With all the doom and gloom hovering over around Australian rugby at the moment, I thought I’d lighten things up with everyone’s favourite amateur article, a Wallabies team.
And the best part, this team more or less picks itself as much as any in recent memory, so it should be a jovial old time in the comments.
Fullback: Tom Banks
He is a player that has always threatened to take his game to the next level and just not quite got there. Perhaps his stunning try against the Crusaders a couple of weeks ago is a positive sign for things to come. But in any case, his all-around game and form at Super level has a solidity to it that puts him above the competition and he is worthy of another chance to make this position his.
Wings: Tom Wright and Marika Koroibete
Both of these players bring world-class finishing ability, and I do not use that term lightly. Such has his all-around game improved in recent seasons despite a quiet season for the Rebels, Marika Koroibete is up there with first picked. Tom Wright is not the finished article, he may never be on defence, but his upsides are too much to ignore. Australia must finish well to beat the All Blacks, it is as simple as that, and Wright’s finishing is as classy as any in Australia.
Outside centre: Hunter Paisami
There are some contenders for this position no doubt, but Paisami seems to possess the most mature and complete game. He was impressive at both 12 and 13 last year for the Wallabies, and with classy finishers on the Wallabies’ flanks, his creative ability will work well at outside centre, despite playing a lot at inside centre. His defensive positioning will be put to the ultimate test, but the question is, whose wouldn’t? But the man can hit, and I like that in a 13.
Inside centre: Matt To’omua
It is not his best or most consistent year, but this is the story for almost anyone in a Rebels jersey. To’omua showed last year that he is the perfect back-line glue man for Australia at Test level. He will improve the performance of the players around him in both attack and defence, especially young Paisami outside him, and James O’Connor on the inside. His kicking game will need to be good.
Flyhalf: James O’Connor
A month ago this man was floating above the critical fray after a stellar Super Rugby AU season but now we know things aren’t quite so simple against the best opposition. His kicking game is below the level of the best Test flyhalves, and this more than anything puts him under pressure if the team is not getting go-forward. None of this matters. He will be first picked at ten for Australia. But there are two certainties. One, having Matt To’omua outside him will settle him down, and take the pressure off his kicking game, not to mention the big boot of Tom Banks. Two, a lot of work will go into his kicking between now and July. It quite simply must.
Scrumhalf: Nic White
The White-O’Connor-To’omua play-making axis is a proven combination at Test level. It will be given another chance, as no other combination has come close to eclipsing it. Tate McDermott might have been in a few weeks ago, given his combination with O’Connor in Super Rugby AU, but it is clear from the last few weeks that we need a kicking halfback, and White is the best in Australia by a clear margin. His experience is surely needed.
Number eight: Harry Wilson
Harry Wilson has had a quiet year compared with his meteoric success last year. But his Wallabies form against NZ in 2020, and now his recent performance against the Crusaders, should not be ignored. He is a future bedrock of the side and must be persisted with. Can he become a Kieran Read in the lineout? He’s actually taller, so I hope this is possible.
Blindside flanker: Rob Valetini
He was the best player of Super Rugby AU, and one of few to continue his form in the Trans-Tasman comp. He’s teased us for a couple of seasons, but he is the hard man Australian rugby has been waiting for. He’s in.
Openside flanker: Michael Hooper
I hope that Fraser McReight gets some game time and an opportunity to show that he is ready for the step up, but he is not yet Michael Hooper. There is also the matter of this pack and team needing some older heads. I’m not going to go into why Michael Hooper is a world-class player. That issue has been done to death on The Roar. Dave Rennie agrees with me, Nicolas Bishop agrees with me, and I’m happy with that. If I could stick my tongue out at you, I would do it now.
Locks: Matt Philip and Izack Rodda
There are some young guns pushing hard for selection, especially when it comes to exhibiting some of the dynamics and athletic attributes of the modern lock, but the core role has not changed. Someone has to win the ball in the lineout and be solid in the scrum, and someone has to hit the rucks. Matt Philip was immense in gold last year, and Rodda has proven himself at Test level. Both can call the lineouts. Both will not let us down in the core roles. No other player has done enough to usurp either of them. It would be nice to have Rory Arnold, but that’s not happening.
Tighthead prop: Taniela Tupou
It is a concerning position for the Wallabies beneath Tupou, but let’s forget about that for a moment. If he can keep the referees onside, this is a position of strength for the Wallabies.
Hooker: Jordan Uelese
This is the most problematic position for the Wallabies. I am assuming that Brandon Paenga-Amosa will not be selected because he is going overseas. Presuming he can string together some games injury free, Uelese is the next best contender. But I am not at all feeling confident or strong in this selection. Is there a world-class, under-pressure lineout thrower in Australia?
Loosehead prop: Tom Robertson
He is my bolter from outside the Wallabies squad from earlier in the year. Angus Bell is close. But let him scrum, scrum and scrum some more. James Slipper is solid but not much more. Robertson has proven that the right frame and experience is what counts in the scrum.
1. Tom Robertson (Force)
2. Jordan Uelese (Rebels)
3. Taniela Tupou (Reds)
4. Matt Philip (Rebels)
5. Izack Rodda (Force)
6. Rob Valetini (Brumbies
7. Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
8. Harry Wilson (Reds)
9. Nic White (Brumbies)
10. James O’Connor (Reds)
11. Tom Wright (Brumbies)
12. Matt To’omua (Rebels)
13. Hunter Paisami (Reds)
14. Marika Koroibete (Rebels)
15. Tom Banks (Brumbies)
Reserves: Siteleki Timani (Force), Frasier McReight (Reds), Angus Bell (Waratahs), Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies), Feleti Kaitu’u (Force), Ned Hanigan (Waratahs), Jake Gordon (Waratahs), Jordan Petaia (Reds).
Super Rugby representation: Force (four players), Brumbies (five), Reds (six), Waratahs (four), Rebels (four).