5 things we learned from the Wallabies v Pumas test
Rugby

5 things we learned from the Puma test

5 things we learned from the Puma test

Prior to this season, the last time the Wallabies played the Boks in Brisbane, we lost. The last time we played the Pumas in Mendoza, we lost. So things seem to be on the up as we sit atop the Rugby Championship ladder. But we do we take from our latest win over Argentina? Let’s start with these five things.

Super Pooper is fantastic – defensively ferocious.

For the second test in a row the starting openside flanker for Australia (Hooper v South Africa; Pococok v Argentina) was an absolute powerhouse from the kick-off. For the second week in a row, their performance was enhanced by the introduction their ‘competitor for the position’ (Pocock v South Africa and Hooper v Argentina).

What the two tests have shown is that Australia has a couple of brilliant options here and the challenge for coach Cheika is how he uses them. Their physicality in defense is incredible, while their their running game is a similar asset, with Pocock proving many doubters wrong in particular this test.

There is a long held selection belief that you determine your fifteen best players and then work out how to fit them into your team. Going by this, then GAGR’s own Pooper (a Pocock / Hooper combo) needs to start.  The chance to try this out before the RWC now seems curtailed by Hooper’s likely suspension for striking against the Pumas.

Will it mean Cheika tries to replicate the impact this duo has made against the All Blacks?  Perhaps a McMahon – Pocock combination (McCock?) or even Gill-Pocock (Gocock)? Regardless of the combination chosen, and whether they start together, this Wallaby team will definitely miss the impact from the bench that the Hooper / Pocock combination has provided them.

Cheika’s pivotal decision

Who plays 10 (and by extension perhaps, 12) for the Wallabies was not answered last week against the Boks, and wasn’t really clarified this weekend against the Pumas. Unfortunately a concussion to Matty Toomua robbed us of the chance to see him get a proper run at 12. Further Quade Cooper’s early introduction to the game, in an albeit un-preferred position, hardly strengthened his claim to the starting flyhalf spot.

The starting flyhalf, Bernard Foley, displayed some nice touches in attack however was below average in defence and similarly with his kicking.  His two try assists can’t be discounted, but he does not look the controlling general World Cup winning sides tend to boast.

Cooper last week was like a meditation weekend – deep and quiet.  This week he was more like a junior school dance – plenty of movement, but no real chance of scoring. Flashes of the usual brilliance was there to see, but neither was it the type of rugby that you can see win us a high intensity match such as a Rugby World Cup final.

So where does that leave us going forward? The week off for both may perhaps provide a chance to see a 10 Giteau 12 Toomua combination in what would be our third different combination so far this season.  The importance of this decision means that the Wallaby selectors need to mix things up in order to discover our best combination. It’s just a shame our chances of them settling in are diminishing as the season progresses.

May I approach the bench?

Perhaps the stand out performance for the Wallabies so far in season 2015 has been the collective impact the bench has had on the outcome of the two tests played. Against South Africa it was Pocock along with Nick Phipps, Greg Holmes, Scott Sio and James Horwill. This weekend gone it was Hooper, Dean Mumm, Sekope Kepu and Kurtley Beale who provided the lift.

I’m not sure what it means. I don’t think our depth is necessarily any greater than previous years (although having Pocock back is a fair boost).  Could it simply be part of the preparation and Cheika’s ability to get the most of the players and clearly communicate their roles? Maybe the fact it’s a Rugby World Cup year the players are just a whole lot more motivated to perform.

Regardless of why it is, what it means is that we have, firstly, been able to come back from a deficit to win a tight game and, secondly, close a game out and run away with an important bonus point win. All through the direct impact of our bench men.

Long may it continue.

 A Slippery slope?

One of the perhaps more under the radar discussion points all Super Rugby season, was the form of James Slipper with the Reds. Slipper was immense in 2014, but played a hell of a lot of footy. As the 2015 season started, it seemed we started to see some impact of this substantial workload on his performances.

The workload was still there, although perhaps without the same high quality. More so, he seemed incapable of finishing a match and looked a broken man more often than not, whilst trudging off the Suncorp Stadium playing surface.

