Why Michael Cheika will live or die by the Waratah ‘holy trinity’

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

 , , , ,

374 Have your say

Popular article! 7,640 reads

    The die has already been cast. No-one can say how long Michael Cheika’s tenure as coach of the Wallabies will last, but we can at least be sure that its success or failure – between now and the World Cup in 2019 – will be squarely founded on the performance of four players: captain Michael Hooper in the forwards, and the trio of Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau in the backs.

    All four come from the Waratahs, the team Cheika previously coached at Super Rugby level. I have discussed Michael Hooper’s contribution to the Wallaby cause over a number of articles, Hooper is – a least for me – a bright star in the Cheika firmament.

    The three backs form the ‘holy trinity’ of the Wallaby back-line, and it’s hard to conceive any of them being dropped without undergoing a crash in form so drastic that it can no longer be ignored or covered up.

    Despite his superior international form at 10 last season, Quade Cooper never unseated Foley completely from the starting side. In a compromise, Foley was moved to inside centre and the two formed an awkward axis in the key playmaking roles. When the structure changed and Reece Hodge moved into the 12 position for the final Bledisloe game and the end-of-year tour, it was Cooper who lost his place.

    Michael Cheika worked very hard, by all accounts, to persuade Kurtley Beale to return from the English Premiership after one season of a two-year contract. Wasps certainly wanted him to stay, that’s for sure.

    Cheika’s efforts have been rewarded with some very influential performances from Beale already in this year’s Rugby Championship, which suggest he has matured considerably as both a player and as a person.

    The way Beale fronted up to Sonny Bill Williams in Dunedin on defence showed a player unafraid to confront areas (both psychological and physical) where he has been lacking in the past – defensive doggedness, physical endurance in the close-quarter contests, sheer gritty all-day-long character.

    The image of Beale’s pride after scoring what appeared to be a game-winning try against the All Blacks, with the red badge of total commitment to the cause smeared across the left half of his face, will live long in the memory:

    Kurtley Beale celebrates a try against New Zealand

    (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

    Where this will leave Queensland’s Karmichael Hunt when he returns from injury is anyone’s guess. Mine is that he will not return to the starting side at number 12.

    Hunt was one of the few Wallaby success stories from the June series against Fiji, Scotland and Italy and he is clearly another player with excellent on-field character. Hunt has a superior skill-set and he never quits on a play either with or without the ball, but it may still not be enough to get him a starting spot in a team where Beale is back at 12 and Israel Folau will be selected at number 15, come hell or high water.

    Folau has been picked at fullback throughout Cheika’s reign, despite a hailstorm of calls for him to be moved variously to 12, to 13 and to the right wing. If Hunt has a place in the Australian run-on side, it may well have to be at number 14, where he will be in competition with Dane Haylett-Petty.

    The selection of the ‘holy trinity’ can lead to the awkward exclusion of other deserving players. It may also draw Cheika towards a rugby universe in which attacking mastery and coherence is undermined by defensive fragility.

    On the attacking side, there can be little doubt that the trio of Foley, Beale and Folau provide a potent mix of abilities – distribution (Foley and Beale), line-running (Beale and Folau) and finishing power (Folau).

    Australia’s first try against the Pumas on the weekend (in the 28th minute) was a perfect template of what the Wallabies are trying to achieve offensively:

    From a scrum starter in the midfield, Foley and Beale use the two three-man Wallaby forward pods in between the two 15 metre lines to fix the defence while they ‘ghost’ behind them as distributors-in-tandem, and this is particularly clear in the replay from behind the posts:

    Here is a model illustration of what the Wallaby attack can achieve with ball in hand: Foley and Beale hopping from one forward pod to the next like bees gathering pollen, the forwards running straight or subtle ‘unders’ lines to collect the first defender on the outside of the pod and delay the drift, and Folau on the end of things once the opportunity has been created.

    There surely can be no finer finisher in world rugby than Folau in one-on-one situations, whatever the number on his back!

    Australia’s third try in the 53rd minute also owed much to the various combinations of the holy trinity and the same themes present in the first score.

    Momentum is originally generated by the presence of Foley, Beale and Folau together in the first frame, with the in-ball to Folau gaining the hard yards. The finish again shows Beale’s instinct to preserve space for the attackers outside him in its best light. He runs the decoy line which drags the last Argentine defender in just long enough to allow Folau to finish in the corner.

    The threat of the three Waratahs in conjunction with a power centre like Samu Kerevi is a set-piece dynamic which will create problems for defences across the globe for the foreseeable future:

    In situations like this close to their own goal-line, it will be very hard for defences to work out whether they should rush Kerevi before he gets up a head of steam, or hold off and read the play developing between the holy trinity behind him. In this instance, Kerevi got the ball, and was only held up over the line by some desperate last-ditch defence!

    The final example is also the simplest, and comes from the highlight reel in the 73rd minute.

    Straight from the Argentine kick-off after Australia’s fourth try of the game, Israel Folau catches the ball and within two phases, Foley and Beale have created space for a break by Sean McMahon down the right sideline, eventually resulting in a try for replacement scrum-half Nick Phipps.

    Michael Cheika is, and always has been, committed to the Waratahs. He even attempted to continue coaching the team at Super Rugby level after he had been appointed coach of the Wallabies! Cut him and he bleeds sky blue.

    This is reflected in the loyalty of his selection policy, especially in the back-line decision-making positions of 10, 12 and 15. Those are the key roles in the kind of offence Cheika likes to run, and they are occupied by players he knows from his days in Sydney.

    Loyalty will make it very hard for players like Karmichael Hunt to get back into the run-on side when he returns from injury, even though Hunt was the outstanding Wallaby back in June.

    There is no question that the combination of Foley, Beale and Folau works perfectly in the offence the Wallabies are growing. With the passing variations and angles of running being developed in the two forward pods ahead of them by Mick Byrne and Stephen Larkham, the mix of straight lines and double distribution creates a host of problems for the defence – particularly with a finisher like Folau beyond them.

    Defence is another question entirely, and there a number of signs to suggest that situations where Foley and Beale can be caught defending out wide on the same side of the field together (typically with one up front and one in the backfield) will prove difficult for them. But that is a question for another day…

    Nicholas Bishop
    Nicholas Bishop

    Nick Bishop has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2003), Mike Ruddock (2004-2005) and most recently Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for or won national sports book awards. Nick's latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union, entitled The Iron Curtain. He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches.

    Rebuild announcement

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (374)

    • September 20th 2017 @ 4:58am
      RT said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:58am | ! Report

      I do think Beales season with Wasps did him the world of good but I’d have it fullback and Folau on the wing. In any event having Beale in the team seems to do something to Folau.

      I also think or hope the Cheikas continued selection of Hannigan in front of much better (IMO) rivals must be for the 2019 World Cup, otherwise what is the point?

      • Columnist

        September 20th 2017 @ 5:04am
        Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:04am | ! Report

        If MC wants Karmichael Hunt in the side, the obvious spot for him would be 15 with Izzy moving to 14 – but I doubt it will work out that way:)

        • September 20th 2017 @ 6:20am
          soapit said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:20am | ! Report

          it is kind of interesting that after all this time out of all the positions/players cheika has ended up wedded to the same key ones from the backline that he had with the waratahs more than 3 years ago.

          not sure what it means when you think of his coaching but certainly seems like there will be little deviation come what may now he seems to have settled with who he wants (and where).

