One step forward, a couple back for the Wallabies

Scott Allen Columnist

By Scott Allen, Scott Allen is a Roar Expert

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    The first match of this year’s Rugby Championship, in Sydney, was one of the most painful I’ve watched the Wallabies play – the performance was nothing short of embarrassing.

    The second match, in Dunedin, was a fantastic improvement which offered fans a glimmer of hope for the rest of the season.

    Their performance in Perth on Saturday was, unfortunately, a couple of steps backwards again.

    It must be frustrating for the coaches when they make improvements in one area only to watch the team struggle in other areas – there’s only so many holes in the dam you can plug at once.

    Take the set pieces from the match against South Africa.

    • Restarts: two of six were poor – a dreadful start to the match for Bernard Foley when the opening kickoff didn’t get anywhere near the ten-metre line at the start of the match, and a poor chase in the second half which allowed the Springboks to bring the ball back unopposed.
    • Restart receipts: two of seven were poor – Israel Folau was late getting to the contest in one and gave away an obvious penalty and if that kick in the second half had gone another ten centimetres, the Springboks would have won another as none of the Wallaby players had reacted quickly enough.
    • Scrums: seven of 15 Wallabies scrums were poor, with the lowlight being the penalty under the posts in the 67th minute which gave the Springboks the lead late.
    • Lineout on own throw: the Wallabies only won five from ten on their own throw and only delivered clean ball in four from ten, including three where the throw wasn’t straight (although only two were picked up by the referee).
    • Lineout on opposition throw: the Wallabies were poor in seven of 13 lineouts where the Springboks threw the ball in. The penalty Ned Hanigan gave away in the 78th minute for playing the jumper in the air was actually the fourth time the Australians were guilty of that error, which tells you that they were late getting into the air to compete.

    It’s hard to play good rugby when you’re having that much trouble with your set pieces, so I suppose it’s a positive that the Wallabies managed a draw.

    What kept the Wallabies in the match? It was largely down to the performances of Michael Hooper and Kurtley Beale.

    Beale has returned from his stint in England as a much better player, who doesn’t just offer x-factor as he used to. He’s working hard, his defence has improved significantly, and he seems to be really stepping up as a leader.

    Hooper certainly has a big engine, as he showed in his chase to run down Jan Serfontein, which saved the match.

    Michael Hooper Australia Rugby Union Championship Bledisloe Cup Wallabies 2017 tall

    The major problem area for the Wallabies in general play was their inability to control their attacking rucks, which allowed the Springboks to disrupt the quality of ball Australia had to attack with and led to six turnovers of possession.

    Is this a back-row issue? Not necessarily, but the current trio isn’t balanced and Hanigan doesn’t deserve a spot.

    Controlling your attacking rucks to provide quick, clean ball is vital for a team that wants to play the expansive type of rugby the Wallabies seem to be aiming for.

    Michael Cheika was interviewed by Fox Sports during the match and his comment in relation to the issues around controlling the ball in the ruck was, “We’ve got to ruck past the ball and use our legs. We’ve had the message at half time so let’s see how the boys react from here.”

    I agree they were losing the ruck contest with some ineffective cleanouts, but the bigger issue was why the Springboks were winning the race into the Wallabies’ attacking rucks, forcing the arriving players to desperately try to shift South African bodies off our ball.

    Take these two examples.

    The first came in the second minute of the match, when Sean McMahon took the ball in following a quick tap. That’s Pieter-Steph du Toit already over the ball, and Hanigan and Sekope Kepu are still metres away. So from our first possession, it’s a turnover!

    The second is from the 75th minute, with the Wallabies hard on attack, trying to score match-winning points.

    Jordan Uelese and Tom Robertson have cleaned out the first two Springboks but no-one else showed the urgency required to get into the contest and save our possession. That’s Jaco Kriel over the ball taking away our final opportunity to win the match. Adam Coleman arrived after this frame and was correctly penalised for clearly coming in from the side.

    Where was the urgency to get in ahead of the Springboks? Surely, the players understand the fundamental rule in attack – you can’t attack if you don’t have the ball!

    So, I see this as an issue for the whole team but obviously getting the balance of your back row right helps.

    Your No.7’s most important role is to be first into attacking rucks. That’s right, I don’t think a No.7’s primary role is to try and disrupt the opposition’s ball in rucks – I see that as a shared priority for the entire forward pack.

    If your openside can get into as many of your attacking rucks before the opposition arrive, then you’ll deny the opposition the opportunity to disrupt your ball. To play that way, they need to be a support runner, not a primary ball runner, and they need to stay close to the ball to be in the right position to get into rucks early.

    Of course, having a 7 who can also compete hard for the ball in opposition rucks does help disrupt their attacking flow and it was noticeable in both matches last month against New Zealand that the Wallabies were making little impression on the speed of the ball the Kiwis were able to play with.

