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Three promising weekend events for the good of Australian rugby

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Over the weekend, three very different and unrelated things happened in three different locations that could all have a huge impact on the Australian rugby landscape in their own right. And all three are really exciting for very different reasons.

    The first was the performance of Reece Hodge as Wallabies flyhalf. Hodge far from starred in his first outing in the Australian no.10 jersey, but what he did do was prove that not only will he be a very handy stand-in over time, but that once again, Michael Cheika knew what he was doing all along.

    Perhaps only those close to Hodge, probably his Wallabies teammates, and obviously Cheika didn’t see any great risk in Hodge stepping in for the poorly Bernard Foley against Japan on Saturday. The rest of us were probably happy enough for the experiment to take place in Yokohama two years out, rather than during the 2019 Rugby World Cup itself.

    But, it turns out that playing flyhalf is kind of like riding a bike, and I have to say, I loved Hodge’s comment going into the game, that he always thought he was a flyhalf playing in other positions anyway.

    The Wallabies played a smart, but simple game plan to make life easier for Hodge, and it was noticeable how often Kurtley Beale popped up at first receiver to take the pressure off. Hodge played a simple distribution game that was built around letting Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani run wild and free in midfield, something they both did to great effect.

    It’s easy to criticise Nick Phipps it seems, but he gets due credit here too, by looking to play wider from the ruck, to ensure Hodge wasn’t having to throw passes beyond his current skill base, and to also provide that extra bit of width for the midfield game.

    It wasn’t perfect, and there were a lot of errors, but there was enough promise on display to move it into the ‘worth persevering’ column, rather than being discarded completely. I do wonder if Hodge at 10 might be best served by more creativity at 12, rather than the dual-unsubtlety of Kerevi and Kuridrani, but that’s something that can be refined over time. What it does mean is that Wallabies fans need not be so nervous about Foley walking anywhere near buses for the time being.

    And in kicking nine conversions from nine attempts, Hodge has given Cheika a very nice headache for the rest of the Spring Tour. Is there merit to letting Foley just concentrate on playing flyhalf, and leaving the goal-kicking duties – at least – with Hodge? I think there is.

    Reece Hodge

    (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

    It’s always been unfair to judge Hodge’s kicking ability on his entirely misleading international record, where prior to this game against Japan, he rarely got to kick from anywhere but the painted mid-field ground signage. But Hodge kicked 36/52 at 69 per cent in Super Rugby for the Melbourne Rebels this season, including 10/14 conversions.

    He essentially assumed the kicking full-time from around Round 8 and from then on landed 27/38, including 7/10 conversions.

    Clearly, there’s still work to do, and equally, his record will be affected by still taking the long-range shots that he does. But if he can kick at the same success rate as Foley inside Foley’s range and then kick one from every three from beyond forty metres out, then the Wallabies are already in front.

    In Toowoomba on Sunday afternoon, Taniela Tupou’s schoolboy YouTube video highlights played out for real, with what might well have been the perfect display of set piece domination and open field carnage for Queensland Country, in the second NRC semi-final against the well-beaten Fijian Drua.

    The Fox Sports stats guys had him down for 15 runs and twelve tackles busts after an hour, and his match numbers were phenomenal in the end: 18 runs for 125 metres, 15 tackle busts, four line-breaks, two offloads, a try assist and two tries himself. If you didn’t have him in your fantasy team, you will do this weekend

    Tupou becomes eligible for the Wallabies in time for the season-ending Scotland Test on November 25, and while his ball-carrying is effective and great for the highlights-makers, his scrummaging has been excellent during the NRC and will be of greater importance in the international game.

    There’s a wide expectation that he’ll join the Wallabies in the UK after the NRC Final this Saturday, and on last Sunday’s display, why wouldn’t you.

    Taniela Tupuo breaking a tackle against the Rebels

    (Credit: Sportography/QRU)

    Finally, Sunday was described as a “transformative day” for the game in this neck of the woods, with agreement reached between and announced by Andrew Forrest’s Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship and Rugby Australia for a March 2019 kick-off.

    What I’d presume will be a ‘Western Force’ team and five others to be named from the Indo-Pacific region will play a full home-and-away series plus finals. The five other teams will be announced for World Rugby to sanction at a board meeting on November 14, The West Australian reported on Sunday.

    That World Rugby Sanction would seem fairly likely, too, with CEO Brett Gosper quoted in the IPRC media release:

    “World Rugby is supportive of the IPRC’s objective to further help grow the game of rugby throughout the Indo Pacific region. This massive region of the world is a key priority of World Rugby’s mission to grow the game globally,” Gosper said.

    IPRC appear to be maintaining that ‘Force’ players will remain eligible for the Wallabies despite not playing Super Rugby, on the basis that they are playing in an Australian-based side per Rugby Australia’s policy.

    But, the competition’s integrity and viability will be won and lost by RA allowing repatriated Australian players to remain Wallabies-eligible by playing for one of the five other IPRC-based sides as well.

