Beale best to steer Wallabies at No.10

Will Knight Columnist

By Will Knight, Will Knight is a Roar Expert

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    Surely the biggest lesson learnt by the Wallabies from the debacle of Bledisloe 1 this year was that simplicity is supreme.

    The All Blacks tore Australia to shreds, piling on eight tries in about 50 minutes as they bolted to a 54-6 lead in Sydney.

    A large part of the defensive embarrassment was due to the constant changes in the defensive line at set pieces, with the Wallabies backs lining up in different positions depending on-field position.

    It was ludicrous. And it was ruthlessly exposed.

    The term “defensive strategies” – commonly used by defence coaches these days – is ridiculous. Of course, there are nuances at the elite level. But the terminology sounds as if it’s been devised with the help of army generals and NASA scientists.

    Even for professional athletes, when under fatigue and under pressure, it’s best to not get funky. Keep it simple sweetheart.

    Which brings me to the Wallabies’ five-eighth selection for this Saturday’s Test against Japan in Yokohama.

    In such a key position, it’s madness that Reece Hodge got the nod at No.10.

    With both Bernard Foley (virus) and Karmichael Hunt (neck) unavailable, coach Michael Cheika had some tricky calls to make.

    But Hodge, a winger most recently at Test level who has played in the centres for the Wallabies, is a sizeable risk as a playmaker.

    With Israel Folau missing the tour, surely Hunt – who would’ve started at fullback against Japan – should’ve had another back-up at No.15.

    The balance of the squad is a bit messy. Brumbies fullback Tom Banks, also a winger, would’ve been an excellent utility addition. Izaia Perese is on tour, but it’s too big a gamble to throw a 20-year-old fullback into the Test arena.

    After Quade Cooper wasn’t part of the Rugby Championship squad, Cheika told Hodge in August that he should prepare as a back-up five-eighth to Foley and Kurtley Beale.

    Three months ago.

    So wasn’t the best chance to prepare Hodge for that role last weekend when the Wallabies played the Barbarians?

    Reece Hodge Australia Rugby Union Wallabies 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Hodge played five-eighth in his junior days. He’s started a few games at No.10 for the Melbourne Rebels. And Cheika said he’s trained in the position against the match-day team in opposed Wallabies sessions.

    Surely the chance to test Hodge was against the BaaBaas. Instead, Duncan Paia’aua – usually a centre – got the playmaking duties at fly-half.

    And we’ve been told the Wallabies aren’t taking Japan lightly.

    Beale, who has been shifted to fullback, would be best at five-eighth.

    He’s the more experienced and proven playmaker. By a long way.

    Beale is lethal running the ball from the backfield, but he’s also got the full bag of tricks a top-notch frontline playmaker needs. He kicks and passes with class but short and long. He can accelerate into gaps. He knows how to break down a defensive line. And he’s classy at feeling the rhythm of a Test match – when to take the heat out of the contest and when to step it up.

    Beale could run the show from No.10 and he would link well with centres Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani.

    Kurtley Beale Wallabies Australia Rugby Union Championship Bledisloe Cup 2017

    (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

    Hodge doesn’t seem to possess the subtlety needed at five-eighth.

    He would be best suited at fullback for this Test in a straight swap with Beale.

    Admittedly fullback is a crucial position too, a ‘spine’ position if you want to borrow some rugby league terminology.

    But Hodge has a massive boot – one department in which he would trump Folau.

    Having played a fair bit on the wing for the Wallabies, he’s had to defuse some high balls.

    Defensively, it’s a bit risky, but again with experience as a winger he’s accustomed to sweeping and tracking from depth.

    Of course, Japan aren’t going to throw as much at the Wallabies as the All Blacks – or South Africa and Argentina. But they’re a dangerous and passionate side. The Springboks found that out. They’ve pushed Scotland, Wales and Ireland over the past 18 months.

