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Is there a way out of the Quade-less quandary at flyhalf?

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

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    The worst can happen. The All Blacks won their first World Cup in 24 years when forced to promote their fifth-choice outside half in the second half of the final. Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Aaron Cruden and emergency number ten Piri Weepu had all gone down injured and Stephen Donald was all that was left.

    Sir Graham Henry memorably made his phone call to ‘Beaver’ while he was white-baiting on the Waikato River, and the rest is history. Donald duly remembered his past as an All Black and came on to the field in time to kick the winning goal in the World Cup final against France.

    It was a brutal lesson about the necessity of squad depth, and the need to expose players who aren’t necessarily considered starting choices, to the rigours of international rugby before a major tournament. One day, your fifth-choice outside-half may be asked to kick the winning goal at a World Cup. It is a good idea to have known that pressure, or something like it, before the event ever happens.

    The situation facing Michael Cheika at number ten now is a long-term version of the same quandary. One part of the riddle is a set of economic circumstances in rugby well beyond his control, another part is of his own making.

    At the beginning of the 2017 season, with Christian Lealiifano rehabilitating from leukaemia, most Australian rugby commentators would have considered the Waratahs’ Bernard Foley, Queensland’s Quade Cooper and Jono Lance from the Western Force as the top three flyhalves in the country.

    For reasons which are difficult to fathom for the outsider looking in, Cooper has fallen out of favour completely after performing with notable maturity for the Wallabies in 2016.

    At the very least, with 70 caps to his name, you would have thought Cooper would make a dependable back-up to Cheika’s first choice, Bernard Foley. Nevertheless, despite having taken much of the pressure off Foley’s back after three losses to England and a rout by the All Blacks in Sydney to begin the 2016 Rugby Championship, Quade has been progressively marginalised to the point where he did not even make the squad for the end-of-year tour of Europe which begins this weekend in Cardiff.

    Meanwhile, the political circumstances which resulted in the Western Force’s disappearance from Super Rugby have led Lance to the English Premiership’s Worcester Warriors on a short-term deal.

    While Lance has been linked to Dave Wessels’ new-look Rebels squad, a move to the Premiership can be a dangerous thing. Like the National Health Service in the UK, it operates on the principle of “once we have you, we never let you go”, and a player of Lance’s quality will probably be offered considerable incentives to stay.

    With others like Jake McIntyre and Jack Debreczeni also now plying their trade abroad, this presents a problem for Michael Cheika and the Wallabies. Exactly one calendar year ago, Cheika had this to say about Lance:

    “Over the last 12 months [I’ve watched] some of the quality he’s brought since he’s been running the show at the Western Force.

    “He’s a different player to the one that I coached at the Tahs and he’s come on and I don’t think he got his cap tonight but he’s now in the system with us and we’ll keep working with him… I’d say it won’t be long before he gets that [Wallaby] cap.”

    That comment implies a serious amount of succession planning, but the linear progression from Super Rugby to national level has now been interrupted or even broken.

    Michael Cheika Australia Rugby Union Wallabies 2017

    (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

    The qualities Cheika admires were in evidence only last week, in an EPL game between Worcester and Harlequins.

    Although Warriors eventually lost the match 41-35, they did score six tries away from home and Lance had a significant hand in four of them. From the draw-and-pass for the first score at 0:33 (reel time) to the visionary cross-kick to the far wing at 0:55, the quick hands at 1:21 and long cut-out pass at 3:40, Lance looked to have a full range of attacking tools in his outside half’s box. He also made one shuddering defensive stop on Jamie Roberts midway through the first half which halted the big man in his tracks.

    With Lance’s background in winning cultures – he was with the Reds in 2011 and at the Waratahs in 2014 – and extensive experience at fullback, you would think he has exactly what Cheika needs to provide depth in the halves.

    But it has not worked out that way, at least on this year’s Spring Tour. Instead, the Wallaby coaches have had to make a choice between Kurtley Beale (who last started a game for Australia at number ten way back in 2012) and Reece Hodge (who has played all of his Super rugby from number 12 outwards) for the key decision-making role against Japan.

