Eight reasons to be excited about the Wallabies - Green and Gold Rugby
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Eight reasons to be excited about the Wallabies

Eight reasons to be excited about the Wallabies

It’s time for test rugby, people. Get into it!

The Wallabies are back and I’ve got a spring in my step. The series against Ireland is going to be a cracker, and here is why I think our blokes will get it done:

Hitting form at the right time

The last few weeks have seen a noticeable step up in quality from our Super sides, and the numbers back up the eye test. At this point last year, our five teams had only mustered 18 wins between them. This season the picture is looking better, with four sides notching 23 wins so far. It’s far from perfect, but things are definitely on the up.

The most pleasing aspect of this form reversal is that it’s our Test players that are leading the charge. Adam Coleman was back to his rampaging best against the Blues in Auckland. Michael Hooper and Bernard Foley played their best games of the season against the Reds at Suncorp, while Israel Folau has been blitzing it all year. Caleb Timu was steamrolling from the bench, Marika Korobeite was cracking ribs with impunity and Scotty Sio was rock solid in Canberra.

Couple that with the emergence of Tom Banks, Jack Maddocks, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Curtis Rona and Brendon Paenga-Amosa and you’ve got a sumptuous mix of youth and experience, and they are all hitting their straps at the right time.

The return of the king

David Pocock – remember him? The man who has been arguably our best player of the past decade, and carried us to a World Cup final three years ago? It’s fair to say we struggled without his presence at the ruck last year, and having him back will be a major boost this season.

I can’t wait to see him back where he belongs – in a gold jersey, jackalling an Irish ruck with seven or eight Paddies trying to unsuccessfully remove him. We’ll see more turnovers in defence, which means more opportunities on the counter, where we can set Kurtley, Izzy and Marika free to wreak havoc.

Back where he belongs

Back where he belongs

Tighthead options

If ten years ago you told me the Wallabies would have an abundance of world-class tighthead prop options I would have laughed at you. But that’s the beautiful reality of 2018, with Sekope Kepu, Taniela Tupou and Allan Alaalatoa all genuine candidates for the starting #3 jersey. They have put the runs on the board at Super level, and each player brings a different mix of skills to the table.
I expect Cheika to side with the experience of Kepu to start the series, but I hope Tongan Thor gets a chance to show what he’s made of. He could be a superstar, and I love his ability to sniff out a try from close range.

While we’re here, the story at loosehead looks pretty good as well. Scott Sio and Tom Robertson are both in great form, and I expect them to put forward a strong showing against an experienced Irish propping unit.

A settled backline

While we all love a bit of selection intrigue, the backline is largely settled. Will Genia, Foley, Kurtley Beale, Koroibete and Folau are all certainties (in my opinion), while I expect Tevita Kuridrani to fill the 13 jersey and Reece Hodge or DHP the vacant wing spot. All are experienced players who’ve shown their class at the top level, and they have enough minutes under their belt to be confident in the first test.

In past mid-year internationals we’ve been ambushed by visiting teams who are settled, with combinations that have been battle-hardened in the Six Nations and European Cup. Ireland will be similar, but with such a settled backline we should be able to fight fire with fire.

Lock stock and two charging flankers

OK so I ran out of steam with the wordplay there, but I am a bit excited about the form of Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Caleb Timu and Pete Samu. Coleman and Rodda should start the first test (though with Cheika you never quite know which locks he’ll pick), and both are raw-boned animals who will be salivating for a taste of Irish blood. They’ve been accurate and physical all season, and I’m looking forward to seeing them get stuck in.

The selection picture at 6 is a little murkier, but I challenge you to watch Caleb Timu’s try on the weekend and not be a little bit excited about him. Meanwhile Pete Samu is also waiting in the wings, with a chance he’ll be the Scott Fardy-esque Cindarella journeyman. Slotting in next to Hooper and Pocock is no easy task, but I hope they are both up to it.

Coleman on the charge - a scary sight indeed

Coleman on the charge – a scary sight indeed

Irish confidence

There’s only one time when you can ever be confident against an Irish side, and that’s when you face them in a World Cup Quarter Final. Now is a very dangerous time to be playing them – their confidence is sky high, they know how to win and the memories of their last World Cup choke have all but faded.

Their squad is littered with class, with Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray leading the way. Their battle against Genia and Foley will be great to watch. Add to that names like Tadgh Furlong, Cian Healy, CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahoney, Robbie Henshaw and of course Garrrrrrrry RRrrrrrrrringggrrrose and you’ve got yourself a red hot side.

