How does Australia find a world-class No.8?

Steiner Roar Pro

By Steiner, Steiner is a Roar Pro


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    Finding 110-120kg athletes who have superb balance and eye-to-hand coordination, are nearly two metres tall, can run explosively over 20-40 metres, and who have the physicality and mental attitude required for collision sports is a difficult task.

    In Australia, rugby union must compete with rugby league, AFL, basketball and even cricket for these rare athletes.

    Watching New Zealand’s Super Rugby and national teams over the last three years, it is obvious every professional team requires a core of big, powerful, dynamic players distributed between backs and forwards to be successful.

    These dynamic players can drive the tempo of a game through domination of the gain line and the delivery of quick ball. The more of these dynamic ball runners you have the better, as long as you have the halves to exploit this tempo.

    Right now, the Kiwis have more of these players and halves and the results show.

    Unfortunately, Australia have lacked this type human specimen for just about as long as we have failed to hold the Bledisloe Cup.

    Going into 2015 Rugby World Cup, Michael Cheika basically resigned himself to the fact that our best large backrow specimen, Wycliff Palu, could no longer match it at Test level and went with David Pocock at 8.

    In both the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, Australia was without a world-class specialist No.8.

    It is likely we could head in the same direction for the 2019 tournament, so fixing this deficiency is a priority.

    The current options are Scott Higginbotham or Caleb Timu at the Reds, Isi Naisarani at the Brumbies, and Michael Wells or Jed Holloway at the Tahs.

    Naisarani is playing well but may not be eligible in time for 2019, while Higginbotham was not selected for the last World Cup, so I doubt he’s an option. Timu and Wells have both been playing good rugby, while Holloway is quietly working his way back from injury.

    Someone who is also a competitive lineout target and can carry hard in tight or loose would be ideal, which starts to limit the options to either Timu, Wells or Naisarani, with Pocock at 6 and Michael Hooper at 7.

    But how about thinking outside the box, by selecting as many dynamic players as possible in the backrow? How about moving Taniela Tupou to 8? Or big Taqele Naiyaravoro? Who’d want to tackle those guys steaming off the back of a scrum?

    These two have the raw potential, would present a point of difference and a major running threat at 8. It would mean going back to a conventional backrow with one openside, a ball-running 8 and a lineout 6, but all of those previously mentioned 8s can play 6.

    So how are these for out-of-the-box dynamic backrows that could be tweaked based on opposition:

    6. Naisarani, Wells, Higginbotham
    7. Hooper, Pocock
    8. Tupou, Timu, Naiyaravoro

    What do you think Roarers? Am I dreaming? What would our most dynamic pack look like?

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    The Crowd Says (147)

    • Roar Guru

      April 20th 2018 @ 3:13am
      Harry Jones said | April 20th 2018 @ 3:13am | ! Report

      Finally! Someone confirms that a great No 8 is the key to rugby! Haha!

      Well, I just read a decent article asserting that gainline success is the only really correlative/reliable stat in rugby, re winning. (About 75-80% reliable).

      Of the names you’ve listed for an 8, the two Queenslanders seem best, because of height and good hands.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 4:58am
        P2R2 said | April 20th 2018 @ 4:58am | ! Report

        so you are going to convert a winger into a No.8….? he wouldn’t last 20 mins – he’ll run out of puff…

        • April 20th 2018 @ 8:36am
          jameswm said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:36am | ! Report

          So Naiyarovoro plays for Qld, does he?

        • April 20th 2018 @ 9:28am
          Andrew Kennett said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          Jim Williams and Radiki Samo were two wingers that successfully moved to No.8

          • Roar Guru

            April 20th 2018 @ 12:49pm
            Ralph said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

            The window for the development stage in the RWC cycle is pretty much closed. Wallabies have to move on with what they have and focus on settling down their combinations and game plans.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 5:23pm
          Cuw said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

          @ P2R2

          well – the former Japan 8 ( and former RED ) Hendrick Tui played at 8 and wing for Japan.

          He went to the bench when Mafi burst into the scene.

          wonder what happened to him after leaving Reds – coz he is not playing for Wolves….

          • April 20th 2018 @ 9:23pm
            Steiner said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

            Good point Cuw he was a great asset for the Reds. My point is we have few dynamic ball runners in Oz so let’s get the most out of what we have and adapt. We have many dynamic outside backs so let’s re-role a few. We have done it in the past when we used to innovate and we can do it again.

        • April 21st 2018 @ 12:17pm
          Bakkies said | April 21st 2018 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

          Taqele is off to Northampton. Cheika will be a hypocrite if he selects him as he didn’t select Fardy last year.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 7:42am
        Fionn said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:42am | ! Report

        From what I’ve read there’s no single stat that is actually super accurate in predicting winners?