    They chose Hodge and the results were mixed. Hodge had a very solid game as a back-line player while understandably failing to convince that he has the specific skillset required of a number ten.

    He kicked all of his goals – a huge bonus for Australia – took on the responsibility for the drop-outs, and made the penalty kicks to touch. It was, however, Beale who did most of playmaking and exit kicking from first receiver.

    Let’s see how Hodge’s role developed throughout the game. On the defensive side of the ball, Nathan Grey rejigged the Wallaby formation from the set piece yet again. From lineouts, Hodge started on the blindside wing with Beale as the fullback defending wide, beyond Hooper and the three Ks (Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani and Marika Koroibete) in midfield:

    Hodge was paired with Beale in the Australian backfield as ‘Israel Folau’ in most situations, moving from the front-line defensive role he has occupied successfully for most of the Rugby Championship.

    In attack, there were some promising glimpses – the in-pass to Henry Speight at 10:10 (game time) for the second Wallaby try and the quick hands on the fourth at 32:39.

    But the highlights do not present a typical picture of a game in which Kurtley Beale undertook the bulk of the playmaking at first receiver. One of the jobs of a first receiver in the modern game is to ‘overcall’ for the ball from the forward pod if he feels there is an opportunity to move the point of attack wider. Hodge generally stood at least five metres back and was hesitant to overrule his forwards:

    In the first example (which led to the first Wallaby try for Samu Kerevi), Hodge leaves the playmaking to Beale on the second play, rather than demanding the ball himself on either of the two phases.

    This was a theme that continued throughout the match:

    With his willingness to play flat on the advantage line, it is Beale who puts the ball out in front of Tatafu Polota-Nau to coax him through the hole outside the Japanese defence in the first frame, then reappears at first receiver to chip the ball through for Koroibete to collect on the next phase.

    In both instances, Hodge is watching the play develop from the inside.

    There are also some concerns about Hodge’s ability to pass consistently well off his left hand. I counted four significant errors he made on plays going out towards the right wing of the Australian attack, one of which can be seen on the highlight reel at 50:20 (although the Wallabies scored anyway!).

    An interception on another left-to-right passing move occurred at 20:35:

    The Japanese defender is already in between Hodge and the Wallaby outside him (Kuridrani) as he goes to make the pass, which is high and behind Kuridrani in any case.

    Hodge does not roll his hands over the ball in these situations but tends to pass end-over-end, which tends to make the flight of the ball more unpredictable over longer distances.

    The space behind Bernard Foley at number ten resembles something of a black hole given that Quade Cooper now appears to be out of the picture and other potential replacements (especially Jono Lance) have moved abroad, at least for the time being.

    As with the starting selections of Ned Hanigan at blindside flanker and Allan Alaalatoa at tighthead prop this season, there still seems to be a strong desire to pick a player ‘from nowhere’ in terms of a strong and palpable record of success in Super Rugby. The linear and progressive planning in the All Blacks’ line of succession is lacking.

    Reece Hodge enjoyed a better-than-average outing as a backline player in an unfamiliar position against Japan, but without ever suggesting that he would have succeeded specifically as a number ten against one of the sterner opponents to come – Wales, England and Scotland.

    Hodge’s immaculate goal-kicking was by far the biggest single win to come out of his performance, but neither the fundamentals of character at number ten (passing equally well off both hands, demand for the ball from forwards) nor the synergy of the flyhalf/inside centre connection were strong enough to worry one of the top-tier ‘big guns’.

    Bernard Foley had better stay fit and healthy on the approach road to Christmas!

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (379)

    • November 8th 2017 @ 5:58am
      Woodsie said | November 8th 2017 @ 5:58am | ! Report

      Gidday Nick,

      I’m a massive fan of Hodge and thought he did a great job. But my gut feeling was he didn’t look the goods. Your analysis explains why I felt that way. Love your work as always.

      I wonder if he was instinctively going back to his wing roll, hanging back and looking for a hole or line to run to break through the defence. Rather than looking for the man looking for the hole or line.