They play ball-in-hand footy that is mature and patient. They are miserly in defence, giving away few penalties. We’ll be forced to make our own luck, which may lead to pushed passes, risky kicks or over-eagerness at the breakdown.

My only hope is they’ve gone slightly too hard on the celebratory Guinness at the end of the European season, and are playing on tired legs. It’s been a long year and maybe their thoughts may drift to the post-season holiday instead of focussing on the task at hand. It’s unlikely, though.

Izzy on fire

It’s easy to run out of superlatives when you talk about Israel Folau. We’ve always known his aerial ability is something special, but he’s taken his skills to another level in 2018. He’s snatching kick-offs and general play kicks in a way I’ve never seen before, and the Waratahs have won games because of it. Bernard Foley has dialled in his attacking kicking game, and I expect to see numerous opportunities to attack the Irish backs through up-and-unders close to their line.

A settled backline and solid scrum should give us plenty of chances to profit from this strength, and I expect to see us scoring in excess of 20 points a game because of it. The question will be if our defence is good enough to hold out the Irish onslaught.

Folau in his natural habitat - the opposition ingoal area

Folau in his natural habitat – the opposition in-goal area

Test rugby baby

It’s just the best. The pinnacle of our sport, with top quality rugby played in front of big crowds. I can’t wait to see the series unfold – it promises to be a ripper.

Make sure you get to the game if you can, or just deck yourself out in gold and cheer on from the couch. The Wallabies are here, let’s all get behind them!

  • paul

    I reckon your right Huw, its gonna be close. But home ground and a fired up Wallabies will give them a 2-1 series win.
    Best of all it should be good rugby.

    • Adrian

      Spot on Paul

  • paul

    I reckon your right Huw, its gonna be close. But home ground and a fired up Wallabies will give them a 2-1 series win.
    Best of all it should be good rugby.

  • Gareth

    I really like the look of our team, my major concern is the 5 day preparation against a well drilled, smart Irish rugby side that is full of confidence who we haven’t beaten for a while. We must be the underdogs and if we get up, it will be a great win in our wallaby history.

  • Ben Fox

    Is the game being shown free to air?

    • Ed

      All Wallabies test in the June series, the Rugby Championship and third Bledisloe in Japan will be on TEN. End of year tour to Europe is a dunno at this stage.

      • Mattchoo

        Gordon Bray will be calling the game once again (which is great news as far as I’m concerned). I hope he gets the call up for the World Cup in Japan! That would be a fitting way to cap off a magnificent career.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Is he planning on retiring?? Who was his commentary partner in the early 2000s again?

        • Mattchoo

          Not sure about retiring – but of course he’s gad a long career now – about 49 years I think starting with the ABC back in the day. He has worked with and mentored a few over the years. Chris “Buddha” handy was great. Gordon also had Tim Horan before a his stint with Foxtel. Also very good! Matt Burke is now also with Ten of course and calls it as he sees it (as impartially as an ex Wallaby can) ; )

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yeah it was Buddha :P! I wish he hadn’t stopped. He and Gordon were great.

  • Ben Fox

    Who is the ref?

    • Gareth

      Australia vs Ireland at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia
      Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
      Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
      Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand

      • Will

        Marius is not bad I think. Probably the best from the republic. He reffed the Brumbies win over the bulls in Pretoria this year I think.

        • Brumby Runner

          Has been consistently the best ref in SR for a couple of years. Good to see him get an important gig.

      • Ed

        They are the three refs for the series, with Williams for the second test and Gauzere in Sydney.

  • Funk

    “I can’t wait to see him back where he belongs…” Me to!! Unfortunately Cheika will play Hooper there and Poey will have to play out of his best position in either no.6 or 8.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Love your optimism and passion Hugh and to be fair I do agree the team is looking a lot better than last year. I personally have some concerns about the defence abilities and especially the mental strength of the Wallabies under pressure. I feel that the line about who is a definite starter in the “settled” backline has allowed these players to rest on their laurels a bit and not develop as much as they should have. Agree 100% about Folau’s attacking play but his lack of ability to position himself in defence, his inability to kick, his laziness in committing to the ruck and his inability to pass to the right are crucial skills that detract from his overall performance. I really hope the team does step up and my fears are proved groundless, however I still have that nagging question on the total package.
    Good luck for this weekend and lets hope for a great game of rugby.

