The Wallabies’ end of season report card: Part 2

Simon Douch Roar Guru

By Simon Douch, Simon Douch is a Roar Guru

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    The Wallabies’ season has finally finished, here is the best, the worst and the most contentious from the 2017 international series.

    Part 1 of this series looked at four players from the forward pack who have had varying seasons with the National team. Now, we move onto the inside backs:

    Will Genia

    Average Roar rating: 5.99
    Highest Roar rating: 8.43 (vs Wales – 11/12)
    Lowest Roar rating: 3.66 (vs Scotland – 6/17)

    Australia’s best halfback returned from a stint in Paris to continue his great career and record with the Wallabies, but initially, it seemed like his triumphant return had fallen flat. His poor form played a big part in the Aussies average June Test series, and it had a growing number of people questioning his position within the squad.

    Fortunately, he has improved with every game under his belt this season, so much so, that there were times where he looked as good as the running halfback from the Queensland Red’s 2011 Super Rugby Championship-winning season.

    Against Wales, Genia fired a perfect pass to put Adam Coleman through a hole to score from close range. In Dunedin his created Australia’s third try from a failing scrum, 60 metres out, he collected the ball and went through a hole which ultimately saw Bernard Foley finish the sequence over the try line.

    Genia’s overwhelming value to the side has become obvious throughout the Rugby Championship and Spring tour. His passing, organisation and leadership are all great assets to his game, and these two plays showed that he still has plenty to offer the national side.

    Will Genia Australia Rugby Union Championship Bledisloe Cup Wallabies 2017

    Two stolen tries against Scotland, Genia’s poor game directly contributed to Scotland’s commanding start to the test at Allianz Stadium in June. For the visitor’s first try, Genia delivered a bullet behind Tatafu Polota-Nau at knee height. The hooker managed to catch it but pushed a wild pass on which was intercepted to result in a try.

    Later in the first half, Genia attempted a clearance kick from a scrum deep in Australia’s half. The kick was charged down and regathered for a try under the posts to the Scots. It was the second kick by Genia that had been charged down in as many weeks. Genia’s form throughout the June series put series question marks on his position in the Wallabies squad.

    World Cup prospects
    Barring injury, all but assured the number 9 jersey as a “last hurrah”. Despite his age, Genia remains the best halfback in the country, with plenty of space between him and second place. While his spot is virtually guaranteed, the more intriguing (or worrying) question is who will be his backup.

    Bernard Foley

    Average Roar rating: 5.20
    Highest Roar rating: 7.06 (vs Fiji – 6/10)
    Lowest Roar rating: 3.71 (vs NZ – 8/19)

    Foley has copped a lot of criticism about his game this year. Whether it is directly from his performances or the frustration of Michael Cheika’s obvious stubborn resistance to properly develop any other option at fly-half, I’m not sure. Either way, it’s no secret that Foley has had a tough year, never being able to assert his authority on a game, nor replicate his great form from the 2015 World Cup.

    His kicking remains an issue, although it must be hard to perform with the boot with a smug Reece Hodge lingering over his shoulder, and his passing can still be improved. The good news is that Foley will have a great opportunity to work on the weaknesses of his game with Stephen Larkham on the Wallabies’ coaching staff.

    Say what you want about Foley’s game, that guy is one tough unit, he has an outstanding ability to take a hit and get back up, two shots, in particular, come to mind, the first was in the Wallabies’ second test against the Springboks. Foley takes a ball from Genia, and with no thought for his own well being he holds it up at the line and turns it back into Israel Folau who runs through untouched to score the first try, all the while Foley gets absolutely levelled by Springbok inside centre, Jan Serfontein.

    The second was against the All Blacks in Brisbane. Foley (in retrospect, very foolishly) attempted to hit a hole close to the ruck off a short ball by Genia, only to be cleaned up by All Blacks reserve prop, Ofa Tu’ungafasi.

    Wallabies' flyhalf Bernard Foley is chased by All Blacks' prop Charlie Faumuina

    Speaking of Tests against the All Blacks, Foley’s goalkicking in Dunedin really hurt the Wallabies prospects of winning the match. It’s unfair to blame the loss on his kicking that night, but in such a close game, it’s hard not to when just two of six attempts went through the uprights.

    Furthermore, there were a couple of plays that really made me question Foley’s effort.

    When playing under a coach who operates on enthusiasm, effort and hard work (and maybe a little emotion), I can’t understand why his poster boy would jog after a grubber kick through the defensive line even though he is the closest to the ball, or not join a failing maul close to the try line, rather hang behind it. On these occasions, it seemed to me as though Foley simply did not want to be on the field, which is about as low as it comes for a national fly half.

