2010 Wallabies Are Emerging: The Certainties

2010 Wallabies Are Emerging: The Certainties

2010 Wallabies Are Emerging: The Certainties
World Class?

World Class?

We’re more than halfway through the Super 14 and wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall at Wallaby Selectors Robbie Deans, Jim Williams and David Nucifora’s weekly post-match conferences?

Just at the moment, everyone’s talking ‘inside backs’ but there’s plenty of talent from 1 – 22 being showcased. After eight rounds there’d be a consensus taking shape about established international’s form and non-Wallaby challengers.

To some degree form ebbs and flows with how your franchise is actually performing on the field and the good news is that most Australian teams are doing just that.

There’s too much information for one post on this contentious subject (and everybody’s got an opinion) so Part 1 will focus on ‘The Certainties’, Part 2 ‘The Challengers’.

I suppose you could say that there are no certainties in life apart from death and taxes? I know it’s early, but injuries and factors beyond our control aside, let’s look at who’s making the grade.

If one of the criterion is how well your franchise performs on the field then the Western Force will struggle to gain many international caps this year.

First choice test player Bam Pocock has been injured for most of the time but now that he’s returned to full fitness there’d be no doubt that he’ll regain his First XV status. He’s a dead cert despite us not having seen him play much this year.

That’s because he’s a champion and one of only a few players destined for bigger things i.e. world class status and Wallaby captaincy (after Mummy….if you read the Sydney press).

In his absence, Matt Hodgson has been superb at No. 7 and is a guy who’s versatility at 6, 7 and 8 will surely snare him a bench spot. I’d venture to say that he’s pushed Phil Waugh out of the reckoning.

Nathan Sharpe has led the Force well through difficult circumstances and his personal form now is just about at it’s best. He’s got the lineout back under control (after the Force throwing yips appear to be over) and leads the charge with his ball carries.

We’re not endowed with significant lock resources so it’s unlikely Sharpie will be put out to pasture as some have predicted and which was potentially telegraphed last year.

Rabbit O’Connor has been the ‘Mr Fixit’ of the Force appearing at fullback, five eighth, inside centre, and fullback again as a result of their injury dilemmas.

He’s one of their constants and looks dangerous and penetrative with ball in hand. He’ll certainly be in the test 22 as a utility, comfortable at fullback or inside centre. His defence has really hardened up.

Ryan Cross was a ‘certainty’ last year but has been completely out of form. A change to No. 12 may help him in the next few games but he’s got a mountain to climb.

Run Rabbit Run Rabbit

Run Rabbit Run Rabbit

The Brumbies have been something of an enigma. Laced with talent and sitting fairly well on the table, you feel they’re yet to fulfill their potential.

Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander have been going great guns in the front row and living up to their international status. Alexander has been playing at loosehead so you’d imagine his return to tighthead will come as early as is practicable (Wallabies v Fiji 6 June).

With Big Kev Horwill injured this year the selectors will be looking for a couple of locks to partner Sharpe. Mark Chisholm hasn’t set the world on fire this year – he was recently benched for backrower Mitch Chapman, who’s making a good fist of his ‘new’ career at lock.

Unless Chizz pulls his finger out and returns to the Brumbies starting lineup he may miss out. I like the look of Ben Hand this year but we’ll talk about him another time.

Rocky Elsom was quiet in the first few Brumbies games but has come into his own in later appearances. I’m not sure that he benefits from operating under someone else’s captaincy?

He always looks to me like he just wants to take charge. The demeanour of a natural leader, perhaps? He’ll again be Wallaby captain.

Would you say that on form Matt Giteau would be a dead cert? I guess our expectations of him are always high but he’ll be there all right. At 10 or 12?

With his move to inside centre for the injured Lealiifano and the tremendous form of Quade Cooper (pending the outcome of the police charge that will determine his future), Matt Giteau should be No. 12.

It sounds like he was going to be moved there anyway on the Spring Tour but the unfortunate injury to Berrick Barnes precluded that change.

Adam Ashley-Cooper is a certainty in the First XV, it’s only to be determined in which position. There is no other Australian player who is so consistent in his fullback play (with Peter Hynes coming a very close second this season and I think also a certainty in the 22).

Whether it’s under the high ball, in an attacking situation from broken play or utilising his much improved kicking skills, he’s the man.

I can’t say Stirling Mortlock is a certain selection, notwithstanding his ARU top-up after signing with the Melbourne Rebels. Morty’s been injured a fair bit of the time over the past year or so and seems brittle these days. He hasn’t performed up to his usual standards.

I can only choose four certainties from Queensland who’ll be in the Wallaby test 22. However, I can think of another seven who will be challenging for positions such is the good form shown by this crowd.

Hynes on the wing, Digby Ioane at 13, Cooper at 10 and of course Will Genia at halfback. It’s Genia and Cooper who have been receiving all the accolades.

I was watching some Magners League on Setanta Sport the other day and the commentators were banging on about Genia being the next George Gregan, such is the regard he’s now held in.

Some argue he’s the form Australian player of the Super 14 (actually Hodgson in my view) but he’s going to be the next big thing in international rugby.

His combination with Quade Cooper – he’s actually providing Cooper with time and space via crisp, accurate passes – and his darting runs (not to forget his leadership) put him in that class.

Cooper is finally realising his considerable talent and has been simply outstanding in recent matches. A dead cert for 10.

The powerful Ioane is, in my view, one of the worlds leading outside backs. He is so strong and evasive, he’s always beating the first defender and can run over the top of anyone. He’ll be in the First XV, probably at 13.

Top of the table NSW (albeit briefly according to Bruce) are doing all the right things. They’ve got a battle hardened pack and some experienced backs and it’s finally coming together.