    • Ed

      There is a lot of optimism for the Wallabies. I can understand my fellow Australians having this about our form but it is not as if the Irish players aren’t in form. Did the Grand Slam in the Six Nations this year, Leinster winning both the European Cup and Pro14 comp while Munster made the semis for both tournaments.
      I guess the focus on the razzle dazzle has blinded many but the starch is also required to win test rugby. Hugh makes a fleeting mention of it at the end of his article.
      I do worry about our leadership if Plan A struggles to work and then they go, “what’s next?” I bet Schmidt has plans in place for Folau’s jumps. A few Irish players also have Gaelic backgrounds so they are not averse to aerial contests. Also, you would think the Irish will not kick direct to Israel, unlike other teams have recently.
      The selection of our wings, 13 and third backrower will show what Cheika thinks is important for him.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I must admit I wonder about the tactics used against Folau. Most teams seem to compete with him and lose. I’m not sure why they don’t let him get the ball as he’s probably going to anyway and then have those players waiting so when he lands they can tackle him. I’m sure the Irish have worked that one out.

        • Ed

          Do what the Chiefs and the Saders in the last 50 minutes did in their matches against the Tahs and cut the kicks to Israel.
          Conor Murray’s box kicks have a lot of air time so I agree with you that Ireland will have their defensive line waiting for him once he hits the ground, one to tackle him and the other to attack his right arm so to reduce his ability to offload. Easier said than done but as you say Schmidt will have a plan.

        • Adrian

          Probably the right tactic v Folau, but I’m not sure the Irish will do it successfully. I think players will be in 2 minds. I think they’ll run interference though.

        • McWarren

          I think like you a lot of Aussie supporters, media, players and coaches are underestimating the Irish team and players.

        • Adrian

          Perhaps, but stuff like Nick Bishop”s column today and stuff I have seen, give me confidence.

          Bookmakers have Ireland as slight favourites as of today (1.5 points start). I’ll check what Planet Rugby say, because they are often impartial,….if there is such a thing!

        • The AB’s regularly use that strategy and its pretty effective at nullifying Izzy. I expect the Irish will as well.

        • lu99ke

          But that is the point ins’t it?… he wins the ball in a position that is further downfield than where we kicked it from – especially from kick-offs. Yes, if they don’t compete, they can tackle him straight away and not let him get another 15m down field.. but we still win the ball in the opposition half.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I agree mate but shutting him down in a tackle is better than letting him run

        • lu99ke

          True that

    • Ads

      Hey KRL,
      Agree with most of that.

      My perception has been Folau has been kicking more and better this year. I went to the stats for what they are worth:
      Player Games No Kicks Kick Metres Ave distance errors
      Hodge 12 14 404 28.9 1
      Banks 13 19 487 25.6 1
      Folau 10 8 317 39.6 1
      Maddox 12 19 576 30.3 3
      Toua 12 5 53 10.6 2
      DHP 8 27 936 34.6 1

      So he has the best distance of that group. He has kicked a little less than some, but not sure you would say he has an inability to kick.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Hey Ads, I guess that as I explained above to Juswal I do not think it is good enough for the level he is playing at and certainly much worse than most of the opposition he is likely to encounter. While he may be slightly better than his peers here I see that as more of an overall lack of kicking ability within Australian Rugby. It’s a real shame as I remember when Gould used to break my heart with his ability to kick the ball so far and so accuratly and I just wonder where that has gone.

        • Ads

          Which is also fair, but he is singled out as having an inability to kick which doesn’t seem accurate. This year, he kicks further than his peers with a similar error rate. This is also an improvement on prior years in his game. So he has got better too.

      • Duvstar

        As discussed previously though, it’s not about distance at all. Kicking is far more about accuracy. Folau lumping big kicks down-field right into the hands of defenders and not into space doesn’t help anyone

      • Greg

        Did you forget Foley?

        • Ads

          Nah mate was trying to compare to the other fullback/wing options.
          Player Games No Kicks Kick Metres Ave distance errors
          Foley 13 94 3065 32.6 2

        • joy

          You have broken many hearts with that one.

        • Sambo

          Foley is lucky if he chews off 15m on his kicks for touch!

      • John Miller

        These numbers are skewed by the type of kicks attempted (amongst other variables). Folau exclusively kicks for distance whereas, players such as Toua and DHP will commonly kick high and with the aim of challenging for possession. Distance therefore is a false metric in the above table.

        • Ads

          Which is a comment around game plan. Folau wouldn’t kick high to challenge for possession, as he is best placed to be the guy in the air making the challenge. You could equally say Folau is instructed to run the ball back more than others too as he has advantage here. I’m not saying Folau is our best kicker. I’m saying it is an outdated and false statement to say he has an inability to kick. He doesn’t.