        All I know is that territory and possession seems almost useless in terms of giving an idea of who won a match.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 8:28am
          Rugby Tragic Too said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

          i agree with the notion that the advantage line stats is usually the best indicator, the rest is rarely indicative

        • April 20th 2018 @ 11:41am
          Angus Kennedy said | April 20th 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          Points on the board is accurate.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 1:17pm
            Fionn said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:17pm | ! Report


        • April 20th 2018 @ 5:18pm
          Cuw said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

          ” Going into 2015 Rugby World Cup, Michael Cheika basically resigned himself to the fact that our best large backrow specimen, Wycliff Palu, could no longer match it at Test level and went with David Pocock at 8. ”

          WELL – the way I remember , MC took Palu to the world cup but then he got injured. i think Skelton was also injured . maybe halfway thru the pool.

          instead of replacing him with an 8 – the next best being Higginbotham ( who was in great form during super rugger 2015 ) – MC chose to bring in a hooker – Hanson ( and Carter for Skelton) .

          so if my memory is right that was when POOPER was born. correct me if im wrong ….

          • April 20th 2018 @ 6:44pm
            Rugby Tragic Too said | April 20th 2018 @ 6:44pm | ! Report

            pooper was born in sydney earlier that year when we beat the all blacks that year

      • April 20th 2018 @ 10:11am
        Steiner said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Haha too true Harry😊Finding big backrowers has never been a problem for your teams though!

      • Roar Pro

        April 20th 2018 @ 12:04pm
        PapanuiPirate said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        Australia is all knives and forks, no spoons.

        Nothing to scoop up big helpings of gainline.

        • Roar Guru

          April 20th 2018 @ 12:49pm
          Ralph said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report


      • April 20th 2018 @ 10:13am
        Steiner said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        Thanks NV. If he keeps up his current form Cheika may try pretty hard to talk him out of it.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 12:45pm
          Charlie Turner said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          Steiner, the trouble is Cheika has a history of “talking players out of it” then quickly losing interest.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 5:25pm
          Cuw said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

          talking anyone out of contracts will be costly.

          am sure many of the guys who came home from NH halfway thru their contracts cost the aussy union plenty …

          • April 21st 2018 @ 12:18pm
            Bakkies said | April 21st 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

            Yeah indeed. It costed the RA one million dollars last year and they made a 3.8 million dollar loss.

    • April 20th 2018 @ 4:55am
      riddler said | April 20th 2018 @ 4:55am | ! Report

      it is not a size or height issue..

      it is an ability issue.. and we just haven’t had a classy no.8 since kef..

      timu hopefully will build into one..

      look at the physical stats of ben mc, read and parisse of italy.. nearly exactly the same height 192 – 193 – 196 and nearly same weight 106 – 110 – 112

      yet there is a worldly difference between the later two and the first, unfortunately for us..

      we just don’t have the cattle..

      • April 20th 2018 @ 7:04am
        Fionn said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:04am | ! Report

        Timu, Valetini and Naisarani are all coming through together. I think at least one of them will pan out.

        We just don’t have one yet.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 9:10am
          Steiner said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          Agree Fionn Naisarani and Timu probably the frontrunners out of those guys. The injury to Valetini is a real blow, reckon he has all the attributes to be a very good 8.

        • Roar Guru

          April 20th 2018 @ 10:49am
          PeterK said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

          It is a pity that Timani after a breakout test debut year was then ignored and subsequently has lost form and I think interest.

          He lacks involvements , to the extent he looks lazy, and also does lack mobility.

          Yes using TN as a 6/8 seems tempting but surely he needs significant game time to learn the specifics of that role before being thrust into it at test level. Given time I do think he could be an excellent 6/8.

          I really hope Valetini plays very well when he comes back from injury.

          I do think Pooper is a forgone conclusion for the simple reason there are NOT 2 quality 6/8’s out there to change it.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 11:54am
            Steiner said | April 20th 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

            I saw the Highlanders slip a back into the scrum last weekend as part of a planned move PK so that is an option for the Tahs.

            • April 20th 2018 @ 1:19pm
              Fionn said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

              I think that things are looking much better from 2020 onwards in terms of young players.

              • Roar Rookie

                April 20th 2018 @ 3:35pm
                Anthony Cotton said | April 20th 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

                Is that when they go overseas?

            • April 20th 2018 @ 5:33pm
              Cuw said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

              ” I saw the Highlanders slip a back into the scrum last weekend as part of a planned move PK so that is an option for the Tahs.”

              but then – they used a small back ( LI ) in pack and put a big 6 ( Frizzell ) in the line.

              anyway it did not achieve much and was not tried again.

              more popular among some teams is to use backs at line outs. when they are tall like Reiko – it creates doubts in the defence.