Mummy - Leadership Skills

Mummy - Leadership Skills

Benn Robinson is Australia’s top loosehead and will be one of the first forwards selected. Along with Tatafu Polota-Nau, another certainty, they make up (with Al Baxter – not a certainty but maybe a ‘sure thing’ this year) our best front row.

Le Fuse has been playing top footy all season and it wouldn’t surprise me if recalled to duty.

At the back Cliffy Palu, when fit, has been showing some good form after a shaky start and his powerful runs assure him of selection. Probably just needs to tidy up clearances at the back of the scrum.

Dean Mumm is another who’ll be in the Wallaby 22. He’s really stepped up in his physicality about the field, his lineout prowess and now his leadership. I think at this rate he’ll be Sharpie’s locking partner.

Although Drew Mitchell can be inconsistent at times, this year he’s been rocking and rolling on the wing (his rightful position) and scored plenty of meat pies. He’ll also be in that squad although pushed by Lachie Turner.

Berrick Barnes. Mmmmm. If you asked me a couple of weeks ago whether he’d be a certainty for the Wallaby 22, I’d have said no. If you ask me now, I’d say….no again. Poor form – one game doesn’t make a season.

I mean, he’ll probably be there but so far doesn’t deserve it. Hopefully his form from the weekend will continue.

Luke Burgess is the second best halfback in Australia, which makes him a certainty for the test 22.


Robinson, Polota-Nau, Moore, Alexander, Sharpe, Mumm, Elsom, Pocock, Hodgson, Palu, Genia, Burgess, Cooper, Giteau, Ioane, Mitchell, Hynes, Ashley-Cooper, O’Connor.

Am I right? Or am I right?

  • Chris

    Correct… except I don’t think Ioane is a 13 and is better on the wing with a licence to roam etc. Expect Rob Horne, Gasnier, Chambers and maybe Barnes to be given a shot at 13. I personnally don’t think a back 3 of AAC, Hynes and Mitchell is the most productive and as a ‘3’ they’ve never set the world on fire. Mitchell is not as fast as the best wingers in the world. O’Connor could force AAC to the wing.
    Forward pack is small… SOS Dan Vickerman for Dean Mumm! Also I like to see the young number 8 from the Force – McCallum?? in the large squad for future development.

    • disagree about JOC forcing anyone out, his value is as a plug (probably in more ways than one) i dont want him fronting up in defence in the first twenty, he has the talent but he is like quade a coulpe of years back and shouldnt be thrown in for the sake of it.

      i would take higginbottom from qld over mccallum as well, although anyone to make sure brown doesnt get a run again would be fine.

      • gothereds

        agree with you that hynes, mitchell and aac are not our greatest combo, you right they dont set the world alight, also agree joc should be used as a plug and come off the bench at wing or outside, but gasnier?? not a chance, his play for stade has been woeful, he has no idea, as seen in the past being a success in league, does not mean it transfers to union, he would have to earn a spot , and more than likely will not have enough time to do this, definitely no to gasnier!!

        • Seb V

          Your prob right about gasnia. Id like to see Chambers get a wallaby-tourist spot for development, think he’s got potential and did pretty well last week

        • Epi

          Sorry but that’s just not true. The whole of the Stade team has been playing woeful football of late however prior to that Gasnier was playing some very good football – particularly under Link…

        • Epi

          Although that said – I do think that of all the league players now in France, Rooney’s surprisingly the best, but little chance of him ever coming home now – and every chance of him being included in the England WC squad…

    • Joe Blow

      Gasnier and Chambers don’t have a sh%& show in hell.
      Horne may be included in the greater squad but is nowhere near a certainty. My guess would be AAC at 13 with Ioane on the wing and JOC at fullback.

  • Seb V

    You are right! But i would have loved for you to mention the likes of Lealiifano(when he was fit) and A Fainga putting a lot of pressure on for inside centre spot.

    • Lance Free

      Seb – wait until ‘The Challengers’ post to come…..

  • Joe Mac

    Great post. Agree completely.

    Im really, really excited about this years Tri-nations. it looks like we are finally getting some much needed depth and are close to another Wallaby Golden era.

    However, the area we need to get some depth in is number 8.

    Palu in-form is probably your certainty 8 but potentially more lethal would be having Pocock, Hodgson and Elsom team up as 6,7,8. While you miss the traditional big man 8, you would likely get more turnovers, and would make up the aggression required just by having TPN and Mumm on the field.

    What do you reckon?

    • Tallboy

      Good call Joe, love the sound of that back row. I’ve been saying that Rocky should be moved to #8 for awhile. He’s a big aggressive ball runner and could be utilised coming off the back of the scrum.
      And Hodgson and Pocock will be freed to do what they do best at the Force, terrorise other packs and produce turnover ball.
      Well worth if the experiment if Cliffy’s injury problems continue and his form remains a little patchy. As you said Joe, we can chase size in the tight five.
      Lance love the rest of the story, looking forward to the Challengers report. That’s where the real action will be.

      • Seb V

        Not sure about that back row, needs more size for the BIG boks and ABs. Although we have the rest of the season to see how successful having both pocock and Hodgson on working together.

        However if palu is injured, then i recommend moving rocky to 8, Mumm to 6, then hopefully Horwill and Sharpe can be the locks. Or give higginbottom a go.

        • Patrick

          No I disagree with Mumm at six, I think need more than a third lock!

        • ozrugbynut

          I think we’ve got a real issue at 8 if Palu gets injured. We need a specialist 8 whose got size. Brown is out of contention. Mumm is a solid benchy at best, but doesn’t have the go forward required for the starting 15.

