Wallabies dig deep: I like what they’ve found

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By JDP, JDP is a Roar Guru

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    I think that the Wallabies are shaping to become a serious powerhouse in world rugby over the next three to four years, certainly in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

    In fact I am going to be so bold as to say that they have got the best shot of a team peaking at exactly the right time for that competition.

    Bear with me.

    Let’s consider the position when Robbie Deans first took the Wallabies on in 2008 – this was his squad.

    If you scan that players list you will notice a fair number of the current crop of players missing. If you ever wanted some evidence of Robbie Deans’ emphasis (and requirement) on rebuilding Australian rugby (after it arguably rested on its laurels leading into 2007 Rugby World Cup) that squad list is proof.

    Deans has brought in Genia, Cooper, Hooper, Gill, Beale, O’Connor, Timani, etc. from scratch. On top of that he has supported these players from that 2008 squad who at the time had: Alexander uncapped, Burgess uncapped, Ioane one cap, Berrick Barnes four caps, Adam Ashley-Cooper 12 caps, Tatafu Polota-Nau three caps and James Horwill one cap.

    It is reasonable to expect that in the intermediate period, the Wallabies would have performed abysmally and would struggle.

    But what Robbie has managed to do is build some seriously enviable depth and still manage an ok record with a bunch of developing players.

    So, let’s take a look at the likely 2015 World Cup squad (including backups) and see how Robbie has implemented a franchise-like depth to the Wallabies:

    1. Ben Alexander (46 caps)/Sekope Kepu (21 )/Dan Palmer (one)
    2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (43)/Stephen Moore (74)/Saia Fainga’a (19)/ James Hanson (one)
    3. Benn Robinson (54)/James Slipper (32)/Paddy Ryan (one)
    4. James Horwill (35)/ Rob Simmons (23)
    5. Kane Douglas (four)/Caderyn Neville/Sitaleki Timani (nine)
    6. Dave Dennis (13)/Radike Samo (23)/Scott Higginbotham (21)/Ita Vaea/Hugh McMeniman (21)
    7. David Pocock (45)/Michael Hooper(11)/Liam Gill(8)
    8. Wycliff Palu (44)/Ben McCalman (21) /Richard Brown (23)
    9. Will Genia (42)/Nick Phipps (10)
    10. Kurtley Beale (34) /Berrick Barnes (48) (with Matt Toomua/Christian Lealiafano in the wings)
    11. Digby Ioane (32)/Nick Cummins (four)/Drew Mitchell (61)/Lachie Turner (15)/Dom Shipperly (three)
    12. Pat McCabe (19)/Ben Tapuai (four)/James O’Connor(37)/Chris Feauai-Sautia (if you don’t know him google him – he is the next big thing)
    13. Rob Horne (14)/Adam Ashley-Cooper (75)/Anthony Fainga’a (23)
    14. Joe Tomane(one)/Cooper Vuna (two)/Rod Davies (one)
    15. Mike Harris (seven)/Luke Morahan (one)

    If you pick the players now with close to 40 or more caps, and then throw in some up and coming talent, such as Tomane, Sautia, Lealifano, I have added 40 caps for roughly four years of Test rugby (lowered the number to account for injuries etc) to their current totals.

    That is the next Rugby World Cup champion team. That team would have 22 players with a total of 1381 caps with an average of 62 caps per player. That is the sort of experience you need to win the World Cup.

    Will just be a shame that some other coach (please don’t let it be Ewen McKenzie) will reap the benefits of this development of experience and commitment to youth that has epitomised Robbie’s reign.

    Yes indeed, the Wallabies truly are maturing like a fine wine – and it will now be the All Blacks turn over the next few years to see how their own youngsters perform (as the Wallabies already had to endure their ten straight losses when blooding against an All Blacks team which was largely unchanged from 2007).

    I look forward to the battles between Beauden Barrett and an established James O’Connor for example, or Sam Cane taking on David Pocock.

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    The Crowd Says (92)

    • November 21st 2012 @ 4:45am
      kingplaymaker said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:45am | ! Report

      The other thing to add to this of course is that completely new young players will appear over the next three years.

      The last cycle threw up Genia, JOC, Beale and Cooper in the backs and similarly talented newcomers are due soon.