    World Cup prospects
    Foley is the only reliable fly-half that Australia has at their dispense with a wealth of experience at international level. Although he has shortcomings in his game, he will usually perform a solid, reliable job which is about as good as it gets nowadays. So, come 2019, he will be the answer from the process of deduction.

    Kurtley Beale

    Average Roar rating: 6.03
    Highest Roar rating: 7.69 (vs South Africa – 9/9)
    Lowest Roar rating: 3.50 (vs Scotland 11/26)

    He missed the June Test series and on his return, quickly proved that he was missed in the June Test series. Beale initially filled in for an injured Karmichael Hunt at inside-centre but he quickly showed the damage that a livewire, opportunistic back can do. He needs to be a mainstay in the Wallabies backline, simple as that. The skills, the natural feel for the attack, it’s everything that Australia needs in their rugby team.

    Beale was heavily criticised after his poor defensive effort in the first Bledisloe Cup Test, and he responded perfectly in the follow-up match at Dunedin. Beale was playing opposite Sonny-Bill Williams, a formidable opponent, especially if you have some defensive concerns. He shut Williams out of the game and crossed the line for a last-minute try which could’ve and should’ve been the game-winner for Australia.

    A bloodied and bruised Beale celebrating in the in-goal is one of the best photos of the season (although, an argument could be made for his infamous pic with Prince William), it shows just how much the jersey means to him, and the progression he has made to becoming one of the central figures within the team.

    Kurtley Beale celebrates a try against New Zealand

    On the topic of meaningful jerseys, Beale’s involvement with the Indigenous jersey the Wallabies played in for the Brisbane Test match was brilliant. It was the best night for a rugby fan in recent memory, and it was all spurred on by the outstanding jersey bathed in traditional artwork. It must be the Wallabies’ regular playing jersey.

    There have been a few lows following Beale around recently, a couple of blunders and a lack of impact on the game, interestingly since he has moved to fullback in Israel Folau’s absence. Of course, the back-to-back yellow cards in the final two games are a standout, although his card against Scotland did nothing to affect the final outcome.

    Not chasing the ball at Twickenham because it might’ve been out. You know what I’m talking about. It’s fresh and it’s painful. I won’t question Beale’s effort and commitment like I did for Foley, but he seems to have fallen into a relaxed, almost nonchalant way of playing, even when the game is in the balance.

    World Cup prospects
    He’s back and hitting great form, although Beale can most successfully serve his team from inside centre rather than fullback, especially if Michael Cheika is going to stick with Bernard Foley at fly-half. Folau should remain at fullback, which leaves Samu Kerevi and Karmichael Hunt to fight it out for a spot on the bench.

    Whatever the backline Michael Cheika settles on for the Cup, there is no doubt that Beale will be there, somewhere.

    In part three, we will move onto the outside backs, and go over the best and the worst that the Wallabies’ flyers had to offer.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • November 29th 2017 @ 7:19am
      Ruckin' Oaf said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      “Foley is the only reliable fly-half……….”

      Except he’s not reliable. Apart from that you’re spot on.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 29th 2017 @ 8:29am
        Dave_S said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        Foley will have a great opportunity to work on the weaknesses of his game with Stephen Larkham

        He has had more than enough opportunity to do so, and has clearly plateaued.

        We may well with a Bled Cup or RWC with him,but it won’t be because of him.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 8:35am
        mitch said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        that doesnt create another international 10 for us. foley cant get on the front foot without consistent no mistake work from his forwards, and he hasnt had that all season. with some muscle up front, th epressure is taken off the 10 and he is allowed to work his 2015/16 stability

        • November 29th 2017 @ 8:58am
          Fionn said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

          No, but the existence of Jono Lance, Quade Cooper and Christian Lealiifano means we already have three…

          • November 29th 2017 @ 9:25am
            Dave_S said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

            To be fair, the author added a big and significant qualifier: “… with a wealth of experience at international level”

            This is the problem – no one else has been seriously tried and so we do not have a plan B for #10.

            Crazy that the apparent #10 plan Bs (Beale, Hodge, Duncan P, Hunt) don’t play 10

            • November 29th 2017 @ 9:48am
              Fionn said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

              Dave, at last after 2019 this entire nightmare will be over and we can hopefully move towards building a dynamic team in which forwards and backs can perform the core roles of their position, the basics, defence and the set-piece is valued, and we have multiple strategies and tactics.

              • November 29th 2017 @ 11:25am
                Dave_S said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

                I love it when you talk dirty 🙂

            • November 29th 2017 @ 10:15am
              Gray-Hand said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

              Cooper has played 70 tests for the Wallabies.