    The strength of the five other IPRC sides is arguably more important than the strength of the Perth-based side; without it, few will want to watch one-sided thumpings, and even fewer will want to broadcast or sponsor it.

    The in-principle agreement between IPRC and RA – and with it, the likely World Rugby endorsement – is an important first step, which while providing a curious alternative to Super Rugby (and maybe even a blueprint for future versions thereof), also ensures the NRC won’t be impacted, nor its best players lured to a rival competition.

    The challenge now will be the sign-off on Australian players filling the five other teams, and then the really hard job of convincing overseas-based players to return home before the 2018-19 northern season begins.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

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

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    The Crowd Says (198)

    • November 7th 2017 @ 6:07am
      The Barnes family. said | November 7th 2017 @ 6:07am | ! Report

      Holy moly that’s a big guy!

      • November 7th 2017 @ 12:34pm
        Dave_S said | November 7th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

        Yes for one of those tries a Fijian defender sensibly waved him through like a matador.

    • November 7th 2017 @ 6:13am
      Worlds Biggest said | November 7th 2017 @ 6:13am | ! Report

      Thanks Macca, the general consensus here on the Roar regarding Hodges outing was about a 7 /10. Apart from a few wobbly passes he did well, he showed a nice deft touch on a couple of try assists. His 9/9 off the tee was impressive, that should be enough to get him the job for the rest of the tour methinks.

      The Tongan Thor was outstanding on the weekend, interesting that he may join the tour for the last game once eligible. One would hope Cheika has him earmarked for the bench otherwise no point flying him over to sit in the stands.

      Happy Punting today !

    • November 7th 2017 @ 6:21am
      Daveski said | November 7th 2017 @ 6:21am | ! Report

      Nice Brett. I think I’m more enthused about seeing Tupou playing 3 for the Wallabies than Hodge playing 10 again but what a multi-functional, adaptable asset Hodge is proving to be!

      Agree he should be taking all line kicking duties and goal kicking duties for the remainder of the tour. And a system should be developed for Hodge being the go to guy for our exit strategy from received kick-offs. Under pressure clearing kicks from our own line I think he is even more a charge down risk than Foley ( or Genia attempting a box kick). Let’s face it there all a nightmare in that regard.

      You missed one other positive thing. The Aussie 7s backed up their Munich 7s win with a win at the Silicon Valley 7s, the final pre season tournament before the World Series kicks off in Dubai. With Holland and Jenkins back from injury, Boyd Killingworth proving to be a beast, Maurice Longbottom continuing to thrill and some good depth developed i can see this team finishing top 3 which won’t be easy but would be some feat. Hopefully they perform well in the early events and the Sydney 7s should be rocking.

      • November 7th 2017 @ 10:46am
        Connor33 said | November 7th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        Agree. Hodge should take all line and goal kicking.

        He does wind up a little bit too much. But if he’s deep in the pocket, then I have no problems with him taking the kick.

        All this will, as Brett suggests, allow Foley to focus more on set piece plays–where AU has got some great IP, with other teams trying to catch up.

        Not saying Foley is any Larkham, but I really think not burdening Larkham with goal kicking duties freed up mental space to better process general and set play.

    • November 7th 2017 @ 6:53am
      Cynical Play said | November 7th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      A few other “Cheika knew what he was along all along” puzzle pieces would include (1.) the master-stroke of poaching and developing Koirabete who might just be our greatest modern winger, (2) McMahon at 8 [who would displace him now, maybe not even Pocock], (3) blooding the young guns, such as Dempsey and Tui and Rodda, (4) sticking with the Holy Trinity (not my words… …though we are about to find out wether Hunt can be anointed to the trinity. (5.) getting Genia back (6) giving the WBs an 80 minute captain who leads by example in the Richie McC mould

      The rude and offensive ‘Clown’ tag still pushed by some knuckle-draggers on this forum is plain insult and wilfully ignores the development he has achieved.

      • November 7th 2017 @ 6:59am
        Daveski said | November 7th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

        CP if Cheika needs someone to pen his biography he could do worse than you. But they are all very good points. Still in many people’s minds absolutely nothing can offset the fact Liam Gill is playing overseas and Ned Hanigan is the Wallaby 6!

        • November 7th 2017 @ 7:08am
          Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:08am | ! Report

          Let’s be honest Koroibete hasn’t proven himself any better than Naivalu, both are very good but basically like-for-like.

          Hanigan is a joke and Cheika can’t see past it, and Cheika still keeps going for Simmons for some reason too.

          Cheika deserves credit for how the team is playing, but Larkham is the attack coach and Larkham is the one who deserves the most credit for how the team is attacking, which is the main thing we are excelling at.

          • November 7th 2017 @ 9:54am
            Jake said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            If you can’t see the potential in Koriobete then you don’t know much about rugby.

            • November 7th 2017 @ 9:56am
              Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

              Did I ever say that I couldn’t see the potential in Koroibete? No? Okay then.