There is no denying that Slipper is the Wallabies #1 prop forward and provides a flanker-like work rate around the field. However the impact seems to be fading and another early finish (this time before half time) has got many of us fans unsure.

To further put the pressure on Slipper, the re-emergence of Scott Sio and his form at both scrum time and with the ball in hand, is becoming very difficult to ignore. How the Wallaby decision makers handle Slipper for the rest of the year will prove a decisive factor in those key Rugby World Cup preliminary matches.

Skelton Smash

Will Skelton was largely maligned after his performance v the Boks in Brisbane last weekend.  Whilst he didn’t have the impact he enjoyed in his debut against France last year, some of the criticism was a tad over the top.

Whilst Skelton wasn’t perfect against the Pumas, we saw the reason why Cheika wants him in the team. It’s also the reason why YOU, a Wallaby fan, want him in the team. Whether you know it or not.

Skelton is one physical mofo. Which you would hope for a 140kg behemoth.  But he is our enforcer. To charge the forward rush, ball in hand and to drag in numerous defenders. To lay the hit on the opposition runners, even if occasionally it’s a little after the ball has been passed.  He’s the Mat Cockbain-Toutai Kefu-Owen Finegan uncompromising type of forward we’ve all been waiting around for for ages.

Well he’s here and he’s staying. We need Skelton in the pack when we take on Wales and England. We need him to be the ruck monster that has the All Blacks a little more wary of our usually quite pack. More game time the better and I’m backing Cheika to have him fit and firing on all cylinders by the big matches in the Rugby World Cup.

  • Bobas

    Great article!
    Slipper’s decline has reminded me a little of James Horwill, and although it was only one good performance by Horwill that has reignited my faith in him, I think he should be the one to get into his ear. Its only a timing and confidence thing with Slipper, great players cant be kept down. Just ask Kuridrani.

  • John Tynan

    Surely Pocock + Gill = Pill. And I would take a Pill to beat McCock….

    • Bobas

      Hooper and Pocock could also be Hocock, but only Eddie Murphy would want that.

    • Moose

      I’d like to see CockMahon in action. IllCock won’t have the same penetration.

      • Moose

        Dear mods, I’ve noticed you’ve recently taken a stance against parochial and player-bashing posts, and I applaud you for it. However I’m curious as to your position on posts making puerile portmanteaus from players’ surnames and off-colour jokes involving same? No particular reason I’m asking.

    • idiot savant

      I suppose a Cockbotham is out of the question?

  • Bobas

    I’m still not a fan of Skelton’s play against the Dive’ntineans, both his penalties were negligent advantages if he had got away with them… and the flow on effect is other players get yellowed for similar errors. His running was good, but he still couldn’t catch and bust (like the greats), he needed time to get set, like a rugby league forward taking and hit up.

    • Rick

      Penalties aside 140kg is a lot of mammal to get moving even from a rolling start. Will is always going to need a few strides to wind up. So not taking the ball btw two hands on the burst is something he shouldn’t be judged on. Will is there to jam his frame in peoples faces and break stuff…something I think he does well and will only get better at.

  • Well said Reg.
    Cooper is killing me. I’m a real fan and think he’s brilliant, but is he off the mark at the moment or is the team around him off the mark ? What am I missing here ?

    • Robbo_76

      I think a lot of it is game time and him getting into the rhythm of rugby again. I still think he is our best 10 and would like to see him there against the ABs but ironically his play at 12 was not as good as Foley’s at 10 which means that the knives will be out for him. I thought his game at 10 against SA was good though albeit without more direct and flatter play that everyone seems to think is essential in every game (I thought playing deep against SA was a team tactic early to ensure the ball would get wide and not be shut down by and up and in defence, but the second half he didn’t change much). I am unsure whether he will improve more – I hope so because we need more from a 10 than we’ve got from Foley in his solid tenure thus far. I wonder whether him playing with Toomua would straighten his play more and for the better?