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 6:28am
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:28am | ! Report

            not sure what it means when you think of his coaching but certainly seems like there will be little deviation come what may now he seems to have settled with who he wants (and where).

            What you begin to realize a couple of years out from another WC is just how little time for experiment is left Soap… What is it now? Maybe two dozen more games? It is not a huge amount.

            I think he will stick with those he knows best now, and it is not as if there are any real options at 10 outside Bernard Foley (if you accept QC is now on the outer).

            • September 20th 2017 @ 6:42am
              soapit said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

              yeah i think ur right. it just find it interesting that after all this time he hasnt found a preferred plan a that differs much from before he started.

              the systems are slightly different from my memory tho arent they i suppose (not surprising assuming larkham actually has input)

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 6:45am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:45am | ! Report

                The attack portion of the WB game is probably their most impressive facet – problem is that it has received too much attention at the cost of defence, for example. So the team is uneven and drops off in bunches when caught playing in certain departments of the game.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 5:30pm
                cuw said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

                also not forgetting that they lack plan B.

                so most of the teams who are up against auzzy will see this style and look for ways to counter it.

                after all every team has analysts and with the amount of footage available now, it is very difficult to hide tactics.

                if there is a surprise element , then it becomes a question when and where it is shown.

                show too early and people will get ti know of it. show too late and just maybe ur not prepped to execute it at a high level of accuracy.

                for eg. i think the many changes to NZ team is simply becoz the argie game is now plain vanilla to everyone 🙂

            • September 20th 2017 @ 10:25am
              Nigel said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

              KH could play 10 easily if required and he would excel!!

            • September 20th 2017 @ 11:23am
              Gepetto said | September 20th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

              Players understand Cheika’s loyalty to Tah players and head overseas rather than wasting time trying to impress Cheika. Foley’s attempted tackle in the 11th minute is a worrying sign for the Wallabies. I think the AB’s will go easy on Bernard – he is a real asset to them.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 2:15pm
                Ruckin Oaf' said | September 20th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

                It don’t really matter though, they can run through Foley all night. Until the coach changes he’ll still be there.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 4:38pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

                I think the AB’s will go easy on Bernard – he is a real asset to them. !!

        • September 20th 2017 @ 9:01am
          Neil Back said | September 20th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          Nick, see it differently. I’d put Beale at 15 playing a similar role to Mckenzie on the AB team but with a better all round game. Folau goes to a roving wing spot, getting your best attcker more involved – plus at least a guaranteed try per game with a Foley cross kick to him. Then Hunt, the guy with best centre potential in Australian rugby right now, gets to choose 12 or 13.

          Obvious isn’t it?

          • September 20th 2017 @ 9:39am
            Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

            Neil, one would have thought. I think that’d be what would happen if Eddie Jones was coaching Australia rather than England right now.

          • Roar Guru

            September 20th 2017 @ 1:30pm
            Who Needs Melon said | September 20th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report


          • Roar Rookie

            September 20th 2017 @ 1:35pm
            Dave_S said | September 20th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

            Suits me, sir.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 4:41pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

            That would certainly be a very sensible set-up (and involve far less shifting about) Neil. Especially if they don’t feel they’ve enough time or will to develop Kerevi as a 12 before 2019.

          • Roar Guru

            September 20th 2017 @ 4:42pm
            Cadfael said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

            I’d go the same way

          • Roar Guru

            September 20th 2017 @ 6:01pm
            PeterK said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

            Cheika has stated he is looking at including Hunt in the starting xv, making the numbers work (also knowing Foley, Beale, Folau will start)

            If this is the case then the obvious solution is

            10 Foley
            12 Hunt
            14 Folau
            15 Beale

            remember Folay plays 2/3’s of his time as a wing anyway

            • Columnist

              September 20th 2017 @ 6:02pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

              It’s a good option Peter…

            • Roar Guru

              September 20th 2017 @ 6:43pm
              Fox said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

              That is best backline option Peterk but will Cheika move Folau from 15?

              • Roar Guru

                September 20th 2017 @ 6:49pm
                PeterK said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

                Folau is already playing 2/3’s of the time as a wing.

                It makes little difference what number he wears.

                Did you notice he kicked twice against Argentina and both were fine kicks?
                Did you notice he made 4 front on tackles, one of which he drove him back?
                Did you notice he cleared a player out of a ruck?

                Don’t get hung up on the number on the back

              • Roar Guru

                September 20th 2017 @ 8:38pm
                Fox said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

                Yes I noticed peterk – he also made a steal against the Boks from memory…but it is when he defends at 15 and the opposition is going wide he has reading issues.

          • September 21st 2017 @ 8:28am
            Kibuib said | September 21st 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

            I like the lineup, and would also like to see how Billy Meakes fares in that role. He is a robust defender, has a good step and passing game.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 11:55am
          jimmyc said | September 20th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

          Pretty sure KB played on the wing for his first couple of Wallaby matches. Gloucester, Cardiff and Wales all on the 2009 end of season tour.

      • Roar Guru

        September 20th 2017 @ 8:20am
        Train Without A Station said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        I think people overrate the impact of a year in the UK when Beale was great in Super Rugby in 2014, was good for the Wallabies in 2015 and was in great form in 2016 before injury.

        Is it conceivably that after a season back from that injury he has maintained the trajectory he was already on?

        • September 20th 2017 @ 9:38am
          Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

          I’d go so far as to say he was great for the Wallabies in the RWC, he was the best back in the team I think.

          • Roar Guru

            September 20th 2017 @ 9:50am
            Train Without A Station said | September 20th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

            I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.

          • September 22nd 2017 @ 9:14am
            Chronicle said | September 22nd 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

            If he was our best why wasn’t he in the starting side and only got on early due to an injury

            • September 23rd 2017 @ 5:06pm
              Fionn said | September 23rd 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

              Poor selections.

        • Roar Guru

          September 20th 2017 @ 11:51am
          John R said | September 20th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          Fully agreed. He was looking red hot before he went down with that knee injury.

        • Columnist

          September 20th 2017 @ 4:44pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

          Playing in the English Premiership (and in Europe for Wasps) has some benefits, as there is rarely ‘a match off’ where a player can slip into cruise control mode. Beale certainly looks a very professional, polished player now, possibly the NH had something to do with it…

          • September 20th 2017 @ 8:32pm
            mzilikazi said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

            Would agree with that. Certainly feel Beale has come back a more mature and hard edged player from his NH stint. He is now at least playing as well as he has ever done for the WB’s, IMO.

          • Roar Guru

            September 21st 2017 @ 2:00pm
            Train Without A Station said | September 21st 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            Beale also looked a very professional, polished player in 2016 is my point.

            I dispute there is rarely any matches where players can slip into cruise control.

            No competition is that tight.

            As long as there is top teams, there will be bottom teams also.