              • November 7th 2017 @ 12:35pm
                Phil said | November 7th 2017 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

                Mate,I like that you are a constant contributor but can you please be a little less negative in your responses?You don’t seem to be able to hand out praise when something is good without throwing in the criticisms.At least this time you can’t criticise Foley’s game.

              • November 7th 2017 @ 12:38pm
                Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

                Phil, please point to one point that I criticised Koroibete. I’ll be waiting.

                Unless comparing him to Naivalu is ‘criticising’ him.

                The narrative that everything Cheika has done has been utterly brilliant and perfect and a part of a master plan is as fantastical as the narratives that everything he does is wrong. He has done some very good things in 2017, he has also done a lot of poor things in 2017 also, and especially 2016.

          • November 7th 2017 @ 12:08pm
            Noodles said | November 7th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

            Fionn you need to get a checkup on that liver of yours!

            • November 8th 2017 @ 10:56am
              P2R2 said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

              Asafo Aumua – AB Hooker in waiting…as good and definitely faster….good head-to-head – prop v hooker

          • November 7th 2017 @ 5:36pm
            Gepetto said | November 7th 2017 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

            Koroibete should be moved to #13 because he is more alert to attacking opportunities than Kuridrani and faster. Simmons, Hooper, McMahon and Hannigan are the players in the Wallaby forward pack with high workrates – that’s why Coach Clown picks them; If Coach Clown knows anything, he knows how forwards are supposed to play. Ned’s skills seem to be improving.

      • November 7th 2017 @ 7:11am
        Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:11am | ! Report

        2) Pocock is a very different player to Hooper and McMahon, who perform very similar roles. So in reality Pocock should be at 7 as he performs the jackling role/role at the ruck and Hooper and McMahon should be competing for the other flank spot.

        Also, it is quite incredible how people are overstating McMahon’s performances. He has been very good, but the amount of hyperbole is pretty stunning—you’d think he was playing like Toutai Kefu. He still hasn’t put in one of the Pocock-esque performances when he singlehandedly wins the game. Pocock puts 1-2 of those performances a year, and even when he isn’t in imperious form is pretty good.

        4) two of the three in the holy trinity are world class, yeah, but they’re the ones everyone would have picked anyway. The attack functioned fine without two of the three on the weekend, by the way. What does that mean?

        5) Cheika didn’t get Genia back, he wanted to come back.

        • November 7th 2017 @ 7:27am
          Cynical Play said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

          You really need an argument every day don’t you. Cheika met with Genia in Europe and encouraged his return. You would be the only one thinking Naiv should be in the side over Koir. Again you are alone in knocking McMahon,s development where he is now almost the first picked and keeping out some good 8s.

          Anyway get on with your usual 100 posts to shout me down.

          • November 7th 2017 @ 7:32am
            Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:32am | ! Report

            And you’re a spin doctor that likes to change the facts to suit your narrative, so go figure. You somehow managed to bring up the “Holy Trinity” after a match where we scored 65 points without two of the three of them playing.

            Genia wanted to come back, he was very clear about this with the quotes he made in the media in the lead up to his return. Or do you seriously think it was Cheika’s conversation with him as opposed to the fact that he wanted to return to Aus that made him come back?

            I didn’t actually say that Naivalu should be in the team above Koroibete. When you look at the try-scoring records and performances in matches both have been fantastic and neither significantly better than the other.

            Don’t think I ever knocked McMahon development, simply said there is a large degree of hyperbole. How many Tests has he played this year, 7-8? It was only really vs Argentina in Canberra, in Bledisloe 3 that he came alive at 8. How many great performances did Pocock put in, but you’re going to forget about them after one performance against the All Blacks and one against Japan? Were all three available and in their current form (Pocock in his form before he left) I wouldn’t have an issue with Cheika selecting McMahon over Hooper, but neither of them dominate matches for us the way Pocock does.

            • November 7th 2017 @ 4:22pm
              Wallace footrot said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

              I actually had a one on one convo with Genia by chance prior to his return when he was back for a week with his family well over a year ago. He said then he and his family just wanted to get back to Aus and was really looking forward to it. He loved his time in France but his kids are young and its was time to come home. Plus he was at the time very excited to be getting back to Qld with all of the guys like Quade, Higgers and George….etc. He is a top guy and a very genuine fella. For his own privacy I will not say where and I do not know if he had spoken to Cheika at that time but it was his clear enthusiasm on getting back to the wallabies and Qld that was driving his return from Europe.
              By the way this not in support of Fionn or in criticism of him, it is purely to help understand what is a family mans reason for returning so we can try not to speculate.

            • Roar Guru

              November 9th 2017 @ 6:32pm
              Timbo (L) said | November 9th 2017 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

              I would Have a fit Niavalu in the team over any other player.

              He is our best 14 and in my opinion is a better selection than Izzy.

              Marika is improving, but is the International circuit the place to develop skills? or should you be selected because you have already developed them in club, NRC and Super Rugby?

