Are the Wallabies great or terrible? We’re still not sure

Jack Quigley Columnist

By Jack Quigley, Jack Quigley is a Roar Expert

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    The Rugby Championship wrapped up Sunday morning as the Wallabies defeated Argentina 37-20 in Mendoza.

    The record will read only two wins from six games for Michael Cheika’s men, but also only two losses – both coming at the hands of the best team on the planet.

    The two draws against South Africa have made this Rugby Championship a really tough read for punters attempting to evaluate where this Wallabies team is at.

    The June tests against Fiji, Scotland and Italy only serve to cloud judgement further. The Wallabies were poor in June, they may describe it as ‘underdone’, but either way they made extremely hard work of mediocre opposition.

    Have the Wallabies turned the corner since June? Win those two drawn matches and you’d say absolutely. One blowout loss to the All Blacks in Sydney that could justifiably be recorded as an outlier given the titanic performance in Dunedin a week later and home and away wins over South Africa and Argentina.

    Lose those two drawn matches however, and the picture darkens dramatically. All of a sudden the Bledisloe loss in Sydney appears to be the norm, with the performance in Dunedin considered the anomaly. The wins against Argentina are then dismissed as victories over an obviously weak opponent.

    Not helping the confusion was South Africa copping a 57-point hiding in New Zealand in between the draws with Australia.

    After Perth the general consensus was that the Wallabies had secured a hard-fought stalemate against a Springboks squad seemingly on the rise. Then the ‘Boks went to North Harbour Stadium and were blown away by the All Blacks, causing Australian rugby followers to wonder if the Wallabies should perhaps have done better a week before.

    So are the Wallabies great or terrible right now? It’s hard to say for sure. While we’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Australia at times during The Rugby Championship, we’ve also seen some pretty ordinary stuff, too.

    Bernard Foley is almost a perfect microcosm of the side. He regularly shows glimpses of being a word-class 10 – squaring up defences, making line breaks and slinging precision passes to put team mates in for scores. But in between he’s putting the ball dead in-goal kicking for touch or spraying conversion attempts everywhere but between the posts.

    In Foley’s, and the Wallabies’ case, as the year has gone on, the good has clearly started to outweigh the bad.

    The disorganised mayhem that was the Wallabies’ defence earlier in the year appears to be finding its feet. There are still moments of confusion defensively, but that can be in part due to the fact that the Wallabies rarely take to the field with the same combinations defensively two games running.

    In attack, Israel Folau has been white-hot. In June it was almost in isolation, but now he’s got Kurtley Beale, Foley and newcomer Marika Koroibete getting close to his level. Reece Hodge deserves to call the left wing position his own for the foreseeable future.

    Israel Folau Wallabies Australian Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Skills coach Mick Byrne’s influence appears to be having an impact in the ball-handling department. Byrne comes from an Australian Rules background where getting the arms free and getting rid of the ball in the tackle is critical, and the Wallabies are offloading and recycling the ball more often and at greater speed than they have in a long time. Having the aforementioned backline threats running at backpedaling defensive lines is a recipe for success.

    in the forwards, Adam Coleman shone in every match and at 31 years of age Sekope Kepu is in career-best form – though Stephen Moore’s best days are so far gone that it’s hard to understand how he continues to rack up caps.

    The breakdown remains an area of real concern, though. Michael Hooper has been playing on a different level, but has lacked support. Sean McMahon has looked the best of the rest in that department, but his future in the gold jersey appears cloudy due to his decision to turn his back on Super Rugby. The Wallabies still have David Pocock up their sleeve, but Cheika knows the Wallabies lack quality depth across the back row.

    The Wallabies now get a dead-rubber crack at the All Blacks in Brisbane before heading to Europe.

    The northern hemisphere tour will make fascinating viewing given the hard to interpret results of Rugby Championship 2017 – especially the matches against Scotland and England – where the Wallabies will have a shot at redemption against teams that have given them highly-publicised grief in recent times.

    Jack Quigley
    Jack Quigley

    A long time sports writer and podcaster, Jack has spent the majority of his media career covering football and rugby. He recently joined The Roar on the back of penning a viral Facebook rant aimed at the Wallabies which attracted 60,000 likes and more than 6,000 shares. You can follow him on Twitter @Jack_Quigley.

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    The Crowd Says (145)

    • Roar Guru

      October 8th 2017 @ 11:46am
      Kashmir Pete said | October 8th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report


      Quite nicely spoken by Reece Hodge in interview after match.