      • AndrewWA

        Don’t discount Richard Brown at #8.

        He benefited from his brief run with the Force ahgainst the Stormers and still has plenty of time to regain his place.

        The Force back row work well together and provide good versatiity.

      • Rocky Elboa

        While I like the idea of Pocock, Hodgson and Elsom as a back three I would be worried about the lack of tall timber.
        Sharp and Horwill will probably be first choice locks, but I think they lack as a solid combination. While Sharp is becoming tactically sound I am not sure he is up for it long term and is always a risk of getting inured. Horwill and Sharp are cut from the same cloth and I don’t see a place in the starting 15 for both of them. With this in mind next choice is probably Mumm, but he is really a six used as a lock back up.
        So where does that leave us, Mumm a short lock but good jumper, Horwill not huge and not the best line out jumper, Sharp see above. Can we afford another Waugh/Smith combination in Hodgson/Pocock if we don’t have three other significant lineout jumpers?
        I think Deans needs to ensure some of the young locks coming through like Kane Douglas are giving a chance, someone like him with Sharp or Horwill, with Elsom as your third jumper gives you a solid forward pack that can match the lineouts of the world.

  • Spot

    Higginbotham suely?? Pacey, dynamic physical backrow monster…. word is that Deans also wants to see him get tight 5 excperience before 3N. why? must be in reckoning. Jim Williams a huge fan also.

    • This is the certainties or those who are already Wallabies. I think you will see Higginbotham in part two of this post.

    • Joe Blow

      HIgginbotham at 6 if Rocky moves to 8 gives you a very combative and sizeable back row.
      6 – Higginbotham
      7 – Pocock
      8 – Elsom

  • This is good stuff Lee. Can’t wait to see part two.

    • Lee, as in Lance frEE ?

      Top article Lance ;)

      • Lance Free

        Cheers Moses. Lee…Lance….I answer to both! I can’t wait to see Part 2 as well? Oh shit, that means I have to write it……

  • CanadianRugby

    Ioane is going to play 13. There is no one else who is even close in Australia. Get over it.

    Just because he plays a few games on the wing to give chambers a little game time doesn’t mean he should be moved from that test spot.

    This is directed to the general masses, Lance certainly got it right.

    • Seb V

      theres still enough games left for Horne to put his hand up. That will move diggers to wing.

    • Paris Tah

      Yep, Diggers at 13. He even has the special “13” headgear that shows where he wants to be.

    • Rocky Elboa

      I think we have three choices at 13, the issue is two of them play out of position too much. Ioane, Horne & AAC
      Personally I feel 13 is AAC best position and he can definitely come into contention if we find proper fullback. JOC is still a few years of in my opinion and again I think he playing out of his best option(12), Beale is making sounds but personally I would like to see Mitchell, Hynes and even Hux be given a go at the back for the Wallabies.

  • Ben

    Agree except Hynes is a better 15 than acc. Hynes is as good under the high ball and unlike acc he can actually pass. Acc has a problem passing to the open man.

    Mumm is a certain for lock….just look at thorne for nz….height is not everything.

    Gits at 12…..ioane at 13

    Backs look awesome

    • Gumby

      Ben. AAC is the best 15 we have at the moment and has proven that time and again. He was a Wallaby standout last season. He can cover the outside backs as well but comes to the fore at 15.

      I like Hynes a lot but I wouldn’t replace AAC with him. Hynes should be on the wing or on the bench.

      We have a plethora of young talent coming through but the current penchant for playing players out of their natural position does them and the Wallaby cause a great disservice.

      Players need to settle into a position and take ownership of it. It is useful if they are versatile as well to cover for an injury but the great Wallaby teams have had specialists in most positions across the field. Utility players come and go but are rarely remembered after a season or two.

    • Rocky Elboa

      Thorne is excellent at lock but he is best with someone like a Ali Williams a real tall lineout general, problem is we don’t have one (well neither do they at the moment)

  • Who Needs Melon

    I started off thinking you’d picked a really tricky way to do this in that there’s often a HUGE grey line between ‘cert’ and ‘challenger’ – i.e. maybe Forwards and Backs would have been an easier way for you to split. But you’ve sold me. I agree with you.

    Giteau still jars with me. Like Barnes, I’d love to have him drop out of the ‘cert’ category. I think critical to both their chances of making the Wallabies this year will be minutes in the 12 jumper… which is interesting since they’ve obviously both been chasing the 10 spot.

    Really looking forward to Part 2 now.

  • Well done Lance. Looks like everyone is waiting to kick the shit out of you on part 2! ;)

    • Lance Free

      I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised…..

      • Good move Lance, include every single eligible player in part 2. For example, DHP has a lot of potential at 15 for the Wallabies.

        • Newb

          i’d have him at waterboy/kit bag hoofer in a pinch

        • I hear he can cut an orange into 8 perfect 45 degree segments, could be worth a punt

  • Horne exceptional at #13. Maybe Ioane at wing gives him scope for the ‘surprise’ entry.Hynes will pressure AAC for #15, more pace! Higgenbotham looks good – big, strong, aggressive & fast. One out of left-field; what about Rocky at lock? Plenty of push, plays at #2 jumper half of the time anyway, lots of potential backrowers! Could be good with Sharpe; add Vickers and we’ve got three. I like Mummy in backrow anyway, tons of pace. We need to put more pressure on Cliffy to perform. Three names for two spots – Cooper, Barnes, Giteau! Can anyone get Gits to run straight and stop kicking every time he has his left foot free? Kurtley Beale is a rare talent. He sees things that we can’t even dream of.

    • Gumby

      Absolutely agree with you on Beale. I just don’t think anyone has figured out how best to utilise his prodigious talent.