    • September 20th 2017 @ 5:02am
      Galatzo said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:02am | ! Report

      Super stuff as always, Nicholas. At this juncture, Cheika is clearly looking to cement a starting 15 for the RWC. Are you sure the trinity will be in place then with Pocock at 7 as he must be? He’s no 8, we saw that experiment flop, and Hooper can’t play anywhere else in the back row.

      As for Foley at 10, Oz is certainly no flyhalf factory these days unlike Wales. If he continues to have big success from the tee, and distribute cleverly as you point out, then he’s our 10, like it or not. Quade kicked extremely well on the weekend and can be brilliant at times running the ball. But maybe it was too hard to persuade him that he only needs to be brilliant once a game.

      • Columnist

        September 20th 2017 @ 5:06am
        Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:06am | ! Report

        At this stage I think we’ll see Pocock back at 8 G, and Foley will continue at 10 all the way to 2019 – unless someone has a breakout season from nowhere!

        • September 20th 2017 @ 5:52am
          Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:52am | ! Report

          Nick, I’m pretty confident in saying that Naisarani will be playing at number 8. He has much more power at the back of the scrum than Pocock and is an infinitely stronger ball runner. Good line out target too. He offers everything Timani does and more (although I still think Timani is underrated).

          Regardless of the numbers on their backs I think we will get Pocock and Hooper at 6 and 7, with Naisarani at 8.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 6:05am
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

            I think Naisarani has it all to prove Fionn, he’s coming off his first season of SR and we have no idea whether he can cut the mustard at Test level as yet. However if he can show he has the goods it is conceivable he could shift Poey to 6.

            • September 20th 2017 @ 10:28am
              Nigel said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

              Nasarani would be awesome at 6 with Timani at 8 and Pocock at 7, Pocock should be promoted to captain next year for RWC and Hooper can be a true finisher!!!!

          • September 20th 2017 @ 6:09am
            Galatzo said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:09am | ! Report

            FIONN. I believe Naisarani has two more years to wait for residency. If he makes it in time for the RWC, and stars for the Brumbies, he’ll be the answer we’ve been looking for. But don’t agree with Pocock at 6. There’s a host of big, fast sixes in world rugby these days. Bigger than Popcock and faster too. Many people regard him as rugby’s top fetcher. Considering some of those great packs we could face in 2019 we’re going to need all the possession we can get.

            • September 20th 2017 @ 6:22am
              Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:22am | ! Report

              From what I’ve been reading Naisarani becomes eligible next year. I think he spent some time playing club rugby in Queensland before becoming a SR player.

              I don’t particularly like the Pooper either, Galatzo, I would actually be interested in trying a 6-7-8 of Higgers-Pocock-Nsiarani and with Hooper on the bench as impact.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 6:30am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:30am | ! Report

                Higginbotham will be 33 in 2019 so I think his time has come and gone Fionn. Atm Naisarani is simply another promising player who needs more exposure – there seem to be a lot of those about in Australia right now!

              • September 20th 2017 @ 6:36am
                Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:36am | ! Report

                I’m talking about 2018, Nick. Aside from Ross Haylett-Petty there doesn’t seem to be anyone at blindside flank who offers both line out abilities and either ball running or good defence/rucking (please, no Hanigan!) and I count RHP as: ‘ another promising player who needs more exposure’. I suppose Timani could be used at 6. But that kills the line out if Cheika runs the Pooper.

                I agree that Naisarani could turn out to be a false dawn. However, you can only go on displayed form, and on displayed form he is the best number 8 Australia has had for years. He is a strong ball runner, he can offload, he tackles well and hard, he clears rucks and he is a good line out target. He may not pan out, but at the moment I think that as Aussie fans we have no one else to hang our hopes on.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 6:43am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:43am | ! Report

                Timani/McMahon/Hooper would work as a combination, Pooper with someone like Naisarani in between might work too given what the WB’s want from their B/R – but they would have to put an awful lot of work into Naisarani very quickly – and they haven’t shown a lot of persistence with Timani, which is not a good sign…

              • September 20th 2017 @ 9:03am
                Daveski said | September 20th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

                Putting aside my bias Fionn, Holloway has been as good as Isi in the NRC thus far and his 2015 Super Rugby form prior to injury issues was not much off Isi’s Super season this year.

                He’s a definite 8 option for 2018 and beyond. And Matt Philip at 6… you know it makes sense !

              • September 20th 2017 @ 6:47am
                Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:47am | ! Report

                The only leaves us with two line out primaries though, Nick, the two locks.

                Timani is not a strong target and should only be used as a backup target, and the same is true of McMahon – how many times have the Wallabies gone to him? Despite his athleticism he is only 186cm.

                And McMahon will be overseas next year anyway, and Cheika will want Pocock in the back row over McMahon anyway.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 6:49am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

                Until last Saturday they had only gone to Hanigan on five occasions in 2016 though Fionn…. McMahon could easily win that much ball from lineout himself!

              • September 20th 2017 @ 6:59am
                Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

                Ned Hanigan was a really good line out target in Super Rugby and is 194cm – he had 32 line out takes in 884mins for the Tahs in 2017. McMahon, in 1,100 mins in 2016, only took the ball 19 times.

                Hanigan is 8cm taller than McMahon, and as decent as McMahon is at taking line outs at SR level, can you imagine him competing against Kieran Read or any other international 6/8, especially when Timani (another poor line out target) is the only other backrower target?

                McMahon will also be unavailable by next year unless eligibility laws are changed or his Japanese contract is broken, and everything he has said implies that he fully intends on going to Japan next year.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 7:02am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

                If the WB coaches don’t see Hanigan in a major lineout role, it doesn’t make any difference Fionn!

              • September 20th 2017 @ 7:03am
                Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:03am | ! Report

                I predict they’ll go to him more now, unless he is dropped for Dempsey, who is also a solid target, but also has much more impact around the field from what I’ve seen in his cameos. The Boks will test the line out next week, as will a lot of the NH teams on the EOYT.

            • September 20th 2017 @ 10:42am
              MitchO said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

              Galatzo, Pocock is not tall but he weighs around 115kg now. He’s a big unit. He is also amazingly strong and has good body work. He may get out talled but he won’t get outmuscled.

              He’s also fast enough to do what he needs to do. He’s still fast enough for 7 let alone 6.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 4:45pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

                Shoulda been a hooker Mitch 🙂

              • September 20th 2017 @ 5:38pm
                cuw said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

                yeah – like Ashley Johnson.

                when wasps lost both their 6 and 7 to injuries (against Quins) , on comes Ash and plays like a warrior 🙂

              • Roar Guru

                September 20th 2017 @ 6:03pm
                PeterK said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

                except in aust hookers get paid a lot less, openside flanker gets as much as flash backs

              • September 20th 2017 @ 8:42pm
                mzilikazi said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:42pm | ! Report

                Am a big believer in Pocock as a 7, Mitch, and agree he was fast enough, but I do worry that his injuries and age may have taken some of that speed away….as Cadfael says below, we will have to wait ans see how he shapes up next year.

          • September 20th 2017 @ 5:45pm
            PiratesRugby said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

            Fionn, you’re expecting Cheika to do the sensible thing. That’s a mistake. He’ll stick with Hooper and Hanigan. Maybe Dempsey too. Pocock will be marginalised. That’s whatCheika tried to do in 2015.
            The die has indeed been cast. This is just the endgame. The clown will end up checkmating himself with a weak backrow, poor leadership, poor selections and Foley at 10.
            Let’s have this conversation again in 12 months time. Nothing will have changed. By then even diehard Cheika fans will be admitting what we’ve been saying all along.

