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Jumping the gun by a few weeks: A Wallabies 23 to face the Poms

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Roar Rookie
19th May, 2022
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A bit early, I realise, but we’ve all been thinking about it for a bit and I’m interested in getting the conversation going a bit with a my two cents worth. Who should the Wallabies pick to play the Poms in July?

Here’s my ideas for a starting 23, including the allowed three overseas players. As I’ll explain as I go, it’s not in every case what I think is the pure best side, but a side that’s picked with the fact we have Rugby World Cup in France just over a year a way in mind too.

Some of these selections I feel strongly about; some I’m very open to and interested in discussion about.

Also, bear in mind that I’ve not seen many aussie Super matches this year, – four in total – harder to get to them in France than it used to be, so I’m going here mainly on what i’ve heard and last year’s test form.

1. I’d start James Slipper still. He has been pretty solid test-form wise the last few years. He’s steady and experienced and works hard. But also I think Bell can have more impact later in the match than Slipper is capable of.

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2. I’d bring in Brandon Paenga-Amosa. Good all around field player and good scrummager. I think this is our weakest spot though. I don’t know who should wear 17. Keen to know your thoughts.

I’ve liked Ulese at times but he seems to be well out of the picture. I think Jamie George is a little underrated and a very good player and we need our best at hooker

3. Taniela Tupou. And I’m going to say, of course. Ellis Genge seems to be coming along pretty well but it will be interesting to see if he can hold up against Taniela. I doubt he can. I haven’t seen much of the Brumbies this year but AAA forms seems indifferent and i thought his test form was pretty ordinary last year too. For the 18 jersey again I’m not too sure; what do you think?

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4. I was impressed with Izack Rodda’s work around the park last year. Holloway has looked very good in the two Tah’s matches I’ve seen, but I’d bring him on in the second half, partly cause his ability to play as a bigger back row option could be key, the way i’ve picked.

5. I’d bring in Rory Arnold. England will probably play Lawes at 6 again and even if they don’t their lineout is strong. Have to compete at the lineout.

6. Here you’ll all say I’m stupid, but I’d pick Fraser McReight. England’s back row is not nearly what it was a few years back, and i think you pick to play on the front foot and play to your strengths, set the tone. Seeing him line up against Lawes would be interesting to say the least; but even if Eddie picks a more classic 6, I like McReight’s speed and nous as an advantage point, even granting that his lack of grunt and size will probably be exploitable.

Fraser McReight of the Wallabies takes the ball up during the first Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Australian Wallabies at Eden Park on August 07, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Fraser McReight of the Wallabies (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
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7. Michael Hooper

8. Rob Valetini

9. Nic White.

10. I’d pick Noah Lolesio. I don’t really understand why he doesn’t play as hard against the line for the Wallabies as he does for the Brumbies, but I think he’s a better bet to get somewhere close to keeping up with Marcus Smith. I’d definitely want to take Quade Cooper to the RWC, but we need to keep looking at the long term development too.

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11. Andrew Kellaway. Perese would look pretty good as an option here too but I don’t suppose he’ll have got over his injury. And I’d love to see Marika back but those three overseas spots are precious , and Kellaway just does things right.

12. Samu Kerevi. This is picked assuming it’s Farrell, not Tuilagi at 12. Obviously you want to pick him, but i’d pick a faster, tighter defender if Tuilagi is at 12, good as Kerevi is Tuilagi will do more damage with his greater pace and outside of Smith and Farrell.

Samu Kerevi of Australia is tackled
Samu Kerevi. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

13. Len Ikitau. Paisami is getting better and better and deserves a look, but I’d trust Ikitau to make the better, safer decisions defensively. Obviously that counts a lot against Tuilagi but if he’s out, Malins, Marchant, Slade all need to be respected too.

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14. Maybe a bit left field, but if he’s healthy enough I’d start James O’Connor here. At 10 he’s at best a short term option and not even the best at that (Cooper is), but he can steady up the backs, especially given that I’d…

15. …pick Jordan Petaia here. Banks in a perfect system would probably make better reads, but I think Eddie will set England up to neutralise his lines pretty easily and he hasn’t shown enough confidence and grit internationally to really stand up and try to smash through when tackled.

Whereas Petaia’s got more size and strength to slow Steward down and will be more of a headache going the other way. I think we need to prioritise the bloke who has the best shot at being an international level 15, even if he’s iffy in a number of ways. The fact that Beale, who’ll have his moments still but is now a good seven years past his prime – is in the picture is pretty worrying.

16.Angus Bell

17. You tell me! Are we settling for Anthony Fainga’a or is there someone else who’s really put his hand up?

18. You tell me!

19. Jed Holloway. Love his grit and scrappiness.

20. Phillip or Swain or Frost – Someone who’d seen enough of them all this season can tell. I like Philip but i thought his international form in 2021 was not what it was in 2020.

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21. I’d lean towards Pete Samu here, but picking a bigger backrower who’ll hit harder, like Leota, or a leaper like Uru makes sense. Has Wilson’s form been good enough for a look? His ball-carrying could be handy late too.

22. Tate McDermott

23. Hunter Paisami. Can come in as a replacement 12 or 13 and make big wildcard type plays. Picking JOC at 14 allows for a bit more flexibility and poise among the backs where a higher-upside but lower downside player like Paisami can make enough sense, in my view.

Interested in the discussion. Plenty to think about that I’m sure I’ll have missed!

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