I don’t think they’re missing anything in their suggestions of Ned Hanigan, Harry Wilson, Lachie Swinton, Pete Samu, Rob Valentini and Liam Wright as the main contenders for the No. 6 jersey and or the need for a bigger loose forward in Aussie rugby.
But the latter suggestion led me to think of a lock converting to the blindside. I’m talking about an Australian Pieter-Steph du Toit, an Australian Maro Itoje with a No. 6 on his back. Someone with the engine to last 80 minutes, marshal the lineout, be at least 198 centimetres and be an enforcer throughout.
The first thought was Rory Arnold at No. 6. My knowledge of Australian Super Rugby teams may not be the best when it comes to locks being able to play flanker, so please have a shout in the comments if I’ve missed anything.
First of all, Arnold has the lineout ability. Although Hanigan and to some extent Lukhan Salakaia-Loto are lineout options at No. 6 for Dave Rennie, Arnold trumps both in this department. He is a towering 208 centimetres, one of the tallest in the international scene. Against the likes of South Africa and Argentina, who have some of the taller locks and back rowers, the Wallabies could use Arnold strategically to man the lineout and compete.
The Wallabies lineout right now is fairly shaky, and with its shorter than average pack it is imperative for Rennie to reduce the gap in contestability in the set piece.
Could this benefit Michael Hooper and Liam Wright at No. 7? Having Rory Arnold on the flank could free up Hooper and Wright to play their natural fetcher game plans. Arnold would be an extra bulky carrying option and someone preferable in close contact compared to Hanigan, Wright, Samu and a Valentini in some aspects.
If the combo of Will Skelton (No. 4), Matt Philip (No. 5) and Rory Arnold (No. 6) were used, a beefier pack could allow some lenience in size when it comes to allowing a Hooper or Wright to play to their strengths.
Having said that, this is disrespectful to Hanigan and Valentini, who have considerably improved their contact work.
But Arnold also has the experience of playing in a winning team. He was a fixture of the side under Michael Cheika and played in the World Cup last year. At Toulon he has been part of one of the best teams in Europe and benefited from being in a forward pack with the likes of Jerome Kaino and Francois Cros.
However, from 34 minutes of Lachie Swinton we saw he has the mongrel and bite about him the Wallabies have been thirsty for for a long time. Swinton puts in dominant tackles, which are ever important at this moment in time.
Similarly, Hanigan has returned much improved in all aspects, and although Pete Samu hasn’t got the size advantage, we are talking about a radical change for someone to play in a position they have never played in for their entire career. Maybe this is too left field for Dave Rennie.
Age also counts against him. Arnold is 30 right now and will probably not make the next World Cup. His experiment at No. 6 may only be a short-term one that is not worthwhile for the cost of hindering the development of younger talent.
We do not know if Arnold will ever play again for Australia. Having said that, he is a quality lock who has some ability to transfer skills into the flank like other top locks in the game.