        • John Miller

          Don’t disagree with your last comment Ads. Just that the proffered stats aren’t underpinned by an even playing field.

          “So he has the best distance of that group.”

          A group not exclusively aiming for distance. Yes – he has the best distance in that group.

          But then again, why isn’t Issy being taught to kick high and challenge? Plenty of kickers do. He is hands down the best regatherer in the game. Would seem like the next logical evolution.

      • Seaweed

        He’s got 8 kicks there, DHP has 27.

    • David Creagh

      Thank heavens I am not the only person that sees the deficiencies in Folau’s game. Two trick pony in my view. I share the same concerns about the backline in defence especially if Nathan Grey is going to move people around like he has form for. This robs us of the ability to counter off turnover ball and exposes us when we turn the seed over.

      Hugh, I am almost prepared to bet my left nut that Cheika picks Simmons and Coleman as the locks.

      • Hugh Cavill

        I wouldn’t actually be too opposed to Simmons, even though I’m no great fan of his. Our lineout could be a weakness (we’ll be picking a short back row) and as much as he’s limited around the field, Simmons is a good caller and operator at set piece.

        • David Creagh

          I don’t disagree, as I have said with props where their first choice skill has to be the scrum for a lock the first choice skill has to be lineout jumping, one of the reasons why I didn’t rate Skelton. Simmons can certainly run a lineout but his day is passing. Next year would surely have to be his last at an international level so that we can look to develop the next lock paring for 2023. I agree that he is limited around the park (though he was fantastic when they tried him at 6 for an EYOT, now there is a bolter for you Sio, Latu, Kepu, Coleman, Rodda, Simmons, Hooper and Pocock) and lacks intelligent mongrel.

        • Sambo

          that’s only because he’s a Waratah now…

      • Duvstar

        Largely agree, but the thing is his “two-tricks” (his ability under the high ball and ball-running abilities) are up there with the best in the world and far and away the best in the Wallabies. So he has to play. I’d rather see him running out on the wing but no doubt MC will put him at fullback and probably drive us all mad by putting Naiyaravoro on the wing. If Simmons goes into the locks then that may well be the straw

        • Hugh Cavill

          Taqele isn’t in the squad, so no chance of him being picked.

        • David Creagh

          For the record, I never said he shouldn’t be there. I just say he has a number of limitations that makes him better suited to be on the sting than fullback. DHP or Banks at FB as providing better all round balance, Izzy on one wing and Hodge or DHP (if not playing fullback) the other.

          I suspect Chieka listens to Mrs Folau about where her husband should be playing. A Kiwi netballer would know after all.

        • Seaweed

          DHP at full back, TT (two tricks) on the right wing.
          It’s a no brainer.

      • OnTheBurst

        Yep. Sadly Cheika will pick Simmons as a starting lock, giving another Test cap to a bloke whose two undoubted skills are running the line out and giving away stupid penalties. Only one of which is a positive.

    • juswal

      You’d have to question the eyesight or the intelligence of someone who ascribes ‘inability to kick’ to Folau. He can give it a really good thump, better than most, but like nearly all Australian backs his accuracy falls away over distance.

      He rarely deploys clearing kicks because he’s under coach’s instructions to run it back whenever he’s on his own in broken play. I just wish he’d run it faster and harder, not stroll into contact.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Mate that’s because I see being able to thump it but losing accuracy over distance is displaying an “inability” to kick. I think at the level he is playing he should be able to do both and the fact that he can’t is a weakness.

        • IIPA

          Agree! He also takes a while to set himself to kick and has a low trajectory so he’s a chargedown target. Though he’s far from Robinson Crusoe amongst the Wallabies in that regard.

      • Seaweed

        My eyesight and intelligence are questionable for sure.

  • Gottsy

    Love the optimism! Not going to get too far ahead of myself though. Can’t wait to see how the Ireland series pans out- I still think they will roll us but I don’t think we will go out with a whimper like we did in the spring tour. (Still having nightmares about that afternoon at Murrayfield)

    • Mattchoo

      Yes Gottsy, the memories of the England series, where I foolishly hoped and believed it was going to be a whitewash (in our favour), turned out to be the exact opposite. Ireland are clearly ahead of England now and once again, you’d have to say we are going in well and truly under prepared. Not that the general Oz public or press will give the Wallabies much consideration of that if we cop another pasting. Poor scheduling and can’t wait for the rejigged world rugby timetable when Super comp will be completed before any Test matches.

