit a state of nervous optimism, mostly stemming from the form and depth of our back three.

    When Israel Folau announced that he was to take a break until the start of next season, it launched a barrage of opinions about how best to rearrange the backline.

    We couldn’t have the same setup that won so much favour after an outstanding performance against the All Blacks in Brisbane, so what was the answer? Kurtley Beale to 15? Or maybe Reece Hodge? Karmichael Hunt or Samu Kerevi at 12?

    While the answers to these questions still remain unclear, an outstanding performance against Japan without our first-choice, John Eales Medal-winning fullback has made it clear that serious weapons are developing out wide.

    Granted, the lessened impact of Folau’s absence is perhaps more attributed to the backline’s ability to adapt, as well as increasing individual skill sets, but it is an indicator that the Aussies are no longer solely reliant on Folau as the main attacking weapon. An exciting proposition considering the World Cup is looming.

    Take a look at the players who have played on the wing or fullback so far this year:

    Henry Speight
    Dane Haylett-Petty
    Curtis Rona
    Eto Nabuli
    Sefanaia Naivalu
    Marika Koroibete
    Reece Hodge
    Israel Folau
    Kurtley Beale

    It’s also worthwhile mentioning the younger players that Michael Cheika is introducing to the international scene, mainly Izaia Perese, Jack Maddocks and Tom Banks. Furthermore, Hunt should also be included in fullback considerations.

    That’s now 13, high-quality outside backs for Cheika to choose from to form Australia’s back three for the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

    Haylett-Petty and Naivalu have had their international season cut short due to injury, while Rona and Nabuli have had limited opportunity on the wing, purely because of outstanding depth.

    Although this is a luxury, one substantial problem arises from this golden crop of outside backs – who should take the positions for the World Cup?

    Despite popular opinion that Folau should move to the wing, he best serves his country at 15. Rock solid under the high ball, improving positional awareness, the ability to find open space, and his Super Rugby club ensures that Folau will have the custodian’s duties for as long as he chooses to stay in the Wallaby camp.

    Israel Folau Wallabies Australian Rugby Union 2017

    AAP Image/Joe Castro

    Moving Folau to the wing makes even less sense considering the world-class finishers that should be available, mostly Korobeite and Naivalu. With pure speed and strength, these two flying wingers will have another year to tone their game in gold before unleashing at the World Cup.

    A successful, injury-free 2018 international season will be the most critical aspect of the development and cohesion of this trio. In particular, during the June Test series against Ireland, Folau, Koroibete and Naivalu could build on their individual moments of brilliance and form the best back-three combination in world rugby.

    The opportunity is certainly there.

    Naivalu has had an unlucky run of injuries, but a glimpse of his speed in the June internationals showed what the Wallabies lacked so dearly.

    Koroibete continues his rapid rise, searching for more work on the field and improving his understanding of the international game. His defence is fantastic and constantly overlooked because of his devastating running game (not that it’s really a problem). Like Folau, sparing disaster, Koroibete should have done enough to secure his place on the team.

    Off the bench, Hodge or Haylett-Petty would be ideal, as they can perform exceptionally in all facets of the game.

    Not only will this be the most potent, dangerous back three in the world, but the competition spawned from the player depth will ensure the Wallabies hold that title for the foreseeable future.