              These sorts of selections devalue the hard work and stellar performances that players put in through the regular season and can’t even get a call-up into the extended squad.

              If you put Hoops in the side, you will need dual 7’s. and he is best mounted at 7 – so he can get into the action ASAP to make that first tackle. Contrary to Fox Comentary he isn’t the “single player clean out king” that Phase of the Job is done by the second 7 – Poey or Seany. From what I have seen, Seany has been able to move the bigger bodies better than Hoops, but nothing like Pocock, Smith, Alcock, Gill, Todd, Cane……. which is OK for a 7 but not for a 7/8

              Chose 1 only and get some some real operators into 6 and 8.

        • November 7th 2017 @ 7:56am
          riddler said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

          5) fionn i think u will find that stade didn’t want him.. not privy to inside news, but that is just from reading l’equipe..

        • November 7th 2017 @ 9:56am
          Jake said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

          If you think McMahon hasn’t been outstanding then you know little about rugby. No way would Pocock replace him at present.

          • November 7th 2017 @ 9:59am
            Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

            So the best player Australia has produced since George Smith wouldn’t replace a guy who, as Peter said, ‘finally had a top game against NZ, first one against a top side’?

            Right. Weird logic. You must not have watched much of David Pocock playing for the Wallabies.

          • Roar Guru

            November 7th 2017 @ 10:14am
            PeterK said | November 7th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            In 9 games where he started against NZ, SA and England , 8 as a no 8 and 1 as a flanker he has had 1 very good/top game and 1 good game. 7 average / ok games and giving him the benefit of the doubt since I actually remember 2 poor games in those.

            Not a patch on Pocock nor on Hooper to be fair on overall record.

            McMahon plays a very similar game to Hooper and if McMahon maintained this form then a more balanced selection would be Pocock at 7 and McMahon at 6 or 8.

            • November 7th 2017 @ 4:10pm
              Cliff (Bishkek) said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

              PK & Fionn, I will put my two bobs worth in on the argument. I think if we are comparing Pocock to McMahon we have to replate to their positions as a No. 7 and not a No. 8. In my opinion, neither are good No. 8’s and do not hold a candle to Reid in terms of the required skills and work load of an 8. (and I am not a Kiwi.

              As far as the No. 7, Pocock leaves both McMahon and Hooper for dead based on performances. However, I would not be putting too much on the Pocock coming straight back and fitting in. He will be older and slower. He was nowhere as quick as he previously was after his surgery. Now that said, he could surprise as he is a great athlete. But his position and that of Hooper and McMahon will all be up in the air relative to how the up and coming No. 8s are progressing, and I refer to the big Fijian who plays for the Brumbies (might be a bit wrong there as I cannot think of his name). If we have an up and coming 8 who can play the game as a 8 should play, then Pocock does not go to 8. If Pocock is good as a 7, then he goes to 7 or he goes to 6 – depending on Coach selections. In my opinion McMahon will not get a look in unless he replaces Hooper – if Pocock is fit and going gun.

              The Wallabies are in a good position and Cheika needs to be commended on the blooding of some of the young guns. But I will stick with my summation of the other day, and I got a bit of a blast for it, Cheika is not a Coach and his selections can have disastrous impacts. Until I see Hanigan, Robertson and Simmons no longer in a Wallabies jersey as well as not relying on Carter and Douglas, then he will not be a Coach in my eyes. He was unable to do it on the EYOT because of injuries – but when he continually bloods lock pairings of young and up and coming players – Coleman and Arnold as the front and Rodda, Tui, Enevar and Philip and starts looking at RHP – and allowing them to fight it out amongst themselves to step up.

              And they have to all step up during the SR 2018.

              This is what is needed. We have props to replace Robertson. We have players to replace Hanigan. We have them now, so why not now? We have players to replace Simmons but this should be his last wallaby team.

          • November 7th 2017 @ 4:18pm
            jigbon said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

            i think pocock is a one trick pony. lumbering, cant pass and too slow for the current game.Yes he gets the odd turnover…. so what .thats not all it takes to win a game. i persoanlly feel the game has left the pocock type behind.
            And fionn really he is not the greatest oz player since george smith. That’s really gilding the lilly.

            • Roar Rookie

              November 7th 2017 @ 4:29pm
              piru said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

              Pocock is the only current Wallaby who’d have a shot to make the All Blacks side

              • November 7th 2017 @ 4:32pm
                Jerry said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

                I reckon there’s a fair few who’d make the squad. But agree Pocock is class.

              • Roar Rookie

                November 7th 2017 @ 4:37pm
                piru said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

                In my opinion, Pocock, Smith and maybe Dusotoir are the only 7s who can claim to have gone head to head with McCaw and come out on top

              • November 7th 2017 @ 4:44pm
                Jerry said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

                I imagine there’s some who would say Heinrich Broussow also (not sure I actually agree, regardless of the match results in 09).