    • Bobas

      As a Larkham fan, I am biased and favour Coopers long passing game. He was the only one who could have exploited the Pocock overlap against the Argies, and had it been Mumm catching the pill we would have scored. I think we have to play him into form, we have more to gain in doing so and with the forwards and the straight runners setting up such good ball in the second half.

      • Simon

        Agree. Cooper is a confidence player and his confidence just isn’t there. It’s only been there in fits and starts since 2011. If you look at the “Quade Cooper tribute” videos on YouTube, you’ll see Cooper magic that you just don’t see these days. His passing game is still awesome, the best in Australia and easily and one of the best in the world, but his running seems to have deserted him.

      • Garry

        Cooper is at his best when he has straight fast running options coming off him. Run hard into the gaps, and he’ll put it on your chest. Unfortunately that familiarity, and confidence to play at the coal face takes time. And to use the Hannibal Lector ‘tumbler pidgeon’ analogy, two crabbers, like QC and Giteau together in the 10/12, they aren’t going to be as effective as say straight running Tooma at 12.

  • idiot savant

    Agree with the lesson Reg. Part of me thinks that injecting one half of the Pooper after half time pumps adrenalin into the Wallaby veins at the right time to win matches – the back half. I wonder if another reason for bench impact is that our scrum platform gets better. 4 good props now? or have we just played 2 experimental reserve front rows? Mental fragility exposed at 12? Cheks, that was cruel. (But hey people we need a reserve 10). With you on Skelton. Cheks is getting him fit for the big dance.

    • Cramps

      Good reasoning. Pocock at 8 is becoming a great sight

      • ForceFan

        I doubt if Pocock can be turned into a reliable Line Out option in 10 weeks.
        It didn’t happen at the WF and he’s been rarely used at Brumbies.

      • Sam

        I love it too and the lineout still seems to get the job done when he is there. I think it is Pocock at 8 that gets the scrum working better – he actually pushes. Higgers and McCalman seem to Meerkat all the time and forget to push..

  • Simon

    Sounds a bit weird to say this about a nearly 150kg guy, but I think Skelton needs to step more in attack to get across the ad line. The way his effectiveness in attack has dropped off seems to be due to the fact the opposition has worked out to tackle him i.e. round the ankles. I saw the Argies take him down a few times that way, and then one run he stepped round an ankle-tackle and made about five metres, taking three defenders to bring him down. It was much more like the Skelton we saw last year in his first games.

    He did well against the Pumas’ props and loose forwards who are much more up-the-guts than others, so I think Cheika was justified leaving him on all game. But I don’t think that will work as well against the All Blacks, whose forwards (even Coles the hooker) are much fleeter runners.

    As for the backs, I think the 10-12 issue has resolved itself more by omission than anything else. It needs to be Giteau and Toomua with Phipps at 9 for the Bledisloe. Possibly Lilo on the bench come RWC time.

    • Patrick

      He needs to offload more, like Folau, then support the recipient and try and get more broken play possession.

      • Dally M

        He has to have someone to offload to.

        In the Boks gams twice there was no support when he went to ground & we turned the ball over easily.

        Quite often you see him turn in a tackle to offload, but there is no one there ready to receive it.

        • Seb V

          Agree with this, our support play is lacking.

      • Simon

        Agreed… but offload only after he’s drawn the three defenders. Not much point if he’s getting chopped down around the ankles by a single tackler.

    • Joy

      I disagree that Skelton should look for gaps in the defensive line. His basic play should be to make for a gap then sidestep back into the defender at the last moment. This causes the defender to miss time his tackle and allows Skelton to make a big hit. To my mind, this is what he is there for. Pick out the biggest bullies and give them some of their own medicine. He could start by picking out Whitelock in a fortnight’s time. His stepping and offloading ability should be used sparingly as a surprise tactic.

      • Simon

        I’m not saying he should look for gaps. I’m saying he needs to step (sideways or over) the ankle tackles so that he can make ground. He doesn’t make any big hits when he’s got a bloke holding onto his ankles, he just falls over.