      I hope he gets a bit more of a crack at it as I can see his particular skill set being what’s needed in the halves on occasion when the Foley style of play isn’t working.

      On a Super Rugby / Rebels fan front I’m salivating at the thought of the backline this year if Lance signs. Two Fijian wingers who tackle like demons and run at Mach 2. Genia, Lance, Hodge, Haylett-Petty and Maddocks filling the gaps.

      If only ARU could have found half the money they paid Pocock not to play then McMahon steering the forwards would have iced the cake.

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 6:04am
        Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:04am | ! Report

        I’m a massive fan of Hodge and thought he did a great job. But my gut feeling was he didn’t look the goods. Your analysis explains why I felt that way. Love your work as always.

        I’d agree generally with those statements and that feeling all round Woodsie. It may be useful for MC if Hodge can move to 10 in an emergency, but equally either 12 or the back three has to be a more natural position for him. If he can develop the range and nuance in his tactical kicking, he may become a particularly attractive option at 12 in future.

        • November 8th 2017 @ 6:13pm
          Cuw said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

          @ Nicholas Bishop

          talking of fly halfs – here is another shock .

          ” Nanai-Williams to start at 10 for Samoa ”

          I have never seen him at 10 , but then maybe i have not seen it all 🙂


          15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 David Lemi, 10 Tim Nanai Williams, 9 Pele Cowley,

          8 Jack Lam, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Piula Fa’Asalele, 5 Chris Vui (c), 4 Josh Tyrell, 3 Donald Brighouse, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Jordan Lay


          16 Motu Matu’u, 17 James Lay, 18 Hisa Sasagi, 19 Fa’Atiga Lemalu, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Mealani Matavao, 22 Aj Alatimu, 23 Alapati Leiua

          Date: Saturday, November 11

          Venue: Murrayfield

          Kick-off: 14:30 GMT

          Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)

          Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), George Clancy (Ireland)

          TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

          • Columnist

            November 9th 2017 @ 4:26am
            Nicholas Bishop said | November 9th 2017 @ 4:26am | ! Report

            Yes, Samoa have struggled to find a genuine number 10 to replace Tusi Pisi since the last WC, and this is another ‘reach’ pick more in hope than expectation!

    • November 8th 2017 @ 6:00am
      Bulletjie said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      15- beale
      14- speight
      13- kuridrani
      12- hodge GK
      11- koroibete
      10- foley
      09- genia

      21- phipps
      22- hunt
      23- kerevi

      Gk- goalkick

    • November 8th 2017 @ 6:01am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:01am | ! Report

      Take your phone on the fishing trip Quade.

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 6:04am
        Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:04am | ! Report

        Aye to that Ken!

        • November 8th 2017 @ 6:37am
          Fionn said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:37am | ! Report

          Great article, Nick. I loved it. KCOL, I think we both know that Cheika wouldn’t be one to admit he was wrong and call Quade in on this trip.. If he has a great SR season next year he might get back into the squad, but this year I see no chance.

          • Columnist

            November 8th 2017 @ 6:45am
            Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:45am | ! Report

            I still find it strange how he has disappeared from contention – despite the Reds’ poor season I thought that his 2016 performances for the WB’s would draw Cheika’s loyalty. He helped keep Australia afloat when they were down and out after losing four in a row.

            • November 8th 2017 @ 6:50am
              Fionn said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:50am | ! Report

              Nick, I remember you saying with confidence that you thought Quade would get significant game time and even a couple of starts on the 2016 spring tour. That said, after the 5 matches he and Foley started together after Bledisloe 1 in which Quade thoroughly outplayed Foley every match Quade was the one to be dropped. From thereafter all he had was 5-10min cameos until he was dropped this year.

              I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that some have that Cheika is protecting Foley from any sort of competition, but I don’t necessarily discount it either, because what Cheika has done in unfathomable. Surely it either has to be the conspiracy theory above or the two have had a falling out, because not fitting the game-plan is not an excuse not to at least have a backup 5/8 in the squad even if he isn’t in the 23.

