Solving the Wallabies’ playmaking conundrum

Fionn Roar Guru

By Fionn, Fionn is a Roar Guru

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    Of all the problems plaguing the Wallabies’ backline, one of the most important is the lack of a settled second playmaker.


    All teams that look to play attacking, enterprising rugby require a second playmaker.

    The All Blacks side of 2013-15 attacked more effectively than anyone because they had three playmakers, all of whom also possessed a running game.

    Dan Carter at 10
    Ma’a Nonu at 12
    Ben Smith at 15

    Likewise, Rod Maqueen’s Wallabies possessed the same.

    Stephen Larkham at 10
    Tim Horan at 12
    Matt Burke at 15

    For a team looking to play enterprising rugby the following positions are key.

    The number ten (or flyhalf) is generally the team’s primary playmaker. They usually operates as first receiver and should possess a good short and long passing game as well as a kicking game. A running game is an important added bonus.

    The number 12, or inside centre, usually serves as a second playmaker and receiver. They, too, must have a good long and short passing game, but absolutely must possess a strong running game.

    This means the 12 can be put through holes by the 10, and also allows the 12 to draw defenders in effectively, thereby opening up holes for their outside backs. The 12, along with 13, is one of the most difficult defensive positions on the field.

    The number 15, or fullback, must be strong under the high ball, absolutely must have a strong running game, and, preferably, should have good attacking vision and possess a strong long pass in order to most effectively counterattack against unset defences off of poor kicks form the opposition.

    The 15, as one of the outside backs, has more freedom than the 12, and can choose when to inject themselves. This is the role that Ben Smith does so effectively, waiting until they see an attacking opportunity and then moving in as second receiver to set up the attacking play.

    It should also be noted that the 2013-15 All Blacks had strong attacking kicking options at 10, 12 and 15 also. If an attacking kick finds the grass and is well chased then it can lead to four common positive outcomes:

    a) the defending team gathers the ball, tries to kick, and is charged down
    b) the defending player gathers the ball, does not have time to kick, and is forced to run the ball into touch, thereby setting up an attacking lineout for the team that kicked
    c) the defending team gathers the ball, is tackled, and either has the ball stolen, or fails to release and concedes a penalty
    d) the attacking team gathers the ball behind the defensive line and is provided with an excellent attacking opportunity

    Although this play requires strong chasers, it clearly requires players capable of attacking kicking also.

    At number ten Australia currently plays Bernard Foley. Foley has a great running game, but he does not possess a strong long passing or kicking game.

    Bernard Foley Wallabies Australia Rugby Union Test Championship 2016

    (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

    Our 15, Israel Folau, is one of the world’s best ball-runners, the best in the world under the high ball and a prolific off loader. However, he has a poor kick that is slow and highly inaccurate, and rarely does he throw a cut out or effective long pass.

    The conundrum that Australia faces is that if they choose to play Folau at 15 then they need a second playmaker at 12; however, Australia lacks an experienced second playmaker to play at 12.

    I am of the opinion that Samu Kerevi exhibits a lot of the talent that young Ma’a Nonu did. I see one of the most devastating running games in the world in Kerevi, soft hands capable of pop passes and a willingness to kick when an opportunity presents itself.

    Although Kerevi’s long pass and kicking execution need work, I would think that trying to develop him into at 12, as Graham Henry did with Nonu, is likely to be the best long-term strategy for Kerevi and the Wallabies.

    Kerevi is a solid tackler, but is prone to some poor defensive reads at 13. Thus, I think he would do better in the relatively simpler 12 channel.

    Kurtley Beale lacks the defence to be an international 12. Although he can defend on the wing in structured play, he is too much of a defensive liability off of quick turnover ball to play for the Wallabies.

    As Kerevi is not yet a sufficient playmaker this requires playing a second playmaker at 15.

    Beale is the best playmaker in the Wallabies squad, has attacking vision and is exceedingly dangerous when running the ball back in open play. Thus, I think he should play 15.

    This would also mean when counterattacking Beale can draw in defenders and then pass the ball out to Folau, where there will be fewer defenders to tackle him.

    Folau on the wing, finally, also both defuses the opposition’s box kick and also makes the Wallabies’ box kicks and up and unders – especially in the red zone – a far more threatening proposition.

    In summary, I believe that in preparation for the 2019 Rugby World Cup Cheika needs to convert Kerevi to 12, make Beale 15 and move Folau to the wing.

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    The Crowd Says (168)

    • Roar Rookie

      August 10th 2017 @ 3:20am
      tsuru said | August 10th 2017 @ 3:20am | ! Report

      I agree with your analysis, Fionn. My further comment to others would be to point out that you included the phrase “in preparation for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.” I’m sure you are not suggesting that Cheika should throw Kerevi into the Bledisloe cauldron at 12 next week. He needs extensive experience there at least at Super Rugby level (or maybe End of Year tests). If this was to happen and work, I wonder who would be most likely to challenge Kuridrani for 13 by the RWC.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 9:02am
        Charlie Turner said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Kerevi’s played 12 at test level and the only other solid defender in the side capable of playing 12 is Meeks. Hodge has about the same level of experience but doesn’t have the strength of Kerevi. Magnay, Hodge, Rona and maybe Perese are 13’s in waiting.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 10:33am
        Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

        Tsuru, the problem is that, with Hunt injured, Toomua overseas and Lealiifano still recovering there is no other real option for the RC except for Beale, who, in my eyes anyway, absolutely can’t play 12. So I personally would select Kerevi at 12, at least until Hunt is back.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 10th 2017 @ 11:13am
          tsuru said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

          Yes I agree that Hunt seems the best option now. Is there any news on his injury and when he might be back in training with the team?