    Hooper, for all his positives around the field, isn’t ever going to be the type of player I’ve described – he is a primary ball-runner and is better suited to playing that little bit wider. Does that mean Hooper shouldn’t be in the team? No – he’s obviously one of the first picked, but that does mean someone else in the forward pack has to fill the role I’ve described.

    Who is that player? Unfortunately, I’ve been too busy in other areas of rugby this year to watch enough of the contenders to answer that question, but I’ll keep an eye out and get back to you.

    Scott Allen
    Scott Allen

    Scott has been a rugby contributor with The Roar since 2013. After taking some time out to pursue other roles in the game, including coaching Premier Grade with University of Queensland and the Wallaroos at the recent World Cup, he's returned to give us his insights. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottA_ to hear more from him.

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    The Crowd Says (239)

    • September 12th 2017 @ 6:27am
      Cynical Play said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:27am | ! Report

      Welcome back Scott. You’ve been missed by many I suspect.

      The Dunedin match is the benchmark, and shows what this team can do when they play with confidence.

      I think they are really missing Pocock. And they came up against some good forwards.

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2017 @ 7:47am
        stillmissit said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        CP what advantage would that offer us when Cheika would put him at 8 and Hooper at 7? The breakdown would land on Pococks shoulders as well as the hard carries whilst Hooper was defending in the channels.

        I disagree with Scott re Hooper great runner and tackler that he is, he should have been a back, in the TIm Horan mould, or not in the Wallabies.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 10:23am
          JasonC said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Stillmissit, I agree completely with your observation on Hooper. There is no doubt he is a world class player, especially when compared to the current Wallaby ranks, though he is not a open-side flanker. He may play with a 7 on his back but the traditional traits required for this position are lacking in his skill set.

          He would have been great as a 12 or, if slightly larger, a Kieran Readesque No. 8 that stands wide causing havoc and enters the fray of the ruck on occasion. I remember sitting almost behind the posts at the game vs. the Poms last year in Melbourne and being amazed at his positional play – for a large part of the in both offense and defense, I noted he was in the 5-10 meter corridor from the sidelines. Now I have tried to blank that game from my memory but I do recall us losing it through turnovers, poor defensive reads and a lack of ball security.

          Hooper will be Australia’s No.7 for some time to come so unless we can find a tall 6 or 8 that can play the traditional 7 role, our 8 wins from the last 22 matches wont’t be improving a great deal.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 11:05am
            stillmissit said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            Yes JC – just compare him to George Smith who left Australia as there was no place for him after Pocock arrived on the scene.

            It seems we can only build 7’s (regardless of Hoopers weaknesses) we are not great at finding 6’s and 8’s.
            It’s been a long time since we had a balanced back row. I think Jed Holloway has the makings of a great 8 but did not see it this season.

          • Roar Rookie

            September 12th 2017 @ 12:34pm
            Don said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

            Hi Jason
            Whilst I agree that Hooper is deficient in some “traditional” facets we would expect from a 7, those England tests aren’t a good indication of where Hooper plays.
            In that series Cheika had Hooper parked on a wing and Fardy in the same spot on the other side of the field.
            We thought we could play expansive and still have a forward to secure the pill to recycle.

            It failed miserably. England kept the ball in tight and in hand. Meanwhile we had Fardy and Hooper wide waiting for a ball that didn’t come…

            • September 12th 2017 @ 1:38pm
              JasonC said | September 12th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

              Hi Don, this may have been the case but again falling back on a common thread in this discussion – Hooper’s leadership skills and game management – wouldn’t this have been an opportune moment for Hooper to see that the current game plan was not working and to adjust as required?

              In last Saturday’s game I counted him at 1st or 2nd receiver countless time – one example being during Beale’s magnificent individual try. We struggled at the breakdown again in this game so if it was again Cheika’s plan to play him wide then why didn’t he see where we were failing and adjust? Or you could even ask whether Cheika believe’s Hooper’s strengths lay outside of the ruck area so this is where he wants him to play?

              Hooper is a very good player, one of our best at the moment, and he will be captain for as long as Cheika is coach. As I said previously, we need to find an alternative for the ruck if we want to remain competitive in world rugby.

              • Roar Rookie

                September 12th 2017 @ 2:19pm
                Don said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

                Agree with much of what you are saying Jason.
                I think the comment about him playing where Cheika wants him to is spot on.
                I’m sure he would play tighter if asked but that isn’t Cheika’s plan.

                Somehow in selecting sides Cheika seems reverse what most are trying to achieve when putting a team together and finds a way to make the “whole” weaker than the sum of it’s individual parts.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 5:52pm
          FunBus said | September 12th 2017 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

          ‘CP what advantage would that offer us when Cheika would put him at 8 and Hooper at 7?’

          It’s all about balance. Pooper can work, but it’s entirely dependent on who the third member of the back row is. He must be an effective ball-carrier, physical presence on attack and defence and someone who can provide an excellent 3rd lineout option. Absent such a player (as well as a back-up in the same mould) you have to choose between Hooper and Pocock and, for the reasons Scott alludes to, you’d have to go Pocock when available.

