Issues for the Wallabies going forward

Blaise McKee Roar Rookie

By Blaise McKee, Blaise McKee is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    As we progress further into Super Rugby season, here are a few questions for Michael Cheika and his staff concerning the Wallabies.

    While Bernard Foley has held down the fly-half position for a considerable amount of time now (and done quite a good job), the question arises of, who’s next? Foley will be playing a lot of rugby this year with Tests against Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and England, plus a likely finals run with the Waratahs.

    Michael Cheika must be pondering other possible options should Foley need a rest or get injured.

    That is where the issue arises. Other than Foley the Wallabies don’t really have anyone. Jono Lance is a solid Super Rugby player but probably isn’t up to the Test rugby level, Wharenui Hawera from the Brumbies doesn’t qualify to play for Australia and Jack Debreczeni started the season quite well but has tapered off quite a bit in recent weeks.

    Cheika has also spoken about the possibility of playing Reece Hodge at 10 which could be a good short-term option but playing someone at 12 for the whole club season does not put him in a great position to lead the country around the park. Another option would be to move Kurtley Beale to fly-half, but I doubt that Cheika will want to do this as Beale has looked very good at 12 since his return from England.

    Solution: hope Foley doesn’t get injured.

    Backline configuration
    This is a good problem to have but still an issue nonetheless. This Super Rugby season we have seen many Wallabies being moved around while some fringe players have also started the season well.

    The first major question is ‘Where does Izzy play?’. The Waratahs have moved him to the wing with good success before an injury stopped his run and I think that the Wallabies coaching staff will be giving this some serious thought coming into the June Test series.

    Reece Hodge is another Wallaby that has moved around a lot this year but seemed to have found his groove at outside centre beside Billy Meakes before like Israel Folau, injury put him on the sideline for a few weeks.

    Several smokies have arisen from the early Super Rugby rounds especially in the outside backs with Jack Maddocks and Taqele Naiyaravoro being the first names that jump to mind. I expect to see Maddocks with the Wallabies at some point this year but Taqele I am not so sure.

    While he may be the form Australian winger at the moment, Cheika may be hesitant to use him as he is leaving for England at the end of the season and this may disrupt plans to build for the World Cup.

    Solution: Genia (9), Foley (10), Folau (11), Beale (12), Hodge (13), Maddocks (14), Haylett-Petty (15).

    Bench: Gordan, Meakes, Koribete.

    Back row
    With the return of David Pocock to Australian rugby, many questions have arisen over which players will make up Australia’s back row against Ireland in June. While Pocock is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world over the ball, the game is changing.

    David Pocock

    (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

    Looking at where the world game is going and which back row players are starting to make a name for themselves, we see more agile and elusive players starting to dominate. Ardie Savea, Maro Itoje and Leone Nakarawa are forwards that come to mind straight away and unfortunately for Pocock, this upped tempo may leave him out of the team.

    The Wallabies have struggled to find back rowers that can work with Michael Hooper, but this year in Super Rugby we have seen some players well and truly put their hand up to put on the Wallaby jersey leading to the World Cup.

    Solution: L.Timani (6), Hooper (7), Naisarani/Timu (8).

    Fitness has been an issue for all Australian teams this year with many teams faltering in the last half, especially within the last 20-30 minutes. In Round 9 we saw the Highlanders put four tries on the board in the last 20 minutes and the Jaguares scored all but 3 of their 25 points in the second half against the Rebels.

    There were also very disappointing second halves from the Reds in Round 8 and who can forget the point frenzy that the Hurricanes had against the Rebels in Round 7. The problem here for Michael Cheika and co. is that they will not have much time with the Wallabies squad before they run out to face Ireland on June 9 so hopefully, this is just a case of taking a while to warm up for the Super Rugby teams and the Wallabies.

    Solution: get the fitness message out to the Super Rugby coaches.

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    The Crowd Says (98)

    • April 17th 2018 @ 5:43am
      canadiankiwi said | April 17th 2018 @ 5:43am | ! Report

      Did you write this article before the Brumbies played the Highlanders on the weekend? Because Pocock was clearly the best Brumbies player on the pitch. He is by far the best fetcher Australia has and despite the new laws, the battle on the ground has remained largely unchanged. The tackler can no longer jackal ball but the first support defender certainly can, which Pocock has quickly figured out, as has Sam Cane and Matt Todd.