  • Fatflanker

    Love it Hugh!

    I reckon it might be stretching it a bit to say we’ve got an abundance of world class tight-heads but the future is certainly bright in that department. Loose-head in the last 20 min has me more than a tad concerned.

    I’m not sure Pocock will be as dominant at the breakdown as we hope for. I thought we got the rough end of the pineapple from the ref at the breakdown last time we played Ireland but there is no doubting Ireland’s proficiency there.

    You can guarantee Ireland won’t kick contestable ball anywhere near Izzy. Winning back the ball on kick-off and bombing the try-line is where we’ll be looking to him to make a mark.

    One thing for sure – Ireland are very confident their pack is going to monster us at the set piece. Hold them there, let alone dominate them, and it’ll be a huge psychological victory for Oz.

    • Funk

      Yeah I’m with you, a little concerned about the reserve loosehead prop. I can’t really agree with Hugh saying Robertson is in form. Toupo gave it to him in the game on the weekend. I really hope that Cheik did his eligibility checks on JP Smith he played well and did a great job up against Kepu in that game. I would like to have seen JP get a run in the gold jersey (if eligible).

      • Braveheart81

        There was one scrum penalty against Robertson on Saturday.

        I don’t believe the Smith twins are eligible until 2021 (as they fall under the new eligibility rules based on when they returned to Australia).

        • Funk

          Maybe only one penalty, but Robertson was shuffling backwards in a number of others.

        • Braveheart81

          Sure, the Reds have had a dominant scrum all season. They managed to extract two scrum penalties out of it all game and the Tahs won their own scrums (albeit they only had two feeds). The Tahs are playing with a lightweight pack with two 7s in the backrow and had a number 8 playing lock.

          I think it’s fair to say that the Reds couldn’t get nearly the ascendancy in the scrum that they needed for it to have a meaningful impact on the game.

        • Funk

          When does the residency start and finish, they probably did 3 years straight when they first moved here and went to school? I think their’s is a tricky one.

        • Braveheart81

          This was from rugby journo Christy Doran in a tweet a while ago. It is a tricky one. I believe they might even be Australian citizens now but that doesn’t affect their qualification under World Rugby rules. If you need to qualify under the residency rule it resets if you move away. I think that is the situation here.

        • Who?

          Maybe we could get them selected for the Thunderbolts, play 2 minutes at the end of a game each, and then they’d be eligible… Because they’d be under IOC eligibility requirements, not WR.
          Crazy that two guys who did their schooling in Qld aren’t eligible for the Wallabies…

    • Hugh Cavill

      I think Tom Robertson has taken a real step up this year, after his form plateaued in 2017. His ball-carrying is much improved (reminds me of Ben Robbo at times) and as BH pointed out he’s holding up a light scrum as well as can be expected.

      • David Creagh

        Hugh, his ability around the park has not really been questioned. IMO a front rower’s primary job is to scrummage and I don’t think Robertson has really improved that much. Angus Taoavao who I thought was terrible for the Warratahs as a THP touched Robertson up and he has not been alone in that this season. Tadh Rurlong would be licking his lips and thinking I have a penalty coming here at almost every scrum.

        • Hugh Cavill

          A penalty at every scrum? I think that’s overdoing it, especially considering Robertson will be coming off the bench. The Waratahs pack is the lightest in Super Rugby – I think he’s done OK with not much weight behind him.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Let’s be honest here, he is one of the most high work-rate props in Australia. He makes a lot of tackles, reloads quickly and cleans out a lot and effectively. His ball-running is not very effective, however, and he doesn’t have great ball skills like Kepu or Tupou which would make up for that (few props do)

          He is not giving away a penalty in every scrum (but I fear that may be the case at international level) but he struggles to hold parity and the Tahs’ scrum is often shaky and retreating and that is with a world-class scrummager in Kepu and Simmons, who Holmes described as the best scrummaging lock he had ever played with.

        • David Creagh

          Again, I have not questioned his ability or commitment around the park. Merely his ability to contribute at scrum time which is his core job. In the front row you need to be able to look your opposite number in the eye and make him think he has lost already before you even pack. Robertson is thinking how can I stop this from collapsing or being driven back. As you point out he is too light, maybe hooker might be a long term proposition?

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          You are preaching to the converted, my friend. Robertson is not the sort of prop we should be investing in. He is just too small. I wonder if he should convert to hooker.

        • joy

          If all this were true you`d think there would be a raft of tight heads lining up for the spot!

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          I don’t follow your logic whatsoever?