    • October 8th 2017 @ 11:50am
      Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

      We’re neither terrible nor great, we’re okay.

      Good in some areas (starting tight 5, outside backs, in attack) and just awful in some areas (decision making, kicking and defence).

      If we either beat the All Blacks next week or England at Twickenham then I think we can call it a successful season. If we don’t, it was poor, and if we lose to either Scotland, Japan or Wales it is looking dire.

      I fervently believe 2018 will be a much better year between Uelese (why is Moore around? He shouldn’t play against the All Blacks next week, this is an important test and we want to give ourselves the best chance of winning), Pocock, Lealiifano, Banks and Naisarani coming through.

      • Roar Guru

        October 8th 2017 @ 12:59pm
        PeterK said | October 8th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

        agree with all that
        additionally set piece plays are very good, restarts have become an issue again.
        I think the passing has improved more often it is in front, ball carrying in both hands in front including forwards.

        If we lose to nz and eng but win the rest then it has been a fair season not poor.

        Remember people picking wallabies to be 4th or 5th in rc.

        Ranking to drop to 8 or 9 at year end.

        currently ranking will be 3RD Ireland drop to 4th and SA to 5th. All on 85.x points so it is very close.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 1:37pm
          mikeylives said | October 8th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

          5th in the Rugby Championship really would be dire !

        • October 8th 2017 @ 2:11pm
          Bakkies said | October 8th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

          That ranking is still inflated and tends to occur when teams aren’t playing. The AIs will show a better indication of where teams are at and the reality is that the Wallabies are 4 from 9 this year. Those wins have occurred against teams that have made losing a very bad habit. Particularly Argentina who lost more games than the Boks and Wallabies last year. Their only win this year was against Georgia and they lucky that game wasn’t in Tblisi.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 3:20pm
          Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

          Disagree that if we lose to AB and England it is still a decent season.

          2-0 against Argentina
          1-1 against Scotland
          1-0 against Wales
          0-3 against All Blacks
          0-1 against England
          2 draws against South Africa

          So the only tier 1 teams that we beat were Scotland once, Argentine twice and Wales, who are currently the worst home nation.

          4 wins out of 11 tier 1 matches is just not good enough.

          • October 8th 2017 @ 3:56pm
            PiratesRugby said | October 8th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

            The Wallabies are mediocre.
            On the bright side: we seem to be developing some good second rowers. But Simmons has got to go. And our props are okay. Dempsey went pretty well and I look forward to seeing more of him at this level. He’ll be tested by the ABs and I hope he rises to the occasion. Thankfully Hanigan is out of the picture. Foley continues to assert his mediocrity on the backline. Why can NZ produce half a dozen decent fly halves at any one time and we can’t even produce one? I’m glad Hodge got a try. And can I say I told you so about Korobete? He’s an asset in the backline. His one error was a misread in defence but I think he expected his inside man to take that tackle as he drifted out. Unfortunately the inside man was Simmons who was playing like he had the flu. TPN had a ripper of a game but Moore just looks old and tired.
            I love the way Cheika whines about travelling so much but was prepared to take credit for a good win against Argentina when they came to Australia. Does jet lag only work one way?

            • October 8th 2017 @ 7:34pm
              Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

              Happy to admit you told me so on Koroibete – he’s been great ?!

              I’d really like to see Hodge move into the centres eventually, but until then I guess that Naivalu and Koroibete will duke it out for the 11 jersey. Who do you think is better? Naivalu is awesome.

              Moore is just sad, he has to go. TPN is good and Uelese looked a great prospect also.

              We’re never going to challenge the top teams until we get a better 10 and back-row. We need Pocock more than anything.

              I think we have the possibility of a really good team in 2018, the only question is whether Cheika is able to get the team playing to its potential.

              • October 8th 2017 @ 9:04pm
                PiratesRugby said | October 8th 2017 @ 9:04pm | ! Report

                I watch Korobeite and Naivalu week in week out and I can’t seperate them. I’d prefer it if they could kick but I’m happy with their defence and ability to finish. That hit that Korobete made was a cracker.
                I don’t want to badmouth Moore but I wish for his sake that he doesn’t go on the Spring tour. TPN was MOTM for mine.
                I reckon Hodge should play 10. Just take Foley off. He adds nothing. McMahon’s pass to korobete was as good as anything Foley dishes up. I mean we’ve got Genia playing great at 9. Beale injecting himself to make some great plays. Hodge is really solid. Kuridrani is good at 13 but seldom passes. We need to use 9, 10, 12 to bring our fast outside backs into the game. Foley is a c0ckbl0cker. He’s greedy, has a weak pass, can’t kick and can’t tackle (although he surprised me by stopping an Argentine on the goal line ). Berrick Barnes for all his faults, was a good pass, decent kick and a fantastic little defender.