          I think I would go with Hodge or Meakes at 12, although I have seen little of Meakes, so I’m just going on people’s opinions on this site, and that can be dangerous. Having said all of this I see that so many people, including me, seem to be ignoring Kuridrani and I don’t feel that he’s done a whole lot wrong recently. That would lead me back towards your thought of Kerevi at 12. I’m conflicted.

          • Roar Guru

            August 11th 2017 @ 5:56am
            Timbo (L) said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:56am | ! Report

            Meakes has been pretty good at SR level. He has a habit of squeezing through gaps, making yards and then handing off to the heavy artillery to bust through the last line of defense. He is a pretty good defender,
            Praise aside, I haven’t got a good feeling about him stepping up to the big leages. The opposition are always just a bit bigger and the game more intense. He doesn’t have Hunt, Kerevi or Hodge’s physicality. I can’t explain it and hope I am wrong and he gets a run and proves himself. I would be giving him a go against Argentina and maybe the Boks, The AB’s could be a bridge too far and as we have seen, a poor performance as a rookie gets you blacklisted from future selection.

            • August 11th 2017 @ 11:30am
              MitchO said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

              Timbo. One of the James’ on the Roar (not sure which but someone who is a better judge than I) and Nick B think Meakes either isn’t going to up to it or isn’t up to it now. Be nice to find out sometime because he may find another gear. He has plenty of character.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 11:07am
        MitchO said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        Tsuru if they are prepared to throw Hodge in at 12 then why not an under experienced Kerevi. If Hunt wasn’t injured it would be him. The best experienced option would be giving Meakes ago. He is experienced at 12 and a strong defender.

        I do agree though that you gotta play Kerevi at 12 in super rugby if you expect him to perform there in tests. A test match is no place the practice the fundamentals. Not just the ABs but pretty much any other Tier 1 team. And lets not forget we deservedly lost to Scotland and they are not a top 4 team and we tried pretty hard to lose to Italy and they are only tier 1 1/2.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 10th 2017 @ 11:22am
          tsuru said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

          Yes, Mitcho. I was writing my above response to Fionn when you posted your comment. I think I agree with you about Meakes. Actually I’m one of the few who likes the idea of Godwin at 12 (for now), if he was fit, for pretty much the same reasons as the ones you gave for Meakes. And he has a good left boot. But he isn’t fit. As I said above, I’m conflicted. Who’d be a Wallabies’ selector, let alone coach?

          • August 10th 2017 @ 11:31am
            Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            I don’t think Meakes has displayed enough to make me think that he would be a better 12 at international level than Kerevi would. Playing Meakes also means we have to choose between Kerevi and TK, who are both far superior to Meake in my opinion.

            As a Brumbies fan I just can’t support Godwin. He just ends the prospect of any attacking play being successful.

            • August 10th 2017 @ 12:28pm
              Markus said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

              Brumbies looked better with Andrew Smith starting out of position at 12 than they did with Godwin.

              There were problems with the backline’s kicking game, but that is not a problem I think Godwin would have fixed anyway.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 11:34am
            MitchO said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

            Yeah. so without Hunt fit we may as well persist with Kerevi. We have some okay options at 13. TK is good enough (again) and guys like Rona and Hodge have the potential. For the sake of argument, Rob Horne is okay and Magnay will probably be very good.

    • Roar Guru

      August 10th 2017 @ 3:34am
      Nobrain said | August 10th 2017 @ 3:34am | ! Report

      Good analysis Fionn. I think the problem starts at 8,9, and 10. The rest of the spaces have good talent that cannot be exploit because of that deficiency. But to be honest I do not see the talent to fix it.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 4:30am
        Tissot Time said | August 10th 2017 @ 4:30am | ! Report

        And again everything is predicated on whether the 1-8 hold their own in the set pieces,breakdown and gain line. If they don’t any back line will be under pressure.

        • Roar Guru

          August 10th 2017 @ 7:35am
          Machooka said | August 10th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

          Correct. Necessary. Currently lacking.

          Thanks for the read Fionn!

          • August 10th 2017 @ 9:06am
            jameswm said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

            I think our tight 5 is as strong as it has been for a while. 2 years ago we had no locks, now we have 2. And we have Rodda and Tui on the rise, and another Arnold, plus Skelton who might come back very good after 2 years with the most professional set up in rugby (apart from maybe the ABs).

            • August 10th 2017 @ 11:14am
              MitchO said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

              Yeah James and we have a 22 year old Matt Philip who will push the others even if he never quite gets to test level himself – but I like him . We also still have Simmons who is young enough to be around for another five years or so and whilst he may not get a lot better at least he is up to test standard (just). And RHP is built like a lock.