              • November 29th 2017 @ 10:32am
                Fionn said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

                He was only the incumbent 10 for 2.5 seasons though. 2010, 2011 and the 2013 Spring Tour.

                Do you know what those periods have in common? They’re the periods in which our backline was the best since Larkham’s retirement.

                In 2010 we attacked brilliantly and looked likely to kick on and become the best team in the world, or at least a close second to the All Blacks.

                In 2011 we won the Tri-Nations and lost a tight semifinal to the incredible 2011 All Blacks in New Zealand despite Deans’ change to defensive tactics.

                The 2013 Spring Tour was the best the Wallabies have played when both attack and defence is considered (2010 was great in attack, poor defence) since about 2003. Compare Quade’s performance vs the All Blacks in Dunedin 2013 to Foley vs the All Blacks in Dunedin 2017.

                Other than those periods he has mostly been on the bench getting limited minutes.

          • Roar Guru

            November 29th 2017 @ 10:11am
            PeterK said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

            CLL has the additional benefit of very good goal kicking so you are not reliant on Hodge to become a very good goal kicker.

            He is performing very well in Ulster , I hope he gets elected at 10 for the brumbies.

            He is 30 years old. After rwc 2019 he will be 32. It is unfortunate such a talented playmaker never had a genuine chance at intl level disrupted by injury, a loss of form, and selection of more limited players over him. Despite any form I can not see Cheika dropping Foley for anyone.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 10:34am
              Fionn said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

              I think Lance has been the best goal kicker in Australia for a couple of years actually (which surprised me when I checked), but I agree, I think Lealiifano offers more overall. Yep, I hope McKeller opts to play Lealiifano at 10 even if it means Godwin at 12.

              Only way I can see him getting a chance is an injury to Foley or Cheika resigns as coach.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 7:27pm
              riddler said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

              peter.. once again you say things which are true in a way that people may believe they are..

              a bit like trump..

              have u watched any ulster games, i highly doubt it.. with the amount of time you write on here..

              he is not playing well.. he has actually been moved to 12.. and being subbed off around the 60min mark.. and the team has had a few losses..

              if you rated him like you rate foley..

              he would be scoring 3’s..

              your opinion is your right.. but the facts are not..

      • Roar Guru

        November 29th 2017 @ 10:06am
        PeterK said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Foley is the only reliable fly-half that Australia has at their dispense with a wealth of experience at international level. Although he has shortcomings in his game, he will usually perform a solid, reliable job which is about as good as it gets nowadays.

        That quote sums up the propaganda that so many people believe.

        First of all Foley is not reliable. He makes more errors per game than QC. This despite doing less and having a dumbed down role that suits his limited skills.

        Second his continuing selection becomes the reason to keep selecting him despite poor performance after poor performance. A catch 22 since it doesn’t allow anyone else to gain experience so you keep selecting a mediocre player.

        Third QC has changed his game and is more reliable and solid than Foley and has a wealth of experience and a better intl record and average level of performance than Foley.

        4th Foley does NOT provide a solid and reliable performance at all. He makes poor passes every game. He kicks in general play are poor in most games. He misses a lot of tackles most games. He in fact is reliable in delivering mistakes.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 7:31pm
          riddler said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:31pm | ! Report

          did you watch qc in the nrc?

          i didn’t.. but from what i read, he didn’t dominate at all.. far from it..

          this propaganda for cooper is the exaggeration..

          foley is well respected up here..

          for some reason in oz he cops of it from nobodies who are neverbes..

          hugh on the pod the other night said the same of gagr..

          the front pages get hijacked by a few and their agendas..

          of actually hoping the wallabies go bad so that it gives them something to fill in their day i.e writing 200 posts a day..

          • Roar Guru

            November 30th 2017 @ 9:47am
            PeterK said | November 30th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

            I am solely rating intl form comparing Cooper and Foley.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 12:01pm
        Marlin said | November 29th 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

        sadly, we’ll never know if the others are up to the rigours of test rugby – becasue they don’t get a go!!! Michael Cheika nust be the most stubborn, pig-headed coach in the history of the world

    • November 29th 2017 @ 9:10am
      waxhead said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      ahh Mr Douch – you totally ignored Foley’s poor short range field punting and low grade exits.
      But then you ignore lots of things also so no surprise.

      For anyone who’s been a good rugby ball kicker Foley’s technical problem is obvious.
      He simply does not follow through with kicking leg well.
      He pulls up short and the result is what you’d expect – short and inaccurate.