      • September 12th 2017 @ 8:22am
        Curl said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Pocock Smocock, he isn’t here so forget him and even before he left he had lost a yard of pace. What about McMahon, he is light, fast, strong….where the heck was he all night when it came to the rucks? Colman is meant to be an enforcer, but didn’t have much impact. The bottom line is we got smashed at the set piece and in the rucks, and until our guys can fix this, we will struggle.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 9:12am
          connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

          Given Coleman, TPN and Force players et al in the Wallaby team were told the preceding week that the appeal failed, I think we can all cut them some slack. I can only hope that this sorry WF saga has now come to an end. Tragic, but the toll on all the players has been underestimated. We’re very luck we have played as well as we have this international season….

          • September 12th 2017 @ 9:22am
            Dave_S said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

            Sorry Connor but I’m not buying the “we wuz cut” excuse for any Force players (and I doubt any would need to raise it). If you can’t get your head set for the game you are a poor excuse for a pro-footballer. We’ve seen plenty of examples of players performing after the death of a loved one (for eg), by comparison this pales.

            • September 12th 2017 @ 9:30am
              connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

              Fair point in part, but this whole ‘team cut from comp’ thing has now been going on since January.

              The fiasco infiltrated every team–then was pushed to WF, Rebels and Brumbies–and then pushed WF. Unlike a family loss, this has been death by a 1000 cuts. It’s been a disgrace and it’s not to think that the uncertainty has undermined the team. Perhaps not the only factor, but a factor nonetheless…

              • September 12th 2017 @ 9:44am
                Dave_S said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

                Yes perhaps I was overstating it to make a point – the prolonged aspect of it cannot have been conducive to getting good sleep, for sure.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 9:31am
          Fionn said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

          Rubbish about Pocock. Go and watch the match against France last year, Pocock basically won us the match by himself. He was immense. Equally, he was just about our best player against both Scotland and Ireland.

          For the past 7-8 years whenever Pocock has been out we have struggled with retaining possession and keeping the ball.

          People like you under-appreciate one of our only truly world class players.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 9:46am
            Wal said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

            Even when he doesn’t truly dominate he, like McCaw & G. Smith before him, makes life so difficult for the opposition.
            He makes every tackle/ruck a contest and the extra effort pays massively over 80 minutes.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 12:49pm
            Charging Rhino said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

            100% agree Fionn.
            David Pocock is by far the best Australian rugby player. By far.
            His name is the only one on a Wallabies team sheet that worries me whenever the Boks play the Wallabies. When he’s not there I smile 🙂

            • September 12th 2017 @ 5:58pm
              FunBus said | September 12th 2017 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

              Charging Rhino – Shhhh. Stop telling the Aussies how important Pocock is. I forgot myself and mentioned it in an earlier post, but I think I got away with it.

            • Roar Rookie

              September 12th 2017 @ 7:54pm
              Phantom said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

              I fell the same for the MIB.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 12:55pm
            stillmissit said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

            Spot on Fionn: If he had more support maybe he would not get injured so much. It strikes me we have the idea that a ball winning #7 can just go in and win us ball while the rest stand in the D and look interested.

            Our backrow and therefore our breakdown work is our biggest problem on the park IMHO…..

            • September 12th 2017 @ 1:54pm
              Ed said | September 12th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

              Stillmissit, I agree on why it appears we have had the idea of one/two players being the ball winners.

              Other sides have multiple people to attack and win the ball at the breakdown. As Rod Macqueen has noted, the kiwis have “foracks” – backs who can win the ball at the breakdown while the forwards can pass like a back.
              While AAC rarely passed, he won turnovers at the breakdown.

              And it is great to have Scott giving insights on the Roar again.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 2:54pm
            PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

            such short memories

            pocock rwc 2015

            • September 12th 2017 @ 3:01pm
              Markus said | September 12th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

              The other aspect conveniently overlooked for Pocock is that for a supposedly one-dimensional ruck monkey, by the time he went on his sabbatical he was actually making more ball carries per game than Hooper, in addition to topping tackle counts and almost doubling Hooper’s breakdown work rate.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 3:17pm
                PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

                also another falsehood or (false facts in newspeak ) is that he is slow.

                In that video he tackled J Savea into touch, he quickly gets to rucks, makes good cover tackles.

                Sure he is not as quick as Hooper, Kriel or Savea but he is as about the same speed as the rest : Todd, Cane, Vipturic, Louw, OBrien, Wurburton, Lobbe

            • Roar Guru

              September 12th 2017 @ 6:00pm
              Kashmir Pete said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

              thanks Pete

              Great clips


            • Roar Guru

              September 12th 2017 @ 6:00pm
              Kashmir Pete said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

              thanks Peter

              Great clips


            • Roar Guru

              September 12th 2017 @ 6:43pm
              stillmissit said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

              One of the big problems with Aussie rugby Peter is that few of the supporters know a good rugby player from a good runner with the ball.

