Tomorrow may decide if Foley or Hodge will wear the 10 against England

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    Wallaby coach Michael Cheika has had to make some hard decisions during his 42-Test tenure, none more so than who will line up at fly-half against England at Twickenham next weekend.

    Both Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge have claims on the pivot position.

    The game against England will be the most vital of the four-game spring tour with the Eddie Jones-coached side having won all four internationals against Cheika – 39-28, 23-7, and 44-40 Down Under, plus 37-21 at Twickenham.

    Tomorrow morning Foley will be back on duty in the ten jersey after missing both the Barbarians and Japan games.

    Against Japan, Hodge played his first Wallaby international in the 10, and turned in a blinder with Nick Phipps inside him.

    Phipps had one of his best games in gold, but he will never be as good as Will Genia, who will return to duty after missing Japan with an ankle injury.

    If Hodge can be mighty impressive outside Phipps, it stands to reason he will be even better outside Genia with quicker and more accurate service.

    And there’s another bonus in Hodge’s favour – his monster goal-kicking.

    Not only did he land nine conversions from as many attempts all over the park against Japan, he cleared the crossbar, kicking it higher than the goal posts.

    And there are other bonuses in Hodge’s favour – he’s 23, Foley’s 28, and the Hodge physique is 191 centimetres and 94 kilograms compared to Foley’s smaller 182 centimetres and 80 kilos.

    Reece Hodge

    (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

    I have always believed that the most important game for the Wallabies is the very next one, and that’s Wales early tomorrow morning AEDT.

    But with Cheika it’s the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019, and all his planning and selections have been to ensure the Wallabies improve and increase their depth in every position.

    And he’s delivered.

    In 2016 Cheika selected 13 new Wallabies – Rory Arnold, Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi, Nick Frisby, Adam Coleman, Allan Alaalatoa, Reece Hodge, Tom Robinson, Lopeti Timani, Sefa Naivalu, Leroy Houston, Tolu Latu, and Kyle Godwin.

    This year it’s 12 debutants with Ned Hanigan, Karmichael Hunt, Richard Hardwick, Joe Powell, Eto Nabula, Jack Dempsey, Curtis Rona, Izack Rodda, Jordan Uelese, Marika Koroibete, Lukhan Tui and Matt Philip.

    Nine of them are in the Wallaby 23-man squad for Wales tomorrow – Kerevi, Coleman, Alaalatoa, Hodge, Robinson, Hanigan, Hunt, Koroibete, and Philip.

    The last named will be someone very special, as Cheika ups the ante in the size of his locks.

    Philip is only 23, a former Australian Schoolboy, and Australian under-20 rep, but he’s a big unit and made a big debut against Japan.

    He stands 199 centimetres and weights 117 kilograms, and against Wales he’ll be the bench support for Coleman at 204 centimetres and 122 kilos, with Rob Simmons’ 200 and 115.

    That’s a lot of lock clout as Wales will find out, and so will the Wallaby front row of Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, and Sekope Kepu make their presence felt.

    The trio is going so well they are starting to be compared with the 1984 Grand Slam front row of Topo Rodrigues, Tommy Lawton, and Andy McIntyre, or the 1991 World Cup-winning Tony Daley, Phil Kearns, and Ewen McKenzie.

    Throw in number eight Sean McMahon’s powerhouse display against Japan, and the pack has improved out of sight and so has the scrum.

    And while up front wins good ball against Wales, Michael Cheika will be closely watching how Bernard Foley returns to the fray, with Reece Hodge out on the wing.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn't get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world's great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • November 11th 2017 @ 6:25am
      Jeff said | November 11th 2017 @ 6:25am | ! Report

      “Against Japan, Hodge played his first Wallaby international in the 10, and turned in a blinder with Nick Phipps inside him.”

      Unfortunately this comment just show how David’s understanding of the game has regressed.Hodge did not have a blinder he played adequately with a few flaws.It was a promising debut for him at 10 but he has some distance to go before he can be considered a top playmaker.

      • Columnist

        November 11th 2017 @ 6:54am
        David Lord said | November 11th 2017 @ 6:54am | ! Report

        “Adequate” Jeff, what game did you watch? Why did the Wallaby backline fire – Reece Hodge.

        How did Tevita Kuridrani score a hat-trick, and Samu Kerevi a double – Reece Hodge.

        Any regression talk is in your domain.

        • November 11th 2017 @ 7:39am
          Ben said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

          ….against mighty Japan…

        • November 11th 2017 @ 8:37am
          Jeff said | November 11th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

          I prefer Nicholas Bishop’s analysis of Hodge’s game to yours and i would contend that he is far more qualified to make judgements than you.See below.

          ” 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’.

          Perhaps you should read his analysis of the game.You might learn something !!!

        • November 11th 2017 @ 9:20am
          Reverse Wheel said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          This is not even a discussion. Barring injury, foley will start against England. Hodge was ok but even his biggest fanboys recognise he still has some major shortcomings as a 10.