      A technical problem easily fixed with application and practice by Mr Foley.
      But……..and this is the major concern……..there’s been no improvement at all over past 3 years.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 9:22am
        enoughisenough said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Even Foley’s so called great form at the 2015 World Cup is a myth. He had one very good game there, against England, as a ball runner rather than as a distributor. He almost cost us the tournament with a shocker against the Scots. Foley has dined out on that one good performance for many years now.

        • Roar Guru

          November 29th 2017 @ 10:15am
          PeterK said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          he seems to average 1 very good game a year, countered by 8 poor to below average ones and 6 ok ones.

          His only very good games Wales in 2016 , the game against SA in SA in 2017.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 9:28am
      stubs said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      Jake Gordon is a huge prospect at #9. I don’t think he’s far behind Genia at all. Give him game time and he’ll mature into the real deal.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 10:36am
        Fionn said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        I think Gordon is at this point a long way behind Genia. But I agree that he shows a lot of potential. In fact, I think Gordon, Powell, Ruru and Tuttle all show a lot of potential. Hopefully all of them stay uninjured and get a lot of game time and one of them gets in ahead of Phipps.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 10:18am
      puff said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      When you appraise all three backs in question it is difficult to be excited about 2019. Without been too critical Will is perhaps past his best and he is only anchored at 9 because Cheika fails to look outside the box. Bernard is faithful but has many limitations; hence I’m continually confused that no understudy receives quality game time. Kurtley is the elephant in the room and when on song has the ability to cover many positions. Although his performance at fullback, has been inconsistent and far from steadfast.

    • Roar Guru

      November 29th 2017 @ 10:20am
      PeterK said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      The NH tour proved me wrong on thinking Beale would make a good f/b, better than at 12.

      His form at wasps at 15 was very good. Also he had seemed to have fixed his highball issues. Previously his best form in intls had been at 15 until the opposition realised they had to kick to him.

      I thought Beale could continue as a playmaker from 15 like NZ uses a playmaker at 15.

      I was wrong.

      It is obvious that Wallabies fell back into not being able to defuse the highball and chase game without Folau at 15. The NH tour brought back flashes of how the wallabies used to be played out of games with the added problem that the NH teams can now also run the ball well.

      If Foley stays at 10 he must have a playmaker at 12 since Foley is not a playmaker in any shape or form. This means Beale would be at 12.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 10:28am
        Fionn said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Just change selection and bring in Toomua. He might not quite offer Beale’s attacking brilliance, but he more than compensates it through his great defence + being pretty good in attack.

        • Roar Guru

          November 29th 2017 @ 11:05am
          PeterK said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

          I would prefer CLL at 12 to Toomua or Beale to partner Foley.

          Beale would then be a super sub bench impact player or roving wing.

          • Roar Guru

            November 29th 2017 @ 11:09am
            Fionn said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

            Between Lealiifano, Cooper and Toomua would could build an excellent 10-12 axis depending on who was in-form.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 9:14pm
              Dave said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

              Precisely. Get us back to the 2013 spring tour combinations of quade 10, toomua and CLL sharing at 12.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 11:08am
          arthur rightus said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          I didn’t tape the game so can’t check but I’d love to know how many times Beale got the ball as first receiver against the Scots. Seemed an awful lot of the time to me.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 29th 2017 @ 11:49am
            Dave_S said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

            And the same thing happened when Hunt played 12, in June. I can’t think of another #10 who so regularly plays second playmaker.

            • Roar Guru

              November 29th 2017 @ 2:51pm
              Timbo (L) said | November 29th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

              I was watching some footage recently, may even have been a Nick Bishop piece, but don’t quote me on it.

              Dual 10’s can be very handy when you are in the red zone.

              You can bury either one under a pile of bodies through sniping and still be able to distribute.

              Don’t care who is doing it, as long as the role is filled in each phase.

              • November 29th 2017 @ 9:10pm
                Dave_S said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

                Agree it’s handy to have 2 playmakers, but someone needs to be the primary, and in Foley’s case it’s often the other guy at first receiver in situations where Foley should be steering the ship.

                Swapping around for the sake of it achieves nothing in itself.

              • Roar Guru

                November 30th 2017 @ 6:20pm
                Timbo (L) said | November 30th 2017 @ 6:20pm | ! Report

                Agree. a 70/30 split would be expected, not 50/50

                The same concept works at 9.

                Stirzaker is renowned for making big yards sniping, but he only pulls it off 1 in 5, His 10 or 7 know this and are on standby to distribute is he is unable to extract himself from the dog pile.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 10:43am
      Tooly said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      Genia , Foley and Beale can only perform well behind a decent forward pack and we don’t have one .
      Beale is far better at 12 not 15 . A tip try Hodge at 15 next year .

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