              Great Utube bringing it all back.

            • September 12th 2017 @ 11:40pm
              wow said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:40pm | ! Report

              Wow, the clip around 35 seconds shows the difference between the two at the breakdown. Pocock is just massive. Hooper is one of our best for sure but he/we need a Pocock to compete for the ball in the breakdown.

          • September 12th 2017 @ 5:24pm
            Curl said | September 12th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

            Pocock Smocock, not underestimating his impact on the game over his career, but I was simply pointing out that he isn’t available, so no point in beetling about it. As for his game against France, one game doesn’t define your form, as we saw with (the million dollar man) McMahon over the last 3 weeks, you have to put in for the whole season and every game – one after another – not just one game, and Pocock’s Super rugby form for the Brumbies in 2016 was not his best, notwithstanding the injuries.

            I hope he returns to Australian rugby and makes a real difference in 2018, but he ain’t here now and the players have to get on with the job, which means everyone turning up week after week.

          • September 13th 2017 @ 7:41am
            wally said | September 13th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

            I thought the media reported to the tahs rugby public that Hooper was once again the best on ground in that game?

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2017 @ 9:32am
        Ralph said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Yes, missed by many. Good thoughts and a very welcome contribution.

      • September 12th 2017 @ 11:34am
        Cliff (Bishkek) said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

        We keep crying Pocock. Why? Pocock is not the answer. We have the answers in Australia, yes young and untried but our Coach will not play them.

        Our problems are coach based. Forwards who should be there or under consideration – Timani (with a kick up the backside), Heylett-Petty, Higgenbottom. We need a 6 and a big 8. Cheika is not looking.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 11:50am
          connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

          Isn’t Heylett-Petty injured? Or was that just in June?

          • September 12th 2017 @ 5:27pm
            Curl said | September 12th 2017 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

            The other Heylett-Petty….

        • September 12th 2017 @ 12:18pm
          Craig said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

          Haven’t really seen a standout game from Timani in Wallaby colours yet IMHO…is he a bit overrated as an 8? I certainly think so. Agree with Higgenbotham – for the life of me I cannot understand why he is not currently playing.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 12:40pm
            PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

            does it need to be a standout game.

            What about where he does his job of getting hard metres in tight, clearing bodies off rucks, making hard dominant tackles.

            All the things Mumm 2.0 fails, and some of the things McMahon fails at.

            Timani could play 6 and Higgs 8 or other way around , doesn’t matter really

        • September 12th 2017 @ 5:26pm
          Curl said | September 12th 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report


        • September 12th 2017 @ 6:01pm
          FunBus said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

          ‘We have the answers in Australia…’

          If the forwards you name are the answer, you’re asking the wrong question.

      • September 12th 2017 @ 7:14pm
        PiratesRugby said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

        Thanks Scott. Great to have you back.
        The Wallabies all wear the gold jumper but they don’t play as a team. Individual brilliance is great but won’t beat the ABs. They’ve got brilliant skills but also a cohesive and balanced team. The Wallabies are just 15 blokes playing at the same time.

      • Roar Guru

        September 13th 2017 @ 12:43pm
        jeznez said | September 13th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

        Agree with the others – great to have you back Scott.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 6:33am
      Woodsman said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      Welcome back Scott, your articles are always a good read.

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2017 @ 9:38am
        PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

        second that, great articles, you have been missed Scott

      • September 12th 2017 @ 11:01am
        ethan said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        Third! Is this going to become a regular feature? We’ll be spoiled now with both and Nick and Scott contributing.

      • September 12th 2017 @ 11:17am
        Crash Ball2 said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:17am | ! Report

        Fourth. Hope it is the start of a weekly column rather than a nostalgic one-off.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 6:42am
      Ando said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      Great to have you back Scott!!

    • September 12th 2017 @ 6:50am
      Fishboy said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      What a pleasant surprise to start the day with; thoughtful rugby analysis free of colour coded bias. Great to have you back Scott.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 7:02am
      connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      Great to see the return, Scott. And an insightful article. THe article tends to point to an issue that seems to plague all of us right now: what to do until Pocock comes back? And how do we make up for Fardy’s loss–and his all-around skills and leadership?

      The Pocock (poach/ruck), Hooper (running) and Fardy (poach/lineout) combination worked because each player had overlapping skills–making for probably the best backrow of the 2015 WC. Of course, each player is an excellent tackler as well.

      Assuming Pocock and Hooper will be reunited next year, the issue will be: who fill’s Fardy’s role (1) now and (2) next year. In my view:

      – This year: Hooper, Timani and Simmons/Coleman* with McMahon and Rodda on the bench (Hanigan is not up to test level at the moment). Had Fardy continued to play this year, we probably could have won in NZ or against SA.

      – Next year: Hooper, Pocock and Simmons, with perhaps an improved (and heavier) Hanigan on the bench next year given that McMahon will be away in Japan.

