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Wallabies depth chart: The list that dispels the myth Aussie rugby doesn’t have enough players

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Expert
4th February, 2024
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The word depth in the world of rugby is a positive one; coaches want it, clubs strive to build it and countries around the globe view it as a key metric to ensure success.

Until now, depth is something Australia has been without, but it is something they have finally found, all they need now is a coach to set the right standard.

There are currently 93 players, both domestic and abroad, who have played for either the Wallabies or Australia A in the last three years and are eligible to be selected in 2024.

The Wallabies might have dropped to ninth on the World Rugby rankings, but there’s no shortage of available options to pick from. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

None of them have retired, none of them are in their last year of their rugby lives. However, this won’t mean they will be picked in 2024, it is merely a number of those who have been in the Wallabies or Australia A systems in the last three years.

There are 56 forwards and 37 backs:

  1. Bell, Slipper, Gibbon, Lambert, Schoupp, Hoopert, Wagner (7)
  2. Porecki, Faessler, Lonergan, Pollard, Kaitu’u, Uelese, Asiata, Paenga-Amosa, Fainga’a (9)
  3. Alaalatoa, Tupou, Fa’amausili, Johnson-Holmes, Talakai, Van Nek, Holz, Ross (8)
  4. Frost, Swain, Salakaia-Loto, Neville, Canham (5)
  5. Skelton, Rodda, Arnold, Philip, Smith, Sinclair, Williams (7)
  6. Holloway, Wright, Hooper, Uru, Swinton, Kemeny, Leota, Samu, Anstee, Harris, Pugh (11)
  7. McReight, Wilkin, Reimer, McMahon, Scott, Callan (6)
  8. Valetini, Gleeson, Wilson (3)
  9. McDermott, Lonergan, White, Fines-Leleiwasa, Gordon, Tuttle, Wilson, (7)
  10. Lolesio, Gordon, Foley, O’Connor, Donaldson, Edmed, Cooper (7)
  11. Koroibete, Pietsch, Toole (3)
  12. Kerevi, Foketi, Perese, Paisami, Kuenzle, Stewart, Walton, Henry (8)
  13. Ikitau, Flook, Daugunu, Creighton, Sapsford (5)
  14. Nawaqanitawase, Petaia, Wright, Anderson, Vunivalu (5)
  15. Kellaway, Campbell (2)

The average size of a Rugby Championship squad in recent years has been around 38 players.
The figures mean Australia has more than three match day squads worth of players that have played at the highest level with some success, in the most recent years.

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If poor coaching is pushed to one side, then the sheer size of this pool of players, accumulated over a few years, gives promising signs for what could be.

The appointment of Joe Schmidt along with a strong coaching staff, as well as the appointment of the high-performance manager Peter Horne, means that the elite pathways to reach the Wallabies jersey should be harder, demand more, and require excellence in 2024.

Now that it’s established Australia has the depth by sheer numbers, it’s time for RA, Joe Schmidt and Horne to turn the quantity into quality.

RA CEO Phil Waugh speaks to media during a Rugby Australia media opportunity at Allianz Stadium on January 19, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

RA CEO Phil Waugh and new Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt have a big rebuilding job on their hands. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

If the Wallabies’ results of 2023 can be shoved to one side, Dave Rennie’s team in the years before was building, despite silverware in Paris never being on the cards.

The Rennie era, as well as the Eddie Jones blunder, offered many players their first taste of test rugby, as well as a shot to step-up for Australia A honours.

The work of Rennie and his team, as well as the Australia A program overseen by Laurie Fisher and Jason Gilmore, saw fringe Wallabies play more minutes, at a higher level and ultimately bolstering the player pool’s IP.

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Australia A did not always bring success but it did bring time in the saddle.

A strong 2022 series against Japan by a relatively young squad was followed by a disappointing loss to Tonga in 2023, by a considerably more experienced and higher quality side.

Despite results not going the way of any Australian men’s sides in recent times, the prospect of turning 93 players into 38, and then 38 into a matchday 23 with just XV players on the field, is a prospect that should have Schmidt licking his lips.

These numbers exclude uncapped players and rising talents, who may have their break-out seasons in the next two years, with Max Jorgensen a Wallaby-in-waiting and big things expected from Miles Amatosero, Tom Lynagh and Joseph Suaalii. Fergus Lee-Warner, the hard-working versatile forward, is another who is back on the Australian rugby scene after a season in the English Premiership.

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones talks with Max Jorgensen during an Australia Wallabies training camp at Sanctuary Cove on April 17, 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Max Jorgensen was taken on last year’s World Cup tour but ultimately didn’t play after suffering an injury at training. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

A lot of work must be done in the community game but elevating Super Rugby back to a world-renowned quality of rugby, which is home to the most talented players, is crucial.

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This will only happen if Australian players and coaches start pulling their weight by getting results.

High performance pathways and a gold standard are achievable, thanks to the wealth of players Australia now has.

No guarantees should be given to any player, everything should be to play for and with a new coach and high-performance manager, the standard should be nothing less than the best. This standard must exist at Wallabies and SRP levels.

Australia and New Zealand cannot afford another year of lopsided results, and the Australian players and coaches cannot afford not to give it their all.

2024 has brought with it depth by numbers, it is now time for that word to mean something.

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