              Out of interest do you think Simmons and Coleman with Philips on the bench is our best locking combination at present, or did Simmons’ performance on the weekend relegate him to the bench?

              • Columnist

                November 8th 2017 @ 7:10am
                Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:10am | ! Report

                Simmons and Coleman is by far, the best combination to start at lock – maybe even with Rory Arnold fit – right now…

                For me as an outsider, the best aspects of QC’s 2016 performance was that he was making an evident accommodation to what MC wanted from his 10 he cut out the errors and reckless plays and played within the system. That as much as the experience factor persuaded me he would be retained.

                But not to be, it seems.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 7:41am
                Woodsie said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

                For me. QC is a talent but I’m worried which Quade is running into the paddock. The playmaker with the fantastic read of play, kicking and passing. Or the high/missed tackles and erratic play. On a defensive side I would deduct that he gets carried a lot in contact rather than stop the attacker in his tracks. A run at QC is perhaps a guaranteed advantage line gain. Between the soft defence and reliability I think is the reason he is out. Don’t get me wrong I like him but if I was MC I’d be asking for a more consistent season from him before considering again.

              • Columnist

                November 8th 2017 @ 8:01am
                Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

                One item I would add is that QC, just like Foley will seldom defend in the line (if Foley is not in the team). I’d guess he’d start in the trams from lineout for example, then drop to the backfield.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 7:13am
                Fionn said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

                Interesting to hear you’re so positive on Simmons.

                Cheers, Nick, appreciate it.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 8:53am
                nickbrisbane said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

                Cheika’s reaction to Coopers ‘high shot’ would seem to indicate Coopers time is up

              • November 8th 2017 @ 10:55am
                Dave_S said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

                Given Cooper wasn’t in the WB squad, I’d be pretty sure his card had been marked well before that game.

              • Roar Pro

                November 8th 2017 @ 11:40am
                Crazy Horse said | November 8th 2017 @ 11:40am | ! Report

                Rory Arnold, Matt Phillip and Richie Arnold (Coleman’s regular partner in Super Rugby) are all ahead of Simmons,

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 1:06pm
                Cadfael said | November 8th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

                Nick, your comment on their defensive capabilities is spot on. Beale is OK at 15 but like Foley and Cooper, has problems defending at 10. This is so frustrating watching players shuffle around to different positions when in attack and in defence. We see opposition teams continue to take advantage when this shuffling takes place. The Wallabies need to have players play in their positions in both attack and defence. In close a Foley/Cooper and Beale defensive combination has problems. If a defensively suspect player is picked at 10 then 12 must be a good defender and vice versa.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 7:14pm
                Cuw said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

                @ Nicholas Bishop

                maybe MC does not like him? i mean there are many who have suffered like that.

                Higginbotham , Houston …

                happens elsewhere too.

                for eg. Zebo is not selected becoz he is moving overseas next year. but this is this year 🙂

            • Roar Guru

              November 8th 2017 @ 9:31am
              PeterK said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

              NB – My theory is that the attacking system Cheika uses has dumbed down (or simplified) the role of the 10. The way it is now favours the strengths of Foley, darting runs, good support play, and good short passing either side. Nor does it require much creative playmaking , which instead comes more from Beale.

              It is not reliant or actually require long passing or much of a kicking game, nor does it require much creative playmaking , which instead comes more from Beale.

              Interestingly long passing, tactcial kicking and creative playmaking are QC’s strengths.

              This simplified 10 role means other players are better suited to that role than QC.

              • Columnist

                November 8th 2017 @ 9:51am
                Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

                Certain amount of truth in that Peter – Foley would find it very different in the English pattern, trying to play the same role as George Ford for example… Copper would prob be more at home there.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 10:09am
                Fionn said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

                Can you imagine Foley trying to play the role of a Larkham or even Giteau or Quade under Deans? It would be a disaster.

                Credit to Cheika there, actually, if Foley is going to be the 10 at least he has asked Larkham to redesign the attack to suit Foley’s strengths, and the attack has been wonderful.