  • StewedP

    Skelton was a liability for most of the first half – 2 penalties, ineffective tackles and no ability to break the defensive line.

    • Known Rugby

      http://gfycat.com/FastKindheartedAvocet

      The penalties were silly though.

    • Spank

      I am likewise NOT a Skelton fan but I can now understand Cheika wanting to persist with him. Given his size and aggression he is one of those who could be a great player, a special player. Once he learns how to use his bulk in the scrum and partnered with someone equally big and special (say Arnold) we may have a pack to genuinely threaten, especially with other special players like Pocock and Hooper. Need a good front row of course but we are going in the right direction there with Sio and co.

    • You mean apart from those two times he went straight through the Argentinian line? Was I watching a different match?

      • StewedP

        Most of the first half I said. He broke the line at about the 30 minute mark but was effectively brought down by the second line of defence.

  • Marcus Pontmercy

    Chheesus the online comunity is calling for hoopers head. Those welsh and poms want him out for 6 weeks!

    • Bobas

      I love it how half of them are saying he should get “Horwill’s Lawyer”, referring to the B&IL tour when he got off a stamping charge for not having x-ray vision when he accidentally stepped on someone. Short memories when they won a world cup by forcing a prepubescent Giteau on to cover for Larkham with major concussion and stitches after this POS move: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uctH9KDAJg

      • Patrick

        That was a dog act. Closely matched a few years later by the Welsh FB taking out Berrick Barnes about 30 seconds after the ball had gone, although in that case Mortlock ended up fixing the Welshman up with one of the all-time big hits.

        • Keith Butler

          Nothing wrong with Larkham tackling but then hanging on to Cohen’s leg to prevent him following up the play clearly a professional foul. Same with Sanchez on Hooper who coped a right hand/fist for his trouble. Cohen trying to free leg gets Larkham in the face but cannot see him. Same as Horwill not seeing Wyn Jones when he stamped on his head and was not suspended. You cannot have it both ways.

      • Harri Morrow

        Still mak me dirty. Cohen is such a tosser. Always has been always will be.

    • Fatflanker

      Given there is no definitive footage of a closed fist or connection with the head and given the kid-gloves treatment Jannie du Plessis got for king-slapping Laurie Weekes on the back of the head it will be interesting to see how SANZAR justifies banning Hooper at all. They will though.

  • Cramps

    The ‘McCock’ had me in fits!

    • Parker

      If the McCock fits…

      • Boris

        I think Mumm played 6 on the weekend so technically we also had a Mummcock which is a bit concerning
        Or we could start TPN and play moore in the backrow if we need moorecock
        ok I will stop now

  • There were definitely positives, yes.

    Slipper is a big worry.

    The tendency to give away silly penalties is a worry.

    The tendency to have the defensive line cut regularly is a worry. Against a side, with all respect to Argentina, who take opportunities better than Los Pumas, the Wallabies will ship a lot of points if they give up that many line breaks.

    It was an impressive performance, but the scoreline and the last 15 minutes as Los Pumas faded papered over some really worrying cracks.

    • Spank

      Good write up and pretty much agree with the main article and observations. Agree with the comentimmediately above though that Slipper is a worry. If has been suggested he is injured (shoulders and ankle) then give him a rest and give Toby Smith a chance. If Toby takes his chance then so be it. Hopefully he would. Let’s remember he was brought up playing in NZ.

  • ForceFan

    So Skelton’s “here and he’s staying”??

    So if we compare Test Skelton against Super Rugby Skelton what do we get?
    (TWAS gave us a run down of his SXV averages).

    – 5m more run per game (2.7m/run v 1.8m/run)
    – Fewer Passes and Off Loads.
    – About the same Def Beaten and Clean Breaks
    – 1 less Line Out Won per game (av 0.6 in Test rugby)
    – Additional tackle made but also additional tackle missed.
    – Nil tries
    – Nil Turn Overs
    – Additional Penalty per game.
    – Ruck Monster? Severe drop off in rucking capability as game progresses.
    Against Boks – rucks per 10 minutes – 4,4,3,2,2 (As % fwd rucks – 10,25,18, 8, 6)
    Against Pumas – rucks per 20 minutes – 12, 4, 5, 1 (As % of fwd rucks – 21, 10, 10, 7)
    – Slow shuffle after 50 minutes. But still good when the games comes to him.