              • November 7th 2017 @ 5:01pm
                Wallace footrot said | November 7th 2017 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

                Good point Piru. It is Sir Richie himself who mentioned Pocock as the toughest guy he has played against to get him off a ball!! It was on NZ sport show….the breakdown with Richie!

              • November 7th 2017 @ 5:26pm
                Taylorman said | November 7th 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

                And I always thought it was Quade?

            • November 7th 2017 @ 8:27pm
              John said | November 7th 2017 @ 8:27pm | ! Report

              Here Here

        • November 7th 2017 @ 1:15pm
          In Brief said | November 7th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

          Summary: bring back Macca

        • Roar Guru

          November 8th 2017 @ 8:47pm
          Sluggy said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

          Fionn, I disagree with you on stuff, but I salute your provocative posting. ROAR needs more posters like you, to engender lucid debate. Last couple of years there were too many ‘camp members’ who always parroted out the same truisms. Props to Peter K as well, and dare I suggest he’s a little more flexible than you. It’s a pity some of the old guys don’t post as much as they used to. Still I can always have an argument with Jeznez, followed by a beer at the next get-together.

          Keep it up.

          PS – You are completely wrong about Foley, OK?. He is a vital cog in the attacking patterns that Chickadee has been building. Taking the ball to the line and distributing (if he doesn’t score himself).

          Now, what do you think of the sharpshooter defence pattern the Wobs have been playing? There was a try in Dunedin where Kuridrani dashed out of the line at the smiler, and badly missed him. Hodge had to come in to take him, McMahon, who Kuridrani had waved to and told he was going, didn’t get across, and the smiler off loaded it to the winger who strolled across untouched.

          Its at about 2:25 on the NZ version of the highlights on youtube.

          In Brisvegas, they made 91/100 tackles – the least misses and highest completion rate this year.

          Yet in Yokohama, they missed 30. Thankfully, Koro and Phipps and Hooper cleaned up the mess most of the time.

          [stats taken from the ESPN site; others differ]

          Should the Wallabies persist with this? Does Chickadee care what we think?

          • Roar Guru

            November 9th 2017 @ 6:50pm
            Timbo (L) said | November 9th 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report


            You are peeling back the carpet to take a peek into an interesting debate.

            Chieka may well be selecting the best available players for his plan, Foley included. This could well be the best that his plan can be executed.

            Many of us, me especially, thinks the plan is no longer fit for purpose and that the wallabies should go to a more traditional plan that takes advantage of all of the skills of our best players instead of selecting a set of players with the narrow, specific skill set needed for Cheikaball.

            There is another debate as to whether Chiekaball has been developed around 3 or 4 star players or if the 3 or 4 Players were exactly what Cheikaball needed to prosper.
            My thoughts are a mix of both, and with Folau out and more traditional back line structures appearing, we will see a more cohesive and more effective back line.
            Cheikaball has 3 locks, 2×7’s 2×10’s and 3×13’s. Multiskilling is not a desirable trait. Hodge is lucky he is a decent 13 as well as all his other skills otherwise he would still be on the fringes.

            • Roar Guru

              November 9th 2017 @ 9:49pm
              Sluggy said | November 9th 2017 @ 9:49pm | ! Report

              Of late Cheika (my auto correct keeps trying to change that Chickadee) seems to have been going for some pace on the flanks, instead of the 3 x 13s. I’m not sure yet if Koro is a better finisher than Speight, but he certainly seems to be a better defender, and have plenty of gas.

              What does worry me is that KB is not always “accurate”, as the Kiwis say, under the high ball. I am expecting about 30 Garry Owens to go his way on Sunday morning. Did you notice last Saturday that Hodge was dropping back on IJCB possessions and often receiving the kicks? Nobody ever said MC was stupid.

              Whether MC will hand the place kicking to Hodge is a point of debate, but although Foley seemed to have upped his punting by about +10 yards last Soup season, you’d tend to think that now Hodge has established himself in the starting XV, he can do the punting from the mark.

              If “more traditional back line” play includes more kicking for territory, I’m agin you there. I think it plays into the hands of teams that either (a) want to slow the pace of the game (which I expect the Cymry will) (b) like to counterattack, meaning you know who. We are better off keeping the ball.

              I also think that it has been made clear that they intend to stick with the sharpshooter defence pattern, at least for the time being. It won’t work effectively unless the designated backrower gets into the space that opens up behind the shooter, and faster than has been happening. There was a later try in Dunedin where Beale, I think, gave McMahon the “Im going out” wave, and shoots on the ball carrier, black 19. Black 19 managed to offload to Black 8 (Read) who made about 5 or 10 metres through the space behind Beale. McMahon got across and grassed him one-on-one, but he had the Black halfbacks running support port and starboard and once he offloaded, they worked the try. Fingers crossed, or I fear England will rip them a new one through that space.

              • Roar Guru

                November 10th 2017 @ 11:11am
                Timbo (L) said | November 10th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

                Yes, your auto correct is awful! But I got the message.