      If the Wallabies are to win the June series vs Ireland, the better have their best fetcher starting at 7 (because Ireland are very good at the breakdown) and their two biggest, most physical ball carriers at 6 and 8.

      Australia’s fall in world rankings has coincided with the selection of a small back row. It worked in 2015 until the RWC Final but not so much in 2016 and 2017.

      • April 17th 2018 @ 10:58am
        Crash Ball2 said | April 17th 2018 @ 10:58am | ! Report

        The tackle / jackal is certainly more difficult, but it isn’t extinct – Augustin Creevy grabbed a beautiful tackle/to feet/pilfer (one of four forced turnovers he affected in the Jags / Tahs match this season). Peter O’Mahoney also produced a similar one for Ireland against the Scots in the recent Six Nations.

        Other than the tackler having to come through the gate – very little is different in the tackle contest between this season and last. There can now – surely – be no one attempting to argue that defenders are required to let the pill go when the first cleaner arrives. I’ve only watched the Tahs/Reds & Highlanders/Brumbies matches so far this round – but these two matches alone accounted for 13 forced turnovers at the breakdown (one which David Pocock accounted for a quarter himself). Every single one of these turnovers featured a defender with hands on the ball who had survived the cleanout and was opposed by attackers (usually multiple). In the 50th minute of the Tahs/Reds match for example, Will Miller latches onto a Timu breakdown and is opposed for a full three seconds by Izi Perese without any thought of letting go of the ball before the ref blows the “holding on” penalty against the Reds.

        As the gigantic effect of the new breakdown laws go, storm – meet teacup.

        After playing merely three rounds, David Pocock already leads the Super Rugby pilfer count – this, along with his forced penalty and forced ruck and maul penalty metrics, already affirms him as the premier breakdown exponent in the competition. But that’s no surprise. Even the embarrassingly NSW-centric Fairfax rugby cheerleader, Paul Cully was forced to acknowledge Pocock’s omnipotence: “Pocock was a monster in Dunedin. The home side didn’t know how to cope with him, legally at least. He won turnover after turnover and provided a reminder that no matter what happens in Super Rugby, when it comes to Test season the Wallabies have probably the strongest man over the ball in world rugby.”

        What is surprising is that Pocock’s previously unrecognised backline linking, tight running, rolling maul piloting and ferocious ruck cleaning skills are gaining more recognition and the stunningly ridiculous “one trick pony” tag many one-eyed supporters attempt to pin on him rings very, very hollow indeed. David Pocock is the best openside flanker in Australia (at least until George Smith re-enters the fray). He should be the Wallabies 7 in a canter. But of course, he won’t be.

        • Roar Guru

          April 17th 2018 @ 12:39pm
          Hoy said | April 17th 2018 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

          Yeah… I can’t understand people writing off Pocock.. it’s like they have an agenda (surely not?)… The tackle situation hasn’t changed much… the second man in is still important, and as such, Pocock was, and still is, undeniably, the strongest man over the ball in Aus, and you could then argue, the world.

          Yet people always sprout this up tempo rubbish… Australia needs accuracy and some brains before we can go up tempo… Pocock has both.

          But I, like you, Crash, lament the infatuation with Hooper.

          • April 17th 2018 @ 5:28pm
            Crash Ball2 said | April 17th 2018 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

            Thanks Hoys.

            Though, I think Michael Hooper is an exceptional player with some remarkable skills. Though, he is inferior to David Pocock in the key areas that this Wallabies team has proven to be deficient. And accommodating his place in the starting side is handcuffing the national side.

            • April 17th 2018 @ 6:29pm
              Realist said | April 17th 2018 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

              Key problems with the Wallabies are:

              1. The Coach’s selection bias & whinging behaviour on the world stage
              2. The Wallabies best player being relegated to the bench for a pretender of a Captain
              3. The worst back row forward in World rugby having a mortgage on the six jersey (initials N.H)
              4. Nic Phipps. Full Stop.
              5. Any threat to Bernard Foley is marginalised behind the scenes. One even wonders how CLL got sick
              6. Sean McMahon and Liam Gill move overseas in the prime of their careers (refer to problem No.2)

              • April 17th 2018 @ 6:57pm
                Crash Ball2 said | April 17th 2018 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

                For all of the selection parochialism and strategic game day deficiencies that Michael Cheika unblinkingly deploys, I’d consider attributing CLL’s recent hardships to him as a mighty harsh call.