        • Roar Guru

          September 20th 2017 @ 4:44pm
          Cadfael said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

          Let’s see how Pocock turns up first. Agree on Foley but there are 8 tens running around in the NRC so something may turn up.

    • September 20th 2017 @ 5:34am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:34am | ! Report

      Thank you Nicholas. This is a clear analysis.
      And hopefully the worlds finest tacticians are unable to counter it.
      It begs another question though.
      If there is a sanctity in such an ‘attack trinity’, what happens when one of the 3 is injuried?
      How interchangeable are the ‘parts’ when one or more cannot play? NZ, for instance, have a style with a warehouse of spares waiting for each position, ready to be rolled out to play a predetermined part.
      What is the prospect for Wallaby interchangeability?

      And given your acknowledgement of Cooper’s superior play last year, what would you deduce about his exclusion in regards to playing the part of the ‘trinity 10’?
      What is it that Foley does that means a 1.5 out of 5 playmaker skillset delivers Test selection, while a 4 out of 5 playmaker skillset plays NRC?

      Does Foley deliver opportunity to Beale and Folau that Cooper cannot?

      Is it Larkham and not just Cheika who has shunned the player with the most core skills for a 10? And if so, why?
      (Sadly, I hope I am wrong but I fear today we will here ‘Quade had his chance’ ‘failed at test level’, ‘brought Auckland’s vengeance upon him myself’ etc, etc))

      • Columnist

        September 20th 2017 @ 5:42am
        Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:42am | ! Report

        Hunt is a natural replacement for KB Ken…. Although their skill sets and physical attributes are not the same, Hunt can play the Beale role.

        Replacing Foley is more problematic given that MC doesn’t appear to want QC, and this is where the real problem lies. With the current bench, Beale has to go to 10 and then there is no natural second play-maker – from which I assume the coaching group have yet to find a solution if Foley is injured…

        • Roar Guru

          September 20th 2017 @ 8:21am
          Train Without A Station said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

          Classic Cheika. Willingly backs himself into corners (e.g. telling Fardy and Higginbotham they were unwanted) then uses that as justification for his selections.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 9:40am
          wally said | September 20th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

          “hunt a natural replacement for beale” – i completely disagree. Without Beale on the field, Foley is pedestrian. We’ve seen it time and again – most recently in the June test series. Even with beale Foley is hardly a world beater.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 4:48pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

            The Foley/Beale relationship is ofc much deeper than that with Hunt (which only started in June) and goes back to the Tahs… maybe given more time to progress the Foley/Hunt understanding would gel too?

            • September 20th 2017 @ 5:39pm
              cuw said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

              i doubt

              probably end up like Barrett and Sonny Bill 🙂

        • September 20th 2017 @ 2:47pm
          Jimmy james said | September 20th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

          I have it on good authority that Cheika rates Hodge at 10 not just 12. I wonder how much he has trained there with the Wallabies. Larkham’s input would be enormously valuable. It will be interesting to where he plays for the Rebels.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 4:49pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

            Is there any evidence at all that the Rebels see Hodge at 10 JJ?

            • September 20th 2017 @ 6:55pm
              cuw said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

              Rebels are to auzzy what Arsenal are to England – dont give a f about the needs of the country 🙂

            • September 20th 2017 @ 8:42pm
              ThugbyFan said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:42pm | ! Report

              G’day Nick, a very nice article again, always enjoy your input. As for the the Rebels, they have lost Jack Dezebra who has joined the rush to NH loot next year (and Jake McIntyre from the Reds) but reports have it the Rebels have picked up Jono Lance so I would suspect R.Hodge would only be looked as a backup #10 if Lance is injured. Of course that means he will train there occasionally with the Rebels. The only bloke that I can see as a WB #10 backup is Christian Lealiifano or maybe Matt Toomua if he returns to Oz.

              Good to see Tetera Faulkner has signed with the Rebels, the bloke should be in the WB 23 instead of Tubby Tommy. Talk is Bill Meakes is going to the Tahs but I have my doubts as he would have to get past K.Beale to play at #12. I suspect Meakes and TPN are off to the NH bright lights or perhaps the Rebels but lack of money could be a problem there. I can’t understand why the Rebs spent so much to get Will Genia when they already have Nic Stirzaker at halfback.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 8:48pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:48pm | ! Report

                Do you happen to know where Debreczeni is off to Thugby?

              • September 20th 2017 @ 10:34pm
                Fin said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:34pm | ! Report

                Japan Nick.
                But he plans to come back when things stabilise in Australian rugby. Still wants to be a wallaby.

              • Columnist

                September 21st 2017 @ 3:05am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 21st 2017 @ 3:05am | ! Report

                Thanks for the feedback Fin.

              • Roar Guru

                September 22nd 2017 @ 12:01am
                ThugbyFan said | September 22nd 2017 @ 12:01am | ! Report

                Ack, sorry Nick, am slow and only saw your question. Fin is correct, the Dzebra is playing for Honda Heat for the next season. He has no Aussie contract so could end up anywhere once his Japan stint finishes.

                Although he plays for the Melbourne Rebels, he hails from the West Harbour rugby club in Sydney. His dad is coach of the WH colts team.

                Two years ago he was looked on as the next big thing and especially at #10 but with injuries and the poor form of the Rebels, he was struggling towards the end of SR2017. I hope that some time in a different environment will help him rediscover that zest. When he is in the zone, he is a pretty good player.

              • Columnist

                September 22nd 2017 @ 5:08am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 22nd 2017 @ 5:08am | ! Report

                Thanks for the background, I too think he could be a very good 15.

      • September 20th 2017 @ 6:30am
        soapit said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:30am | ! Report

        basis of it seems to be a fairly stock standard attack pattern for the most part based around the old double block play pioneered by wayne bennett in the mid to late 2000’s

        would expect defence systems would be fully onto it. however these plays can still be very effective and almost lethal when they are gotten right even if you know theyre coming.

      • September 20th 2017 @ 11:10am
        Akari said | September 20th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        Good post, KC. It (and this article) takes me back to the use of the Pooper in the 2015 RWC where the ABs had already demonstrated how it could be nullified. Cheika persisted with it and the ABs laughed all the way to their 3rd RWC.

        I am thankful to Nick for showing us Cheika’s ‘new’ offence tactics and I expect that the WBs will likely perfect it within the next 6-12 months. It however seems to rely on the ‘holy trinity’ being on the field. This reliance holy trinity (seems to me at least) again show us another one of the limitations of Cheika as a coach. The problem with the new offence is that other rugby rivals will have had at least 6-12 months to work it out and nullify it before the 2019 RWC. I won’t be surprised if Hansen & co are not already on to it since the Dunedin test.

        Good stuff, Nick, and thank you.

        • Columnist

          September 20th 2017 @ 4:51pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

          Hi Akari, well the WB’s have shown they are capable of scoring a lot of tries very quickly against the AB’s this season, so that alone will make the third Bledisloe game very interesting. If Australia can keep cantering along at 5 tries per game against NZ it will give them a shot in every game they play!