                When you are defending in enemy territory it is customary to have at least 2, often 3 players drop back to defend against positional kicks.

                Common practice is FB Wing/FB 14 and 10 as they all tend to have a good return boot and the ability to crack open a scattered defense.

                If you are kicking for territory you need 4 decent lineout Jumpers, which doesn’t fit the Dual 7’s strategy as the Number 8 tends to be that guy. Seany is OK in the air, but no more than a secondary option. Liam Gill is the answer, but that isn’t an option any more.

              • Roar Guru

                November 10th 2017 @ 4:24pm
                Sluggy said | November 10th 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

                In response to Timbo 11:11 –

                It is a bit of a problem having only two guys strapped as jumpers, when the opposition have four and can gang up on them to steal throws.

                The answer to this may be to have a 6′ 5″ + #six like Fardy, and a proper size #eight. We were fortunate in past years to have Rocky Elsom, preceded by Owen Finnigan, and some tall timber at 8. We don’t have it right at the moment. On the other hand Lukhan Tui is 6′ 6″, and if he nails himself into the #six jersey there are some #eight tyros in the mix, so by 2019 …

                The problem with that is you can’t fit all of Pocock. Hooper and McMahon (and Gill) into the team, but many coaches would like to have that problem. And having Tui at #six at least means you can play one of them at #seven, and one on the bench, for flexibility.

          • November 9th 2017 @ 10:40pm
            Fionn said | November 9th 2017 @ 10:40pm | ! Report

            ‘stats taken from the ESPN site; others differ’

            I’ve given up on trusting stats as there is just too much subjectivity in them.

            According to the Tuesday Top 5 on GAGR ‘Nick Phipps had a pretty standard game for him, some passes way off the mark and some poor kicking. He also conceded 3 of the teams 11 turnovers for the match. When Joe Powell came on his passing was very good and he made nearly twice as many tackles as Phipps.’

            I am tired of the Foley debate. I just don’t see it. As Peter elucidates elsewhere I get that the role of the 10 has been ‘dumbed down’ to suit Foley’s strengths of little darts, support play, etc, and he is very good at those things, but it doesn’t change the fact that he is an “international 10” with a very poor long passing game, a diabolical kicking game, defence as bad as Quade’s and lacking ‘x-factor’ and play-making vision. I don’t see that playing a 10 with the skills of a 12 (minus the ability to defend) is a good longterm strategy. The argument pushed by some about Foley being ‘world class’ or one of the best at taking it to the line is nonsense—he is behind Mounga, Barrett, Sexton, Finn Russell, Paddy Jackson, Cruden and perhaps even Sopoaga. At least Nick Bishop doesn’t tow the SMH line and praise him endlessly. Some will disagree with me, but it has been done to death and neither of us will convince one another.

            That said, I reject Cynical Play’s nonsensical hyperbole about McMahon overtaking Pocock based on one really good performance against a tier 1 nation, especially when that performance was nothing like as dominant as the ones that Pocock put in fairly often. And to claim that Cheika got Genia back is bordering on a fantasy.

            • Roar Guru

              November 10th 2017 @ 12:02am
              Sluggy said | November 10th 2017 @ 12:02am | ! Report

              And the defence pattern?

              • November 10th 2017 @ 7:01am
                Fionn said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

                I don’t think that I am particularly adept at analysing defence patterns so will leave it to those who can. All I can see is that it has seemed to have worked better and better since we seem to have fewer random shooters since Bledisloe 1.

                Our defence seemed to work against the All Blacks in Brisbane. I won’t knock something if it is working. I attribute the missed tackles vs the Japanese as us getting overconfident and losing our shape.

              • Roar Guru

                November 10th 2017 @ 4:02pm
                Sluggy said | November 10th 2017 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

                Regarding the shooter defence, to paraphrase “Bomber” Harris, “nobody has tried it properly yet, so we shall see”.

                It seemed to work better in Brisbane. Beale was making some good hits from 12. Let’s see what Gatland & fast Eddy do to unlock it over the next couple of weeks.

            • Roar Guru

              November 10th 2017 @ 11:20am
              Timbo (L) said | November 10th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

              The Foley debate is a tough one. Can we agree that we are trying to make a choice between the least worst.

              Quade’s defense is worse than Foley’s 10 minutes in the chair is worth -7 to -14 points per event. Foley may miss 6 points off the tee.
              Not saying Foley’s Defense is much better, just less bad.

              Quades attacking play, ranges from Sheer brilliance to WTF?, The consistency isn’t what it needs to be.

              My selections are always going to be biassed toward good defender over flashy attack, but if you move the slider to an attacking focus, Quade all the way.

              Still think Jono is the overall, best balanced package we need.
              But we should be looking to the children. Lets get our U20’s Heroes some time on the park instead of living in the shadows of imports and mediocrity.

      • November 7th 2017 @ 7:49am
        Ads said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

        Heaps of people (myself included) had been calling for Timani in too. He has been average the last two weeks. Another “maybe Cheika actually knows what he’s doing” moment for me.

