The Wallabies changes I’d like for Bledisloe 2, please

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Every Wallabies fan and his dog has had their say on the Wallabies, it seems, with the grand Australian tradition of naming alternate teams alive and well since Saturday night’s 54-34 dusting in the first Bledisloe of the year.

    To be fair, a good portion of All Blacks fans, and indeed, fans of other international teams have had their say on the Wallabies, too. Certainly, there’s been no shortage of opinions, nor of suggested changes for the Wallabies, often accompanied by authoritative statements like, “this is the team they’ll pick if they’re serious.”

    Because, obviously, the Wallabies haven’t been serious up to now.

    Equally, and with tongue no longer wedged in cheek, it is patently clear that changes do need to be made. I’ve never been an advocate for mass change after a loss, and that remains the case now, however some tweaks appear obvious when the Wallabies name their team.

    So, logically, these are the actual changes they’ll make. If they’re serious…

    Tatafu Polota-Nau to start
    I could see what the reasoning for starting Stephen Moore last weekend was; the All Blacks’ lineout steal threat is never far away, and they tend to swoop when the opposition throw is a bit shaky. But with Stephen Moore having minimal impact, and with the ball really not finding touch that often, the lineout specialisation became a luxury the Wallabies couldn’t afford.

    Polota-Nau had a huge impact in the second half, carrying strongly and attacking the breakdown well, and pushing the Wallabies scrum advantage home further. It was so different to what Moore provided into the first half, that I doubt there will even be much debate around the selection table about this one.

    Tevita Kuridrani to outside centre
    The first half-second half stats splits on the weekend were just mad; like, polar opposite in most categories. What was up in the first half was down in the second, and vice versa.

    Now, Kuridrani wasn’t responsible for this, but it was certainly evident that his presence in the midfield after halftime did add an extra dimension to the game. Suddenly, the All Blacks defence had to cater for his angled run, regardless of whether the ball came or not.

    The offload threat became real, and indeed, the Wallabies did offload more. Kuridrani became a focal point in attack, and with the ball, the Wallabies just looked better. He has to start.

    (Pic: Tim Anger).

    Samu Kerevi in one spot
    Kerevi looked short of a run last start, no doubt, and that shouldn’t really have been a surprise of a guy who hasn’t played a lot of rugby this season. He looked short of a run because he was short of a run.

    But I still think he can play an important role in the midfield, and if anything, moving in one spot probably simplifies his game, both in attack and defence. And a lot of these changes are about simplifying things.

    Israel Folau to the right wing
    Folau defends on the right wing. He does most of his attacking down the right edge, where he can get his right arm freed up for an offload. And he did this quite well in the second half, as the Wallabies got nine of their 12 offloads for the match away after the break. And if the Wallabies want to kick across field to him, he’ll be in the right corner.

    In short, he’s doing everything a right winger would do bar wear the no.14 jersey, and the reasons for that diminish with every outing. He can still inject himself as a run from the wing, and even if he hugs the touchline all night in Dunedin, he’ll draw New Zealand defenders out. Plus, he wouldn’t have to worry about going anywhere in defence; he’ll already be there. One less moving part.

    It probably means Curtis Rona goes to the bench, with Henry Speight switching over to the left wing, but Rona can still have a good impact covering 11, 13, and 14.

    Kurtley Beale to fullback
    I had two full paragraphs of explanation written here, and then I started flicking through Nicholas Bishop’s column yesterday and found this comment of his written to regular Roarer Fionn.

    “I see no reason why Kurtley cannot go out with a number 15 on his back and still play the same role Fionn. Maybe give Kerevi the 12 shirt and bring Kuridrani into 13,” Nic wrote.

    Exactly my sentimonies. And I could’ve saved four pars up higher, too. Beale started at inside centre when he returned for Wasps last season, but was back at fullback before too long and playing well enough to force former Springbok Willie le Roux to the wing. I still think it’s his most dangerous position.

    Kurtley Beale Australia Rugby Union Championship Wallabies Bledisloe Cup 2017

    (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

    And there is no reason why Beale can’t play exactly the same role in did in Sydney. Furthermore, it’s another moving part in defence eradicated.

    Offloads. Support runners. Second phase
    This won’t be part of the announcement today, obviously, but it’s something we need to see from the Wallabies. The second half last week showed the value of the offload, and even knowing the All Blacks will defend better this weekend, there is always room in the game for the offload. Indeed, the All Blacks prove this point every Test.

    Support the ball carrier though; give him a reason to look for the offload. And then make something of the second phase opportunity. In the current climate, play smarter, not prettier.

    Make the most of last weekend’s second forty
    Because Australia rugby supporters have suffered enough this year to ignore what happened.