        • joy

          Rope a Beagle to an Alsatian, put a sausage in front of each and see which wins the tug of war.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yep, it’s just by chance that all other international props in tier 1 nations that I can think of are 115kg +. And again, the All Blacks are simply stupid when they specifically target all props being an absolute minimum of 115-118kg.

        • David Creagh

          Scrummaging is about attitude and I don’t think Robertson goes into a scrum looking to dominate, merely to survive. I didn’t say Fuhrlong will earn a penalty every scrum, he will be out there dominating and looking to earn one, its his job after all. I suspect he will get more when Robertson is on the paddock than he will with Sio, having said that Sio will give away his share as well.

          Eddie Jones introduced the concept of light, mobile props who can use the ball but at the cost of providing stability in the scrums and a certainty on set piece ball, Australian Rugby has taken years to come back from that plan. Bill Young was the classic example, Al Baxter another. First job: Be stable on own scrum ball and resist your opponent to ensure a good stable platform for the fairies. Second Job: Put heat on the opposition scrum and look to disrupt stable ball for their fairies. It takes a really good 5/8 to work behind a beaten scrum and Foley ain’t it.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yeah, Robertson barely survives in a lot of the scrums despite Kepu and Simmons. We aren’t going to have a dominant scrum when he comes off the bench, and we also won’t be dominant in defence or ball-running. He is like Simmons in that he is an 80 min grinder with a high work-rate and low-impact. Only he lacks Simmons’ ball-skills or set-piece prowess.

          Alaalatoa off the bench gives us the possibility to dominate, although I worry that he has been at THP all season.

        • Braveheart81

          It will primarily be Sio that is up against Furlong. He has certainly given away his fair share of scrum penalties this year and it will no doubt be a challenge for us all game.

          They’re the two best LHPs we have available given Slipper isn’t in the picture. Both are in good form which is the best we can ask for.

          I think we all agree that Eddie Jones was a disaster for Wallaby props and set things back a long way. It’s certainly expected now that props (and indeed every player) has good catch pass skills and is expected to be able to contribute to ball movement but scrummaging is still their priority.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          But only one has a history of being a dominant scrummager at even Super Rugby level.

          Porter is said to be even stronger and better in the scrums than Furlong, by the way, Braveheart. It is also possible that Porter may start in order to give Porter some rest.

      • Sambo

        Reds demolished Dr Tom last week. Never rated him… not even as a ball carrier.

  • Braveheart81

    Our winning percentage is 71.9% when we have both Pocock and Beale in the team. Important to note neither of them have featured in our last two June series (except Pocock for the first test against England in 2016).

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      Out of interest is our win percentage higher when Beale starts or comes off the bench, do you know?

      • Braveheart81

        His winning percentage starting is 63.8% and 62.5% off the bench so very little difference.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Out of interest would you go for TK or Kerevi at outside centre?

          I know Rona is an option too, but I actually think his defence is about Kerevi’s level (and please don’t come back to me with contextless stats) based on some of the reads I have seen him make, but far inferior to Kerevi in attack. So the choice in my eyes is still between our defensive lynchpin in TK and offensive juggernaut in Kerevi.

        • Braveheart81

          I would pick Kuridrani. His form has improved in recent weeks and his defensive organisation is important for the Wallabies. I think Rona is really close though. I think he’s been good on both sides of the ball this season.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yeah, just don’t see the defence with Rona. Don’t see him as significantly ahead of Kerevi there, and far worse in other aspects of centre play – far worse passing game, inferior offloading game, no kicking game, and far inferior with ball in hand than Kerevi.

          All three are decent choices, although I would pick Rona last I think. Wouldn’t mind seeing him off the bench though.

        • Ed

          Cheika may go for combinations due to the short prep time this week. I would not be surprised if Rona is there but he would be third on my list too.

        • joy

          Rona’s tackle efficiency is 72% cf Kuridrani 69 Hodge 65 and Kerevi 61(Fox).
          Rona 82% success rate cf Kuridrani 76, Kerevi 76 and Hodge 72 (Rugby Live)
          Rona’s attacking stats rival Folau’s.
          Rona’s not flashy but gee he gets through some work and he has experience with the players around him.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Did you see the bit where I asked not to have contextless stats thrown at me. I don’t think they’re very useful in and of themselves. I’ve witnessed far too many poor defensive reads from Rona.