        • November 7th 2017 @ 9:12am
          Boomeranga said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

          He’s pretty rocks or diamonds from what I see. Wales last year was excellent but then a game like the NRC one verse Perth and you wouldn’t want him in the Rebels let alone the Wallabies.

          • November 7th 2017 @ 4:18pm
            Cuw said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

            its not fair is it?

            i mean the guy is made to play as a 2nd rower by his super rugger team and then he is asked to play at 8 for the country?

            from my limited knowledge i can think of only 2 guys who can play like that – Luatua for NZ and Samu Manoa for USA. if u know any others plz do state.

            i have always said in these pages that a test 8 has to play at 8 every weekend in club or what ever rugger. U cannot just step into it and think of or expected to perform . especially if ur going up against a regular good 8.

            simple eg. did u see Kaino at 8 for NZ against the Babaas ? many who saw the match thought he did not impose himself – but he did his thing more like a 6 than an 8.

            when people look at that performance and thikn of Read – they go ” oh he was poor”. its not fair at all.

            if Timani is to be an 8 , then he has to play at 8 in super rugger – but slim chance of that unless Mafi is injured.

            • November 7th 2017 @ 4:33pm
              Boomeranga said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

              Yeah, that’s a fair comment in terms of him being Wallaby 8.

            • Roar Guru

              November 9th 2017 @ 6:58pm
              Timbo (L) said | November 9th 2017 @ 6:58pm | ! Report

              Timani, Ned, Naisarani, DHP Mumm and more recently Fardy do the 6/lock injury shuffle.

              There are only minor differences in the roles, you just pack in a slightly different place or get to the breakdown a bit quicker.

              A ball running 8, on paper, isn’t that much different but in reality, to bend the line with ball in hand at speed takes a special sort of attitude and body type.

              For the record, I don’t think Timani was a particularly good lock, but a great asset to his team to step up and do the job. He is more of a a 6/8 like Higgers

        • Roar Guru

          November 7th 2017 @ 9:36am
          PeterK said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

          agree, the matches against the barbarians and japan has provided med the evidence to say he should not be selected. Even Hanigan currently provides more. Hanigan still shouldn’t be in the 23 though, McCalman should start, and Philip take up the lock/6 bench position, Enever the lock position.

          Then in 2 weeks Tui gets back in.

      • November 7th 2017 @ 9:15am
        TC said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Except maybe Hannigan

      • Roar Guru

        November 7th 2017 @ 9:33am
        PeterK said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        CP – Most people are happy to forget the criticisms they got wrong but focus on what they think is still wrong.

        So many criticised Cheika for fast tracking Koroiebete and Cheika was proven right in taking him along as a develoment player last year. He introduced him slowly into tests this year, the right call.

        McMahon has finally had a top game against NZ, first one against a top side. Yes Cheika’s faith in MCmahon was finally proven correct. No way does he get selected ahead of Pocock though who has dominated many games against every top side. Furthermore McMahon is more easily replaced (or his skills are duplicated by others) whilst there is no one in oz close to Pocock’s skills.

        I agree Cheika is not given enough credit for the selecting of new blood that he has gotten right, nor for the ones he got wrong and dropped quickly like Nabuli, TN. The focus remains on the ones who have been given too many chances like Hanigan.

        Hooper is has yet to develop into a good captain.

        • November 7th 2017 @ 11:04am
          Connor33 said | November 7th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          Saying Hooper is not a good captain is a bit like sayingMcCaw was not a good captain in his first few years in the job. I guess any new captain other than say Steve Waugh couldnt be considered good from the onset.

          I think Hooper has good leaders around him, too, particularly with Genia. We need 4-5 of them to make a fist of the next WC. Coleman, Beale, Foley all providing that supporting role–and I think what Hooper has done is help facilitate this consensus model albeit still at a young age. It’s good EQ and I think Cheika has supported this.

          Though, at the same time: when Hooper went for the line against the Abs leading to the Koribete try, I though that was a critical moment in his captaincy. Bit like Moore’s call against the Boks in Bribane in 2015. That game laid the platform for some great leader for the RCand WC.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 7th 2017 @ 12:39pm
            piru said | November 7th 2017 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

            Saying Hooper is not a good captain is a bit like saying McCaw was not a good captain in his first few years in the job.

            In what way?

        • November 7th 2017 @ 7:46pm
          Sgt Pepperoni said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

          In fairness the nabuli and tn selections may have had more to do with nationality

      • November 7th 2017 @ 11:38am
        Neil said | November 7th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

        Well said, Cynical.

      • November 7th 2017 @ 1:10pm
        RahRah said | November 7th 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

        The genius of it all is that Cheika made his “brilliant selections e.g Coleman et al”, look like they were forced on him by injuries to his incumbents. Indeed a master stroke.

        • Roar Guru

          November 9th 2017 @ 7:23pm
          Timbo (L) said | November 9th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

          Spot on.