              Sio, Alan A, Kepu, Ainsley and Faulkner are all competitive. Tupou will come close for his ball carrying but they need to shift him from tight head to loose. Tighthead needs to scrummage first and foremost. Shouldn’t sacrifice the scrum for a ball carrier. Picking a runner over Greg Holmes was silly.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:33pm
                Markus said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

                Tupou has only just turned 21, and his scrummaging has been getting stronger all the time. That he is a great ball runner does not detract from that.
                Holmes did not peak as a scrummaging prop until his 30s.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:53pm
                MitchO said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

                Thanks Markus. Alan A and Kepu and Ainsley and Faulkner can all play tighthead. Tupou is so young he can only continue to improve and I’d like him picked for his ball running. He’ll be ready for that before his scrummaging at tighthead is ready.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:36pm
                Perthstayer said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

                Fionn- thanks for comments re playmakers. IMO I think Meakes would excel under the responsibility. He broke the line with aggression and WF points for/against was 40% better than Tahs (not all because of him I realise). He also paired nicely with 2 fast wings.

                But the 3 key playmakers are surely the front row!! And vs ABs Cheika needs to select carefully and sub intelligently.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 5:11pm
                Markus said | August 10th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

                Amazing how quickly things have changed regarding Australian props hasn’t it MitchO, where just a couple years ago our top 4 props would have all been loosies and not a TH prop in sight.

                I wouldn’t discount the level required to scrum on the LH though. It may be a bit less physically tolling but potentially even more technical. Tupou will have his work cut out either way. Kepu may not be around much longer and I do not see Faulkner as a regular, there is no problem having three strong TH in Australia between Alaalatoa, Ainsley and Tupou. I also look forward to Tyrel Lomax developing in coming years.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 7:24pm
                MitchO said | August 10th 2017 @ 7:24pm | ! Report

                I played a fair bit of Loosehead Markus so know what is required and I know some tightheads don’t do well if they switch over. But really i mentioned shifting him to loosehead just because tight head is the anchor. You can carry a weaker scrummager at loosehead if you need to but if you have a weak tight head you’re sunk.

                Alan A was a loosehead but has done really well since moving to tight head. He and Sio are a good starting pair especially if Sio can scrum consistently well. He seems to have issues adjusting to a good tighthead within a game.

                I hope Kepu can stick around. It is good to have a few decent props around. We had the ignominy of none for years. And Slipper’s scrummaging at the end of his career was just not good.

                Cowan is okay without being particularly good and Faulkner will get some proper practice at Melbourne. I haven’t seen Lomax but hope he comes on. I haven’t really seen the Qld loosehead either so I hope he’s okay but I really don’t know.

                I do love Tupou’s size and pace but then I think everyone does.

              • Roar Guru

                August 11th 2017 @ 6:08am
                Timbo (L) said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

                I think Australia has a problem at LH. Everyone that has been selected in that position has been worked over by the opposition and has leaked penalties. I don’t think the oppositions have been playing within the rules but that is a different story. Knowing that the French Ref’s don’t really care, it would make sense to either select a LH that is rock solid or drill the guys on how the opposition are going to disrupt.
                Pek Cowan rarely lets his corner of the scrum down but with all selections there is balance. Sio is a master in the ruck and Maul and a great defender and ball carrier.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 7:13am
                Fionn said | August 11th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

                Timbo, we need Michael Ala’alatoa back, so that we can switch Alan back to LH.

                Imagine a scrum with the twin Ala’alatoas?!

              • Roar Guru

                August 11th 2017 @ 7:35am
                Timbo (L) said | August 11th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

                Smith is heading over there next year, Maybe we can get Mike back.
                But.. with one club less, that’s 3 less LH’s eligible for selection. Who would get bumped?

              • August 11th 2017 @ 7:38am
                Fionn said | August 11th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

                Timbo, I’d change selection policy so that Australians playing in all of SR are eligible, even if they play for South African or New Zealand teams.

                Reading Wayne Smith today, apparently the Japanese are concerned the Sunwolves will get cut if the ARU can’t cut the Force.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 10:36am
        Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        Cheers, mate.

        I think a backrow of Higgers-Hooper-Timani, while not ideal, is not particular weakness (although things would be simpler if Fardy and Cheika got along better).

        9 and 10 are a real problem and there isn’t much we can do about it. If Genia regains his 2016 form then that problem is solved, but 10 isn’t really answerable. I think Louwrens, if he stays injury free, will be our first choice 9 by the WC, and hopefully Jordan Jackson-Hope comes through, Paia’aua gets a chance to play 10, Toomua makes an early comeback to Aus or Lealiifano recovers.

        Not much we can do this year, however.

        • August 10th 2017 @ 2:57pm
          scubasteve said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

          how come none mentions mack mason in this discussions around a ten. from what i observed he looked great.

          10 – Foley and a back up apprentice for spring tour and non all black games.
          12 Hodge/Hunt
          13 Kerevi (need a back up 13)
          14 Folau (only issue is chip over the tops and he struggles to turn around just like Naiyaravoro)
          11 A fijian (take your pick)
          15 Beale (the best full back option)

          Keep working on the props. Need to develop a young coles like hooker (i had hopes for Latu – what happened?). The locks are good. Need to keep the 6’s and 8’s in development – there is options coming on – wouldn’t mind an NRL prop?