          • September 21st 2017 @ 9:57am
            Akari said | September 21st 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

            This then makes the next two WBs tests (one away and with the 2nd at home in fortress Brisbane) ever the more interesting, Nick. I am expecting an ambush at Bloemfontein as the Boks are hurting. It will be interesting to see if the ABs will have adjusted their defensive patterns in Brisbane.

            • September 21st 2017 @ 10:02am
              Fionn said | September 21st 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

              Agreed, Akari, I think that we could see a performance from the Boks like we gave in Dunedin. A hurting team playing to the best of their abilities. I’m very nervous.

            • Columnist

              September 21st 2017 @ 5:15pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | September 21st 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

              The AB’s will definitely feel they have some Q’s to answer in relation to the WB attack, so that contest alone makes Bledisloe 3 a fascinating prospect!

    • September 20th 2017 @ 5:54am
      Plasmodium said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:54am | ! Report

      Surprised you feel Pocock will be the Wallaby 8 at the World Cup. Read, Faletau, Conan, Hughes for example all tuck the ball under their arm, race away and score. Pocock didn’t do that when he was trialed at the back of the scrum. I would have thought his greatest value to the Wallabies is to pilfer at the breakdown so that Beale and Folau and whatever wings we can find between now and 2019 can attack. Cheika has all of next year to find a good number eight. There are several names in the mix for the job. He’ll be inexperienced but hopefully dynamic.

      • September 20th 2017 @ 2:42pm
        Crash Ball2 said | September 20th 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

        Pilfering is really only the very tip of the openside flanker’s repertoire (although, it appears to be the one metric given the most – sometimes sole – credence on any number of blogsites). Securing attacking possession, ensuring quick ball presentation, cleaning would-be jackals, providing a bulwark for your halfback to distribute and then doing the exact opposite of all of these things in defence are the unsexy, unheralded bread and butter of all the great opensides. There are of course a host of other attributes of 7 play, varying in importance depending upon the game strategy, and mental fortitude, of the head coach. But an uninsured Pocock (George Smith aside) is the best proponent of ruck capability in Australia; when he is in Australia of course. The Wallabies are desperately missing this array of skills in 2017. In the current backrow alignment, it would appear that Cheika has bequeathed the bulk of this responsibility to poor Hanigan. We all know how that’s going.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 3:56pm
          MitchO said | September 20th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          Well said CB2. there is too much noise along the lines of how Pocock is a one trick pony and no longer relevant. He is out best forward at the breakdown. Other teams share the load across the whole forward pack better than us.

          Of course good backs these days are very important for the second phase because often a back is the first or second man to a break down. That probably causes us a few problems with the musical chairs too.

      • Roar Pro

        September 20th 2017 @ 3:51pm
        Crazy Horse said | September 20th 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

        Of the four Tahs, on 2017 form, which is all that matters, only Beale would be guaranteed s start in the position Cheika plays them in with most selectors.

        Go8ng forward into 2018 Pocock is by far the best 7 in Australia (except perhaps Smith who is probably too old for RWC 2019). He is an automatic selection at 7 for any rational selector. Hooper plays somewhere else if he’s in the team but not instead of Pocock at 7.

        Similarly, almost everyone believes Folau should be at 13 or 14 with a specialist fullback (there are four in the squad) at 15.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 3:59pm
          ethan said | September 20th 2017 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

          Folau at 13 is failed experiment. His primary skills are ball running, and ability under the high ball. His primary weaknesses are ruck work and defence. So why would you play him at 13, which asks more of his weaknesses, and less of his skills?

          Folau at 14 though is a perfect fit.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 4:55pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

            Yes the 13 experiment (and the 12 ‘wish’) both seem redundant now don’t they?

            • September 20th 2017 @ 5:50pm
              cuw said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

              @ Nicholas Bishop

              i think they tried that simply becoz in attack he is more or less the 13.

              even in one of ur pics above look where he is 🙂

              but the problem was 13 is the most important position in defence. many a country play a defensive center at 13 particularly when they have a very attacking center at 12.

              i also think the reason they play Folau as 15 is becoz it allows him to go where he wants in attack. if he is made a wing , then it will be a big headache even in attack if he slips inside the centers 🙂

              now he pops up among centers and scores trys , while the wings look on.

              defence is as u say a whole different topic.

          • Roar Guru

            September 20th 2017 @ 6:06pm
            PeterK said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:06pm | ! Report

            since Folau is currently playing mainlyas a roving anyway there seems to be so much angst and emotional investment in changing the number on his back rather than how he is actually playing

            • September 20th 2017 @ 10:03pm
              ethan said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:03pm | ! Report

              I feel it is less to do with Folau and more to do with what is happening elsewhere. If Beale was 15 and Folau 14, then we could pick say, Kerevi at 12. But as it stands with Beale at 12 and Folau at 15, we must pick another winger, which has been Speight. So while Folau’s role won’t change much, other players will, and if the numbers on their back really don’t matter, then I’d certainly rather Kerevi over Speight. (Or say Hunt over Speight, when he’s fit again).

              • Roar Guru

                September 20th 2017 @ 10:09pm
                PeterK said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:09pm | ! Report

                fair point

            • September 20th 2017 @ 10:50pm
              Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:50pm | ! Report

              Peter, most Australian players aren’t smart enough rugby players to play without the clearly defined role of the number on their back.

              You could do it with the Kiwis, but in the Aussie backs I would only include Beale, Genia and Cooper in that category. Basically, those that Deans brought through ‘play what’s in front of you’

      • September 20th 2017 @ 3:57pm
        ethan said | September 20th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

        Pocock basically plays like a 7 even with 8 on his back. Just packs into the scrum differently. Hooper basically plays like a 6/8 albeit with a 7 on his back. Just lacks the lineout ability to be a true 6/8.

        To play those two in tandem, what you need for balance is a power player up the middle of the park who can take lineouts. The Kaino role. I don’t see either McMahon (not quite big enough – too similar to Hooper), or Hanigan (not powerful enough in tight) as providing the right balance. Timani appears to have the right physical attributes, but isn’t rated by Cheika. Nasairani appears to be the only other player on the horizon who may fit the mould. I would also argue Lukhan Tui has the right kind of physical attributes, and could be a hybrid 5/6. Apparently he’s done some training at 6 for the WBs, which is an interesting development.

        A backrow of Hooper, Pocock and Nasairani would tick all the boxes. With understudies of McMahon, Hardwick? and Timani/Tui. Unfortunately that looks a little pie in the sky though, as Hanigan and Dempsey are getting the development. Can’t quite see how either of those guys work into a balanced backrow with the Pooper.

        • Columnist

          September 20th 2017 @ 5:02pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

          I agree Ethan that the composition of the WB back-row is better viewed as an exercise in complementary roles rather than picking ‘specialists’ at 6, 7 and 8. There is still a lot of room for experimentation in that area, and I hope they do experiment with someone other than Hanigan before the end of the RC. In particular I think Timani has been abandoned too quickly.