      Horne looks great and Diggs on the wing would provide us with a powerful and punishing finisher.

      Can’t leave out AAC at fullback though. His courage, strength and power are the closest thing we have had to Matt Burke at his best. The only fullback that is near unstoppable near the tryline.

      • Patrick

        Does anyone outside of NSW really imagine that Horne looks better than Ioane at 13?

        • iaone is a good winger, horne is really a specialist 13, having them both in the team would be a good thing, i actually think a fit horne is the best 13 in australia, i know that will be written off as tahs bias but as i said, i want ioane in the team as well.

        • Noddy

          I do. I’d have Horne at 13 and Diggers on the wing. Much prefer Digby on the wing for the freedom it provides him.

        • Batmann

          Horne defends that midfield channel like no other.

        • jimmy

          Nope. Digby didnt look quite as at home on the wing on the weekend. They should pick him at his best spot (13) and fit others around. Picking Horne there and fitting Digby around him – thats a bit cart before the horse.

  • Reddy!

    I’d say you’re right!

  • louie

    burgess has been crap this year but will get in due to lack of depth

    • Pete

      Crap? Are you serious? I think Burgess has been very good this year. Obviously not as good as Genia but still one of the better 9’s in S14 and head and shoulders above the other aussie halves.

      • Newb

        i wouldn’t say crap either, but certainly hot and cold. crap at times, mediocre at others. perhaps really good in bursts. way too much of mixed bag to get anymore than 10 minutes on the park though.

      • gun

        Burgess is not the number two half, Holmes is much better and should start for the Tahs.

        • Batmann

          Totally with you there. That’s the last change they need to make to the side for the run to the finals. Burgess is inconsistent, great one game his usual self the next. Homes has looked good every time he has played.

    • Burgess would be close to the Wallabies’ best defensive back

      • Noddy

        when you say “close” do you mean friendly with? Because, yeah, he’s mates with Berrick.

        • Patrick


        • Pretty much, Berrick imho is our best defensive back, Burgess a close second.

  • Homer J

    Your challengers list will be interesting, for mine Anthony Faainga has been awesome in defence and getting the reds going forward. Shows commitment in everything including chasing kicks and cleaning out.
    Horne for the squad and Ben daley to be a a bolter.

  • Eggsie

    Van the Man at least in the squad to bolster the lock forward shortage ( and to roll some c$nts). I like the idea of Horne at 12 and Ioane at 13, would carve up the centre channel, whilst not creating the defensive question of JOC at 12.
    Agree re Hodgson, has had a great season. Also liked the look of the young bloke who replaced Waugh in the Tahs last week. (Still feel that Reds should start grooming FaingaaA as an openside to replace Braid next year – he plays like one anyway. Hanson could start coming off the bench whilst Hardman is fit)

    • reds fan

      FaingaaA – he’s the centre? did you mean FaingaaS?

    • Van might just be a little too long in the tooth unfortunately, although he certainly has mastered the art of being a hard man but remaining on the field (good luck with Byrnesy next year Rebels!)
      So I assume from your suggestion here that you are dumping Gits and Berrick? Big call – hard to bet against champions though. I think you might want to push everyone out one so Horne plays 13, Digby plays wing (or wherever he chooses) and leave Faingaa at 2…..Reds have a Shatz, Gill, Shaw, Quirk all still coming through the Academy with Higgers playing the house down.
      Bats Balls and Wheels

  • Robson

    The certainties list looks logical to me, but are there four games to play at home before the TN? Fiji, England x 2 and Ireland? Or is that Ireland x 2 and England. Either way I suspect the mix is going to change by the time we get to the TN, but maybe not significantly and maybe mostly because of injuries.

    Robbie Deans talks about curent form
    being the final decider. If that’s the case Giteau will have to rely on the 12 jersey fitting him, because it looks like he aint going to get the 10 jersey.
    That means there is no room for Berrick, but I would not want to see him at outside centre. Not fast enough and not big enough on the tackle, although Conrad Smith isn’t a powerhouse tackler either, but he always gets his man. Berrick will struggle at O/S centre with closing in on any opponent wanting to utelise space.

    Alexander – yeah, but he is going to have to find form at TH pretty quickly, because Laurie Weeks looks to be a great find to me.

    Looking forward to seeing the challengers list.

  • Ralph

    Good read. we allknow what Chizz has done or hasnt done at that level so why not give Ben Hand or Van Humphries a run. They both are number one locks for their state unions and call the lineout.
    Chris Alcock the bolter, Waughs backup for NSW
    You cant select Burgess, i think Holmes is going to take his tahs jumper anyways

  • Homer J

    There is nothing more infuriating than watching Burgess stand around at the back of the break down thinking for half an hour. Move him to inside centre.

    Chis is gone and never was. Rob SImmons goes alright but is young still.

    The big question is, who is the number three hooker right now? Not Cowan.

    • Fitzpatrick I reckon

    • Lance Free

      It would have to be Saia Faingaa who has developed into the Reds number one No 2.

  • Pedro

    Anyone else feel like our back line lacks size?
    Not that they’re not all pretty capable, but no obvious up and coming mortlockish players.
    I’m excited by all the young players coming through, lots of pace and skill, just no out and out meat axes.

    • Bobas

      I agree about the height, but the weights are still similar.

      I’m pretty sure AAC is the same weight as Mortlock but a good 10cms shorter.

      same weight and a lower centre of gravity.

      Same with that Masanga guy, 100ish kilos 180cms.

  • Conor

    I would still put barnes in there, if only because he was vice-captain last year, which means deans has confidence in him as a leader.

    • Bobas

      I would personally prefer Beale on the bench to Barnes.