    Perhaps Cheika will have them interchanging between five-eighth and fullback despite the numbers on their back. Oh no – remember simple is sweet. Remember Sydney.

    Will Knight
    Will Knight

    An AAP writer for more than a decade, Will Knight does his best to make sense of all things cricket, rugby union and rugby league, all while trying to have a laugh along the way. You can find him on Twitter @WKnightrider.

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    The Crowd Says (51)

    • November 3rd 2017 @ 7:58am
      Noodles said | November 3rd 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      It is abundantly clear that Beale is best suited to broken play. A player at 10 is mostly working from stable plays and looking to apply pressure at the gain line. Hodge is well suited and I expect that he will go well. It’s comforting that he will also defend his channel. And it would be a joy if he demonstrated a tactical kick, which has not been a strength at 10 since Larkham.

      • November 3rd 2017 @ 8:37am
        JeffR said | November 3rd 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        Agree. And I imagine we will see a lot of Beale at 10 anyway.

      • November 3rd 2017 @ 9:50am
        wally said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        i think Cooper did ok with tactical kicking in a pre-chieka world. It’s really just since Foley we’ve had no tactical kicking.

      • November 3rd 2017 @ 8:19pm
        PiratesRugby said | November 3rd 2017 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

        All of the qualities you’ve highlighted in Beale’s game also prove that Foley is a poor choice at 10. If you value passing, kicking and playmaking then you can’t pick Foley. If you’re nostalgic about Campese’s turnstile defence then Foley is your man.

    • November 3rd 2017 @ 8:26am
      bigbaz said | November 3rd 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Beale at 10, ffs do you people watch the game, we’ll have the 13 and 14 playing out side the stadium they’ll be pushed so far sideways.So MC had made up his mind on QC 3 months ago, what a surprise.I have this real crook feeling that Japan is gunna make us pay for our stupidity.

      • November 3rd 2017 @ 12:10pm
        Bfc said | November 3rd 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

        That’s perhaps the saddest thing…Cheika came out and spewed some drivel about QC needing to regain his “love of the game” (QC pointedly said he always loves playing any game of rugby…) etc etc when he left him out of the RC squad. It seems Cheika had already made his mind up that QC would never supplant Foley at flyhalf, no matter how well he went. And the point made about Hodge getting an earlier run is valid…if Cheika had planned on using him at flyhalf then the BaaBaas game was the perfect opportunity to ‘debut’…

    • November 3rd 2017 @ 8:29am
      Dontcallmeshirley said | November 3rd 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Hodge should be a wing option only until he develops an ability to pass well
      He could then be moved to 12 or 13. He is not a 10. Unfortunately this will not be found out against a weaker team on Saturday.

    • November 3rd 2017 @ 8:30am
      stubs said | November 3rd 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      I agree with you Will, I think Beale should have a crack at the #10 jersey. He played his schoolboy years there and given he’s been handed the second play maker role at #12 I would have assumed he’s the next logical choice.

      To be fair, I don’t think Hodge will be out of his depth but I feel as though Beale has more to offer in terms of flair and just being generally dangerous in attack (which is what the Wallabies have been missing for some time now at #10).

      My guess is Beale will come into the line as a second play maker in any case but personally I would have done it the other way round with Beale at #10 and Hodge at #15.

    • Roar Guru

      November 3rd 2017 @ 8:38am
      PeterK said | November 3rd 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      The way the flyhalf role has been dumb downed to suit foley’s strengths means a player does not have to have a good pass to play that role.

      They need to be able to dart at the line, run at the line before a short pass, and run support lines.

      Long passing and a good kicking games are considered nice to have’s.

      Any other coach would have had a second 10 on tour, and if they didn’t they would have flown another one in with first and second choices not being able to play there.

      • November 3rd 2017 @ 9:14am
        Rhys Bosley said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        Yeah, people keep saying all that but then the Wallabies go and score three, four and five tries against the All Blacks. Clearly the “dumbed down” attack works when it comes to the most important KPI, so it seems appropriate to me that they stick with a 10 who fits the successful game plan, while adding defensive starch and long range kicking.