          • September 20th 2017 @ 10:12pm
            ethan said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:12pm | ! Report

            Yes, with Cheika not one to do things the traditional way, the roles they play, rather than the number on their back, seems more important. Hooper (closely followed by McMahon) is our best wide runner at this stage, playing the Read role (minus lineouts, although McMahon is an option there). Pocock in the McCaw role. So we just need a Kaino for balance. Not too late for the big guy to make the switch across the ditch is it? His spot over there seems to be occupied by some new kids on the block.

            • Columnist

              September 21st 2017 @ 3:04am
              Nicholas Bishop said | September 21st 2017 @ 3:04am | ! Report

              Will the new qualification rules allow Ethan – if not blame Agustin Pichot for tightening them up 🙂

              • September 21st 2017 @ 10:04am
                Akari said | September 21st 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

                Dumb upgrade to the rules IMHO.

      • Columnist

        September 20th 2017 @ 4:53pm
        Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

        I doubt it really matters what number Pocock has on his back, he’ll be in there somewhere. The key element is finding the right complement to Pocock and Hooper in the B/R…

        • Roar Guru

          September 20th 2017 @ 6:46pm
          Timbo (L) said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:46pm | ! Report

          The problem with the Pooper Back row is that the number 6 needs to be a reserve Lock, a fast and loose Hardman at the breakdown and provide the services of 2 jumpers in the line out. Higgers and pre-surgery RHP, were the closest available options both a bit slow compared to Fardy, who is a pretty average Lock.

          Instead we get stuck with Mumm, Hanigan or Simmons, all good utility players in their own right but don’t provide the impact at the breakdown where the Boks and Pumas are tearing great holes.

          None of them are are a solution to the 4th line out target problem.
          MacMahon at 8 can offer this, but then you would have to drop Poey.

          The obvious solution is Poey at 7 and a return to a traditional 8 like Higgers.or Timani. It brings an end to the compromise and complexity.

          The loss of Hooper in the midfield is significant, but the elephant in the room is the answer to the question: Why is he needed there?
          Which Player(s) aren’t doing their Jobs?
          My answer is that the 4 stooges are co-dependent and the end result is effectively 16 players in attack and only 14 in defense. Not a way to claw their way back up the world rankings.

          I eagerly await your analysis of the defensive problems.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 7:00pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:00pm | ! Report

            Timbo, I seem to have been nagging on about defence for the last half dozen articles or so! I don’t think people could take another one 🙂

            • September 20th 2017 @ 10:14pm
              Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:14pm | ! Report

              Nick, we’d never get bored of your articles. They’re the best.

            • Roar Guru

              September 21st 2017 @ 3:04pm
              Timbo (L) said | September 21st 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

              “But that is a question for another day…”

              You can’t ring the bell and not expect the dogs to salivate.

              The bulk of your articles are very positive – here is what people are doing well.
              I have strong opinions about what players are NOT doing well and the costs associated with it.

              # 12 Hunt Vs Beale
              # 7 Pocock vs Hooper
              Pro and Con Dual 7’s
              A Center on the Wing.

              You could write a book on the quirks of Chieka’s selection policy.

              • Columnist

                September 21st 2017 @ 5:19pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 21st 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

                You could write a book on the quirks of Chieka’s selection policy.

                If you stapled all my articles together that would probably be the book Timbo!

              • Roar Guru

                September 26th 2017 @ 3:32pm
                Timbo (L) said | September 26th 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

                How about a Best of Nick B.

                A series of links that are still valid to the current setup.

                I confess, I have not read them all, that would just be weird.

    • September 20th 2017 @ 6:00am
      Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      Nick, great article, and I agree with everything but one thing.

      Foley has a hand in so few tries usually (this weekend it was far more than usual), and to make a very crude simplification that is a bit unfair to him after a solid hit out (aside from some awkward defensive moments) even this weekend his ‘playmaking’ was simply passing it onto Beale and watching Beale create opportunities.

      Did you read Mark Ella’s column in the Australian on Saturday? I can’t remember the exact phrasing but it was essentially ‘Foley does no playmaking, what is the point of Foley if Beale is doing his job for him at 12?’. Because Foley lacks a long pass he never seems to use dummy runners nor throw a cut out. It’s so rare to see him put players through holes or change the runner midway through an attacking move. For all his ability to take it to the line he is just so one dimensional and limited.

      Anyway, cheers again. One question, would you have said that a couple of years ago Savea was up there with Folau in terms of being the best 1 on 1 finisher? Milner-Skudder was impossible to stop 20m out back in 2015..

      • Columnist

        September 20th 2017 @ 6:08am
        Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

        The answer to Mark Ella’s statement is that Foley does do plenty of playmaking, but you need two guys doing it for the kind of field-wide attack the WB’s employ.

        Yes I’ad agree that both Julian Savea and Folau were at the very top of the finishing tree a couple of seasons back.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 6:14am
          Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:14am | ! Report

          Fair enough, cheers

        • September 20th 2017 @ 6:44am
          Highlander said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:44am | ! Report

          In the move for Australia’s Folaus first try Foley handles four times, as well a throwing the last pass, not for a guy who can’t direct a backline I would have thought

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 6:45am
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:45am | ! Report

            Spot on H’lander 🙂

            • September 20th 2017 @ 6:53am
              Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

              As I said, one of his better games. That being said, he pops the ball straight onto Beale who runs into a bit of space and then offloads to McMahon, Foley then runs an excellent support line, gets the ball and passes it straight onto an unmarked Folau in broken play.

              I’m not going to criticise anything about that passage as he did an extremely job (I think everyone did a good job in it, actually, except for maybe Coleman’s hospital pass), but is that really what you’d call ‘playmaking’? Foley has been one of the best support runners in the team for a long time.

              It needs to be a qualitative evaluation where you look at what he actually does, not a quantitate one in which you simply count the number of times someone handles the ball.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 6:58am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:58am | ! Report

                I was originally talking about the quality of Foley’s play-making contributions over the course of his international career Fionn (insofar as I’m aware of it and have analysed it). He’s a decent distributor and can also create play with the cross-kick – check out his involvements against Wales on the 2016 EOYT again 🙂

              • September 20th 2017 @ 7:01am
                Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

                Nick, that’s the second best match I’ve seen him player (vs England in the RWC is first).

                If he rediscovers the form he showed vs Wales (or anything nearing it) on a consistent basis then I predict all criticism of Foley would be dropped instantly.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 7:39am
                Highlander said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

                Multiple involvement from your 10/playmaker is exactly what I am looking for, this is exactly the thing QC was good at at his peak. Constantly getting the ball in hand over multiple phases, moving the defence around as you please before the strike.
                If playmaking is defined as the ‘killer pass’ – which it is not for me, then Kieren Read has put more players in gaps than Barrett has this series, and no I don’t think he should play 10.

              • Columnist

                September 20th 2017 @ 7:42am
                Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

                Yes I’d broadly agree H’lander – it’s more about manipulating a defence to suit the strengths of your own attacking system.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 8:37am
                Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

                Highlander, if your 10 is simply either running the ball himself or passing the ball onto the next man and running a support line, as opposed to looking to create opportunities then you have to ask why he isn’t playing 12 rather than 10. The answer is of course that Foley lacks the defence. If he could defend then he would make a far better 12 than 10 in my opinion.