      His intercept powers at the end of games come in handy.

  • Bobas

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how it will shape up.

    And I agree a lot with Lance’s Predictions.

    But Deans is funny about his selections. He will never move AAC (the player he unearthed) to the wing and is more likely to turn him into an outside centre and he will never drop Barnes and Chis, even if they didn’t play the whole super 14 as he is also inpartial to them.

    This is my prediction, not my dream team, based on form and the way Deans makes his selections.

    1 Benn R
    2 TPN
    3 Ben A
    4 Sharpe
    5 Mumm
    6 Rocky
    7 Pocock
    8 Palu
    9 Genia
    10 QC
    11 Ioane
    12 Giteau
    13 AAC
    14 Mitchell
    15 JOC

    16 Moore
    17 Baxter
    18 Chisholm
    19 Hodgeson
    20 Burgess
    21 Barnes
    22 Hynes

    • Gumby

      Bobas. I don’t think Deans sees AAC as an outside centre at all. When all the options are there he usually puts him at 15 where he belongs.

      If you look at 15 what do you want? Courage firstly and AAC has that in spades.

      You want a good defender and you can tick that box with AAC. Then you need someone who can enter the backline at pace and split the defence. Again AAC fits the bill; remember Brisbane last year and there are many other examples.

      You also want someone who is hard to take down at close range to the tryline. AAC again fits the requirement as at Twickers last year when he carried half the England Team 10 meters at full pace to score. He did that in SA as well.

      Then you want someone solid under the high ball. Well you can’t mark him down there either. If we leave him at Fullback to develop he could be our next “Great”. Kind of reminds me of the incomparable Matt Burke without the golden boots.

      Without trying to insult he is a better fullback all round than JOC.

      • Bobas

        AAC’s lighting it up with his predictable solidness for the Brumbies this year.

        Hence Hux taking his place this week…

        AAC is a 13, great defender, hard-fast runner, hard to take down. Kind of reminds me of Herbert and Mortlock.

        AAC did play in centre against the Barbarians under Deans in 2008 next to QC who was in 10.

        So its not out of the question, especially with JOC actually being a better kicker, play maker and a hell of a lot more unpredictable given time and space.

        Also, remember Burke actually played 13 when there were a plethora of form fullbacks in the team: Latham, Rogers, Walker.

        Ps. If you’re gonna explain that Hux took AAC’s fullback jersey as a horses for courses type thing due to injuries let me point out the irony of them being brumbies.

        • Robson

          I agree with you Gums about AAC at fullback and although Deans has played him at 13 I don’t think he sees him there as a career option. Don’t forget that Deans was a fullback himself, enormously courageous and accurate under the high ball and an immensely solid tackler just like AAC, but Deans had a better kicking game. I think Deans sees a bit of himself in AAC, but I also think that AAC does more damage coming into the backline than creating something himself. He offers the most when exploding on to the offload when someone else has made a half break. From 20 metres out he’s damn near unstoppable in that situation. He doesnt offer the same potency when he’s trying to create the space himself.

          It’s interesting that nobody has put their hand up for poor old Morts. He is, however, going to be very, very hard to replace and with all due respect, I don’t think that Ioane is the man. He’s enormously hard to stop, but he’s a powerful finisher not an instigator in my humble opinion. Once he has the ball under his arm he goes every which way to make progress and certainly does make it, but at outside centre he will lose his wingers and the attack will end up back in the middle of the park which is not where you want it to be with other fast players still unused.

          I’m pretty sure that nobody is going to agree with me here, but my long shot pick for 13 is JO’C. I realise that it would make for a very light looking backline (JO’C – 13, Gits – 12 & QC – 10) and admittedly that is less than positive.

          O’Connor, however, has shown in almost every match he has played in this year that he has an innate understanding on how to use space (like QC), even when it’s not there. An outside centre must be able to do that; which is the reason why Ryan Cross hasn’t succeeded in that role. Big, solid and reasonably fast but no idea on how to make the most of what is in front of him.

          Yeah – along with the second row and backup halfback(s), I think that 13 is the problem area.

        • Lance Free

          I actually think that Morty might be in the squad if he gets over his current injury, although probably not as the No 1 outside centre. Why else would the ARU top-up his contract if he wasn’t in the frame?

          Diggers has been the form Oz No 13 of the comp and is the current Wallaby incumbent. He hasn’t done anything to diminish his chances of selection in that position since last year and, in my view, no-one’s really come near him (although Horne is looking promising if he can stay injury fee). Centre or wing? Well, that’s the conundrum isn’t it……

          PS I like the ‘Rocky at No 8′ idea if Cliffy’s not up to it. He played the house down for Leinster in that position (as well as 6) last year.

        • Gumby

          Burke only really played 13 at the end of his career. When he was in his prime he was first choice at 15 and even Latham had to take the seat warmers role. A fully fit Burke at the peak of his career was a wonder to witness. AAC is a similar player.

          As for Hux playing in preference to AAC for the Brumbies; this has little to do with where he is best suited to play for the Wallabies. AAC is a 15 in my view but is a useful cover for elsewhere in the backline.

      • Robson

        Why else would the ARU top-up his contract if he wasn’t in the frame?

        Being in the frame is different from being in the team.

    • Newb

      i really like the starters bobas. especially if they actually get some time with a consistent set up to gel.

      the only thing i don’t like is the bench seems to be good for closing out games where the wobbs have a lead. but if we’re down by say 2 tries and everyone is gassed by the 60th minute, it would be mighty hard to come back from that kind of deficit.

      • Bobas

        who would you suggest?