          • August 12th 2017 @ 5:25pm
            ThugbyFan said | August 12th 2017 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

            Mack Mason, played one SR game (Tahs against Crusaders) and people want him in the WB setup????? Sorry Scuba, I was at that match and M.Mason is far too small and did nothing really special except a couple of nice up-n-unders for Izzy Folau to run on to. Mason tackled ok but also missed a couple of important tackles. He didn’t take control of the backline but then again the bloke was likely still learning some of their names.

            I’m not bagging Mason as it was his first match but he did absolutely NOTHING to suggest he is or could be a quality international 5/8. Even with his field kicks he needed time, exactly the same problem we have with B.Foley. Lets give Mason a whole SR season and more regular games at 5/8 before we start throwing the kudos for him for him to step up to the next level.

    • August 10th 2017 @ 3:40am
      Fin said | August 10th 2017 @ 3:40am | ! Report

      Fionn not sure I would describe Nonu as a strong attacking kicking option but I agree with the premise of your argument.
      I think moving KB to Full back and Folua to the right wing has plenty positives in it’s own right without even looking at what it might accommodate at 12. However my prediction for who will be wearing the 12 jersey in 2019 would be Hunt.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 8:53am
        Andy said | August 10th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        I disagree towards the end of his career Nobu was making many intelligent attacking grabbers behind opposition defensive lines, which then slowed the rush defence. The big thing with Nonu was early in his career he was a crash ball player with great defender the passing vision and kicking was all gradually developed as he became a more rounded player. Surely someone with the skills of Larkham am should be able to coach similar skills to our current 12

    • August 10th 2017 @ 3:51am
      Luke Ringland said | August 10th 2017 @ 3:51am | ! Report

      I agree that Beale should play 15. He also has a decent long kicking game. Folau would do just fine on the wing. Wouldn’t it be great if Kerevi could be developed into a Nonu type player who’s able to throw the long ball. But what we did see earlier in the year is Hunt doing a great job, so I think it really has to be him. Kerevi will just have to lift at 13, and I think having a solid defender inside him will help a lot.

      So what about:

      9. Genia
      10. Foley
      11. Folau
      12. Hunt
      13. Kerevi
      14. Speight
      15. Beale

      • August 10th 2017 @ 4:54am
        connor33 said | August 10th 2017 @ 4:54am | ! Report

        I’m just not sold on Hunt or Kerevi at the moment because while they look to have the physique to be good tacklers in the channel, but defensively they slide off or miss tackles. Why would we discard players like: Hodge, DHP and TK so quickly, particularly the latter. I agree in taking Kerevi and Hunt to the 2019 WC, but it took Nonu near a decade to evolve his game and I can’t see Kerevi doing it in 2 years–perhaps 2023. In the meantime, and in attack, you’ve got to have Foley and Beale aligned at 12-13–much like how they played in 2014, and how Sexton and Farrell played for the Lions:

        9. Genia
        10. Foley
        11. DHP
        12. Beale
        13. TK
        14. Hodge
        15. Folau

        In defense, I don’t think it is rocket science to then align the backline:

        9. Genia
        10. Foley
        11. DHP
        12. Hodge
        13. TK
        14. Beale
        15. Folau

        Here, Hodge and DHP replaced Giteau and AAC from the WC–providing for 5/7 from the 2015 backline then going to 2019 WC–and players like Hodge and DHP building from there debut years’ in 2016.

        • August 10th 2017 @ 9:08am
          jameswm said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

          You query the defence of Hunt in the 12 channel, then opt for Beale or Hodge who are much worse defenders. Hodge doesn’t have the hands to play 12, not right now anyway.

          • August 10th 2017 @ 10:51am
            Wolman said | August 10th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

            If we are going for a 2nd playmaker Beale has to be the man.

            Hunt gives everything in defence and although he’s not perfect, he is the best option as a defender at 12. I think we all get that. He’s a good player.

            But I’d still go Beale ahead of him because Beale is the better second playmaker and he has a much better running game than Hunt. Beale’s defensive weaknesses are exaggerated. He can tackle he’s shown that many times.

            if we are going for a bit of brute force Kerevi should be the man over hodge, who btw are both not up to a genuine 2nd playmaker role.

            But lets be honest. Beale will wear the 12 and Kerevi the 13

            alas Hunt and Hodge for me are the next best in any scenario and are probably more likely going to fighting each other as a bench options as they can both cover a variety of positions.

            • August 10th 2017 @ 10:54am
              Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 10:54am | ! Report

              A 10-12 channel of Foley-Beale means certain doom off of quick turnover ball.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:57pm
                connor33 said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

                But do you really think a big player like Kerevi — 110 + kg — is going to be any better on “quick” turnover ball? Again, I think Kerevi may be a great player, but he is non Nonu at this stage–and he’s got a long way before his long passing game and kicking can be called test quality.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:59pm
                Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

                Yes, I think he will be infinitely better than Beale. As you say he is big, he is a big solid defender capable of making one on one tackles in a way that Beale is not.

                Further, unlike TK Kerevi has excellent lateral movement, fast feet and is quick off the mark even if his top speed isn’t that of a winger or someone like Beale.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 2:03pm
                connor33 said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

                To say that Kerevi will be “infinitely better than Beale” is little Trumpian in its hyperbole don’t you think.