                The Barrett-Foley comparison is an interesting one. I thought Cruden was a better option than Barrett anyway. When Barrett is having a good day the team is unbeatable, but almost every poor performance from both the Canes and the All Blacks this year can be traced back to Barrett having a poor day and just shovelling the ball on (Hurricanes vs Chiefs both times, vs Saders 1st time, All Blacks in the 2nd and 3rd Lions tests, vs Argentina), crowding the rest of his backs or overplaying his hand and running it too much. I think there are comparisons with Foley here.

                The difference is that Barrett when on, and even when he isn’t, creates a lot of opportunities from nothing through his vision, speed, kicking and long passing. This is something Foley rarely does—you’ve literally picked one moment from the best test he’s played all year. The only one of Barrett’s traits I see in Foley is his speed over 20-30m, and even then he isn’t as fast as Barrett at running into gaps, so he can’t punish the way that Barrett can.

                Barrett can also kick well out of hand.

              • Roar Guru

                September 20th 2017 @ 6:10pm
                PeterK said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

                Fionn – Just as much angst is spent on Folau wearing 15 but mainly playing the role of 14, and Hooper wearing 7 but mainly playing the role of 8 (especially when Pocock is back), Foley wearing 10 but mainly playing the 12 role, and Beale wearing 12 is mainly playing the 10 role.

              • September 21st 2017 @ 10:20am
                Fionn said | September 21st 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

                The issue, Peter, is both that I don’t think Australian backs are intuitive enough to be able to play to their potential without clearly defined roles and also that it means we have to play an out of form Speight on the wing rather than an additional centre in Kerevi.

            • Roar Guru

              September 20th 2017 @ 5:30pm
              Cadfael said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

              The problem is that people have their view on what Foley does and won’t change it. Same as Hooper not being a pilferer, he turned over the most ball for an Aus 7 except for Hodgson who was the top turnover specialisr for SR this year.

              • September 21st 2017 @ 10:01am
                Fionn said | September 21st 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

                Cadfael, I have changed my view on Foley. I was so positive about Foley in the 2015 RWC and thought that he would go from strength to strength. I thought his flakey play vs Scotland was just nerves, I thought he was fine vs Argie and then I didn’t blame him for being massively outplayed by Carter in the final (it was DC for goodness sake, and he was in imperious form in that match).

                However, after the England series in which the same issues as Scotland WC match continued, and when they continued to get worse against the All Blacks in the Bledisloes that’s when I began to lose faith and thought he needed to be dropped for a few matches to find some form. He was persisted with throughout the RC despite there being no way that his form warranted it and while his form improved by Bledisloe 3 he has continued to be plagued by the same limitations that were apparent from the Scotland game.

                Anyway, I’ll make a pledge from here not to talk any more on the subject of Foley except when absolutely necessary. He is what he is. I predict history will prove me right on Foley, but no point in saying it again for now. If his form improves the I will admit it.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 10:50pm
          dan in devon said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:50pm | ! Report

          Sean Fitzpatrick was critical of Foley’s decision making and leadership when discussing the game at half-time on British sky tv. He also quipped that the Australian commentators hadn’t picked this up. I get the feeling that the ABs do not rate Foley. Is this the case? Certainly having Beale outside Foley makes him a much better player – I feel that Foley has not been the same player since his concussion issues.

          • September 21st 2017 @ 7:51am
            Muzzo said | September 21st 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

            Perhaps dan, he still classes the Fox Sports commentator, that he once quipped too, during their playing days,the remark of ” Does your mummy know your here?’, as still being a slow learner!!!

      • September 20th 2017 @ 12:33pm
        Phil said | September 20th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        Fionn,I enjoy your contributions to this site but can you please occasionally give some credit to Foley when he has a good game?Also,Mark Ella may have been a great player but I haven’t seen much wisdom from him as a commenter.He seems a bit Campo like to me.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 12:43pm
          Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

          ‘one of his better games.’

          ‘Foley then runs an excellent support line, gets the ball and passes it straight onto an unmarked Folau in broken play.

          I’m not going to criticise anything about that passage as he did an extremely [that was meant to read ‘good’] job (I think everyone did a good job in it, actually, except for maybe Coleman’s hospital pass).’

          ‘Foley has been one of the best support runners in the team for a long time.’

        • September 20th 2017 @ 2:29pm
          Ruckin Oaf' said | September 20th 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

          Good point Phil, every 3 or 4 years or so Foley has a darned good game and that should be acknowledged.

          • September 21st 2017 @ 10:13am
            Akari said | September 21st 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

            You’re a hard marker, Ruckin Oaf, but then I don’t quite disagree. My main issue is that Cheika is giving Foley every opportunity there is and no one else is getting a look in. I am not advocating for QC as others have made a good case on his behalf already. If Foley breaks down in Bloemfontein or Brisbane, who then is the ready replacement? Hodge, Hunt or Bealsy?

        • September 20th 2017 @ 3:09pm
          Terry said | September 20th 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

          Foley has had one good game. 2015 RWC v Poms.

          • Roar Guru

            September 20th 2017 @ 6:12pm
            PeterK said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

            he has had 2 very good games

            RWC 2015 agianst england
            Spring tour 2016 against Wales

            He has also had a number of good games like the one against Argentina. Still the minority and exception though.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 9:17pm
          ThugbyFan said | September 20th 2017 @ 9:17pm | ! Report

          Oi, Grumpy David Campo is a good bloke, leave him out of it. LoL

    • Roar Guru

      September 20th 2017 @ 6:21am
      taylorman said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:21am | ! Report

      Nice Nick and looks as though the Tahs legacy within the Ws rolls on.

      In terms of finishing Id say Reiko is up there this year. Of the very few chances he gets hes found the line several times. Has obvious x factor and at 20? 21 yet? looks tbe type that will stay around for a while.

      Folaus an enigma. Can appear lazy and disinterested but lately somethings got his goat up and hes back to his better days and beale may have something to do with that. Perhaps time to bring Cooper back and it might have the same impact but perhaps his tahless cape doesnt fit the elite group cheika is trying to forge.

      On the beale try theres a bit of talk around about Wallabies clearing some of his path in front of him, Hooper definitely tries to hold back a player and theres one other as beale turns to straighten up. Its possible neither has an impact as Beales speed is on but the arms definitely go up.

      • Columnist

        September 20th 2017 @ 6:34am
        Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:34am | ! Report

        Yes Ioane certainly looks the business as a finisher doesn’t he Tman? – although I do recall the Lions exposing some frailties in defence…

        One of the reasons I feel QC is not getting a look is goal-kicking – although Foley is barely average in that respect he’s always been about 5% better than Cooper. Maybe if the WB’s can develop someone like Hodge in that are it will bring QC back into the equation?

        • September 20th 2017 @ 7:06am
          Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:06am | ! Report

          Nic, i would venture to suggest that goalkicking would be used an excuse rather than a ‘reason’ in the Foley justification.
          The Iceman has melted at some crucial times (as we all do).
          The Quade banishment must be due to other things.
          And I am hoping that the coach is not just reminiscing about the trinity’s wonderful evening in blue vs Crusaders in 2014.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 7:09am
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

            Yep Foley’s not a wonderful; Test match kicker Ken – adequate at best!