      The only sorrow is the wanton destruction of Jordan Rapana’s career by the hopeless Michael Foley. If only one of the other franchises would add him to their EPS to undo Foley’s awful work.

      • November 21st 2012 @ 2:34pm
        gaffa said | November 21st 2012 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

        \Give in mate Rapana has not played a game of rugby for 3 years and is injury prone I just don’t get your attacks on Foley its starting to get old. A player cant live on 5 games he played 5 years ago in a different sport with the hope that he may come good. You have no idea why he was cut and maybe seeing as he hasn’t been picked up by anyone anywhere there is a reason for it.

        • November 21st 2012 @ 2:38pm
          Red Kev said | November 21st 2012 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

          Deans lives on his Super Rugby record from 5 years ago, why not Rapana? At least kpm consistently defends both.

          • November 21st 2012 @ 4:07pm
            borris said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

            Yeah mate, time to let it go…

          • November 22nd 2012 @ 11:39am
            bob said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:39am | ! Report

            I haven’t really heard deans say anything about his record in the super 15? I have heard his supporters on the roar quite rightly point out that his super 15 coaching record is unmatched by anybody, but I have not heard deans mention it. As a result I am a bit confused about how deans lives on his super 15 record?

    • November 21st 2012 @ 5:15am
      Justin2 said | November 21st 2012 @ 5:15am | ! Report

      Super 15 expansion has built the depth…

      • November 21st 2012 @ 5:19am
        kingplaymaker said | November 21st 2012 @ 5:19am | ! Report

        Are you being ironic Justin or not?

        • November 21st 2012 @ 5:53am
          Justin2 said | November 21st 2012 @ 5:53am | ! Report


          • November 21st 2012 @ 6:06am
            kingplaymaker said | November 21st 2012 @ 6:06am | ! Report

            Ok in that case I completely agree.

            More teams mean more playing opportunities for more players.

            Not only that but expansion into completely virgin rugby terrain with the likes of the Rebels and Force, creates players that would never have existed in rugby before.

            SO even more teams would mean even more players getting opportunities and in the case of Adelaide the creation of players who would never have existed before.

            If SANZAR could find a way to redistribute players so as to add even a small extra number of teams, it would make a massive difference to the playing stocks in Australia as well as the other countries.

    • November 21st 2012 @ 5:45am
      maxxlord said | November 21st 2012 @ 5:45am | ! Report

      Nice theory, but the trouble you have with this is that the Kiwis could likely put together an even more impressive breakdown of their next world cup team. In any case after 5 years in charge and with a flopped world cup challenge in the rearview mirror no coach can credibly claim to still be “developing” anything, its just a flop.

      • November 21st 2012 @ 10:12am
        John Philipson said | November 21st 2012 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        Disagree Maxxlord.

        The Kiwis in fact made a distinct decision to stick with a number of players from the failed 2007 campaign. What this means is that a number of players will need to be blooded in the next couple of years to ensure that they have the depth come RWC 15.

        They must be careful not to fall in to the trap that the wallabies did under connolly, and hang on too long to golden sons (despite the results that may eventuate) – this is much harded in NZ with the expectation of continued winning, and full credit to Hansen I think he is making a reasonable fist of this: (think Cane, Cruden, Coles, A Smith, Vito, Ellison, B Smith, Savea).

        But the reality is this (take this from a resident Kiwi) is the likely Kiwi team once their talismanic players retire (which they will).

        1. Faumuina
        2. Dane Coles
        3. Franks
        4. Whitelock
        5. Romano/Retallick
        6. Vito
        7. Sam Cane
        8. Kieran Read (past his peak – eg now)
        9. A Smith
        10. A Cruden
        11. Savea
        12. Tamati Ellison
        13. Ben Smith/Fruean
        14. ????
        15. Dagg

        I am sorry but that team does not really intimidate me…at all.

        Especially when compared to:

        1. Slipper
        2. TPN
        3. Alexander
        4. Horwill
        5. Timani/Simmons
        6. Gill
        7. Hooper
        8. Pocock
        9. Genia
        10. Beale
        11. Vuna/Tomane
        12. Tapuai
        13. O’Connor
        14. Sautia/Cummins
        15. Barnes/Morahan

        Eg many of the current players of now with 40 more tests under the belt – that is my point.

