Wallabies forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has re-signed with Rugby Australia and the Queensland Reds until the end of 2022.
With all of the controversy surrounding the back-line selections of the Wallabies over the last few weeks, it hass been very easy to overlook the impact (or lack thereof) of the forwards.
In rugby, the backs can only excel when the forwards dominate. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but in Test match rugby, the forwards must build a strong platform, provide quick ball and give the backs the space they need to score the tries the Australian public so strongly crave.
It is for this reason that the Wallaby forward pack deserves far more scrutiny than it is getting. While I know that we are on our 91st choice hooker, the simple fact remains that there are very few intimidating Wallaby forwards and without intimidation and aggression, open play ‘go forward’ and breakdown dominance aren’t going to happen.
From one through to 8, there are few there of whom Test sides would be afraid. To fix this, particularly against top-quality teams, the Wallabies need to pick genuinely aggressive forwards to create the dominance needed to provide the backs with good ball.
To return to the top of the world rankings, the Wallabies need to address their forward selections and I believe we need to completely change the way we think about forward play to focus on aggression and dominance. My controversial (and assuming fitness) Wallaby forward selections are below.
For me, one to three are sorted. James Slipper, Stephen Moore (when fit) and Sekope Kepu need to make up the starting front row. They give the combination of scrummaging and around the field contribution necessary from a front 3.
I would pick James Horwill and Sam Carter as my locks for their abrasive qualities. Both of these players excel when given a licence to go out and really rip in and we need that aggro.
At six I would pick Scott Higginbotham. While he has been questioned internationally, he is a damaging ball runner, has great skills and is a breakdown menace at his best.
Seven is David Pocock. While Mike Hooper is the incumbent captain, his lack of physical presence at the breakdown counts against him and Pocock (if he can regain form after two years out) is a clear choice for mine.
Number 8 is controversial but I would pick Will Skelton there. A huge man with incredibly soft hands and damaging ball running, he always gets over the advantage line and provides an incredible brace at the back of the scrum. While Wycliff Palu is the form Australian 8 in Super Rugby, he disappears in tight and intense Test match rugby and we need our 8 to be a rock.
With these forwards providing a platform I believe the Wallabies can bring back some of the fear factor into the Test arena.