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The Roar



To’omua podcast provides a great insight into Rennie’s back five-selections

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13th September, 2022

It is no secret on The Roar that I am an unabashed fan of Matt To’omua as a fly-half.

Plenty do not agree with my assessment that he was an opportunity lost by Aussie rugby in the playmaking hot seat, but I stand by my view based on the stellar performances that I saw from him in his preferred position at the Brumbies.

Here is the sort of memorable playmaking memory from him which I treasure, unfortunately from Round 1 in 2015 during a 47-3 spanking by the Brumbies of my Queensland Reds, when To’omua played ‘Spanker-in-Chief’.

I am grateful however that we got to see many great performances from To’omua at 12, a position he first played in professional rugby after being asked to do so by Ewan McKenzie in 2013, and which he played with distinction at the international level.

In the recent Roar podcast it was clear that To’omua was always a 10 at heart and I greatly respect his decision to fight for the spot he coveted, in the last instance at the Melbourne Rebels.

That didn’t work out but To’omua’s decision to call it quits in chasing the Wallabies jersey through Super Rugby, when he thought he could no longer do the jersey justice, was typically admirable.

What is great however is that To’omua is planning on staying involved with rugby, at the moment as a commentator but also down the track as an administrator. We recently enjoyed his intelligent and informed insights on the Roar podcast.

Matt To’omua (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)


One insight from the podcast which is particularly relevant at the moment is about the management of the lineout against an international lineout like South Africa.

To’omua talks about the way the Wallabies mix up lineout options against the Boks with plays like throws over the top and wrap around plays. This year Rennie has also talked about the use of a five-man lineout with a player like Rob Valentini playing in midfield.

The challenge in selecting a back five is balancing up lineout work with effectiveness in the scrum and rolling maul, ball running, defense and breakdown work. The Wallabies have selected players who are good in the set piece over the last four games, critically with Jed Holloway who is an excellent set piece player, playing like an extra lock at number 6.

However the Boks showed in the latest game in Sydney that they are not a one-dimensional team, comprehensively beating the Wallabies at the breakdown, with Holloway’s relative lack of mobility for a test six undoubtedly being a key factor. The telling statistic was that he only made three tackles and missed another three, far lower than would be expected from a key defensive position, and he was not a notable presence at the breakdown.

This isn’t Holloway’s fault, he has been playing well at lock for the Waratahs all season, but it certainly didn’t bode well for his selection at six against the All Blacks.

They live off counter-attacking from the breakdown and all the signs were there that playing Holloway in that position at present would have been ugly, most of all for him, so it is great that he is being played to his strengths at lock this week.


The players selected in the back three, Rob Leota, Pete Samu and Rob Valentini, are all high work-rate power players, but the back five are a bit shorter than average, so it begs the question of whether the right balance has been struck.

This is where To’omua’s observation about using variety in the lineout comes in. The Wallabies can manage the height disadvantage by mixing up their lineout options, by kicking for goal on penalties and using the scrum or quick tap if things get too ugly at the lineout and by using contested kicks, limiting the number of lineouts to be lost.

Losing a few lineouts is far less serious than getting turned over regularly at the breakdown by the All Blacks, who then proceed to cut the Wallabies to shreds.

Obviously it is better if the Wallabies can compete hard at the breakdown and in defence while having height at six for the lineout, with Australia not having that since Scott Fardy.

Next Super Rugby season will be an opportunity for players who are good jumpers who can also play six like Tom Hooper, Nick Frost, Seru Uru, Ned Hannigan, Luke Jones and Jed Holloway if he loses 5kg and is given game time at six by the Waratahs, to stamp their authority on the position.

However, on Thursday night Jed Holloway has the opportunity to make his mark at lock and he has an excellent example of a player who took his chances in an unexpected position in Matt To’omua, to forge a great Wallabies career. Good luck to him and to the Wallabies!

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