                Nick, I really feel like Larkham isn’t getting enough credit for the team’s attack. Even in the RC and on the Spring Tour last year the attack was fine, it was everything else that was an issue. This year the attack has gone to a different level and seems to be up there with the 2013 Spring Tour and even the 2010 season.

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 11:12am
                Hoy said | November 8th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

                I agree with this, but I really worry what Cheika is doing… it would be a long road back to having a creative 10 now we have gone down this pathway… though perhaps not as bad as I worry, because Byrne will improve skills and ability to exploit situations… hopefully.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 1:30pm
                Markus said | November 8th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

                Makes a whole lot of sense that Foley’s best performances have coincided with him not being expected to fulfil the primary standard flyhalf duties.

                This also seems a reasonable approach to attacking structure so long as somebody else is filling the greater requirements of a standard flyhalf.

                The question then becomes what happens with the attack if Beale goes down as opposed to Foley?

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 1:38pm
                PeterK said | November 8th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

                Markus – June series displayed what the Wallabies attack was like without Beale, it struggled.

                Beale has no genuine cover.

                Hunt did well in organising defense and kicking but not as a 2nd playmaker.

                QC is the only genuine playmaker who could cover Beale’s absence but at 10 not 15.

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 2:22pm
                PeterK said | November 8th 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

                Looking back Cheika tried the Beale as main playmaker experiment with QC and Foley.

                This was when QC was 10 and Foley 12.

                Foley got in QC’s way and Cheika learnt from that.

                So Beale is at 12 and Foley at 12.

                If Beale was injured and as June series showed and 2016 showed neither Hunt or Hode provide enough playmaking.

                So if Beale was injured QC at would would be the best answer.
                Of course with QC dropping back in defence just as Beale does.

                This would maintain the same attacking and defensive patterns and provide the playmaker Foley requires.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 6:50pm
                Dave said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

                Sorry peter K, late to the party today.

                I was just saying to myself reading your comment that you have made the case amongst others here that ;

                Beale is the playmaker
                10 has been dumbed down

                I have argued hypothetically that the only way to excuse Cheika’s call on this is for him to argue that building an attack around quade is too dangerous due to injury risk. How can you replace him? Simply put, you cannot.

                Ok fine, understood.

                Yet as you highlight so well, all Cheika has done is substitute Beale for Cooper. The obvious question being, what happens if Beale is injured?

                Well yes indeed we saw the outcome of that in June and it wasn’t good.

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 3:40pm
                jeznez said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

                Pete – I think there is a fair bit of truth in your assessment. Agree that Cooper should therefore be there to back up Beale.

                And I’ve posted elsewhere, Hunt should be given a chance to challenge Foley for his spot.

                Now that we have identified a potential kicker in Hodge, then I don’t see many advantages in Foley over Hunt for the type of 10 role you are describing. Not least of which is that Hunt can defend in the front line and would not need to be hidden.

                Hodge and Beale provide plenty of kicking, playmaking and counter attack ability from the back.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 5:28pm
                Damo said | November 8th 2017 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

                I think you hit the nail on the head PK. And to be honest it’s not a bad game plan- the Tahs used it well in SR14. Hi velocity attack stretching and stressing the defensive line until something cracks- a lot of Folau’s tries have been the result of this process. Smart playmaking is not a priority. I also reckon KB is more so a very,very good penetrator rather than a classic playmaker.
                The plan does depend on quality execution of individual skills e.g. breakdown security, offloads , passing in traffic plus strong D.
                However I think there is a big downside. Scotland showed in June that by concentrating on strangling our flow of ball- and not actually playing much rugby themselves- we really lost structure and momentum. We didn’t have the smarts or the inventiveness to get the game back in hand.(Something the successful All Blacks have had in recent years) This was compounded by our overall poor skills execution back in June. I have no doubt this will be England’s game plan against us next week. Skills and fitness now are much improved but I believe our lack off attacking dimension makes us vulnerable.