            • September 20th 2017 @ 7:13am
              Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

              Lealiifano is the best kicking and defending 10 in Australia, and he will be back next year.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 8:16am
                Dave_S said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

                It’s a while since I’ve seen him play much, but my memory is that his passing and tactical kicking are a bit pedestrian – stand to be corrected on that.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 8:40am
                Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

                His kicking is good, his passing is okay. Better than Foley’s and Lance’s passing, worse than Quade’s.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 10:01am
                RahRah said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

                Unfortunately Christian broke his ankle at the time that he was really killing it in SR. Had he not had the misfortune of injury who knows? Hopefully the man can come back from injury and cancer to reclaim his form and true potential.
                Either way he is an inspiration.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 12:54pm
                Highlander said | September 20th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

                Just listened to the Egg Chasers podcast, big wraps on CLL last week

              • September 20th 2017 @ 5:00pm
                Charlie Turner said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

                RahRah, I remember the game in 2012 against the Tahs when CLL broke his ankle. He was so dominant in that match (and season) that once the lead was past two converted tries with 10 minutes to go I was screaming for him to be subbed and locked inside a vault for national duties. I was filthy when he went down in the 79th minute, still am!

              • September 20th 2017 @ 10:13pm
                Crash Ball2 said | September 20th 2017 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

                Charlie, I remember that specific game as well. It was as complete a flyhalf performance as you will ever hope to see (Dan Carter’s 2005 Lions performance aside of course). Such a tragic, tragic shame.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 8:19am
          Bluesfan said | September 20th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report

          So if Folau is the best in world in a one on one situation – What then Ioane’s try in the 1st Bledisloe cup –
          somehow he gassed/stepped Folau with around 5 feet in space and scored.

          Folau is a brilliant player – but best in world on a one on one situation – also what about Beale, NMS, McKenzie, B Smith – all great players one on one and is Folau actually head and shoulders above them?

          As for Ioane’s defense – kid is 20 years old – has 7 tests and has got 7 test tries, so think some patience is required as with more time in the saddle – his defense is only going to get better.

          • September 20th 2017 @ 11:35am
            Akari said | September 20th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            I disagree, Bluesfan. Ioane has jumped ahead of the Bus and a what a great surprising announcement from the ABs for a start. Whether he’s 20, 21 or 18; he must live by the sword or …. He has of course justified why he was given the leap ahead of the Bus and it’s exciting just thinking that there is more to come yet.

            • September 20th 2017 @ 12:00pm
              Bluesfan said | September 20th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

              You are absolutely right – but Ioane’s upside is amazing to consider when he is only 20 years of age and with only 7 tests under his belt.

              Frankly with Ioane, Goodhue and a chap from the NZ U20’s/Canterbury -Braydon Ennor – think NZ is going to be well served in the outside backs in the coming years.

              Just from watching Ennor in the ITM cup this year – he looks to have everything – speed, step and eventfully size (once he finishes growing).

              • September 20th 2017 @ 12:06pm
                Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

                I wonder if Ioane will end up as a winger or centre longterm. He has such massive potential.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 12:52pm
                Highlander said | September 20th 2017 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

                Ennor is scary already, good he is at the Cantabs school of development

              • September 20th 2017 @ 5:58pm
                Bluesfan said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

                Yea Ennor does look the goods – Will be interesting to see if he cuts Super Rugby apart like he is currently doing in the ITM cup.

                As for Ioane – I guess that will come down to 1. How his distribution skills develop 2. Ability in the defensive channels and probably most importantly how people like Ennor/Goodhue develop.

                Because Goodhue/Ennor look better suited at centre whilst Ioane can be strong in either position.

              • September 20th 2017 @ 7:06pm
                cuw said | September 20th 2017 @ 7:06pm | ! Report

                i am willing to bet that SR will probably play Ennor and Goodhue in centers – particularly given the value of Crotty for NZ . Crotty will be used sparingly and keeping in mind his numeros head knocks rotated or wrapped in wool.

                Ennor was in centers for under 20 with Ledger ( who may probably play for Blues with Ranger gone). the good thing of that is, Enoor must be a good defender to play centers , even at under 20.

                also the Crusaders have a plethora of wings to choose from, if they play today. Ioane, Seta, Mataele, Dagg , Bridge, Macilai are all injury free and in form ( perhaps not Ioane but still 🙂 )

                they had limited centers last season with Bateman the only real option as Wainui was not in form.

                interestingly both Goodhue and Ennor are Aucklanders , who have been tempted by razor 🙂

              • September 21st 2017 @ 10:25am
                Akari said | September 21st 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

                I was impressed with Ennor in the U20s championship; actually I was very impressed by the whole U20s backline and I recognise a few names playing and holding their own in the ITM Cup too. If that is not terrifying enough for the future, I see that Waikato and the Chiefs are already looking at poaching one of own from right under our noses.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 5:05pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

            I don’t remember saying that Folau was ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest BF?

            But he is one of the best and he’s been proving it for a long time now… Ben Smith and Julian Savea would also fall into that category 🙂

      • September 20th 2017 @ 6:36am
        soapit said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:36am | ! Report

        yeah i think simply folaus abilities as a creator are limited and when theyre not too many threats in the team and its just chuck it israel he attracts a heap of defence that no one has bothered to unsettle for him on the inside.

        beales pace and overall threat unsettles the defensive line that little bit which allows folau the finisher/supporter to come to the fore. notice nick spoke simply about getting him 1 on 1 to get a result, indicates how many defenders he’s been up against previously and has therefore had to be content with setting up others (with mixed success)

        • Columnist

          September 20th 2017 @ 6:39am
          Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:39am | ! Report

          They tried Folau at 12 (or in the Beale role) against Scotland on the 2016 EOYT Soap. He had 15 still on his back but he was playing off Foley directly and it did not go particularly well.

        • September 20th 2017 @ 6:40am
          Fionn said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:40am | ! Report

          If you get Kerevi in the centres, Naivalu on one wing, Folau on the other wing and Beale or Banks at fullback then suddenly there are a lot more threats in the team.

          • Columnist

            September 20th 2017 @ 6:47am
            Nicholas Bishop said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:47am | ! Report

            They would still play Beale outside Foley on attack, which means Kerevi or Kuridrani would have to function as a wing (given that neither can play full-back!)..

            • September 20th 2017 @ 11:07am
              MitchO said | September 20th 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

              Doesn’t that mean that the Hunt Beale combo at 12 and 15 works and lets you have a straight centre like Kerevi as an impact player on the bench?

              I like DHP but I prefer Hodge

          • September 20th 2017 @ 6:54am
            soapit said | September 20th 2017 @ 6:54am | ! Report

            in the 2nd reciver role nic has outlined i honestly think beale is the best (inluding hunt). you cant drift off him and his decision making on overlaps is pretty top level. ideal for getting good space for your finishers.

            maybe he can do that from fullback i dont know? or maybe kerevi or hunt can manage it (hunt with less speed and kerevi with less hands) ? id need to think about it a lot more than my schedule allows. it does seem like cheika feels he has his system now and just want to practise it.

    , , , ,