            • Roar Rookie

              April 18th 2018 @ 2:29pm
              piru said | April 18th 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

              Agree with all this, and it underpins (imo) what is wrong at the core of Aussie rugby

              People would rather their guy make the team than the best player.

              Pocock would be an automatic starter in nearly any international side – Hooper would not.

              • Roar Guru

                April 18th 2018 @ 3:03pm
                Hoy said | April 18th 2018 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

                That is as simple as it can be.

                Put another way, Pocock has won games for us on his own. Hooper has not.

          • April 18th 2018 @ 5:25pm
            Stephen Creagh said | April 18th 2018 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

            Hoy, I think the main criticism of Pocock is his continued selection at 8, and that is not his fault.
            My view is that he should only ever be picked at openside, with Hooper coming off the bench.
            It is Cheika’s poor selctions that create the imbalance in the backrow and cause much of the unjust commentary about DP.

    • April 17th 2018 @ 6:33am
      Kane said | April 17th 2018 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      IMO the rules don’t affect Pocock as much as he very rarely made the pilfer when making the tackle. Hence why teams could run at him and take him out of the game by forcing him to make he tackle.

      They could then pin him down and then be assured fast ball at the next ruck.

      Pocock makes most of his turnovers by being the first man on the ball after the tackle.

    • April 17th 2018 @ 7:11am
      Chris K said | April 17th 2018 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      Foley was the guy who kicked 1 from 5 to lose the 2nd Bledisloe yeah? Yep awesome, clearly rugby is in good shape if no halves coming through the ranks. Aust rugby went professional in terms of throwing stupid amounts of money at players, but left out the discipline, structures and objectivity regarding performance for team selections. Has retained it’s ‘old school’ culture centred around select personalities and results in extended tolerance of weak performances, in order to retain the supporter base of those at the very top. Bit like being head of a military junta in Fiji. The very institution you hold dear is crumbling around you, but are so personally invested in maintaining the status quo that those who could take the necessary steps to fix Aust rugby are paralysed with inertia. Mean time other codes leaving Rugby in their wake, kids leaving junior rugby in doves and result is national team with no depth and feeder super rugby franchises without the discipline to match the Kiwis in the fitness department.

      • April 17th 2018 @ 5:59pm
        jameswm said | April 17th 2018 @ 5:59pm | ! Report

        What are Foley’s kicking stats this season?

        28/30 conversions, and 14/18 penalties, making 87% overall. Of those attempting more than 12 kicks, only du Preez from the Sharks is better (88%). McKenzie is at 80%, Pollard 80%, Jantjies 81%, Sanchez 82%, Sopoaga 80%, the Barretts 71 and 75% and Willemse 80%.

      • April 17th 2018 @ 6:26pm
        double agent said | April 17th 2018 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

        I’ve always wanted to leave somewhere in doves – a truly grand exit – though I’m wondering how many doves I’d need to carry my 90kg heavenward.

    • April 17th 2018 @ 7:53am
      Malo said | April 17th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      The conditioning coaches have again let Cheika down. NZ are stronger, fitter, faster and smarter. Oz sides have no chance in sr and the all blacks. Poor Cheika good luck mate.

      • April 17th 2018 @ 8:00pm
        Reverse Wheel said | April 17th 2018 @ 8:00pm | ! Report

        Tahs look pretty fit.

        • April 18th 2018 @ 7:52am
          P2R2 said | April 18th 2018 @ 7:52am | ! Report

          against other OZ sides…yes

    • April 17th 2018 @ 7:55am
      waxhead said | April 17th 2018 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      You were going just ok until you got to your Pocock silliness.
      Pocock has already proven after 3 games he’s still the best No 7 in Australia.
      He also should be Wallaby Captain and the 1st player picked with Folau in any Wallaby team.

      Hooper is a bench player for Pocock and nowhere near as good or valuable to any team imo.
      Build a backrow around Pocock and you have a chance at being world class.
      The Kiwi’s know that but most Aussies are too dumb to work it out 🙂

      • April 17th 2018 @ 8:21am
        jimbo81 said | April 17th 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        Well said! Pocock is the first player selected, followed by Tupo, Rodda, Coleman, Hodge, Naiyaravoro and Genia.