    • April 20th 2018 @ 4:59am
      P2R2 said | April 20th 2018 @ 4:59am | ! Report

      …Mooo… 🙂

    • April 20th 2018 @ 5:44am
      Galatzo said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:44am | ! Report

      I’m all for the idea of converting a back to a number 8. Jim Willams successfully made the switch, and Kef would sometimes take the ball standing in the midfield. Wendell Sailor could have made a barnstorming eight, while Jonah did the reverse moving from 8 to the wing. Kieran Read’s unmatched behind the scrum. How often have we seen him, on the end of a backline move, sprinting over for a try? Not to mention being a reliable line out target. So, which current back, eligible for the WBs, fits the bill? Worth trying Hodge there? He’s tall enough and has good defence but he’s a little light as eights go.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 7:46am
        Malo said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        Folau would be a great 8

        • April 20th 2018 @ 12:35pm
          shooshiner said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

          No Ticker

      • April 20th 2018 @ 5:37pm
        Cuw said | April 20th 2018 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

        Hodge lacks the hands for an 8 .

        basically there are 2 types of 8s.

        1. the barnstorming 8 – like Billy V and a few in club rugger in England and France. very big and will run over the defence and hit really hard.

        2. the skilled 8 – like Read Parrise Folatau , who are lighter and play with more variety.

        the lighter 8s have to be good ball players – catch pass kick.

        • April 21st 2018 @ 12:22pm
          Bakkies said | April 21st 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

          Hairydonkey pretty much changed the way number 8s play through his lineout work (he was a better jumper than the French locks) and ability to get over the ball to win turnovers. He also varied his carries by playing tight or running wide to get his offloads going. Guys like Heaslip and Read came in after him.

          The constant physicality has cost Billy V over the past year. His body is battered I am not even sure if he is back yet.

          • April 21st 2018 @ 4:33pm
            Cuw said | April 21st 2018 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

            he came back and broke a forearm i think . not seen since January.

            now that Sarries are out of not Heineken cup – they may be waiting for finals of Aviva.

    • April 20th 2018 @ 6:04am
      englishbob said | April 20th 2018 @ 6:04am | ! Report

      Is there something wrong with Lopeti Timani? I quite liked the job he did last year, big good solid ball runner.

      Higginbotham’s best days are behind him one would assume. There are options they just need to be given time to mature, for instance when Kieran Reid retires (one would assume after they win the next world cup) then someone like Fifita comes in who at this stage of their respective careers in a more frightening prospect.

      I hate the idea of the wheeling out the Pooper thing again, they’re both playing very well and are arguably australias two best forwards at the minute but Pocock gives very little going forward and its just spreads extra pressure on the rest of the pack to carry, and at present without a specialist top drawer 8 that’s the one area Australia on paper look to struggle – its a very defensive selection. Pick either of them, assured in the knowledge that the other one is versatile. Lukhan Tui at 6 and play with options at 8.

      • April 20th 2018 @ 7:13am
        Fionn said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:13am | ! Report

        It seems like Timani has gone off the boil a bit, mate.

        I really rated him on the 2016 Spring Tour, but he hasn’t managed to find that form again since.

        • Roar Guru

          April 20th 2018 @ 10:54am
          PeterK said | April 20th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report


          being ignored for Hanigan must have been crushing

          Pooper means a very good lineout option at 6.

          Main reason Hanigan has been selected.

          Simmons has been suggested due to his extra mobility.

          But with 2 opensides is mobility the biggest requirement?

          Simmons is better selected at lock anyway so you get his scrum prowess being used.

          This means someone like Tui could be chosen over Hanigan or Dempsey at 6 IMO. Higgs or Fardy also but neither won’t ever happen

          • April 20th 2018 @ 1:18pm
            Fionn said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

            Yeah, could be a huge blow to your motivation.

            Likewise with Fardy, what incentive did he have to stay and compete for his spot after falling behind Dean Mumm?

            • April 20th 2018 @ 2:15pm
              OZ Rugby Fan said | April 20th 2018 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

              This is a strange attitude to me, surely SR teams would be in big trouble if players just gave up after not being selected for their national team. Would be a huge issue for NZ. Smacks of entitlement if it were true. I’m not sure it is the case myself. Sometimes players just move in and out of form.

              • April 20th 2018 @ 2:23pm
                Fionn said | April 20th 2018 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

                Players in New Zealand earn selection based on merit.

                I’m not condoning it all, and I don’t think that everyone is like that, but I can Timani imagine losing motivation if he felt like he had worked really hard, got into good form and he was overlooked for someone performing worse.

                Don’t you agree?

              • April 21st 2018 @ 6:55am
                Englishbob said | April 21st 2018 @ 6:55am | ! Report

                Agreed, again sadly probably a money issue, in Europe players stay in their respective countries for the most part not only because they want to push for selection but why move your life for equal or lesser money. The Aussie players especially get paid much less than they’d command up here considering their generally high fitness and skill set