            • October 8th 2017 @ 9:13pm
              Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

              Was Cheika complaining about the travel? Good grief.

              Agree that Foley is asserting mediocrity. I’d love to see Folau and Beale and Koroibete running off of Cooper. If they could get Kerevi in there too then that would be a sight to see.

              Hodge looks like he could be a future Mortlock in the making.

              • October 9th 2017 @ 3:14am
                Taylorman said | October 9th 2017 @ 3:14am | ! Report

                Hes a Quade fan. Any positive comments about Foley, even when deserved, distract from the ultimate aim of having Cooper back, something we know aint gonna happen anyway.

              • October 9th 2017 @ 5:24am
                Fionn said | October 9th 2017 @ 5:24am | ! Report

                Simpler explanation: I think he’s at best a reserve string 10 who prevents the team from reaching its potential.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 3:47pm
          Kane said | October 8th 2017 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

          The Wallabies did drop to 5th in the rankings.

          You need to have higher expectations, this has not been a successful year by any means.

          Failure to be a very poor SA team, scoring 45 un answered points against the All Blacks and bowing it, losing to Scotland at home, another poor showing against Italy at home.

          If a win against England or NZ turns this season into a successful then will you ever have a bad season?

          • October 8th 2017 @ 4:07pm
            Drongo said | October 8th 2017 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

            Some of us have realistic expectations because we have a long history of supporting and understanding Australian rugby union. 5th in the World is about right at the moment and if we get back to 3rd as Peter suggests is possible, then that will be a good season.
            Cheika and his team have played some very good rugby in the RC. Getting lots of points put on you by the ABs is not a sign of a poor team. SA are 3rd in the World, so if there are ‘very poor’ then there are not many decent teams in the World, are there.

          • October 8th 2017 @ 4:23pm
            Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

            If we beat either England or New Zealand I think it has reasonable, and, importantly, we have improved.

            If we beat New Zealand then we can justifiably feel that we were basically good enough to win the Bledisloe this year, given how close came to winning that fantastic test.

            Our win % is always messed up because we play New Zealand so much, but if we beat England then, really, our only poor loss was against Scotland in June. We will rue missed opportunities against South Africa, as I believe we could have won both of those games, but they will do the same as South Africa could have won both of those games too.

            After the horror start to the season we have played some good rugby these last few weeks, it just remains to be seen if it can be maintained.

            At least Hanigan is out, although I don’t think I’ll ever get my wish of seeing someone else start at 10.

            • October 8th 2017 @ 6:04pm
              Rebellion said | October 8th 2017 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

              The Wallabies did look a helluva lot better without carrying ‘Aussie Ned’ Hanigan around their neck like a rope.

              All we need to do now is get rid of the coach, Phipps, Robertson & bring back our 2 x best open sides (Pocock & Gill).

              Koroibete has become the No.1 wing and Naivalu still to come back – which is a massive stride forward from the days of Horne et al

              • October 8th 2017 @ 9:14pm
                Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 9:14pm | ! Report


                It’d be cool if Pocock played for the Barbarians and gave the Wallabies back row a lesson. George Smith would be a fine backup to show Cheika’s back-row how to dominate the breakdown.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 5:04pm
          Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

          I am just baffled as to how we are ranked above Ireland given that they have beaten us, England and New Zealand in the last 12 months.

          I suppose they have lost to Scotland and Wales, but we lost to Wales as well.

          The vagaries of the ranking system confuse me.

          • October 8th 2017 @ 5:32pm
            Davis said | October 8th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

            We are all baffled that you think beating the abs or england turns this in to an acceptable season, geez talking about lowering the bar. Good enough to win the bledisloe? Did you miss the first game? I think it requires we win two games so I’d wait until after the third game to make that assumption. Beating the abs will paper the cracks for another year, ensuring cheika keeps his job that’s all it does.

            • October 8th 2017 @ 11:46pm
              Reverse Wheel said | October 8th 2017 @ 11:46pm | ! Report

              He’ll keep his job because he’s doing a good job. Maybe less time listening to the moaners on the roar and more time thinking for yourself?

