It is clear from the 2018 Spring Tour and the 2019 Six Nations what basic game plan will confront the Wallabies in the 2019 Rugby Championship and the Rugby World Cup.
The Wallabies will have to contend with a rush defence seeking to close off the wide channels, choke the middle and force errors, turn-overs or kicks out of trouble.
Teams will then seek to counter-attack through high kicks, kicks behind the line or running if they are close enough – exactly as we have seen from Wales, Ireland, England and to a lesser extent from New Zealand and South Africa.
Only Fiji, Argentina, Scotland or Italy will allow a more open running game.
The Wallabies will need to counter this style with a game plan of their own and select teams that are best able to execute the attack and defence plans.
Australia needs a very good defensive structure that includes players able to defend in their position, who make a high percentage of effective tackles, and who make good defensive decisions, including a few organisers or talkers who can direct others and bring the line forward quickly.
The Wallabies also require at least three players who can kick reasonably long and accurately, and at least three players who can spot opportunity quickly and kick intelligently to find space and put a rush defence in two minds.
The forwards must be a pack of pigs who are strong in the tackle, strong in the carry, effective in the clean-out and cohesive in the maul.
We also need a good scrumming pack who will win all of our own feeds and pick off a few penalties, plus a well drilled and effective attacking and defensive line-out with at least four genuine targets that will secure our own throws and steal a few of the opposition’s.
The pigs need big engines that can go all day, alongside a set of backs with good hands, good speed and who understand support and running lines, and are also able to give effective passes to supports.
Lastly, the Wallabies require a couple of assistant coaches who can help Michael Cheika instil the game plan.
Dave Alred from the Reds is a must to assist our kickers with the technique to increase distance and accuracy. There is no one better.
The Brumbies have the best forward structures and techniques in Australian Super Rugby – the scrum, line-out and maul – therefore Laurie Fisher must be the forwards coach.
The Rebels have arguably the best back line structures, support and running lines, so their backs coach has to get the nod.
The defence coach has got to be Queensland’s Peter Ryan, as those players all use correct technique, put their bodies on the line, and have very good tackle effectiveness percentages.
Secondly, lets look at a pack of pigs who scrum well, maul effectively, clean out strongly, tackle and carry hard, offer line-out targets and go all day.
These men are in form and can do these things.
Why the Pooper? Because Pocock and Hooper are our two best players.
Why Hanigan? Because he is a genuine line-out target, has good hands for the carry, rarely gets turned over, rarely misses a tackle and can go all day.
Now let’s look at the backs. Will Genia picks himself at No.9 so Quade Cooper has to be the fly-half because of the combination with Genia and because he probably possesses the best potential to counter the rush defences.
He is better than Bernard Foley at spotting and taking opportunity. Samu Kerevi picks himself at No.12. He is the form player and it is his best position. No more debate.
No.13 selection is a lot more problematic.
Tevita Kuridrani is seriously off the boil. Tom English cannot nail down a starting spot at the Rebels. Adam Ashely-Cooper is solid and dependable with all the skills but maybe lacking a yard or three of pace.
So who do we pick? My suggestion is Billy Meakes, because he knows the position, has good hands and pass, can put away supports, runs good lines and is usually a good one-on-one defender.
The back three must be good in the air and dependable with long kicks, plus possess good speed, safe hands, good defensive skills and a hard-chasing game.
For those reasons, Alex Newsome (No.11), Thomas Banks (No.14) and Reece Hodge (No.15) get the nod.
Newsome gets few opportunities but never puts a foot wrong, is never out of position and has all the skills stated. Banks is similar but with an extra yard of pace. Hodge at fullback also has all the skills, plus can knock over long-range penalties.
The rest of the bench is Matt Phillip (lock), Lachlan McCaffrey (back row), Jake Gordon (halfback), Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley (utilities).
The Wallabies must bring something new to the table if we are to go deep into the World Cup.
What worked in 2015 will not work in 2019 as has been proven in 2017 and 2018.
We have to settle a basic playing style, select the players who can best execute it, then use all the available time – with the most astute coaches – to practise it.
This plan would produce a resurgent Wallabies performance we could all be proud of.