  • Nutta

    Only one thing I disagree with: Loosehead. Our best Loosehead was Toby Smith and he left for NZ and has been playing great footy. Sio is pretty good but still gets suckered into over-extending a bit. Tom is a long way off. That said you are right about Tighthead in that we have 1 standout (Kepu) and 2 pretty-goods (7A’s and CFOW’s). We aslo have a clutch of good Locks and plenty of backrow options.

    My real fear is 2 and 10/12. but that’s been known for some time so I’m sure a professional coaching team has a well-developed solution… fk.

    • David Creagh

      I am OK with Beale at 12. Hooker is OK Fa’inga has been solid (needs to throw about 10,00 more lineouts though), as has Paenga Amosa and Rangi(?) from the Rebs looks OK. Disagree with Kearns the “Fitzpatrick can feel hard done by about not getting a call up to the Wallabies”. He is going OK but there are better options.

    • IIPA

      That may be true re Toby Smith but then he got towelled up last year by the Scots? Or was it the Italians ? Or both ? Wasn’t a good look any which way.

      Sio must be part of more scrum collapses than any other prop in Super rugby. He should be better than he is. Robertson is better in all aspects than he is given credit for although I’m not suggesting he’s the world’s pre-eminent loosehead.

      • Nutta

        Toby didn’t play in the Nov Tests if I recall correctly (at least not Scot, Eng or Wales). But I do recall, he got done over by a good tighthead. Might have been the Argies…? That happens. He’s a better scrummer than Sio and his around ground workrate is bloody high.

        In terms of getting toweled by an Itie, depending on your age I reckon you are thinking of a 21yr old James Slipper when he got munched up and shoved arse-first into a Coke can in his first test by one Monster Martin Castrogiovanni in Rome. Talk about lamb to slaughter… I felt sorry for the poor guy as it was bloody poor development/coaching to put him in that scenario to begin with. Fancy feeding a youngster to a warhorse like that? This is front-row guys – not some gallivanting Winger or Loosie. And I don’t reckon he has ever really recovered from it but gone from injury to injury ever since.

        • Braveheart81

          He’s talking about the June tests last year where Smith played one (I think it was against Italy). He didn’t go well and neither did any of our LHP during that series really.

          It would have been good if Smith had hung around in Australia but he made a decision based around family. I’m not sure he’s any better than any of our other options though. Certainly not clearly ahead of any of them.

        • Hoss

          ‘Arse first into a Coke can’

          That’s pure poetry Nutta.

        • IIPA

          Was one of the June tests last year. He came on for Sio I think who’d be battling big time himself.

          Martin Castro! A scary man….

    • Brisneyland Local

      lets hope so Hoss!

      • Hoss

        Not sure who you are insulting their mate – possibly Nutta i would suggest.

        • Nutta

          Can’t be an insult if I’m not offended. But yes, I’m confused.

        • Brisneyland Local

          My stuff up!

        • Brisneyland Local

          My stuff up.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    I don’t see Koroibete as being a certainly at all.

    I’ve rarely seen Koroibete compete for high balls (and he will likely have to against Murray and Sexton), he cannot kick and his defence in broken play has been a bit Speight-like.

    He’s started to come good in attack in recent weeks, and when he makes his tackels they’re huge, but is that all we want from our outside backs?

    Naivalu is a better defender; Maddocks is better under the high ball, at defence, passing and kicking; DHP much better kicker, passer, under the high ball; Banks more elusive, nearly as fast, better under the high ball, better defensively, beter passing and better kicking.

    I honestly have no idea who will get into the outside backs along with Folau and at least one of Hodge and DHP. That’s a good position to be in, as your article points out, we have a hell of a lot of talented outside backs, and that’s even without Perese, who I don’t think would look out of place in gold either.

    • Hugh Cavill

      I don’t share your pessimism about Koroibete. He was a revelation in gold last year. I’m not reading too much into his Rebels form – he’s a big game player who will come good IMO. He can bash it up in midfield, or finish in the open field. His defensive reads were nearly flawless last year, and he brings a physicality that no other outside backs can match.

      He will defend in the line, and one of Beale or Foley will drop back to help field high balls alongside Folau and DHP/Hodge.

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        Was he a revelation? He was great on attack with the ball in hand but not strong in defence, never kicked and didn’t take high balls. That’s exactly what we’re getting with him now.

        ‘His defensive reads were nearly flawless last year’

        I have a feeling you might have to re-watch some tests…

        Problem is when they kick to him off of turnover ball.

        Good player though, and if Cheika picks him it isn’t something I will be negative about. He’s better than Speight because he at least tries to put the hit in despite his poor reads. His defensive reading in open play is like Speight though.