    Some of the current est Skelton could be a problem for us at RWC time.

    This comparison after only 2 Tests.
    Looking forward to the comparison after the 2 Tests against the ABs.

    • Utah

      Great stats again ForceFan.

      • RobC

        Totally agree! Excellent stats FF, thanks. you da man

    • Graeme

      Subbing him at 50 for a line out jumper and bringing on pooper is not such a bad thing.

    • Hugh Cavill

      Really hard to judge after two tests, not big enough sample to take any meaningful lessons.

      Also the stats will never be kind to Skelton. He’s not suited to that sort of thing. You can’t measure ‘defenders attracted’, or ‘blokes hurt’, despite the fact he regularly attracts 2-3 tacklers and put on some seriously bruising shots in the late stages.

      And I’d also guess that very few players would replicate their Super Rugby stats at Test level.

      • Brendan Hume

        it was great to see the 4 and 5 combine for that huge hit during the Argies game. Can’t remember who it was on, but it was a bloody cracker.

      • Utah

        You’re right Hugh. The stats will never tell the whole story with Skelton. Maul effectiveness, impact at collision, defenders pulled in (as you said). However, they are the kind of stats you can’t get anywhere else. I don’t think anyone collates that sort of stuff. They give a unique insight into activity at the breakdown, which in the past we have often judged on ‘the vibe’.

      • ForceFan

        Of the 14 Forwards who have played in the 2 Tests of the TRC there are 5 players whose Ruck involvement has been ABOVE their SXV 2015 average (some well above). They are Fardy, Hooper, Higgers, McCalman and Holmes.
        There are 4 Players whose involvement has been the same as SXV: Slipper, Moore, Sio and Horwill.
        That makes 9/14 who are at or above their SXV work rate.

        There are 5 players whose involvement have been BELOW SXV level: Kepu, Simmons, Skelton, TPN and Pocock.
        This tells me those who put in the extra effort, those who keep doing what they do whenever, and those who, for whatever reason, are struggling at the next level – at least in their appearances in the TWC so far.

        • Hugh Cavill

          But none of the 5 blokes you mention are ‘struggling’ at all. I mean, David Pocock has been MoTM in his one start, and great off the bench in the other! Simmons and Skelton were both great against Argentina too.

          I love the work that you do, FF, but the ruck stats are just one metric and we should be careful we don’t put too much emphasis on them. Especially after just two games, both of which the Wallabies won.

        • ForceFan

          I didn’t use the word “struggling” at all.
          The comments were supplied to respond to your perception re Test performance versus SXV.
          I agree Ruck stats are only part of the picture but as far as Forwards are concerned it’s a key aspect missing from most assessments.
          For instance, our Front Row has about 30-35% less involvement in Rucks than their All Black or Springbok Counterparts. One reason why we need a hard working Back Row to make-up.

        • Joy

          They can’t all be in the ruck at once. The stats are not comparable because the the players are different and the team is different.

      • Klaus

        I am not sure about that. I think after two tests you can get a fair idea of how someone is going. In saying that though they were two different games from Skelton. One thing I believe he needs to do when running with the ball is when he does take out two defenders to get to the ground straight away rather than turning or twisting. This only slows our ball down and makes it difficult for his own team mates to clean out properly. Also he needs to get rid of the silly penalties like Simmons has done with his game in the last 12 months.

      • Nick

        I’d love to see a “Blokes Hurt” stat. Maybe we could compile it at GAGR as a staple part of any match report? Have an end of season award for most blokes hurt. Just another tool in the GAGR stat arsenal!

        • Rob Hill

          That award would go to Pocock or Moore, not Skelton. As for ‘defenders attracted’ it’s an easy stat. You look at the number of blokes wearing a different colour jersey when he dies with the ball, even against Argentina that was usually 1 or 2 (out of five total runs according to some stats) at BEST, that means he attracted ten defenders in 80 minutes.