      *I’d even be open to turning Coleman into a No.6 as he has the necessary mongrel–and speed. His long stride is deceptive. Simmons could then just concentrate on lineout and scrummage in the second row.

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2017 @ 7:51am
        stillmissit said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

        Connor forget Simmonds: I don’t think I have seen him play one good game for the Wallabies. Qld were right to dump him and Waratahs were stupid to pick him up. Even given a lifeline by Cheika he still has done little to reward that faith.

        Coleman and Arnold are at the start of their international careers but already miles ahead of Simmonds.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 8:21am
          connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

          I’d take Simmons over Hanigan right now? Wouldn’t you?

          I admit, it’s far from perfect. But we have two variables at 6 and 8 right now and as Scott points out, Hooper is not a tradition pilfering 7–so we have 2.5 variables in three of the most important position on the pitch.

          • September 12th 2017 @ 9:20am
            jameswm said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

            At 6? Maybe.

            But both would be behind Timani, Higgs, RHP, Dempsey and others.

            Why Simmons? You do realise he is too slow to cover the blind side, don’t you? And he lacks physical impact.

            I wouldn’t go near picking him at 6.

            • September 12th 2017 @ 9:31am
              Dave_S said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

              Yes, maybe Simmons over Hannigan, but there are better options

              • September 12th 2017 @ 10:49am
                connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

                Who are the options, Dave? Even if they do exist, what are the specific reasons why they would be better than SImmons or Coleman at #6.

                The English play Lawes and Itoje at #6 despite being second rowers, why are we so adverse to doing the same thing when there is such a lack of #6’s in Australia right now.

                People criticized Pooper (Fardy plus) and it nearly won us a WC, why should we not continue to experiment with tried test players (unlike Hannigan)?

              • September 12th 2017 @ 12:22pm
                Dave_S said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

                Connor, my preference (assuming Fardy is dead to Cheika) is Higgs and/or Timani and/or RHP (although it appears I may be mistaken in assuming he’s available atm) replacing Hannigan and possibly also McMahon.

                Simmons is not a bad idea, and he is the best lineout option, but assuming we have 2 decent targets at 4 and 5 then I’m happy with the 3rd option just being adequate, to keep the other lineout honest.

                I’m not averse to a lock playing 6, per se, just don’t think Simmons is the answer in the circumstances. But if (for eg) we were playing a monster pack with 4 lineout jumpers then Simmons would be certainly in the mix.

                Coleman is our best lock so I’d prefer he stayed there.

                And I reckon it takes a pretty athletic lock to play 6 – it’s one thing to have the pace to make the odd cover tackle, it’s another thing to be able to do it all day. I can see the attraction of Hannigan in that regard (problem is he’s ineffective in contact)

            • Roar Guru

              September 12th 2017 @ 9:43am
              Train Without A Station said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

              He’s not that slow.

              Just because he’s a lock doesn’t mean he’s lumbering. He’s quick enough to make cover tackles on backs.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 10:47am
                connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

                Folks seem to forget Simmons’ speed–let alone his hands–against Argentina in a certain WC semi in 2015. But selective memories seem to be common on the Roar.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 12:31pm
                Dave_S said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

                Connor I well remember that example of Simmons’ runaway intercept – but it stands out because it’s rare.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 12:02pm
                PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

                Simmons speed against arg was out wide when he had space and time to get going.

                Off the mark he is far too slow for a 6 to make the inside cover tackles in the front line, and he doesn’t make up for that lack of speed with power.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 12:42pm
                PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

                this is his intercept

                Simmons shows pace once he gets going.

                He is too slow off the mark covering the scrum, and lacks the power to make up for that.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 1:45pm
                jameswm said | September 12th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

                Like PeterK says, SImmons is slow off the mark. By the time he is up and running the half back has made the break down the blind.

            • September 12th 2017 @ 9:43am
              connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

              I’ve got Timani at 8 re above. And who are these ‘others’ you speak of.

              – Higgs had a chance. He could have grabbed the #6 or #8 position by the scuff of the neck. He didn’t. If he was such a great player (as many say on this site), he would have seen the opportunity that was laid at his feet. It was Fiji, Scotland and Italy. Because he failed, it led to the “Hannigan” experiment. And we know where that is.

              – RHP, I hear, he has been injured. Correct me if I am wrong. Perhaps he should have been given a run in June if he wasn’t injured. But if he is injured right now, he’s not an option.

              – Dempsey did next to nothing in SR, nor on the weekend. Look at the Tahs’ season. Hooper was the only reason they didn’t lose every game. Dempsey was ordinary and fell into the ‘immaturity’ class on the weekend.

              Based on the above, I can’t see why we could not have Simmons, Coleman and Arnold play 4,5,6. I really don’t care what order. If Hooper is at 7 and Timani at 8, we get a little more balance that was found out against the Boks on the weekend–and which lies at the heart of Scott’s article.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 10:06am
                Fionn said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                Higgers outplayed Hanigan. Cheika just doesn’t rate him. It isn’t about being an objectively great player, it is about being relatively the best option.

