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To play-make or distribute, that is the question: Part deux

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Roar Guru
3rd June, 2019
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Last week I wrote an article on playmakers and distributors, and what role they play for the Waratahs, Rebels and Brumbies.

I asked the question, do the Wallabies need two playmakers in the run-on 15? And if we do, do they have to be at No.15 as well as No.10? I also discussed the role of distributors to support playmakers.

The definitions I used were: playmaker – someone who can play a traditional stand-off role and control a game, with good passing to both sides and a tactical kicking game – to be more involved than a distributor – someone who can effectively pass both sides and can read a game for opportunities.

The players I reviewed in detail were Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Christian Lealiifano, Tom Banks, Quade Cooper and Dane Haylett-Petty.

The focus of the review was the players’ attacking skills, positional play and unforced errors, only noting actions that were above or below what should be expected from Test players in a Super Rugby game. I did not review their tackling or simply doing what’s expected of them.

The conclusion I arrived at last week was the Rebels and Brumbies have shown that Australian teams can be successful with one playmaker in the 15, as long as that player is supported by good distributors.

I conducted the same analysis after last weekend games, reviewing the same players. This time however, I have noted the number of involvements by each player. By ‘involvements’ I mean the number of times the ball was passed to the player.

These totals do not include taking the ball from a kick, or taking penalty kicks for touch.

Number of involvements per player, First Half/Second Half:
Beale 13/8
Foley 12/6
Cooper 10/12
DHP 6/8
CLL 9/8
Banks 5/6

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Some distributors, e.g. Banks, tend to run a higher percentage of their involvements when compared to Beale or DHP, who pass more often.

Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale of the Waratahs. (AAP Image/Jeremy Ng)

Here are the highs and lows of each game.

Brumbies versus Sunwolves
00:30 CLL fails to kick out from inside 22
03:07 Banks looses ball in tackle
65:47 Banks fails to find touch with penalty kick

Rebels versus Waratahs
01:33 Beale fails to kick out after mark inside 22
39:28 Beale fails to kick out from inside 22
39:40 Beale good kick out in general play outside his 22
45:54 DHP good kick out in general play
72:42 Cooper good kick out in general play outside his 22

None of the reviewed players did anything magical in attack, nor any howlers in mistakes.

Summary
The involvement figures show that the Waratahs use Beale and Foley equally as playmakers, with about the same number of involvements, whereas the Brumbies (CLL) and Rebels (Cooper) clearly prioritise one playmaker.

Do the Waratahs believe Foley cannot do the playmaking role by himself, and therefore needs another playmaker in the team? Do they believe that both players should be in the 15 regardless of playmaking abilities?

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If it is the former, and Foley is at 10 for the Wallabies, then there must be another playmaker at 12 or 15. In this scenario it could be CLL at 12 or Beale at 15. However, Samu Kerevi is the form Australian 12 and should be picked there. He is also a good distributor.

As a result, this would mean Beale at 15. Contrariwise, if CLL or Cooper is at 10, a second playmaker is not needed in the run on 15. But at least two of the other Backs (apart from 9) should be distributors.

The question is, then, should Foley be the Wallabies 10 given the follow on effects of backline selections?