              • November 9th 2017 @ 12:29pm
                soapit said | November 9th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

                peter, even if the role has been dumbed down i think its not likely that cooper couldnt play a dumbed down role effectively if asked and motivated. it seems fairly clear there is more to it than that.

                for me i think cheika has foley as a settled first choice and didnt want the distraction of conjecture over whether he’s gonna swap quad in every week so he’s removed the possibility.

              • Roar Guru

                November 9th 2017 @ 7:23pm
                jeznez said | November 9th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

                It’s less about the role being dumbed down and more about the 10 having to play flat, direct and be willing to carry hard and challenge the line. That is probably more of a challenge for Cooper.

                Hunt, Lance, Lealiifano, Toomua and of course Hodge are guys who likely show more in that space.

              • November 9th 2017 @ 7:52pm
                soapit said | November 9th 2017 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

                point taken jez.still think cooper is at least the match of hodge (and likely beale) there. part of the success of that role is maintaining the threat of both options while doing either. skillset vs roles alone not a full explanation of him not being in the squad for minecertainly dont think there real reason the gameplan couldnt be tweaked slightly to adjust for a slightly different player style if he was able to come most of the way to what was needed, especially if its considered he has other positives to bring to the table, if only for quality 10 cover.

                i also think CLL isnt a great fit for that role either but other do seem to rate him more highly than me.

    • November 8th 2017 @ 7:01am
      Rhys Bosley said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      The other intepretation without changing the facts is,

      “Hodge did well for a first outing, with his goal kicking and kicking for touch in particular being better than recent performances of the incumbent. He is also better under the high ball and a better defender than any other option, and has the longest kick of any Australian player. Things to work on include learning to overcall and reliably pass from left to right.

      He remains a work in progress as a ten but playing him there against Japan was a very worthwhile exercise, while Cheika has the more experienced Beale to cover the position if he doesn’t think Hodge is yet up to the bigger matches.”

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 7:15am
        Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

        You’re actually saying the same thing as me Rhys – but omitting the most most salient fact, which is that Hodge played well as a 12 rather than as a 10.

        Moreover I doubt Cheika will want to move KB away from 15 or 12 and put him at 10 if Foley goes down. Hodge would not be able to take the pressure off Beale against say, England, in the same way that Beale was able to share the load against Japan!

        • November 8th 2017 @ 7:28am
          Rhys Bosley said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

          Why wouldn’t Hodge be able to take pressure off Beale they switched roles? As you say he played 12 on the 2016 Spring Tour, acting effectively as second playmaker for Foley with Beale absent. While some aspects of the Wallabies game weren’t great, attack wasn’t one of the problem areas.

          He has another Super Season under his belt since then and can play at 12 or 15, so I don’t see a problem with him fitting back into the second playmaker role. Not to mention that Cheika also has Hunt coming back from injury for that. It really just isn’t a drama that Cooper and Lance aren’t in the team.

          • Columnist

            November 8th 2017 @ 7:46am
            Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

            Why wouldn’t Hodge be able to take pressure off Beale they switched roles? As you say he played 12 on the 2016 Spring Tour, acting effectively as second playmaker for Foley with Beale absent.

            That’s exactly it Rhys – he didn’t play a second playmaker role because that doesn’t suit his strengths. If you remember, the coaches were forced to switch Israel Folau into that role for the game against Scotland. It doesn’t mean you cannot attack at all, but it does place more limits on what you can do.

            Karmichael Hunt however is a much more convincing option in that role, having played so well in June as a 12 outside Foley. Take Foley out of the equation for one moment, are you suggesting Beale at 10 and Hunt at 12??

            • November 8th 2017 @ 7:54am
              Rhys Bosley said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

              “That’s exactly it Rhys – he didn’t play a second playmaker… ”

              Yes he did, which is what I actually said, and Folau never acted as a playmaker.

              • Columnist

                November 8th 2017 @ 7:57am
                Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

                Yes he did, which is what I actually said, and Folau never acted as a playmaker.