          Not enough work IMHO. We all seem to band on about what we NEED out of Skelton because of his bulk, and I agree that all of those qualities would be HUGELY valuable, but I can’t see him hitting a single one of those targets after the halftime break. He’s still a 40 minute impact player, who has managed to last 80 minutes this season by hiding away from the work and getting others to cover for him.

        • Nick

          Some people just see what they want to see I guess.

        • Rob Hill

          I was thinking the same thing exactly

  • Utah

    What stands out for me so far this season is the lack of injuries the Wallabies have experienced so far. I can’t remember a season where we’ve had so many of our front line players available. When was the last time we had the majority of these guys fit and playing together; Pocock, Moore, Cooper, Genia, Palu, TPN. Not to mention younger guys like Sio who was out last year. This has bolstered our depth, which in turn has bolstered our bench, and IMO added that bit of starch to get us over the line.

    • Moose

      Lack of injuries played a big part in the Tahs last two seasons performance as well. Can’t just be luck?

      • Utah

        I know. Waratah’s haven’t looked like getting injured the last two years under Cheika. Fitness maybe? I think the Wallabies is just luck that they’re all fit. But I’ve been wondering for a while if the Waratah’s training program is somehow beneficial in that regard.

        • Dally M

          They switched to a new training regime when Cheika took over, whether he brought it in or it was coincidental.

          It designs specific training for different types of player roles and individual needs.

          http://spartapoint.com/

  • Patrick

    I really wish someone would pull together a video showing me how Skelton does so much more than what gets captured in the stats.

    I just don’t see it when I am watching. I especially don’t see him make an impact in a lot of rucks!! There are good examples, such as when he contributed to holding up an Argie (but I thought the work had already been done by the first two tacklers), or shoves an entire pack a metre back (but not in scrums!!) but lots more where he misses the ball or arrives late.

    I did like the attempt to have him lifting at the back, I thought that seemed an obvious use of him.

    But overall I don’t get that feeling watching him that he is adding more than anyone else. When I look at the stats, it seems like he is adding less, and that doesn’t strike me as any different to what I saw.

    • Rob McKay

      The GAGR crew did a stats piece on the Wallaby lock candidates a few weeks ago – dig it up and have a read – it will answer most of your questions. Akin to that, by the stats I have seen, the two outstanding Australian locks in Super Rugby were Skelton and, curiously, Luke Jones. NFI why he’s not in the team, but that too has been captured elsewhere on GAGR.

      • Patrick

        I did read that, it didn’t convince me that Skelton should be a starting lock (although I am very much one of the “where the f.. is Luke Jones?” crowd after that).

        Hence I would like to see that there is over and above his stats which aren’t that flash!

        • Rob McKay

          A few things, some quantitative, most qualitative. Firstly, I can’t think of a better legal maul diffuser in Australian rugby. He takes space, has strength and long arms, which means he can legally disrupt mauls. Critical, especially the way the balance in mauls has shifted to the attacking team due to the way the ball carrier “swims” backwards and therefore is hard to reach for the defenders. Secondly, as a lineout lifter. Sure, it’s unlikely anyone will lift him, although I think he’s a good option at 2, even without the jump. Used sparingly, his sheer physicality and an accurate throw will see wins there. However, as a lifter, what better foundation? We saw one (perhaps two?) against the Argies, and very effective too. Thirdly, mongrel/presence/X-factor. Still very much a work in progress but these are qualities that give a team the edge. Having seen him develop over the past couple of years (let’s not forget how quickly he has come on), I see a very positive trendline. A few others, but I’ll finish with this one – he forces the opposition to do things differently. Do you want to run down his channel? How many are needed to tackle him? All behaviours that create opportunity elsewhere for others. Still raw, but developing nicely. I’ll have two to takeaway please.

        • Patrick

          Yes, I can see the maul defense, although he isn’t always effective here.