        • Newb

          it’s hard to find more dynamic bench players without getting into bolters, which won’t be the case unless there are injuries. but just to name some – daley, weekes, horne, mccabe, a faingaa, etc.

          not very likely for the big matches.

      • Cameron

        Fair point. but sustained excellence for an entire 80 is going to get you over the line many more times than not. If you’re behind and you keep plugging away you are still in with a shot if your bench strength is ahead of theirs

  • Homer J

    The depth and young talent means the Australian Barbarian games against England will be fantastic to watch, and they will be a fair chance to smash them.

    The barbrians could look like:

    Holmes, Faainga, Daley, Byrne, Douglas, Dennis, Alcock, Hodgson, Holmes, Barnes, Faainga, Horne, Morahan, Turner, Beale.

    Pedro, Inman is a massive unit in the centres/wing who just needs some experience. Makes a few largish hits and saves tries with them.

  • Cameron

    Why not Rocky at lock? You want your best players on the park and it would open up another backrow spot for e.g Hodgson. So a back five of Sharpe/Rocky/Hodgson/Pocock/Palu. That could do some damage

    • Gumby

      Worth considering.

      • AndrewWA


        He’d be even better if he was prepared to train a bit more!!!

    • Patrick

      wtf? are the other responses to this tongue-in-cheek?

      Why not try Robinson at no 8, he adds size and runs really well with the ball?

    • Rocky Elboa

      Stupid this gives you one specialist lock and lineout jumper in Sharp
      We would get killed in the lineout and scrum, with current rules we maybe able to hold onto the ball but we would rarely see it and have f-all chance of winning it off them

  • Newb

    let’s just make you selector head honcho. i’d be happy.

  • mudskipper

    mudskippers 30… Probables

    Alexander, Moore, Robinson, Mumm, Sharpe, Elsom, Pocock, Palu
    Reserve Forwards: Hoiles, TPN, Hodgson, Hand, Chapman (or Chiz), Maafu, Higginbotham, Kepu

    Genia, Giteau, Barnes, Ioane, Mitchell, McCabe, AAC
    Reserve backs: Valentine, Cooper, Mortlock, Morahan, T. Smith, Toomua, Kingi

    • Gumby

      Mudskip. If Coops keeps playing the way he is Barnes will be warming the bench (assuming of course the team is picked on form).

      Also think it is time Beale was in the squad. He can play anywhere from flyhalf to fullback and as yet we have not seen what he is capable of.

      • Patrick

        which kinda sums up the problem doesn’t it? As opposed to say Cooper who has grabbed nearly every chance he’s ever got to show us!

        Same with JO’C.

      • mudskipper

        Yep Coopers could be in for Barnes… He does still have some brain malfunctions which worry me… but very talented…Barnes is more focussed. Who plays 10 or 12 doesn’t matter as they tend to swap around anyway during the set piece and phase play so its an academic argument. I think we need to see more from Beale but he may show that before the S14 season is out as he is getting more of a run these days… He looking fit again and is a good size quick back with excellent balance… I only added O’Connor in teh 30 to give him another year to grow but I’m not overly impressed and would rather see guys like Toomua, Morahan or McCabe get a run. I think these guys have more to offer the Wallabies on the field.

        I think Cooper has replaced O’Connor need in the match day 22.

        • Gumby

          JOC has still years ahead before he reaches his potential as good as he is now but he should be in the squad.

          As for Beale well if he doesn’t get injured he is just going to get better and better. There is a reason why the likes of Mark Ella, Bob Dwyer and many other vaunted Rugby mentors see so much potential in him. He has had a bad run of injuries and needed time to mature a bit as a person but if you could have seen him as a schoolboy you would have no doubt that he should be given every opportunity to develop.

  • ozimarko

    I’m way behind on the discussion because of my location in the Middle East. However, for what it’s worth, here’s what I think should be the group (first name is my preference for the position):

    1. Robinson

    2. Palota Nau / Moore / Faainga

    3. Alexander / Baxter / Weeks

    4. Sharpe / Chisholm / Hand

    5. Mumm / Higginbotham / Chisholm

    6. Rocky / Higginbotham / Mumm / Hodgeson

    7. Pocock / Hodgeson / Browne

    8. Palu / Browne / Higginbotham

    9. Genia / Burgess

    10. Cooper / Giteau / Barnes

    11. Hynes / Ioane / McCabe

    12. Giteau / Barnes / O’Connor

    13. Ioane / Chambers

    14. Mitchell / Ioane / McCabe

    15. O’Connor / Ashley Cooper / Hynes

    In relation to the forward pack, it speaks pretty much for itself. However, in my opinion, I think that it’s pretty clear that in order to keep up with the jarpies that we need more options in the line-out and grunt in the forward pack.

    The forward revelation for me this year is Higginbotham.

    That’s why I would submit that Higginbotham should start ahead of Palu (and potentially Mumm in the second row. However, having both on the park at the same time would be a sight to see). Higginbotham provides the height, speed, weight and anger around the park that I think Palu is lacking this year. Palu is the first choice presently for the Wallabies, but I wouldn’t discount giving Higginbotham a run prior to the RWC to see how he handles international football under the pressure of Tri-Nations.

    In the front row, I don’t think that there is any argument. The difficulty is who do you start at hooker? As for reserves, as much as I don’t like Baxter, you don’t make selections on emotions and unfortunately he might have started not playing like a dickhead and being targeted by the refs.

    For the second row, Sharpe definitely. But you also have to consider what will happen if he’s injured and who will be in a position to replace him. Chisholm has the experience that the others, save for Mumm (who should be partnering him) lack.