          Drew Mitchell for Rob Horne’s Broken Arm

          Foley for an injured QC

          Skelton, Palu Injuries,

          Triple A For Slipper

          I am sure Matt Phillip will be his latest “find” at lock.
          Been performing well all year and many Roarers have been calling for him to get a start for months.

          Banks will be the next one if we lose another Wing/Fullback.

    • November 7th 2017 @ 7:03am
      concerned supporter said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      “Perhaps only those close to Hodge, probably his Wallabies teammates, and obviously Cheika didn’t see any great risk in Hodge stepping in for the poor Bernard Foley against Japan on Saturday.”
      1/ Reece Hodge was captain & No 10 for the premiership Manly Marlins Colts of 2013.
      2 /Poor Bernard Foley ??. Are you being critical of Bernard Foley’s previous form for the Wallabies, or maybe commenting on his health?

      • Columnist

        November 7th 2017 @ 8:21am
        Brett McKay said | November 7th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        1). So you saw no risk at all in there being five years and several increases in class between Hodge’s last outing at flyhalf and Saturday just gone? No risk? At all? As a concerned supporter?

        Would you have played Pocock at inside centre in the 2011 RWC, given it’d only been six years since he played 12 for Churchie in Brisbane? No risk there either?

        2). I am commenting on Foley’s health. ‘Poorly’ became ‘poor’ somewhere between submission and publishing, which has now been rectified. Foley is back to being unwell…

        • November 7th 2017 @ 8:44am
          concerned supporter said | November 7th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

          Calm down, Brett,
          Of course there was and there is always a risk, but probably the only other logical alternative for No 10
          was K. Beale.
          How did D. Pocock in the 2011 World Cup make this conversation?
          Off topic, I think that Red Cardinal has a good chance in today’s Melbourne Cup.Risks??? Barrier, First Start in Australia, 22 other Starters, etc etc. But the Bookmakers adjudge all these good & bad points in their odds.

          • Columnist

            November 7th 2017 @ 8:50am
            Brett McKay said | November 7th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

            Because the length of time between Pocock playing 12 and the RWC was similar to the length of time since Hodge last played 10. I’m just using the same sort of logic you did..

            • Roar Guru

              November 8th 2017 @ 3:00am
              Carlos the Argie said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:00am | ! Report

              Hi Brett,

              Sometimes, you are more hot tempered than me. That is a challenge!

    • November 7th 2017 @ 7:16am
      Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      Of course Hodge should take over all kicking duties from Foley. I’m sick of Foley’s exit kicks going near the 22 or not making touch, of gaining 20m off of penalties, 30m if we’re lucky and Foley oscillating between 30% and 100% when kicking goals. Hodge’s kicking display on the weekend showed why we should back him from now on (at least unless Lealiifano displaces Foley from 10 with his superior kicking game to both Foley and, at least at this point, Hodge).

      • Roar Guru

        November 7th 2017 @ 9:39am
        PeterK said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Disagree and agree.

        Foley should not take any kicks.

        However Hodge is too slow kicking to take clearance kicks where the defence is a chance of a chargedown, it is even more likely to happen than with Foley. For those kicks Beale or Hunt should take them.

        • November 7th 2017 @ 11:06am
          Connor33 said | November 7th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Yeah, Beale does seem the best on the exit.

        • Roar Guru

          November 7th 2017 @ 12:47pm
          jeznez said | November 7th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          Agree that Beale or Hunt are best under pressure. How do we get Hunt into the team though?

          I’d like the Kerevi/Kuridrani combination persisted with a stronger passer inside them.

          Would really like to see Hunt tried at 10 with Hodge back on his wing, Beale at FB and those two and Koroibete outside. Happy for it to be off the bench but think Hunt can deliver straight running, distribution and front line defence.

          Allowing two boots at the back that both like to run at space and that are able to add additional distribution/playmaking to hit the strike runners.

          • November 7th 2017 @ 12:58pm
            Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

            Jeznez I think that 9. Genia, 10. Foley (if fit), 11. Koroibete, 13. Kuridrani, 14. Hodge are guaranteed, which means that 12 and 15 are the only two spots to fit in two of Hunt, Beale and Kerevi.

            Question is, which of them ends up on the bench? Perhaps Hunt as he is coming back from injury? Does Cheika persist with the Kerevi-TK midfield?

            • Roar Guru

              November 7th 2017 @ 1:33pm
              jeznez said | November 7th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

              Hodge and Koroibete switched (as they ran out in Bled 3)

              I hope Beale and Kerevi stay where they are. Hunt joins from the bench and is used to replace Foley during the game – that would be my best case scenario this weekend.

              (note – am not wishing an injury on Foley – just assuming he is unlikely to be playing the 80 after being too ill to play last week)

              • November 7th 2017 @ 1:41pm
                Fionn said | November 7th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

                Yeah I hope we see 12. Kerevi, 13. Kuridrani and 15. Beale too.

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