          As a lifter, perhaps, and I did mention I like the idea of exploiting him as a single lifter at the back, but I haven’t noticed him lifting particularly often, and not not on steals where I would expect all the factors you cite to matter the most.

          As for the the behavioural change, I think I’d rather run down Skelton’s channel than Retallick’s or Etzebeth’s or Du Plessis’, let alone Burger’s, and I’d commit exactly one international forward to tackling him. This is in fact exactly what I am not seeing in games, but I appreciate that I might just be missing it, which is why I would love someone to do a video on it!

        • Rob McKay

          Our opposition has to choose between running his channel, or Simmons’ channel (in terms of locks). Need I say more?

          At the moment, he is generally tackled by two or three, sometimes four, players, which sucks up defenders. He is working on a step, and he can also offload, so that creates all sorts of opportunities. He’s certainly not the finished product – nowhere near it, but I can see his rawness being shaped. Again, cast your memory back two years and have a look at his development curve – it’s a positive one. Would love a couple more of him!

        • Patrick

          I will certainly pay you the positive development curve, and RugbyReg’s comment that he may be more valuable on NH fields against their packs.

        • Rob McKay

          Good point – forgot to acknowledge RugbyReg’s comment. I agree with him – maul diffusion will be key in RWC and big Willy is at the heart of that.

        • Joy

          Skelton lifted Simmons for the steal late in the game. Simmons ended up 2 feet higher than the Argi jumper two places back for an easy intercept. Skelton should be used as a lifter more often.

        • Patrick

          I had missed that, thanks – glad to hear and yes I agree he should be used more often!

  • Langthorne

    Great write up RR!

    On the ‘Pooper’, I’m not sure Cheika will bother with another bench 7 if (when) Hooper is suspended (please plead guilty early Hoops!). If there really was another 7 of the same standard, then maybe, but I don’t see it. I would say that Gill does offer a decent lineout option in addition to his other skills as a 7. More likely, Cheika will go with a Lock/6 and a 6/8.

    • Hambone

      one word… mcmahon

  • jamie

    Could you have fitted in more puns Mr Reg

  • RobC

    Thanks Reg! Excellent thoughts. Mine, in reverse order:
    – Big Willy much better. But not 100% confident in scrums vs ABs. Only one way to find out
    – Rest Slips, test Sio
    – The bench diff this year? depth at front row, 2nd row, flankers, flyhalf, centres, wings. And Izzy. No depth / form = KICKERS!!! Arggggghhhh-gghhghggrrraaaaaaaggghh! (thats two words)
    – flyhalf? Easy. Which one can can kick from 5m in? Or even from 20m in.
    – Skel-Pooper will be killed by AB lineout

  • Brendan Hume

    If defence has been the biggest impact of a two openside strategy, I hope Gill get’s his chance at the Bledisloe.

    Hope Toomua can get up for another game preRWC. Certainly numerous concussions would have the specialists concerned. Pity we haven’t seen the Cooper/Toomua 10/12 pairing that was so strong at the 2013 Spring Tour.

    I think Slipper was concussed (that was the comment during the game) so not sure how much can be read into that. I thought he did, and has done for a long time, a good job at the scrum and is still working hard around the paddock. If the Wallabies are there at the pointy end of the comp, Slipper will be right there in the #1 jersey and deservedly so.

    Skelton has improved markedly on his 2014 performances – still needs to push himself hard and be a bit more accurate with his use of his size and he’ll be lock himself into the gold for a good while to come. Not sure if he has 10kg to lose, but gee I reckon it would improve him as a player if he could do it.

    • Chris Philippi

      With you on slipper.. he took a heavy hit and was concussed. Not long after he was removed. He’s the goods but I also agree that a rest might not go astray?

  • CBailey

    As for who we should be looking at for the number 10 &12 jerseies, I would love to see Giteau AAC combo with Izzy on the wing and KB at Fullback. KB or Gitaeu may also offer an alternative as a place kicker

  • ForceFan

    Re Skelton Smash
    I acknowledge the potential of Will Skelton and what he MAY bring to the Wallabies.