                Wrong –

              • November 8th 2017 @ 8:55am
                Rhys Bosley said | November 8th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

                All that Folau did in that game was to run lines off Foley and pass or offload, there didn’t appear to be any real playmaking decision making involved like Beale does – in particular he didn’t kick at all. It wad just what he does normally in the outside channels but closer in. The approach only resulted in one try, the one by Hodge, hardly a ringing endorsement of Folau the playmaker.

                I will admit that my recollection was incorrect and Hodge wasn’t so involved in playmaking at that stage, but you can hardly write him off based on that, because Cheika might just not have wanted him to do it. He had done plenty since then though, even as a winger he had good judgement about when to step up to first receiver and from memory that resulted in a break and try to Genia during the Rugby Championship this year.

                I don’t think anything would be lost by putting him as second playmaker to Beale, a year’s more experience under his belt is pretty significant. I suspect his club experience at 10 puts him way ahead of a specialised outside back like Izzy, in terms of playmaking potential and they should be building on it. Larkhsm certainly wouldn’t have agreed with him going to 10 if he didn’t have the basic material.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 9:16am
                Rhys Bosley said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

                The Genia try in the second test against Argentina is the one I am talking about in terms of Hodge’s playmaking ability. Hodge stepped up to first receiver, demanded for the ball from Hooper in the ruck, the ran through a gap in Larkanesque fashion to set Genia up for a try.

                He knows how to sniff out opportunities, we have seen it plenty of times in Super Rugby, it is just a matter of getting it happening consistently with the higher mental workload when he plays 10.

              • Roar Guru

                November 8th 2017 @ 9:24am
                PeterK said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

                My preference would be that they work on Kerevi to develop into a Nonu type 12.

                Hodge would be better suited long term to 13 than 12.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 12:05pm
                ethan said | November 8th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

                Yep, aside from kicking, Hodge’s greatest strength is hole running. He’s an outside back through and through – 13 and outwards. Could be a good fullback in a couple of years if Byrne can improve his passing.

                He’s far more Ashley-Cooper than he is Giteau.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 9:00pm
                HiKa said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:00pm | ! Report

                Spot on there, Peter.
                Kerevi has good hands, a good short and long pass (as strong L-R as R-L), can kick. There’s so much there. His biggest liability is that because of his size, a bunch of people (seemingly including Cheika) see him as a crash ball centre at 13. He is not. He clearly has trouble defending at 13, since he has spent so much of his career at 12.
                Until Cheika’s preference for Foley-Beale as his 10-12 pairing disappears, Kerevi is destined to ride the pine. Which is a pity.

              • November 8th 2017 @ 10:01pm
                Rhys Bosley said | November 8th 2017 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

                Or he could learn to defend at 13 and double his opportunities for selection.

    • November 8th 2017 @ 7:15am
      Cam Mason said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      Thanks Nick, always great articles

    • November 8th 2017 @ 7:27am
      Cynical Play said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Lance’s English experience, feeding into a SR season with what looks like an excellent Rebels outfit, might get him the nod as the backup 10 leading into 2019.

      My take on the Cooper omission on this tour is that Cheika is building a team for 2019 and beyond and is blooding. He already knows what Cooper can do and I would imagine he would have noted his NRC form and refreshed relaxed enjoyment. Personally I don’t think Coopers BaaBaa game helped him. If Foley got a long term injury I think Cooper would be recalled to the squad. I also think Cheika has shown he clearly prefers a more structured attack that Cooper sometimes offers.

      • November 8th 2017 @ 7:33am
        Rhys Bosley said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

        Cooper can’t be considered a serious contender again until he demonstrates that he can play a Super Rugby season without making a high tackle. Everything he brings to a game counts for naught if he loses the game by coping a yellow or red, like he has twice this year and multiple times in the past. He really only has one season to get his act together before the young fellas like Hodge and Pai’aua overtake him for his last shot at a World Cup. It is up to him.

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2017 @ 7:47am
        Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        Now that I’ve had a proper look at Lance, I’d like to see him get some exposure at a higher level, and he should get it via the Rebels/Force “merger” team in 2018!