                Fardy was the relatively best option, unfortunately, he’s overseas, and so Higgers is now the best. He is excellent in the line out (better than Hanigan), and more effective in attack and rucking.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 10:42am
                connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

                1. If Cheika didn’t rate him, why did Cheika play Higgers in the June series? He also played him in other games in the last two years and Higgers has not done anything significant. Good SR player; but just hasn’t nailed down a test position–much like Hannigan right now. And comparing Hannigan to HIggers is not the best marker, right–something, surely, we must be in fierce agreement about.

                2. We agree that Fardy is what is needed right now (a tight, pilferer #6)–and best complements Hooper?

                3. Assuming we agree on 2, then I can’t see how Higgers fits that mould. Now Coleman and Simmons are not pilferers per se, but they know how to play tight–and are better jumpers in the lineout than Higgers. So both would be a better option than him.

                4. Now Higgers can play in the wider channels, but so does Hooper. Hooper is the better player of the two, making Higgers redundant.

                5. Higgers had a chance to prove his ability to play tighter. He failed to fulfil that “core” role–something folks on this site are troubled by when those roles are not fulfilled.

                Higgers out. RHP injured. Dempsey an ordinary Tahs’ pack player.

                For right now, I can’t see why we can’t go with 4,5,6 Arnold, Coleman and Simmons.
                Timani at 8 and Hooper at 7.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 10:50am
                Fionn said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

                1. How do you explain the fact that Higgers was dropped and Hanigan was maintained despite Higgers outplaying him in both tests they played together? Ditto with Lopeti Timani being dropped. Cheika does the same with players like Moore and Mumm who are retained time and again over better players (Mumm over Fardy was the worst selection in Cheika’s entire period). I know you’re an unabashed Cheika fan, but surely you can admit there are double standards?

                2. We 100% agree on Fardy. The reason that Hooper’s best periods for the Wallabies were 2013 and 2015 were because in both of those periods he had a 6 and an 8 that attacked all of the rucks and went hard over the ball, allowing Hooper to best utilise his wide running and attacking skills. Unfortunately, Fardy is gone…

                3. Are they both better line out jumpers than Higgers? I am honestly not sure that Coleman is, he drops a lot of balls. Higgers is excellent in the line out.

                4. I agree Hooper is better than Higgers, but Higgers is the only uninjured 6 with the required speed (check out PSDT being shown up at 6 against England, and he’s a truly excellent lock).

                5. Higgers DID play a tighter role in the June series, which is why we didn’t see him run as often.

                Simmons is too slow to play 6, that’s the biggest issue. People who know Tui better than me say that he probably is fast enough to play 6, however. I’d have Higgers over any out and out lock like Simmons at 6, however.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 11:34am
                PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

                connor33 – Cheika has given Higgs 3 tests at n8 in 3 years, thats all, hardly a number of chances.

                1 test in 2015 against boks.
                then 2 tests in june.

                He would make a very good 6 but is not perceived or given a chance at 6.

                He outplayed mumm 2.0 in june but was the scapegoat.
                With less time on the field since mumm 2.0 got 80 mins he ran twice the metres, made all his tackles didn’t miss any.

                Cheika stated due to super rugby form he was forced to include Higgs, he wasn’t in any of his squads. Does look like he doesn’t rate him.
                Mumm 2.0 has had 6 tests of fluff, that is being given a number of goes.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 11:34am
                connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

                Now don’t get me wrong. Hannigan should be out of the team. But my sense is that Higgers probably had to do more relative to his past performances to convince Cheika that he was a keeper for the tighter game.

                Higgers probably was required to go from his typical 6.5/10 game to 8.5/10; whereas, Hannigan had no previous data point. Higgers had previous test experience, so the expectations on him were to excel–particularly against the opposition.

                The issue for Higgers was not whether he was ever better than Hannigan (an extremely low standard); but whether Higgers could improve upon his past performance against pretty poor opposition. He knew what the stakes were. He failed to deliver and is out because he did not meet the expectations that were placed on him.

                Given that Higgers had a chance to play the tight game and we lost, why not give another guy a go–Simmons–to play tight and also win a use a few lineouts along the way. And you’re not saying that Higgers is better than Simmons in the lineout? That’s a hard one to agree with.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 11:38am
                Fionn said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

                Connor, I think that Simmons’ line out work has massively declined. Don’t forget, this is a bloke who has failed to make the Reds for most of the Super Rugby season (I understand his last match at 6 was his best all season).

                However, while quick for a lock he is too slow to play 6 internationally and will be found out in defence as a result.

                He is a far inferior ball runner to Higginbotham.

                He is probably slightly ahead of Higgers in the line out, but Higgers is pretty fantastic in the line out also.

                So what we’re getting is a bloke that is too slow to defend at 6 and isn’t strong enough through contact to attack in order to marginally improve the line out.