                But the context for your point was: Beale would be bad at 12 on turnover ball. I disagreed. On turn over ball, scramble is name of the game. Watch Giteau in Bledisloe I 2015 (first 5-10 minutes) and during the WC, he did that near perfectly. My view is that on quick turnover ball, I’d rather have a faster, lighter player scrambling (like Beale or Giteau); rather than a guy who weighs 110 kg.

                Now, perhaps on a set defensive play I’d rather be running at Beale, rather than Kerevi, but that was not the context in which you made the point. But Kerevi defending at 13 in Bledisloe II last year was far from perfect–missing two one-on-one tackles leading to tries: one defending against set-piece and the other scrambling 1:1.

                Though, as I pointed out in my previous post, I would have Hodge at 12 defending against a set play. But I may be wrong on that as Beale has been defending at 12 in England against larger players, so perhaps he has put on some size and improved any defensive concerns.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 2:08pm
                Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

                Not really, Beale is one of the worst defenders I have ever seen at international level. His reads are worse than either Foley or Cooper, and he seems unwilling to tackle at other times.

                Giteau is a good defender. I’ve never really seen Beale consistently scramble in defence. Beale is faster than Kerevi but Kerevi still has excellent lateral movement and acceleration for his size.

                Kerevi’s first international start at 13 was against the ABs in Eden Park. He’s improved a lot since then. But, as I said, I would prefer him at 12 to 13 as it is an easier channel to defend him.

                I don’t think Hodge is the best player in any position yet. He is a better defend than Kerevi, but he is so much worse in attack that I think it would be madness to play him over Samu.

                Anyway, we can agree to disagree.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 4:20am
                adastra32 said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:20am | ! Report

                That is true. Contrary to connor33’s assertion below, Beale was preferred at 15 for Wasps. And damned good there he was too.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 4:20am
                adastra32 said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:20am | ! Report

                That is true. Contrary to connor33’s assertion below, Beale was preferred at 15 for Wasps. And damned good there he was too.

          • August 10th 2017 @ 1:08pm
            connor33 said | August 10th 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

            Why is Hodge such a bad defender at 12. He played there for most of the EOYT last year and we happened win 3/5 games. And how the Aussies could have beaten the Irish in the fourth game when the penalty ration was 13 to 3, is beyond me. Not even the mighty Tim Horan could have turned that penalty tide defending at 12.

            Hodge also has a long kicking game, from hand and off the tee. He’s probably the fasted player in the team–and contrary to the thoughts of many I think his hands are just as good as Hunt, perhaps even better. I’m not a Cheika basher, but I still wonder why he did not keep the continuity of Hodge and TK at 12-13. Perhaps he wanted to create further depth with Hunt, knowing that Beale was ultimately going to come into the 12 position.

            • August 10th 2017 @ 1:11pm
              Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

              His hands are nowhere near Hunt’s, he struggles with passing and with catching. Hunt has a brilliant pass, short and long. Hunt makes better defensive reads also, I think, while Hodge is also a good defender still.

              Hodge hasn’t yet developed the situational awareness of when to kick and when to pass and how to inject himself into the backline, he is still very young and very raw, we’re expecting too much of him too early.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 2:21pm
                connor33 said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                If you look at Hodge at 12 (and incidentally TK at 13) in the following, I think you’ll see a fairly good sense of situational awareness–the games against Scotland and Wales were perhaps two of our most complete in 2016 (in what was a bad season, admittedly):

                As the commentator notes, the Hodge try in the Scottish game was probably the best of the entire game. Hard to deny that one. And his speed and multiple touches in the Welsh game perhaps even tops his Scottish effort. These tries don’t tend to show so-called “situational” frailties, nor poor hands–indeed, quite the opposite given the space he was working within before the tries were scored. And the kid is only 21-22.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 2:27pm
                Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

                Hodge caught a ball at full speed and run through a hole created by the other players, I don’t think Hodge was particularly impressive in the play – do you, honestly? I would give the credit to Foley and especially DHP.

                The Wales game was incredible, granted. It was the best match that I have seen from them since the 2013 EOYT.

                The number of times Hodge has dropped a ball or thrown an awful pass, thrown a poor offload, or just not passed at all has given me great discomfort. I think he is a class player, and I think he will be a longterm Wallaby in the future, but not yet, for now I think he should be on the bench.

                I actually see more of a 13 in him than 12. I would like to see him play a full season of SR at 13, but because we don’t have a centralised system the ARU can’t make the Rebels play him there.

                Ideally, I would want a 12-13 of Kerevi-Hodge by the 2019 WC if the Super teams would play them there. Hodge isn’t so strong through contact as Kerevi, and doesn’t have nearly as good soft hands, so I don’t think he is as good at 12. That said, his speed is an excellent asset with a bit more space at 13, and he has decent strength through contact, and it looks like he could be a great defender in a few years.

        • August 10th 2017 @ 10:58am
          Markus said | August 10th 2017 @ 10:58am | ! Report

          Hodge is not being discarded. He made the Wallabies squad and then test debut following a huge number of player departures and injuries. After some okay but not outstanding form for the Wallabies he is simply dropping back down the pecking order a bit as others become available again.

        • August 10th 2017 @ 11:01am
          MA said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          The Wallabies and in particular that back line can not score enough tries (particularly with Foley at 10) to make up for all the tries they will concede.