        • November 21st 2012 @ 11:49am
          Team Taniwha said | November 21st 2012 @ 11:49am | ! Report

          Amusing the unblighted optimism. If Read is at his peak now at age 27, than what is Palu who is aged 30 now?

          By the World cup, the likes of Aaron Smith Romano/Retallick, Dagg, Savea and Whitelock will be 50 plus test veterans by RWC2015. Plus SBW at 2nd five, Ellison won’t be number one choice at 12. If I had the time I could list the depth at each position of players marking their mark at super level who have made their mark at junior cup level (talking about championship winning players not merely representing country calibre players).

          Sure, McCraw, Hore and Melaumu will most likely not make it, but this fallacy of writing of any player in their 30’s is just that, a fallacy. Add in that Kaino has started he wants to return to defend the title, plus up and comers like Shields to name one adds some real starch. Your line up with 3 open-sides would get smashed all over the place around the collisions.

          It is the South Africans, with a few years of experience that will have a truly scary pack and with Goosen directing traffic, the ones to watch.

          • November 21st 2012 @ 11:53am
            kingplaymaker said | November 21st 2012 @ 11:53am | ! Report

            Yes TT, but the team won’t actually be better than it is now, only the same in quality. The difference with the Wallabies is that their overall playing stock is improving, while the All Blacks is just staying the same.

            As for Palu, I think he may well last a long time as he is the same kind of power player as Petero Civonceva in league, or Thorn/Samo in union, who because they rely on pure power more than anything else, last a long time (Palu also has an amazing workrate at the moment, far beyond Hooper in the last match).

            • November 21st 2012 @ 12:09pm
              Team Taniwha said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

              Broad generalisations that the Wallaby stock is improving, based on your subjective opinion. Test matches are won and lost up front in the collisions and the contact area. Something that is still a weakness for Wallabies.

              As for Palu, he makes the odd meaningful contribution but I would take Read now and in 3 years time at the 2015 World Cup. If you want a hight work rate number 8, look at Nasi Manu for the Highlanders. He doesn’t even get a look in for the AB’s.

              • November 21st 2012 @ 12:13pm
                kingplaymaker said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

                That’s untrue on Palu, he has been quite outstanding in every test he has played since the Hong Kong test a couple of years back. This year he has had an astonishing workrate and relentless physical impact around the field, topping most counts for tackles, runs clearouts etc…

                The statements on the number of high quality players here are backed up with examples, they are not aimless generalisations.

              • November 21st 2012 @ 12:46pm
                John Philipson said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

                I just illustrated that the increase in caps and experience will tend to improve the players and therefore the stock. Actually last time the ABs played the Wallabies the breakdown and collision area was a weakness for the ABs I think. I would also take Read over Palu – who wouldn’t? Not sure why he is figuring in this anyway. Re Gill being an openside, the Kid is 21 and has the height to fill into a VERY useful 6 – I would be very surprised if he didnt try to go this way given the existence of Hooper/Pocock.

          • November 21st 2012 @ 12:44pm
            John Philipson said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

            Ok TT.

            No Dan Carter
            No Richie McCaw
            No Ma’a Nonu
            No Conrad Smith
            No Jerome Kaino (let’s be realistic here)
            A 31 year old Kieran Read
            No Woodcock
            No Hore
            No Mealamu
            No Thomson
            No SBW (living on a prayer waiting for him to come back mate)

            PLEASE take the time to explain to me how, that exodus of players when compared to the Wallabies retention of their core players (with on average 30 caps already) will not mean that the Wallabies have a GREAT crack at knocking the All Blacks off.

            Unless you honestly think that Beauden Barrett/A Smith/Cane etc will be better than O’Connor/Genia/Pocock in four years time?

            • November 21st 2012 @ 1:25pm
              Team Taniwha said | November 21st 2012 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

              Why are we not realist with Jerome Kaino? I agree on the rest.

              By 2015, A.Smith/ Tj Penara/Tawera Kerr Barlow will be a fearsome set of 9’s, Barrett/Cruden World class tens, Savea & Dagg proven world class performers plus likely risers like George Piutau, Charlie Ngati and maybe Fruen. So reasonable they got everything O’Connor and Genia got, plus a fresh man of the bench. I will concede Walalbies would have advantage at open side, but loose forwards are a combination, and without a heavy hitter at 6, and Paulu at 33 be gone (by your definition as is the same age as Nonu), the balance of the Wallaby back from doesn’t look that great. I would hardly say living on prayer in regards to SBW, if well known he will return to the Chiefs 2014 (though nothing is certain with him). I have put the following list as an illustration of the strength coming through.