    Work out why what worked, worked. Heed the lessons, for our sake.

    UPDATE: The Wallabies team has been named for Bledisloe 2.

    Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Henry Speight, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper (capt), Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Allan Alaalatoa, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Lopeti Timani/Jack Dempsey, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge, Curtis Rona.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (231)

    • August 24th 2017 @ 5:10am
      riddler said | August 24th 2017 @ 5:10am | ! Report

      cheers brett..

      with complete respect.. 4 out of the 5 changes are with the backs..

      agree the backs need attention but so do the forwards.. starting with 6, 7 and 8 plus your call of 2..

      • Roar Pro

        August 24th 2017 @ 9:06am
        Boosho said | August 24th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        Sometimes you have to pick your battles riddler. Let’s be honest, we all know that Cheik will go the opposite direction to the collective wisdom. Rather that shoring things up, he will undoubtedly foist on us a selection so grotesquely bizarre that it will make last week’s setup look like the Rock of Gibraltar!!!

        • Roar Guru

          August 24th 2017 @ 12:44pm
          Hoy said | August 24th 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          Which he has done…

      • August 24th 2017 @ 9:32am
        jameswm said | August 24th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Back row was a massive part of our poor performance. Unbalanced and Hanigan lacking physicality. It’s hard to get that missed clearout on Retallick out of your head – I watched parts again this morning. Mind you, Moore was to blame too. McMahon had that poor 1 on 1 miss on SBW that led straight to a try.

        Timani must start. That gives us 4 big, hard hitting bodies to start (TPN, the locks and Timani). I don’t really care whether he’s at 6 or 8.

        Personally I would take Dempsey with him because I rate him in many areas (physical and quick and can jump) but I could live with RHP who has more game time under his belt this year.

        I’d also start Kepu for AA but not much in it.

        • August 24th 2017 @ 9:47am
          Fionn said | August 24th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          Kepu and AAA are pretty much like for like in terms of quality, which is what you ideally want in props. You don’t get that massive downgrade in quality like the Kiwis do when they bring in Ofa.

          One thing I will say, however, is that while Kepu is probably bigger impact than AAA, Alan has seemed much fitter, much higher work-rate and much better at controlled aggression than Kepu, who is sometimes too prone for silly penalties. And so, for his late game impact, lower fitness and work-rate I would have Kepu as the bench impact guy.

          • August 24th 2017 @ 10:59am
            MitchO said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

            Brett must have run out of ink coz he missed that one. TPN and Timani to start.

            Tell Timani to go hard and burn himself out and then sub him when he tires and the game opens up if needs be..

            Neither Hanigan nor McMahon will get dropped out of the 23. Cheika loves them both dearly. That being the case the choice is which of them starts and which gets subbed on for Timani. I prefer Timani and McMahon swapping – with no Hanigan in the 23, but with Hanigan in the 23 I’d play Timani at 8 and McMahon at 6.

            McMahon has played a lot of 6 at Melbourne but not much 8 with the Japanese Mafi taking the spot. Same problem for Timani really with him playing too much lock at the Rebels. The Melbourne 7 is not much worse at 7 than McMahon, if at all. Means that McMahon and Timani don’t get much practice in their test positions. So McMahon should play 6 not 8 if only because he plays more 6 at super level. Timani with his weight probably has a better chance of controlling a messy back of the scrum too.

            I don’t think the ABs are too worried about our lineout. Would there be more lineouts if McMahon plays? Maybe. A chance worth taking though because Read is better than Hanigan in the lineout anyway.

            Timani has done at least okay every test he has played. Better to build around his deficiencies than Hanigan’s because we need Timani’s physicality more than Hanigan’s pace. Hooper and McMahon will give us enough speed.

            McMahon is currently too small to play 6 or 8 truly effectively at test level but he is tough and covers across the backrow positions and does have alot more experience than Hardwick.

            Dempsey has missed too many games this season so I leave him out until the end of year trip at the earliest although I reckon it would be better for him to get his body right. That probably means stay home and work on his diet and conditioning. Get a good many months long preseason in. That’s reduce his chances of injury down the track.

        • August 24th 2017 @ 10:07am
          Realist said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          What a surprise! You’ve suggested adding more Waratahs and an ex Waratah putting the blame on non-Waratahs.
          You certainly are consistent, if nothing else..

          • August 24th 2017 @ 1:08pm
            jameswm said | August 24th 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

            You do realise the 1st thing I said was drop a Tah player?

            If you think selecting TPN to start is due to provincial bias then I’ll stop replying to you here.