        • November 8th 2017 @ 12:10pm
          ethan said | November 8th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          Nice article Nick. I really hope he signs with the Rebels. Dave Wessels is apparently considering Hodge at 10 as well, which would surely be a less likely outcome if Lance was signed.

          9. Genia, 10. Lance, 11. Koroibete, 12. Meakes?, 13. Hodge, 14. Naivalu, 15. Haylett-Petty

          That is a tasty looking backline.

          • Roar Guru

            November 8th 2017 @ 3:46pm
            Timbo (L) said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

            Howowitz as a 10/12 option if Meakes or Jono doen’t pan out.

          • November 8th 2017 @ 4:03pm
            JP said | November 8th 2017 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

            Meakes is an Insipid lightweight inside back, 80 kilos at best.


            • Roar Guru

              November 8th 2017 @ 6:20pm
              Timbo (L) said | November 8th 2017 @ 6:20pm | ! Report

              Have you actually seen him play or did you just find his profile when you were on Grinder?

              He has been brilliant for the Force, and briefly for the spirit, making line breaks, defensive tackles and astute play making.

              He is in the second five eighth mold, not an inside center like Hunt, Kerevi and Hodge.
              More like CLLF and Matt Tamoa.

              Even if he isn’t Wallaby material, he would be a fine addition to Ethan’s Rebels back line. Stirzaker, Maddocks, Horowitz and Macgregor rotated through the bench and the starting lineup to give the guys some R&R.

              In my opinion it ithat it would make a pretty good, balanced Wallaby Back line. I would have room for Hunt, SK,TK and Tom Banks without complaint. Powell or Gordon for reserve half. Not a Single Tah on the list! Maybe Foley for Lance, Beale would have to Duke it out with Hunt and for the 12 spot.

            • November 8th 2017 @ 9:01pm
              ethan said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:01pm | ! Report

              Well, according to Wiki Meakes is 100kg, so you’re only 20kg off. He has his downsides for sure – ball handling in particular – but he’s no lightweight. Would be solid in defence and straighten things up in attack. I don’t think he’s international quality after a shocker v the Baa Baa’s, but is very handy SR player. Not too dissimilar to Mitch Inman, actually.

              • Roar Guru

                November 9th 2017 @ 2:55pm
                Timbo (L) said | November 9th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

                Baa Baas gave him some terrible service from 10.

                If you are being hit as the ball is reaching you flat footed, it is a hospital pass. The entire game was scrappy. all players on both sides.

                I believe that Cheiks should have a rotation policy, especialy for the Locks.

                Battle harden one or 2 new players on the “easy” games.

                You can’t complain about a player not having international experience unless you give them international experience.

          • Columnist

            November 8th 2017 @ 5:37pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | November 8th 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

            yep Ethan that backline has most of the right pieces in the right places doesn’t it/

          • November 9th 2017 @ 7:43am
            Clifto said | November 9th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

            No Beale? He must be in there – genuinely world class

        • Roar Pro

          November 8th 2017 @ 2:30pm
          Crazy Horse said | November 8th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

          He’s already had it playing for three Super Rugby teams. The only thing stopping him from being in the Wallabies is Cheikas failure to select him.

          • Roar Guru

            November 8th 2017 @ 3:46pm
            jeznez said | November 8th 2017 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

            Think he has had a couple of untimely injuries during the last two seasons (which has coincided with when his performances have warranted selection)

            With the obvious outlier being this tour.

          • November 8th 2017 @ 7:30pm
            Reverse Wheel said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:30pm | ! Report

            He was an absolute disaster for the Tahs. Shockingly bad. He’s been better since, but he just isn’t the answer at 10.

            • Roar Guru

              November 8th 2017 @ 7:48pm
              jeznez said | November 8th 2017 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

              Agree he was not a good player when he was with the Tahs – but also think he has improved out of sight since. Just a shame he has struggled to manage an extended run without injury.

            • November 10th 2017 @ 1:11am
              scottd said | November 10th 2017 @ 1:11am | ! Report

              I don’t recall him playing any extended time at the Tahs at 10? He was always considered the utility back. Hard to make your mark at 1 position in that scenario

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