        • August 10th 2017 @ 1:16pm
          RahRah said | August 10th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

          I just can’t agree with the continued “barn dance” that occurs every time we move from attack to defense.
          Beale is week in defense at 12 and everyone seems to forget that he is NOT a straight runner, rather his first move is a hop and a skip sideways which has the effect of moving the outside backs sideways and compressing them against the sideline. This makes it a walk in the park for a drift defense. Beale’s best work is done from 15 where he has time to set in defense and inject himself where he sees an opportunity in attack.
          kerevi is our most punishing runner but his defense is suspect and he has the tendency to “zone out” from time to time.
          For better or worse I like Meakes at 12, he runs straight thereby straightening the attack, he runs good lines and is rock solid in defense. I keep harping on about this, but I see him much the same as Crotty.

          09. Genia
          10. Foley
          11. Rona
          12. Meakes / Kerevi
          13. Kurindrani
          14. Folau
          15. Beale

          • Roar Rookie

            August 10th 2017 @ 1:22pm
            piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

            I like this, but I’d put Beale at 10 and DHP 15

          • August 10th 2017 @ 2:29pm
            connor33 said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

            I do like Meakes. Excellent in set-piece from what I see. Could be a bolter for the 23. Don’t know about Rona. Why not keep Hodge or DHP on that wing.

            • August 10th 2017 @ 2:33pm
              connor33 said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

              And Beale at 15 is hard to deny, particularly when you look at his 2010-11 form (esp in SA). I think was nominated as player of the year, one of those year as well.

              I get the sense, we’ll see a straighter running Beale in 2017 based on his English experience–perhaps more in the Horan/Giteau mould. We’ll see…

            • August 10th 2017 @ 5:05pm
              RahRah said | August 10th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

              Ive lost a little DHP “love” lately, he’s been down on form lately so at the moment he is not my first choice.
              I’ve chosen Rona for two reasons, a) he has a fantastic track record as a winger (yes it’s league I know) and b) I see him possibly as a future 13, so he will get exposure to union at test level and learn the ropes from a position that is infinitely easier to learn than 13.
              I’m not discarding Hodge at all, but he would be a off the bench in my team.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 10th 2017 @ 3:20pm
          ChrisG said | August 10th 2017 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

          If you need to move players to compensate for defensive frailties, why bother? Hodge has a decent kicking game, can defend and is big and strong enough as a direct attacker. Beale can then be a selective attacker in the Ben Smith mold. Folau at wing and no one needs to move from the offensive line to a defensive line. Kerevi as an impact player while he learns his trade ad Hunt returning from injury and then putting pressure on for a midfield spot. Looks like an interim solution to me.

    • August 10th 2017 @ 4:01am
      Darwin Stubbie said | August 10th 2017 @ 4:01am | ! Report

      Nonu wasn’t actually anything like a second playmaker

      • August 10th 2017 @ 4:45am
        Riddler said | August 10th 2017 @ 4:45am | ! Report

        For mine C.Smith was almost of equal.importance as carter..
        Nonu was great but Smith would have been name earlier cemented on the team sheet.
        Oh to have such problems in oz rugby.

        • August 10th 2017 @ 4:59am
          Darwin Stubbie said | August 10th 2017 @ 4:59am | ! Report

          True he held it all together … NZ shifted away from their traditional 2nd 5 role – with Nonu being the prototype power closer in … If required their second playmaker is now normally their fullback Smith, Dagg, Barrett in his sub days

          • Roar Guru

            August 10th 2017 @ 8:31am
            Machooka said | August 10th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

            Agree guys… Conrad was the glue that made that backline so competitive. Dominant.

            Especially in defence!

          • August 10th 2017 @ 9:58am
            Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            For a while Henry thought of a 12-13 of SBW-Nonu.

            I agree that Smith was the smartest player in the backline. I still completely disagree he was as complete as Nonu in attack, but he was the finest defender by far.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 8:17am
            soapit said | August 11th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

            i kinda think that works better ds as the second playmaker can work out the back after the power runner 12 goes through pulling a couple of defenders onto him. its basically the old block play that is used in both codes but more often with forwards as the defence puller. ideally i think having a skillful 13 and 15 outside a bigger 12 is my current preference and has been for a while (may well be skewed by that AB setup to list tho)

            probably boring to say but its why i was a proponent of trying ocnnor at 13 when he was around (not to mention he never seemed to find a home in any other spot and was the only one they hadnt tried him in)

            i’d have kerevi at 12 and then i dont know who at 13 under that structure, maybe hunt.

            its not something oz have really used in the past too much.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 10th 2017 @ 11:13am
          piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

          Nonu was great but Smith would have been name earlier cemented on the team sheet.
          Oh to have such problems in oz rugby.

          You had a Conrad Smith in Adam Ashley-Cooper, for some reason your coaches thought it best to play him at fullback and on the wing however

          • August 10th 2017 @ 11:20am
            Luke Ringland said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            Oh if only. AAC was a fantastic player for both the Wallabies and Tahs, but his biggest failing was his ability to set other players up. The number of times I groaned audibly at the pass he didn’t throw….

            In this regard it’s hard to compare him to C Smith, who was more or less a playmaker at 13.

            • Roar Rookie

              August 10th 2017 @ 11:27am
              piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

              I always felt like AAC was never left at 12 long enough to get his ‘groove’ and that he was constantly trying to do two or three people’s jobs.