    In relation to the back row, there are so many choices. I agree that Pocock should be in the side (and probably start). However, given the nature of the current game, and notwithstanding his performance over the weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire Force back row are vying for the No 7 jersey. Remember the media hype last year was that Browne was being considered by the Reds as a replacement for Braid. As the Wallaby Captain (and an awesome international player), he’ll be the blindside flanker. However, I reckon (again) that Higginbotham or Hodgson based on current form, could start for him. I’ve already made by pitch for Higginbotham at No 8.

    The Backline should be a pretty straight forward thing for anyone to guess. You’ll notice however the omission of Turner. With the emergence of McCabe (big/tall bloke, strong ball carrier), I would put him ahead of Turner. This year Turner is not doing much against stronger competition. Although I rated him pretty highly in previous seasons. What you cannot discount is the combinations which have developed in the Reds. On present form (and preferred playing position for Gits), Genia and Cooper should start with Gits at inside centre. This will still provide the left and right footed kicking options. Barnes/O’Connor can cover both Gits and Cooper.

    Gits should be handed the vice-captaincy. However, in that regard, the Wallaby Captain and Vice-Captain from the same province could prove to be a political bombshell. I think that consideration will be given to Genia who is playing at a great standard with the added responsibility.

    The biggest debate will be where to play Diggers and that decision will infringe on the remainder of the backline. Who do we have in Australia that is dynamic as him as an outside centre? If we want a hard ball runner and big tackler with speed, in my opinion, Chambers has put his hand up and said “Pick me!”. In some ways he reminds me of Dan Herbert. Again, you have to consider the Reds combinations.

    I’ve given 5 considerations in relation to fullback: safety under the high ball, defence, kicking, speed, can make something happen. In my opinion, Ashley Cooper gets 3/5 while O’Connor gets 4/5. In my opinion, O’Connor should start.

    That leaves the wings. For me Hynes should start. He’s a great ball carrier and not scared to get involved. Mitchell is debateable. If Ioane is not outside centre, then he needs to be on the wing (in a roving roll as suggested by others).

    That’s my analysis for what its worth. I’m looking forward to getting bagged by you all!

    • Gumby

      Plenty of good analysis in that except for putting JOC at 15 ahead of AAC. I’d score them the other way around. JOC as good as he undoubtably will be is still a Pup in my view. Don’t see why you should expect a bagging.

      • ozimarko

        Thanks for the comment.

        I agree that JOC will be viewed as a pup still. However, that’s makes it even more attractive to select him. There are some things that I can’t get out of my head, such as AAC’s tears when we lost that forgetable match. He’s all heart and that’s why I found it difficult to put JOC ahead of him.

        But I think that we need to change our style of play and that JOC offers that little bit extra.

        As a relative newb to the forum, I would expect a ribbing from the vets….

        • Gumby

          Your view is just as relevant as anyone elses here. There are no snobs on G&G.

      • mudskipper

        JOC needs a good 2 years in the Shute shield…

    • Patrick

      no bagging that’s easily one of the more intelligent analysis at least you don’t think Elsom should play lock!

      • ozimarko

        Rocky definitely shouldn’t play lock.

        In my view the backrow should be able to fill each of the positions and interchange as often as possible. Take for example what the Crusaders have done this year: McCaw is at 6, Reid is at 8. Presumably, given the nature of the game now with the new rules, you would think that the world’s best fetcher would be playing his renowned position… You have to ask yourself why Blackadder (having been exposed to Robbie for so long) would have made that selection and put Whitelock at No 7? It’s not like the Crusaders don’t have an abundance of backrowers.

        Consider also, why would Smith retire just prior to the RWC unless he sees there being difficulty in what he’s good at?

        Lastly, take the style of play of the Reds at the moment. You cannot argue that the entire backrow of the Reds play the fetching role interchangably (when Leroy isn’t on the park) because the focus is now on the attacking team as opposed to the defence. Link has found something there…

        Let’s face it, the game has changed now. Given this line of thought, my recommendation above would be for Hodgeson to start at 7 with Higginbotham at 8 and Rocky at 6. When the opposition gets tired, that’s when you bring on Pocock (fetching and speed) to niggle and piss the opposition off…penalty time for us.

        It’s a similiar philosophy in respect of the Fullback and Wings. In my opinion, they should be interchangeable and cover eachother more. If you put AAC at outside center, therefore the combination of JOC, Hynes, Ioane/Mitchell, AAC popping up all over the park would be a nightmare for defence (that is providing that you think that Ioane can kick). Otherwise, your best bet is to have Ioane at outside center with JOC, Hines and Mitchell interchanging during games. Each have played the fullback roll for their respective provinces.

        As you can probably tell, I’m not one for playing conserative rugby and AAC at fullback would be conversative. I take the Brazilian football approach and say that our defence can be above Mid to High, but we need to score points and therefore our attack has to be spectacular – and we have the players to do that now.

        • ScrumJunkie

          Smith retired cause dumbo deans told him he’d have to train harder if he wanted to keep playing for the wallabies…

  • Who Needs Melon

    Jeez is this a record for most comments in a day or something? A sign that the up-and-coming young uns have got us all excited again? Or just damn fine journalism? :)

    • Gumby

      Both I reckon.

      • Bobas

        No thanks to you grumby, all you bring is some borderline AAC man-love.

        • Gumby

          Now Bobas. Don’t get the shits just because someone has an opposing opinion just as strong as yours. That’s what a forum is for.

          No man love here, but admiration for one of the very few Wallabies that last year stood tall when most of his peers wilted.

          When you look at the wreckage of last years Wallaby Tri Nations campaign why shouldn’t one of their most consistent performers be rewarded?

        • Bobas

          So a forum is for getting the shits? or a forum is for differing opinions?

          cos Grumby what you wrote was ambiguous you could read it both ways.