              • October 9th 2017 @ 2:11pm
                Davis said | October 9th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

                Is that you chek? Deans and knuckles never got this many chances. He’s embarrassing to watch, especially the press conferences.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 5:04pm
          Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

          I am just baffled as to how we are ranked above Ireland given that they have beaten us, England and New Zealand in the last 12 months.

          I suppose they have lost to Scotland and Wales, but we lost to Wales as well.

          The vagaries of the ranking system confuse me.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 7:02pm
          Bob said | October 8th 2017 @ 7:02pm | ! Report

          You must be joking, Wallabies are scrapping for 6th with SA, Wales and the Argies. This is part if the problem, everyone still thinks they’re up there so have too high expectations.

          • October 8th 2017 @ 7:41pm
            Reverse Wheel said | October 8th 2017 @ 7:41pm | ! Report

            Name the 5 above them. I need a laugh.

            • October 8th 2017 @ 11:46pm
              Reverse Wheel said | October 8th 2017 @ 11:46pm | ! Report

              Yeah didn’t think so.

        • October 14th 2017 @ 8:50am
          Mapu said | October 14th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

          4 frim 9 is nothing but rubbish

      • October 8th 2017 @ 1:27pm
        Noodles said | October 8th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

        Progress!!!! That’s the big issue. And clearly there is progress. The right five are doing quite well and we may end the year with a complete bench set. Hooper has seriously improved and is going to a very good place in his style. McMahon is our best at 8 and only lacks size. Dempsey may put runs on the board before the year is out. We also have Tui and Timani and others not yet in the frame to see in a backrow that needs improvement.
        Genia is playing very well and Foley is pushing himself at the line in what in my opinion is an admirable approach to self improvement. Beale and kuridrani look like they are settled and need some game time. Hodge is hungry to attack spaces. Kuriboite is already settled. Folau I think needs to think hard about his lines.
        We still have no backup at 9 or 10. The rest of the backline has good tension, though I wish toomua was still on the list.
        All up a good win. Consistent hammering at the hard yards. Consistent ball play at the advantage line. Settled set piece. Quite consistent accuracy at breakdown.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 5:30pm
          RAF said | October 8th 2017 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

          Agree about Hooper. I have always thought he was over-rated but have changed my mind. He has been seriously good this year.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 7:32pm
          Rebellion said | October 8th 2017 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

          No back-up 9 & 10 you say Noodles?

          I think you’d find without Chieka and his compromised powers of selection – this wouldn’t be anywhere near as big an issue as it is

      • October 8th 2017 @ 6:33pm
        double agent said | October 8th 2017 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

        I definitely feel a lot better about the team than I did a couple of months ago.

    • October 8th 2017 @ 11:52am
      Scoop said | October 8th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

      The Wallabies are neither great or terrible, they are somewhere in between.

    • October 8th 2017 @ 11:59am
      Ouch said | October 8th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

      Neither, but they are improving. As long as they continue to improve it’s a positive.

    • October 8th 2017 @ 12:01pm
      #10 said | October 8th 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

      Sadly the wallabies are both – the problem being they are terrible more frequently than they are great.

    • October 8th 2017 @ 12:15pm
      zubrick said | October 8th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

      we cannot be considered great until the wallabies consistently win against the AB’s and england
      koroibete and hodge looking good as starting wings
      in fact the backs look good except for foley…aus will never be great with him at 10
      2 wins over the pumas in 6 RC matches thats pretty poor
      dont get excited folks…wales england and scotland will test our mettle next month

      • October 8th 2017 @ 12:20pm
        Fionn said | October 8th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

        I can’t fathom what Henry Speight is doing on the bench. Our back 3 can all play 80, so the question is whether he brings more impact than any of them? The answer is no, he doesn’t. Banks should be the outside back on the bench – wider skill set than Speight, way faster and more x-factor.

        • Roar Guru

          October 8th 2017 @ 1:00pm
          PeterK said | October 8th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

          Banks wasn’t in argentina.

          I agree he should be on the bench not speight for NZ game.

      • Roar Guru

        October 8th 2017 @ 1:16pm
        PeterK said | October 8th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

        so the boks were pretty poor as well then , they only had 2 wins against the pumas in the rc as well.

        • October 8th 2017 @ 3:56pm
          Kane said | October 8th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          Yes, yes they were poor too

        • Roar Guru

          October 8th 2017 @ 10:32pm
          Harry Jones said | October 8th 2017 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

          The Boklings have been wildly inconsistent this year.

          Took their 5 wins against France and Argentina well, battled Australia to a standstill, were massacred by the ABs, then took the no 1 team to the very edge in a 3-3 try classic.

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