              I rate him very highly (as do many outside of Australia), unfortunately he was another one never fully appreciated in his home nation.

              • Roar Guru

                August 10th 2017 @ 11:57am
                Hoy said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

                He has some shocking goes at 12… not many… maybe he could have improved, but he was a terrible 12 when he played there I thought… I agree with Luke. The chances that he didn’t create when he played 13 made me pull my hair out. Better on the wing.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:02pm
                Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

                I think Piru meant 13. He was making a direct comparison with C. Smith, and I think it is pretty fair to say that 13 was AACs best position?

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2017 @ 12:18pm
                piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

                I did mean 13 actually – thanks Fionn,
                Please excuse my finger spasms, it’s still early in WA

              • August 10th 2017 @ 12:42pm
                Markus said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

                I don’t think Ashley-Cooper was ever underappreciated here. Almost everyone will rightly say that he was a very good player and servant to the Wallabies over the years.

                Being of the opinion that he was not quite up there with some of his predecessors (Herbert then Mortlock) or some of the other outside centres in world rugby (Conrad and BOD in particular) is not a slight against him at all.

                You are right that he often looked to be covering weaknesses in the backline, and indeed that is likely why he started so many games on the wing instead of outside centre even after Mortlock was no longer in the picture.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2017 @ 12:56pm
                piru said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

                We’ll have to agree to disagree on his being unappreciated Markus, but yes, his ability to play other positions ultimately led to him being the jack of all trades and unfortunately master of none.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 5:44pm
                bigbaz said | August 10th 2017 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

                ACC was his own biggest fan

              • August 10th 2017 @ 5:45pm
                bigbaz said | August 10th 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

                Sorry , after his mum

              • August 11th 2017 @ 8:33am
                soapit said | August 11th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

                piru i would rate AAC except..

                … he had an almost non existent passing game at 13 and cost us many tries as a result. tk coming in who knew how to put his winger away in a 2 on 1 was a breath of fresh air.

                liked him at wing enough though but would have liked a bigger kick or more pace to be top class. agree he was a bit of a jack of all trades with physical attributes and skills. would have been a great 13 if he could pass.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 9:36am
        Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        Clearly you didn’t watch much of Nonu after 2010, DS. As opposed to his earlier years when he just ran straight and hard, in latter years it was pretty common for him to a (a) draw in defenders and fire along or cut out pass, (b) go for a grubber kick or chip kick in broken play or (c) draw in defenders and go for a little pop pass.

        I’ll agree earlier on he wasn’t, but that was the point, he developed into the role. After 2010 running straight and hard was just one of his many weapons.

        • August 10th 2017 @ 9:52am
          Wolman said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          Conrad Smith was recognised in NZ as the true 2nd five in their ensemble.

          Nonu may have wore 12 but he wasn’t their 12 in the traditional sense you are referring. Great player he was but he was not a genuine playmaker/2nd five. He was an exceptional support player and ball runner.. and of course he could pass and kick (like a good no 13 can) but as I said those in the know always recognised that Conrad Smith was their second playmaker.

        • August 10th 2017 @ 9:53am
          Darwin Stubbie said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          Nah … what you need to do is redefine what you’re classifying as a second player … I’d argue Horan wasnt one either

          • August 10th 2017 @ 9:57am
            Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

            ‘what you need to do is redefine what you’re classifying as a second player’.

            Fair, it does depend on the context it is being used, definitely.

            • Roar Guru

              August 10th 2017 @ 11:06am
              Hoy said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

              I think people talking about the ability to pass, is not what I would classify as playmaking… playmaking is creating options etc for other players… picking apart opposition teams through a series of plays…

              A 12 who runs a hole, and passes long to his/her winger, is not a playmaker. But having said that, they have to have the ability to pass long, just in case they do make a midfield break, and the winger is their closest support.

              So my thoughts on the “second 5/8” is that the team is looking to diversity in attack… maybe set up one each side of the midfield ruck to allow the team to go either way, without losing the 5/8’s attack/organization/playmaking ability… But it just doesn’t work that well for Australia. Similar to the backrow argument we are having now, I think we give up too much potential to settle for second 5/8s that have been/are no good… I mean is Hodge really thought of as a playmaker? To me, he is better suited to the Mortlock role at 13… straight, hard and fast. But at 12, trying to turn his terrible passing game into a key component of your attack is ludicrous.

              Beale maybe, but Beale can’t defend very well (though I would rather he defends at 12, than stupid shuffle), and 12 must be able to defend, particularly if you have a defensively weak 10, which is more easily accommodated.

              Kerevi is the obvious 12, and he has the natural game NOW to play 12. To my mind, we are ruining his development by not playing him in his natural spot, where he would be the best in Australia anyway…

              • August 10th 2017 @ 11:09am
                Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

                That’s fair, in terms of playmaking I was more referring to the player having the tactical nous to always observe the situation and decide will I (a) run, (b) pass or (c) kick; and that they then have the ability to actually execute (a), (b) or (c). Most Australian players default to (a) rather than considering the other two options, they struggle to do (b) well (they pass behind or to the man, not in front) and are apparently informed never to do (c), and since it is never practiced we never have any chasers.