              1. Faumuina/Franks
              2. Dane Coles/Elliot
              3. Ben Afeaki/Ben Tameifuna
              4. Whitelock/Dominic Bird
              5. Romano/Retallick
              6. Vito/ Messam/Shields/Kaino
              7. Sam Cane/Ardie Savea/ Matt Todd
              8. Kieran Read/ Nasi Manu/Vito
              9. A Smith/T Barlow/ TJ Penara
              10. A Cruden / Barrett
              11. Savea / Guildford
              12. SBW / Ngati
              13. Kahui / Fruen
              14. B.Smith / G Piutau / Nani-Williams
              15. Dagg / Taylor / R Robnson

              • Roar Guru

                November 21st 2012 @ 4:58pm
                El Gamba said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

                No McCaw, No Carter, No chance.

    • November 21st 2012 @ 5:55am
      kingplaymaker said | November 21st 2012 @ 5:55am | ! Report

      Maxxlord that’s not really true, any future New Zealand team won’t be vastly more talented or experienced than the current one, whereas a future Australian one may be.

      • November 21st 2012 @ 11:54pm
        Ra said | November 21st 2012 @ 11:54pm | ! Report

        KPM you are so right. When you are No1 there is only one place to go, and that’s down. Not all All Blacks are going to be at the top of their game all the time, or be the best player in their position in the world. But come the day, the guy who pulls on the black jersey is an All Black.

        John Kirwan once said that to beat the All Blacks a team must bring their A game. The thing is, that the Blacks could play a B or C game and still beat an oppositions A game.

        I agree with all the comments here. I’ve written myself about the quality of player the Aussies have to call on over the next two years. It doesn’t matter whether they are sitting 2nd or 5th in the world. They are going to be tough to put away.

        I think it’s a dumb argument putting up and arguing over maybe teams, and maybe players who might be lining up at the RWC 2015. What a waste of energy.

        Equally dumb is trying to create argument over where O Connor should play. He plays where the coach puts him, and he’s damn good wherever he’s put. I agree with an article El Gamba wrote in June. He wondered whether some scribes in here have played the game. I add, or coached it at anytime.

        The All Blacks are not going to improve their position at the top of the pile. But they can improve individual skills, knowledge and strengths, and team skills and combinations.

        At the end of the day, the competition is simply: the Kiwi All Blacks vs the World. It doesn’t matter who is wearing that other jersey, or what colour it is. That guy is representing his people, he’s bringing his A game, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • November 21st 2012 @ 5:58am
      richard said | November 21st 2012 @ 5:58am | ! Report

      Nice theory, but you are assuming that other countries aren’t doing the same. As maxxlord says, other countries are all doing this, and if you are pinning all your hopes on oz peaking at just the right time, and nz, for example, being over the hill, then you are grasping at straws.

      You might not have noticed, but there is no magic bullet for winning a WC, it comes down to luck, as much as talent – last year’s tournament should have taught you that.

    • November 21st 2012 @ 6:26am
      nickoldschool said | November 21st 2012 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      All selections go through cycles and some generations are more, or less, talented than others. So what is valid for RD and the wallabies is also true for other nations. Will we be competitive in 2015? lets hope so. Is it a certainty? Not at all.

      RD hasnt ‘unearthed’ or discovered any freakish talent no one could see. The Hooper, Cummins, JOC etc were already promising youngsters, did very well at SR then got selected. I still RD’s role in terms of coaching, is first to pick the right guys (we can ague that he sometimes failed to do so) , groom them for SR players to test players and elaborate a coherent game plan to win a trophy.

      So what you are saying in this article is, do we have the cattle? you seem to say yes and i quite agree although they are quite a few passengers in this group and not many match winners.

      But ultimately you need more than a bunch of names to win RC, RWC or even tests and thats what Deans and his successor will have to do before 2015 and imo its not going to be a walk in the park. The task ahead is still huge.

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