        • Roar Guru

          November 3rd 2017 @ 9:22am
          PeterK said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

          it is good coaching to develop gameplans that suit the strength of the players selected.

          To be less provocative I could have just as well wrote descoped or narrowed, still means the same thing.
          I NEVER said dumbed down attack did I? I said dumbed down flyhalf role, the creative playmaking comes from elsewhere.

          The increase in number of tries is because Beale as a genuine playmaker has been added, before that with the backline run by Foley didn’t score many tries.

          I did imply (and forgot to explicitly say Hodge can do this role).

          • November 3rd 2017 @ 9:44am
            Rhys Bosley said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            Fair nuff.

        • November 3rd 2017 @ 9:39am
          Fionn said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          I think it’s fair to say that the role of the 10 during the Foley/Cheika regime is to offer more of a running threat and look to set up outside men less than with a more traditional setup. Foley and Beale actually play similar roles in the team, and you can’t really say either of them operate like a Larkham, Dan Carter or a Quade Cooper. There is no one in the 10-15 with a good long passing game.

          The advantage of Cheika’s system is that every player in the 9-15 offers a running threat. Hodge at 10 continues this trend, although I’m concerned about our 10-12-13 getting a bit one dimensional vs Japan, defending against Hodge-Kerevi-TK must be a terrifying prospect, and I’m excited to see it in action.

          • November 3rd 2017 @ 9:48am
            Rhys Bosley said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

            I think they consider a long passing game less important nowadays anyway. It is all about everyone from 1 to 15 to be able to make a quick short pass, anchoring defenders and moving the ball into space.

            • Roar Guru

              November 3rd 2017 @ 9:52am
              Fionn said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

              I think you’re right, and that’s also what Mark Ella said he thought was important in his biography/autobiography.

              That being said as Mark said you have to be able to throw longer cutout passes also. This is a skill that has been distinctly lacking with Australia for a while. Means we can’t utilise dummy runners as effectively and also means we can’t exploit overlaps and holes in the defence as easily. Sexton, Cruden and Russell all do it with ease, while also offering a running threat.

    • Roar Guru

      November 3rd 2017 @ 8:42am
      PeterK said | November 3rd 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      The poor squad choices have been laid bare.

      Ideally Cooper or even DP should be on the tour.

      Also the wing pair of Speight and Koroeibete is very unbalanced. The only wing / fb hybrid is Hodge.

      Banks should have been in the squad.

      He could be at 11 or 15 for this game and Beale as second choice 10 would be at 10.

      • Roar Guru

        November 3rd 2017 @ 9:19am
        Hoy said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        I agree with both your statements… the creativity of 5/8 is no longer a requirement sought by the Wallabies.

        Also, the stupid selections of Cheika has been laid bare VERY early on in this tour. Chickens come home to roost…

        Beale is not a great 5/8. I doubt Hodge has the passing game to play a great 5/8 game, and we might just get away with it against Japan. So we are exactly where a lot of people feared… our only 5/8 has gone down, and because we haven’t taken our fullback, we now have to shuffle two spots… Say either Hodge or Beale go down… who fills in their spots of the crazy bench named? Rona to what? Fullback, Beale up for Hodge? Rona to fullback for Beale? Really? Can we have a back three without a kicker? Apparently so…

        • November 3rd 2017 @ 9:45am
          Fionn said | November 3rd 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

          Banks and Quade or Lance (or even Paia’aua if need be) in the squad would have fixed all problems.

      • November 3rd 2017 @ 12:44pm
        Dave said | November 3rd 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

        Excellent summary Peter K.

        No Cooper or Banks has aleady been exposed before the first game has even started.

        Would have been a perfect environment for both of them to display their skills and put on a show for the Japanese crowd too.

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