        • August 24th 2017 @ 7:17pm
          Zac Ellerton said | August 24th 2017 @ 7:17pm | ! Report

          I really don’t understand why Hannigan is selected – his ability in the line out? He clearly lacks physicality in contact and rucks. I recall Hannigan falling off tackles when we played Scotland.

          Maybe it’s because Timani’s fitness isn’t quite there.

      • August 24th 2017 @ 10:04am
        Realist said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        If it’s not blatantly obvious now that the most important change is the coach then I’m not surprised so many people are turning away from the game.
        We need a complete leadership overhaul from the head office right through to the captain and his leadership group of players.
        Agree with all of the suggested changes and would replace the entire backrow

        • August 24th 2017 @ 10:33am
          Adsa said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

          Keeping it real, I like it.

        • August 24th 2017 @ 10:57am
          Perthstayer said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report


          No-one in the ‘real” world who under performs like Grey would keep their job. His inclusion is the most damning part of the WBs current demise and will have o’seas teams laughing.

          Cheika blames not executing the systems, is that what the Tahs have done wrong all season?

          Arrogance is stupidity spelt differently.

      • August 25th 2017 @ 10:34am
        Nigel said | August 25th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        6 and 8 we can definitely change, Higginbotham can have a shot at 6 with Timani at 8!! This preoccupation with McMahon beggars belief, if anything put him at 7 instead of the headless chook that tears around the field but does not do the job of a 7. Moore should be retired immediately post haste, where is Hanson??? Why is he so out of favour?? Our biggest liability is the coach, he cannot select a team, he cannot recognise talent, he is a laughing stock. Hannigsn was like a schoolboy last week yet there he is again this week???

    • Roar Guru

      August 24th 2017 @ 5:12am
      Machpants said | August 24th 2017 @ 5:12am | ! Report

      The ABs announced at their standard 0500! The only chance to the fifteen is an improvement with Dane Coles starting. So Taylor drops to the bench, the inexperienced Hames in for the injured Crockett on the bench, and another improvement by increasing the Barrett level – Scott replaces Romano on the bench.

    • August 24th 2017 @ 5:12am
      Dan in Devon said | August 24th 2017 @ 5:12am | ! Report

      In the longer term, Beale will need to go to FB for the simple reason it will be inconceivable that Hunt would not start at 12 when he is fit. I saw Beale play at FB for the Wasps and at times I thought he was brilliant even though a little shaky in defence. I thought your point about the line out was good- but surely this would mean moving Hannigan to the bench. His effectiveness at the ruck and with the ball in hand was minimal. But not being familiar with the WB squad I am not sure who would replace him. McMahon seemed a little underdone or lacking physicality. Any chance of Higginbotham being selected ?

      • August 24th 2017 @ 11:06am
        MitchO said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        Hi Dan. Looks like no chance of Higgers getting selected by Cheika. He really doesn’t seem to like him. Cheika likes Dempsey who apparently is our great white hope for 6 but he hasn’t played much this year due to injury and is pretty young.

        Hardwick is good and in good shape but he’s the same size as McMahon give or take. At this stage of their careers I think McMahon is still a bit ahead. Hardwick plays both 7 and 8 and has a gift for finding the ball in second phase. A real gift for digging it out when his team needs it. But McMahon played the first test so I’d keep him for continuity. He’ll play better in the second than he did in the first. Especially if they give him TPN and Timani to help add some weight.

        • August 24th 2017 @ 11:16am
          Markus said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          For a team that had 8 tries scored against them in 48 minutes, continuity would be the last thing I would be looking for.

      • August 24th 2017 @ 3:37pm
        Buk said | August 24th 2017 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

        Hi Dan – I liked your line ‘Beale will need to go to FB for the simple reason it will be inconceivable that Hunt would not start at 12 when he is fit’

        That would seem to be reasonable logic given Hunt’s performance there.

        But I have serious doubts that even Tim Horan in his prime would start over Beale at 12. I don’t know exactly why.

    • August 24th 2017 @ 5:14am
      Sportstragic said | August 24th 2017 @ 5:14am | ! Report

      That’s exactly the backline I would like to see too. I think it’s the wallabies best backline with DHP or Hodge on wing for their kicking. Plus all the backs defending in their correct positions to improve the defence. It’s a nightmare defensive system!!

      But it’s the forwards who do the work to win rugby games. What are your changes to the forwards that you would like to see? TPN obviously to start. Timani to 8. A new number 6.

      • August 24th 2017 @ 8:12am
        PiratesRugby said | August 24th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        No, Hodge to 10. Foley is the core of the problems in the backline.

        • August 24th 2017 @ 9:34am
          jameswm said | August 24th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

          Great call,. Pick someone not just out of position, but in a position he’s never played professionally, for a big game against the best team.

          Smart thinking 99.