          Speaking of both ways

        • Newb

          bobas, need we mention your well known affections towards a certain former brumbies fullback now plying his trade in japan?

        • Gumby

          Bobas. You’re the only one that seems preoccupied with ambiguity and determining someones personal preferences based on a Rugby opinion.

          Personally this doesn’t cross my mind when I am on a Rugby Forum or just about anywhere else. Relax and don’t let it get personal.

        • Patrick

          I’m amazed that there is someone out there who loves a brumby more than Bobas!

  • I would go Digby at centre to make sure he gets the ball as much as possible. Ashley-Cooper at fullback.

  • Robson

    I’m a bit fazed that everyone seems to see Digby Ioane as a 13. Diggers can beat a man, sometimes two three and four men. No worries there, but the attack can then end up anywhere on the park. Beating your man is only a fraction of what a good centre has to do.

    At the top of his form Morto busted through tackle after tackle but he always maintained his line (unless he was deliberately coming back on the angle against the traffic – which he also did very well). So wingers always scored tries outside Morto. Other world class centres who knew how to run their wingers in were Joe Stanley, Bruce Robertson, O’Driscoll and Tana Umaga.

    I see Diggers as a finisher not an instigator even if he Robbie Deans did play him at 13 towards the end of the season. I think he had to.

    • Pedro

      I agree, Diggers is a great 13 but his game seems more suited to the wing. The wallabies are just a bit thin in outside centre and (for the moment) it’s hard to get excited about anyone else playing there. Hopefully some of the names being bandied about get a chance and show some form in the rest of the season.

    • I do rate hugely Diggers as a 13, he pretty much always gets over the advantage line in a way reminiscent of Mortlock in his prime, or more recently Ranger for the Blues.

      We’ve got plenty of quick blokes with the skillset for wing, and two fantastic 13’s in Ioane and Horne.

      I also reckon the kicking game of a winger is increasing in importance as the 11/14 tend to play more a back 3 role, how does Digby go with the ball on foot?

      • Robson

        Well Diggers does get over the game line for sure, but he doesn’t always recover his line after doing so. Rene Ranger can step but always comes back on his line straight after. But mostly he just powers straight ahead.

        As for Digger’s kicking game – I’ve never actually seen him kick. Or more correctly I can’t remember him ever kicking. But that might have something to do with the kicking my own head took on the bottom of a lot of rucks in the olden days.

  • AJK71

    Just hope the selectors remember next year is the World Cup & need to pick the young players NOW so they get International experience. This may mean experienced players need to miss out this year (Mortlock, Waugh, Baxter, etc) but if they are in form during the 2012 S15 pick them in the World cup squad.

  • Happy Hooker

    Fatcat, TPN, Ben A, Sharpe, Chisholm, Elsom, Pocock, Palu (has he resigned with ARU?), Genia, QC, AAC, Gits, Digby, Hynes, JOC.

    Res: Mumm, Barnes, Moore, Baxter/Weeks, Hodgson, Burgess, Mitchell

    Unfortunately for Hodgo and Mumm their versatility makes them perfect bench players.
    Mitchell is way too inconsistent and prone to fark ups to make the 15 but sneaks into the 22.

    Developement Tourists:
    1. Weeks
    2. Fitzpatrick
    3. Palmer
    4. Hockings
    5. Douglas
    6. Higgers
    7. Either Hooper or Alcock (and young Liam Gill looks the goods too)
    8. McCalman
    9. Kingi
    10. Hangers
    11+14 Young Reds wings
    12. A. Faingaa
    13. Horne
    15. Kurtley

    Old blokes like Waugh/Baxter/Morty just can’t cut it with this new crop coming through.

    • Robson

      So right. There are guys still giving yeoman service to their provincial colours but internationally they can only bring yesterday’s game to the table.

  • AJK71

    Reckon Gits is a chance to play 13 with Barnes 12 & Cooper 10. Gits has the pace & loves to play with time & space, & think he made Wallaby debut at 13. This would let Deans pick Barnes (a favourite of his) to help cover Coopers defence issues & put an experienced, proven performer who’s in good current form at outside. With Genia at 9, Diggers & Mitchell in 11 & 14, & ACC at 15 it would make a lethal combination.

  • terra6

    I think AAC HAS to be at 15, Hynes and JOC are good, but AAC is world class! But I think the team line up will depend on what Robbie wants to achieve more. Does he want to win the Tri-Nations this year, or does he want to win the World Cup next year? If he wants the RWC then I think we can expect a lot of ‘bolters’. The likes of, the Faingaa twins, Pat Phibbs, Matt Toomua, Ben Hand, Mark Gasnier, Will Chambers, Rob Horne, Ben Mowen, Leroy Houston and Christian Lealiifano(if fit)

  • Tom

    When will your Challengers blog be written? not hurrying you, just wondering im really excited for it.

    • Lance Free

      Tom – you’re keen alright! I’ve already written it. I tried to post it last night and this morning but we’ve been having some ongoing problems with our system so couldn’t.

      I’ve got a couple of amendments to make to it but I’m hoping to put it up tonight – if I get home from work in good time. I’m off to Cairns on business tomorrow for a few days so am flat out.

  • Pingback: 2010 Wallabies: The Challengers (Forwards)()

  • Thank you for spelling it out so clearly, when i started learning about this I was a skeptic, but now I’m constantly looking for info. Thank you once again, I hope you don’t mind if I link this tomy blog so my readers can reap the benefits of this info aswell Thanks


Roscoe Tims (aka @LanceFree): A nasty, opinionated little man whose views are indeed narrow with a capital 'N'. Favourite Sport: mungo bashing. Does he ever have anything positive to say?

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