                I agree Kerevi should be at 12 now, and it is likely to be his best position longterm, and the position that Australia needs him the most.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 11:41am
                MitchO said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

                I reckon crash ball at 12 does work and will forever work. At at the end of the day you are just trying to draw in the defence and then get the ball to the overlap or the hole. There are few miracles.

                For mine there is far too much disrespect for defence. Forget the points. Defend well and then try to find a way to score some points. D wins finals. Always has.

                TK can defend pretty well and score a try. Folau with a sniff of space can score a try. Foley can score a try. Naivalu, Speight, Rona, Korobeiti and Hodge are all very good finishers.

                Beale is in my best 15 players. I think Folau will be a better winger than Beale and Beale a better man to chime into the backline. So Beale needs to take 15 and forget the bull dust about the incentre needing to be second five eight.

                Kerevi needs to play some 12 at super level but realistically we are highly unlikely to take a game off the ABs this year so why not use the Bledisloe cauldron as a learning experience. Unless you put a Meakes or Duncan P at 12 you may as well use Kerevi. He won’t be worse than the others so it is not as if we are giving up anything.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 11:55am
                Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

                Deans felt the same in the 2011 WC.

                I don’t agree on crashball. Sure, it can get you over the advantage line again and again, but unless you get ultra fast ball then the defence just resets, and they know there is little to no danger from the outside backs.

                Like at the first match in the Lions series, Te’o got over the advantage line constantly but, despite this, there was never any attacking threat from the Lions.

              • Roar Guru

                August 10th 2017 @ 2:57pm
                Hoy said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

                Kerevi is a better player than Teo… Kerevi’s footwork makers sure of that… Teo looks for contact, and every now and again, changes angles, but doesn’t really use footwork… Kerevi has great feet for such a big frame. He can get on the outside, and that means he can poke his nose through almost any gap. Once a body pushes through, if the support is half decent (big if for us), then fast ball should be a given… or a penalty.

              • August 10th 2017 @ 2:58pm
                Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                Hoy, I agree Kerevi is much better than Te’o. As I said, Kerevi looks like he could be a future Nonu.

                I was simply disagreeing that crash ball is a good strategy. I don’t think Kerevi is a crash baller though, he has excellent lateral movement and can step into gaps extremely quickly. The step he put on the Bus before he was injured in Bledisloe 3 last year was sick.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 8:58am
                soapit said | August 11th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

                problem with deans crash ball is he was using mccabe who wasnt really a chance at running over the top of anyone (bigger than oconnor at least). its a good strategy when used with a second playmaking line out the back. especially if the crashballer also has the ability to pass and kick for territory like nonu did. i think kerevi fits this mould pretty well.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 9:03am
                Fionn said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

                Soapit, I just fundamentally disagree that Nonu was a crashballer, especially after about 2010.

                From 2010 he displayed as much vision in attacking, kicking and passing as Conrad Smith did. Nonu could also move laterally as well as crash ball, he was a complete 12, not a crashballer.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 10:06am
                soapit said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                yeah agree not a crashballer in the same way mccabe was. he used his agility to couple with his bulk and size. and agree he had more to his game tha running but its very difficult has a decent playmaking game without being a running threat first and nonu very much had power near the centre of that threat.

                i guess tho if youre talking just someone charging forward into the teeth with the sole aim of getitng forward momentum and quick recylce that wasnt him.

    • August 10th 2017 @ 4:50am
      Riddler said | August 10th 2017 @ 4:50am | ! Report

      Cheers for the article fionn. You make some good points as per usual.

      I personally would like hunt at 12, hope he gets an extended run on the eoyt and for qld next year.

      I am less worried about the backs than the piggies.

      As per usual in oz we naval gaze at 9-15 when the reality is that 1-8 is equally if not more important than the pretty boys.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 8:18am
        Curl said | August 10th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

        Agree, its 1-8 where we are struggling. 1-8, or 1-5 is the enginroom and if the engine isn’t working well, then 9-15 might as well be sipping tea on the sidelines.

      • Roar Guru

        August 10th 2017 @ 8:29am
        Machooka said | August 10th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        Hola Riddler… as mention up above to TT it’s the 1-8 where we are wanting. Especially 8!

        The ‘pretty boys’ are guaranteed dirty jerseys until we can shore-up 1-8. It’s that simple 😉

      • August 10th 2017 @ 10:00am
        Fionn said | August 10th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        Cheers, mate.

        I too like Hunt but have concerns over his ability to injury free given the way he plays the game and his age.

        I actually think our tight 5 is about the best it has been for a long time. There’s some weakness in the backrow (largely due to ignoring RHP and Higgers and Fardy in favour of Hanigan) and next year Naisarani will become eligible too.

        I would change the eligibility laws to try and include all of SR and try and entice M. Ala’alatoa into the Wallabies also.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 10th 2017 @ 3:29pm
          ChrisG said | August 10th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

          M Ala’alatoa is certainly worth the effort. As has been pointed out previously it’s 1 to 8 where the problem lies. Someone who has spent time in the Crusaders environment with other top props would be an invaluable asset.

        • August 12th 2017 @ 6:18pm
          ThugbyFan said | August 12th 2017 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

          Spot on Fionn, any Aussie player in SR should be eligible for the WB. We could get M.Alaatoa, T.Smith and likely others learning the dark arts from the masters in KiwiLand yet still be in the WB frame.

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