          • August 24th 2017 @ 9:53am
            Riccardo said | August 24th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report


            Pirates is on his shoe-phone …

            • August 24th 2017 @ 9:55am
              jameswm said | August 24th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

              Actually I’m pretty sure it’s “good thinking 99”.

          • August 24th 2017 @ 9:57am
            Fionn said | August 24th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

            To play devil’s advocate, would he be any different to Foley?

            Foley currently runs the ball fairly ineffectively the majority of the time, throws some appalling passes (the intercept to Crotty that Ioane scored off) and that forward pass that wasn’t ruled forward and Folau scored off, makes horrible defensive errors, can’t kick it far and often gets charged down.

            Even if Hodge purely ran the ball the majority of the time it would be the same as Foley, only Hodge runs harder than Foley. Hodge’s pass isn’t good enough for 10, but is it any poorer than Foley’s, how many times has he been intercepted or been unable to throw a long ball? Hodge can kick it a lot further than Foley and he cannot possibly be charged down any more often than Foley.

            It is beyond me what some people continue to see in Foley. He seems like a nice guy, but he’s a dud at international level.

            • August 24th 2017 @ 10:03am
              Fionn said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

              The only reason not to play Quade this week is because it wouldn’t be fair to throw him to the wolves.

              How many matches in a row can we make excuses for Foley by saying ‘Quade is too inconsistent’, at what point do we decide that Foley is even more error prone than Quade, only without the flashes of genius?

              • August 24th 2017 @ 10:59am
                Perthstayer said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

                Is Lance injured?

              • Roar Rookie

                August 24th 2017 @ 11:08am
                piru said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

                Is Lance injured?


              • August 24th 2017 @ 11:11am
                Fionn said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

                Piru, you got a spare All Blacks shirt I can wear this weekend?

              • Roar Rookie

                August 24th 2017 @ 11:14am
                Shane D said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

                Foley is has been consistent of late. It’s just not consistently good.

              • Roar Guru

                August 24th 2017 @ 11:21am
                Hoy said | August 24th 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

                Never it seems… Foley is excused for errors, Cooper is said to be inconsistent, and a weak defender, who cramps his backline…

        • Roar Guru

          August 24th 2017 @ 10:08am
          Cadfael said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          This may not be a bad idea. Something out of the box is required because what we are doing at the moment doesn’t appear to be working.Had Lealiifano not been ill, he would have been a worthwhile start at 10.

          • August 24th 2017 @ 10:10am
            Fionn said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

            At least he can defend there. 10. Hodge, 11. Speight, 12. Kerevi, 13. Kuridrani, 14. Folau, 15. Beale has everyone depending in their own position.

            • Roar Guru

              August 24th 2017 @ 10:30am
              Cadfael said | August 24th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

              I would like to see that. Will we?

              No we won’t. Kuridrani in at 12 and DHP in on the wing in place of Rona. Simmons and Moore to start. I like Dempsey but how could he be bracketed with Timani (unless Timani is under an injury cloud). We will get monstered again.

    • Roar Guru

      August 24th 2017 @ 5:20am
      Kia Kaha said | August 24th 2017 @ 5:20am | ! Report

      Agree with those changes but I’d add in the back row, Brett.

      If only the Wallabies had Amanaki Mafi at their disposal and Timani at 6. Then size wouldn’t be an issue with Hooper at 7 and that back row would have pace, power and lineout options.

      But pick McMahon at 8 and Hanigan at 6 to combine with Hooper and that screams lightweight and ineffectual all day. That triple layer of trifle won’t slow down NZ ball or win the breakdown battle.

      So bring back Timani at 6 and Higgers at 8. I guess you didn’t include that as sadly we all know it ain’t gong to happen.

      • August 24th 2017 @ 6:00am
        Lano said | August 24th 2017 @ 6:00am | ! Report

        Yes please.

      • August 24th 2017 @ 6:55am
        Fionn said | August 24th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

        Oh, to have Amanaki Mafi…

      • August 24th 2017 @ 9:16am
        Old One Eye said | August 24th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        Plus one

      • August 25th 2017 @ 12:47am
        Crash Ball2 said | August 25th 2017 @ 12:47am | ! Report

        How the author can omit, even mentioning, the Wallabies backrow in this discussion altogether is almost inconceivable.

    • August 24th 2017 @ 5:20am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | August 24th 2017 @ 5:20am | ! Report

      Good read Brett.
      Hope it happens.

      But 6,7 and 8? No comment?
      Fardy and Higgers should always have been in the squad.
      Not to mention a certain 10 from Qld.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 24th 2017 @ 7:35am
        Toulouse Lautrec said | August 24th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

        I concur, 6,7, 8 is our biggest issue right now.

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