          • November 11th 2017 @ 5:34pm
            PiratesRugby said | November 11th 2017 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

            True, Hodge’s passing was serviceable but too often poor. But Foley isn’t a great passer. Hodge’s kicking in play was also poor, which is about par for Australian fly halves since Larkham left. Hodge didn’t assert himself as the playmaker but it was only his first game. That little inside ball to Speight was a beauty though. His running was okay. His tackling was magnificent compared to Foley’s turnstile. And yeah, the kicking for touch and for goal was faultless. Unlike Foley’s unreliable pop gun kicking. So while Hodge did not put in a gold medal performance, Foley does not set a high standard either. But Cheika will always stick with Foley. Whatever they put in the water in Sydney that makes people think that Foley is anything more than a mediocre provincial flyhalf obviously effects your brain the same as it effects Cheika’s.

            • November 11th 2017 @ 10:51pm
              Reverse Wheel said | November 11th 2017 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

              I’m simply stating the obvious. Given Hodge’s obvious shortcomings and inexperience, he will not be selected to start against world #2 England.

            • November 12th 2017 @ 12:48am
              double agent said | November 12th 2017 @ 12:48am | ! Report

              Foley kicked 19 in a row. Lies Damned Lies and Statistics.

              • November 12th 2017 @ 11:14am
                PiratesRugby said | November 12th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

                From 35m.

        • November 11th 2017 @ 1:38pm
          Pat said | November 11th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

          Beale stepping in as first receiver a significant amount of time didn’t hurt. Hodge being the reason why we scored our tries is fantasy. He can’t even pass both ways.

          Foley is our best 5/8 by far, to suggest Hodge has a look in after 1 test against Japan is ridiculous. Cheika is rightly looking to build depth and options should Foley be injured

      • November 11th 2017 @ 8:25pm
        Noodles said | November 11th 2017 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

        David has a habit of making comments that, aside from their provocations, don’t add up. This one is unfair to both players. Hodge has had a start in a key position and did OK. Let’s hope he continues to develop since it would be truly fab to have a backup at 10.
        Foley has pushed himself hard to become an aggressive player at the advantage line, sometimes (as per the ABs test) a little too aggressive. His approach is admirable and is building a style in the backs that is growing to be impressive.
        What we need, David, is to settle our squad and core players – with a pack that is becoming consistent and damaging making options for a backline that is settled in its thinking and option-taking.
        Some people think enjoying rugby is all about Sunday morning coaching. You just have to accept that its only really about the players on the park.

    • November 11th 2017 @ 7:25am
      Foley will always be 10 said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Unfortunately, Cheika has his favourites gifted a Wallabies jersey. And Foley, no matter how badly a game he will play is guaranteed that 10 jersey.

      The same argument can go to Hanigan. Proven he is in over his head yet he is gifted that 6 jersey every game.

      Only injury or sickness will change things.

      Our lack of depth at 10 is embarrassing!

      • November 11th 2017 @ 7:43am
        Morsie said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

        The repetition of these memes is what is embarassing.

      • November 11th 2017 @ 9:26am
        wag said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        It is the continued selection of Ned Hannigan that amazes me!

        I don’t want to totally rubbish the lad, since he might come good in the future with more experience at Super Rugby level, more gym work etc.

        But at the moment he usually runs around like a chook with its head cut off, and he is mainly ineffective when he arrives at the breakdown. Compared with international back-roarers, I am afraid that he is just too immature at this stage of his career.

    • November 11th 2017 @ 7:55am
      Cynical Play said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      Amazing how Mr Lord can watch a match a reach a conclusion far removed from the majority of commentators. “A blinder..”. Hardly. Competent is some areas, Reliable in most areas. Ordinary in some areas. Kicked magnificently. He got good service and those around him played well. Beale’s time at 10 in that game offered greater variation in attack.

      Hodge, … Great player but not 10 next week on that performance. If Lord truly sees the Wales test as a test for who plays 10 against England, he needs to back off on the whacky juice.

    • Roar Rookie

      November 11th 2017 @ 7:57am
      Don said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      A couple of things David;

      Foley is 90KG not 80kg so the weight difference is only 4KG yet there is 9cm height difference. Seeing Foley up close a few times at functions he is surprisingly larger through the chest than he looks on TV during games when surrounded by bigger men.

      And there is absolutely no chance Cheika will not start Foley in every test as long as he is fit – regardless of how well he plays. There is zero competition on this short tour for the 10 spot and this is shown by Cheika’s decision to not take another specialist 10 along.
      In fact, there is probably only competition for a starting spot at lock, centre and number 6. Although Hannigan sadly seems to be first pick at 6…

      I think Cheika would start Hunt at 10 or even Beale before he chose Rhys Hodge there against England.

      • November 11th 2017 @ 9:22pm
        Honest Max said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

        Hodge is 4 kg heavier than Foley, eh?

        Do your eyes work? The match programme says that Genia is 5’10”. You believe that too?

    • November 11th 2017 @ 8:03am
      stubs said | November 11th 2017 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      How quickly your narrative has changed. A month ago you were writing articles asking for cheikas head! What’s next, praise for hooper?!

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

        one win against the allblacks makes a summer, he can dine on that till the next world cup

    • November 11th 2017 @ 9:04am
      Bob Wire said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      Thanks David. Cheika will not expose Hodge at 10 against an Eddie Jones coached team, Foley is second behind Hooper come selection time and will remain so until RWC in Japan.

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