                I think Simmons at 6 is thus a net loss when compared to Higgers.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 11:42am
                PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

                the funniest thing is the reason higgs was dropped and also why timani was

                “The thing I’ve spoken with Scott about always is about the impact at the contact zone.
                “That’s something he knows he’s got to work on. It’s Lopeti’s opportunity to show it.”

                Mumm 2.0 has zero impact at the contact zone.

                Timani has a lot, he smashes bodies back.
                McMahon tries but is ineffective against bigger forwards especially clearing out.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 11:44am
                connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

                PK –

                1. Do we agree that Hooper is better than Higgers? If not, the following points are irrelevant. If so, then:
                2. Hooper and Higgers are very similar players. Both are 6s or 6.5s. I think both have attribute of 12 as well. Given that Hooper is better than Higgers, we don’t need two 6/6.5s in the back row.
                3. The Hooper, Pocock, Fardy backrow was the most balanced we’ve had. Fardy–a second rower converted to playing 6. That covered for the smaller Pooper very well.
                4. If Fardy is the template–a converted second rower–why aren’t we looking for a similar style of player (Simmons/Coleman) who can play tight and jump, completing the Hooper game.

                For me, and with Pocock coming back, we need to find a player as close to Fardy as possible. Higgers is not it. Hannigan is not it. So let’s try an out-an-out second with similar attributes to Fardy and let’s see what happens.

                Now back to 1., if Hooper did not exist, then I would be far more open to Higgers being at 6. But that’s not the case…so I can’t see where he fits it. So Coleman, Arnold and Simmons at 4,5,6 (Coleman could play 6 with Simmons at 5)–and then Timani at 8, along with Hooper at 7. Why not at least try it against the Argies and see what happens?

              • September 12th 2017 @ 4:01pm
                Pavid Doccok said | September 12th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

                Scott Fardy was actually a blindside flanker converted into a lock when he started at the Brumbies, as I recall. He played most of his rugby at 6 with Warringah prior to that.

              • September 13th 2017 @ 4:30pm
                ScrumJunkie said | September 13th 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

                Enever, left field call. He has the agility to convert to 6. Fardy 2.0

              • September 12th 2017 @ 11:45am
                Fionn said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:45am | ! Report

                Peter, not that we will ever see it but I think that Higgers – Pocock – Naisarani would be a really balanced and good backrow. Pocock playing very tight and hitting all of the rucks, Naisarai the crash ball 8 who can clear rucks extremely well also and Higgers playing the wider 6 role.

                Hooper can come in against a tired defence and really damage them. Ideally, he would replace Higgers as a bit of a like for like, better in attack worse in the line out, but if he impacts the line out too much then Hooper can be taken off.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 12:02pm
                connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

                Yep, Simmons did play 6 in the last game and beat the Brumbies backrow–which is no mean feat.

                So if we could set up a three column document right now:

                Fardy Simmons Higgers

                Line out: 8/10 8/10 7/10

                Speed: 7/10 7.5/10 8/10

                Ability to play tight: 9/10 8/10 6.5/10

                We need someone like Fardy right now if Hooper is at 7 and Timani at 8. We agree Hooper and Timani right. If so, Simmons is probably the closest ‘like for like’ re Fardy (a player we agree with should be playing)–and probably is a little quicker as well with a longer stride. Speed doesn’t stop the English playing Lawes or Itoje at 6. The English 4,5,6 are near interchangeable and they did a job on us last year and a similar one against the Abs for the Lions.

                *We don’t need someone playing in the wider channels. No column/row, though it would probably benefit Higgers to be fair. We have Hooper.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 12:11pm
                Fionn said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

                Connor, I have a different rating to you


                Higgers – 8.5
                Fardy – 7
                Simmons – 5

                Line out:

                Higgers – 8
                Fardy – 7
                Simmons – 8.5

                Ability to play tight:

                Higgers – 6
                Fardy – 9
                Simmons – 8

                I agree we need someone like Fardy but I just think that Simmons is far, far too slow to have anywhere near Fardy’s effectiveness.

                Also, did you watch the 6 Nations? Itoje did not have a very good tournament at 6, he is extremely athletic and much faster than Simmons but he is far more effective at lock than he is at blindside flanker.

                I wouldn’t be against Tui being trialled at 6, I would have Tui, RHP and Higgers (and some others) all before Simmons.

                Just my opinion.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 12:16pm
                PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

                connor33 – don’t agree at all that Hooper and Higgs share the same skills or fulfill the same role.

                Yes both run wide, Hooper more than higgs.
                Higgs is also very good in the lineout.
                He defends near and around the ruck, so Boks no 6 wouldn’t have made all those breaks.

                Higgs is better at clearing bodies.