    His best aspects are very good and not offered by many other players. I have stats on his games over the past 12 months (SXV and Tests). IMO, at this stage, we don’t see his best often enough to justify his ongoing selection over players such as Arnold, Jones or Coleman. Certainly not for this RWC but he’s young enough to be a force for the 2019 RWC.

    In his G&GR Lock assessment, TWAS struggled to provide sound justification for Skelton’s selection.

    Skelton put in a poor performance against the Boks and it wasn’t that much better against the Pumas.

    May I respectfully suggest that keen Skelton supporters watch the Puma’s test again and just focus on Skelton. This is what you will see:

    TACKLING: He was credited with 9 Tackles. Apart from frequently tackling players
    without the ball you will see few tackles without assistance. There was the single dominant tackle on Diaz late in the game (73:46) which has lots of WOW factor but didn’t change the game. At 51:22 he makes a move on a lone scrum half in possession and, rather than wrap him up in a dominant tackle, eventually grabs his jersey but doesn’t prevent the eventual successful offload. He has made 13 of 16 tackle attempts in 2 Tests (81%). In 1.6 games that makes nearly 2 missed tackled per game.

    BALL CARRIES: He was credited with 5 carries for 30metres. Skelton made 4 of his 5 ball carries in the first half. The 5th was at 49 minutes. In 3 of his runs he was brought down by a single tackler. 2 tacklers were involved in 2 of his runs. With ZERO offloads and ZERO passes meant that little was made of his carries.

    DISCIPLINE: His constant tackling of players without the ball is a liability. He opens
    himself up to be penalised a lot more. I also have concerns about his “friendly fire”
    hits during cleanouts upon his team mates. The best example of this was at
    15:35 when his cleanout of Fardy (on Fardy’s side) opened up the ruck to a Puma
    turn over. The other example was his head-high hold in the ruck which reversed a penalty right in front of goal (3 points maybe). At 4:42 Skelton cleanouts a Puma player with a big hit from behind. Not my preference from any player.

    FITNESS: Skelton has proved that he can stay on the park for 80 minutes. BUT, he loses most of his effectiveness from 50 minutes after which he gets into shuffle mode and struggles to get back on side or to the contact zones. No more ball carries and marked drop-off in tackles and ruck involvement.

    LINEOUTS: Skelton has had a single LOW in 132 minutes. Skelton is doing more lifting in the ruck. BUT he is no more capable of doing this than other Locks.

    MONSTER IN MAULS? Perhaps at SXV level. Simmons appears to be the
    controller of the Wallaby mauls. The Boks won 7 of 8 mauls against the Wallabies.
    Argentina lost their single maul but Skelton didn’t appear to make a dominant contribution.

    Skelton MAY be capable of having an impact against lesser teams but IMO his positive contributions are far outweighed by his negative impacts and he will be shown up by the quality opposition that is in front of the Wallabies for the rest of 2015. The Wallabies would gain more benefit from blooding the other Lock possibilities.

  • Bobas

    Both those things (injury and fatigue) would show up in training and he wouldn’t get picked a couple of months from a world cup. Surely our depth of props (Ben and Benn) could have done an adequate job covering if that was the case but neither made the squad. The wallabies are going to answer to some law suits if they are going to be playing people out of injuries.

  • RobC

    They are holding him out until RWC. And as Reds captain,adds pressure for him to continue playing, in his first year of tenure.

    His S&C issues has indeed been identified in training. It has also been announced in public.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/rugby-union/james-slipper-says-reds-must-go-back-to-basics-to-move-forward/story-e6frg7o6-1227395330538

    Surgery due after RWC. Issues: shoulder groin knee achilles

  • Mike

    He’s been given two tests to prove that he has what it takes.

    I doubt he is carrying any serious injury or they wouldn’t have started him.

    Unfortunately he hasn’t really taken the opportunity offered, but that arguably applies to our whole scrum

  • Sape

    Darn I can just play through with a half-crooked knee and that lad is playing with half his body in pieces

  • Klaus

    I would rate Horwill as an excellent maul diffuser as well.

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The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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