        Foley, Hooper, Beale are finishers (only).

        Interesting to see whether DHP at FB would be the best way to go. Izzy on a wing if at all.

        • April 17th 2018 @ 1:59pm
          ChipandChagger said | April 17th 2018 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

          DHP hasn’t had a great start to the year, out of form and an injury.

          Haven’t totally been sold on DHP as Wallaby yet either. Too man silly penalties outway his strong-ish running in my book.

          Need a dynamic FB rather than a bloke with a big boot who can tackle.

          • April 17th 2018 @ 5:19pm
            Boomeranga said | April 17th 2018 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

            I’d go the other way and say with Folau and say koribete on the wings, a bloke with a good boot and good under the high ball who can tackle would be perfect.

          • April 17th 2018 @ 6:00pm
            jameswm said | April 17th 2018 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

            And he’s a poor defender. He is bench at best. Surely we have better.

            • April 17th 2018 @ 6:40pm
              Boomeranga said | April 17th 2018 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

              Your sensible James, so if we have a better FB, and given Foley isn’t big boot, who is it?

        • April 18th 2018 @ 5:16am
          Blinder said | April 18th 2018 @ 5:16am | ! Report

          Smells like anti-Tah.

        • April 18th 2018 @ 7:53am
          P2R2 said | April 18th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

          Naiyaravoro is off to the UK….he’s gone mate

        • Roar Guru

          April 19th 2018 @ 2:49pm
          ThugbyFan said | April 19th 2018 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

          Jimbo, that post makes no sense. Why would you start T.Tupou and leave out S.Kepu, one of the world’s best TH props? And if B.Foley and K.Beale are finishers, who is your 5/8, T.Naiyaravoro or R.Hodge? LoL

          But agree about D.Pocock, should be 1st pick at openside with M.Hooper coming on about the 55 minute mark. The big problem is DP plays tight but M.Cheika wants a fast flanker to defend and cause trouble out wide, so who do you pick at blindside and #8? At least one of them must be good in lineouts which is likely why Ned Hanigan will get picked again (good tackler, goes all day and relatively fast but has the power of a lemon meringue). The other bloke (#8) must be big, a powerful tough runner of the ball with hurtful defence and ideally good over rucks. C.Timu ticks most of the boxes although M.Wells from the Tahs could sneak in, a bit light but tough and fast and good in the breakdowns.

          M.Cheika sees the solution differently. DP and M.Hooper attack the rucks, Hooper plays wide while DP and Ned patrol the edge of the middle battles, Ned steadies the lineouts, all three are good tacklers and go the whole 80 minutes. I would prefer a larger tougher unit in there but Cheika loves his blokes going the whole 80 minutes.

      • April 17th 2018 @ 10:08am
        Jacky said | April 17th 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        It would be great to see Pocock picked at 7 but I think wishful thinking until Cheika gone.Make Genia captain though

        • Roar Guru

          April 17th 2018 @ 10:16am
          Ralph said | April 17th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Pocock at 7 and move Hooper to 6 and give him stilts. He is such energiser bunny it won’t slow him down much, adds weight to his frame and makes him a viable line out option.


      • April 17th 2018 @ 11:09am
        Boomeranga said | April 17th 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        I think we just use one on the field and one off the bench. Hooper plays too much rugby for his own good, and Pocock is a bit injury prone. Be good to actually manage their workload.

        It use to be good to have players in competition for a spot but now we seem to fear them leaving the moment they are not first picked.

      • April 17th 2018 @ 11:30am
        Malo said | April 17th 2018 @ 11:30am | ! Report

        Pooper rules and will be enforced . Why do people think otherwise. Tah hatred will get you frustrated.

        • April 17th 2018 @ 5:30pm
          Crash Ball2 said | April 17th 2018 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

          Don’t think most that see the obvious deficiencies of Pooper are Waratah haters – rather, Wallabies supporters.

    • April 17th 2018 @ 8:00am
      Kane said | April 17th 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Pocock might be a great player but a great captain he is not.

      • April 18th 2018 @ 7:36pm
        Ex force fan said | April 18th 2018 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

        Neither is Hooper

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