                The most balanced backrow we could have had was
                6 Fardy
                7 Pocock
                8 Higgs

                more balanced than Hooper and Pocock on at the same time

                Fardy was not a converted secondrower at all
                He is a 6/lock utility, also good enough to start as a 6 but not a good enough lock to start there. The same mould as Dave Dennis, Dean Mumm. The closest similar player was Matt Cockbain of years gone by.

                The difference Coleman, Simmons, are straight locks.

                Also Frady’s main attribute is as a ruck monkey, slowing rucks, stealing the ball, ok but not great at clearing rucks. This is not in any of the locks sklllsets.
                Ruckwork is Simmons biggest weakness.

                Timani with his work in tight is the closest to Fardy. Not for pilfering but for being over the ruck, clearing players off the ruck. He would need more skill work on slowing rucks down but his natural game is to play tight.

                Right now with the players available I would play
                6 Timani 7 hooper 8 Higgs

                You do realise this option / combination has never been tried. Better trying this than converting a lock.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 12:24pm
                PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

                I agree more with Fionn’s ratings.

                When you look at ability to play tight you need to break it into attack / defense and also add in effectiveness. Simmons plays tight, like Mumm 2.0 does. He has a high work rate, but doesn’t make dominant tackles, doesn’t drive over the ad line much, and doesn’t clear bodies off rucks. Mumm 2.0 plays tight but effectivess 2/10, simmons effectiveness 5/10.

                Higgs effectiveness in tight is 8/10 , dominant tackles, makes hard yards, clears out bodies. Doesn’t slow ruck ball down much.
                He likes to play wide though but is effective in tight when he is there.

                My rating


                Higgers – 8.5
                Fardy – 7
                Simmons – 5.5
                Timani – 5

                Line out:

                Higgers – 8
                Fardy – 7
                Simmons – 8.5
                Timani 5.5

                Ability to play tight:

                Higgers – 7
                Fardy – 9
                Simmons – 5
                Timani – 8.5

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 12:26pm
                Train Without A Station said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

                Simmons almost always sets a good platform for fast ball.

                He’s not a line bender but he rarely is driven back.

                You underrate Simmons speed. He would be close to on par with Fardy.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 2:02pm
                Connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

                Yeah, fair rating Fionn. We’re probably not too far apart–particularly when we start breaking things down into a criteria.

                Pleasing that we both agree on Fardy. If only Cheika would.

                And that we agree that someone like Fardy is needed. I’m open to Tui and RHP. I just have not seen enough of them. Perhaps both players fall between the Higger-Simmons spectrum.

                Has anyone got any good footage on Tui or RHP?

              • September 12th 2017 @ 2:09pm
                Fionn said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

                Yeah, Connor, I’d be really, really interested to know about the evolution of the personal relationship between Cheika and Fardy from the 2015 RWC until 2017 SR season.

                I could be totally off the mark, but I feel like that might give us more insight into why he isn’t in the team.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 7:10pm
                PiratesRugby said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

                All of your contributions are thoughtful and worthy of consideration. But we all know that ability, form and experience will not overcome Cheika’s preference for Waratah players there’s always a reason to pick a tah and always a reason not to pick someone else. Pocock, Fardy, Cooper, etc are smart to keep themselves healthy and wait Cheika out. His failure this year is just a continuation of his failure last year. Next year will be no different.

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2017 @ 9:42am
          Train Without A Station said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

          Simmons has played multiple good games for the Wallabies.

          Last time he started in Dunedin is one example.

          They may be “at the start of their international careers”, but only because they weren’t good enough to be selected when they were younger.

          Arnold is only a year younger than Simmons and despite your assertion he is “miles ahead” has less proven performances at test level behind him.

          I thought Arnold was great the first two tests, but the test vs Wales last year was probably he’s first good test match.

        • September 12th 2017 @ 12:45pm
          Selector said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          My order of Locks in Aus right now

          Coleman, Arnold, Tui, Philip, Rodda, Carter, Simmons, Arnold,

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 1:09pm
            PeterK said | September 12th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

            No way is Carter better than Simmons.

            You need a lineout general , the lock who manages lineouts, at least 1 has to be on the field (can be elsewhere i.e backrow)

            As lineout generals my order is

            Simmons, Coleman, Carter, Higginbotham

            As a general purpose lock without calling the lineout

            Coleman, Arnold, Tui, Simmons

            • September 12th 2017 @ 1:48pm
              jameswm said | September 12th 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

              Rodda – can jump, mobile, and tough in contact.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 2:03pm
                Connor33 said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

                Seriously, could he play 6.

            • September 12th 2017 @ 3:57pm
              Selector said | September 12th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

              That’s a pretty fair assessment of the locks Peter. I find Carter and Simmons fairly similar players, so I wouldn’t contest that one too hardly.

              Does anyone else think that Tui would make a good six? He needs to improve his pace, but I have found his positional play and aggression would bring something to the 6 position.

    • September 12th 2017 @ 7:03am
      Jeff said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      If Scott is going to be a regular contributor again the The Roar will be the first website I go to again for Australian rugby comment.

    , ,