        • Hugh Cavill

          I’d argue that he was, and that not all of our wingers need to have the ability to kick – I’d throw names like Tuqiri, Tune, Campese in as those who didn’t have a kicking game and still did OK.

          Either way, I feel like we’re going to have to agree to disagree. Whoever fills the shirt though, let’s hope they smash it!

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Regardless, his defence has been pretty shocking for the Rebels, and that is outside a backline of good defenders.

          What? Campese had a huge kick… Tune could also.

          Most of them played with kicking fullbacks too though, is another key difference. Folau is many things but a strong kicking fullback he is not.

          Anyway, I basically agree, a few years ago we were playing people who couldn’t make it as centres on the wing. Now we have an excess of talent and whoever we choose are of international class. It’s just a matter of the exact strengths and weaknesses we want to go for.

          Koroibete wouldn’t be my first choice though.

        • Ed

          Campo didn’t have a kicking game, seriously?! He couldn’t tackle but he could punt the ball.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yeah, I am scratching my head on that too.. It’s like saying Gerrard couldn’t kick… From memory Tune could kick too, although not at the really elite level like Campo.

        • OnTheBurst

          Campo no kicking game? Same breath as Tuquiri? Wash your mouth out man!

        • Hugh Cavill

          My mistake – apologies. Was typing on the fly without my brain switched on. Nonetheless I can point to a long line of successful international wingers of all stripes who succeeded without a kicking game.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Can’t think of many besides Tuqiri and Ioane. Ioane was awesome with ball in hand and played in teams with strong kickings 10s (Giteau/Quade/Barnes), 12s (Giteau/Barns) and fullbacks (Beale).

          Tuqiri played when Latham was fullback.

          Folau doesn’t kick much or accurately, and thus far more importance to have the wingers be able to kick.

  • Adrian

    Yes, great and positive analysis.

    The good thing is that the guys selected are all on-song, with the slight exceptions of Coleman and Kurandrani.

    More important, they also seem fit and confident. Confidence is a big thing IMO, and the way the Tahs backs have consistently pulled off what seem like miracle plays will give them miles of confidence. The way the forwards (esp Qld and ACT) have made ground will give them confidence,…and give the backs confidence.

    The defences have been better than this time last year…so that’s something. I expect Bled 2,3 and general RC 2017 style defence.

    Cheika has a few game plan options, within the range of things he can do. Can do fast change of point of attack thingy (needs agile forwards on the park), with or without high kicks to Izzy.

    He can also do monsters running on the edge of the ruck offloading to back-rowers and backs style (Tahs 2014). This style needs Tuopo, BPA, Timu, Coleman on the park, and can also we done with or without high kicks to Izzy.

    Taking into consideration the high kicks options, that’s 4 different game plans. I’ll call them A1, A2, A3 and A4. Not quite a B or a C, but different. Cheika can’t play field position or 10 man Rugby, and we don’t have the cattle in any case.

    Other teams can’t play ensemble Rugby as good as our guys (Beale and andCo) and Cheika,… though Hansen knows a thing or two!

    Ireland will play tight and hold posession, with the occasional well placed kick. It won’t be a kick fest IMO

    Bring it on

    • McWarren

      Adrian I don’t think you needed to tell us that ‘confidence’ is important to you mate. Your posts are full of confident optimism.

      How good is this week? I love the test team naming banter and excitement.

      • Adrian

        Me too McWarren.

        I’d never thought there would be so much talk about (for example) hookers,… with half a dozen names in the frame

        • McWarren

          It’s good isn’t it. I feared we all just be prattling on about the pooper and Quade v Foley again.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Morning Adrian, I certainly agree that the team is in a much better space than they were last year. Not sure what you mean about ensemble rugby mate, care to explain?

      • Adrian

        They don’t use the term much these days, but ensemble Rugby (or League) used to mean throwing it around with everyone being involved.

        This is as distinct from narrower strategies like 10 man Rugby, “bash and barge”, “give it to Lomu (or Maffi)”. I think it had orchestral origins, but I am not certain

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Thanks. Not so sure I agree that the Wallabies are the best at it but I do agree the NH teams are usually more structured. Could be an interesting contrast in styles

        • Ed

          One for you KRL.

          https://www.foxsports.com.au/feature/destination-nsw/wallabies-v-ireland

          When it was put to Hooper that the Wallabies might want to play more of a kicking game against Ireland, he couldn’t wait to shut the idea down.

          “I’d go out there (on a limb) and say we don’t want to play a kicking game,” Hooper said. “We want to play an intelligent game that we’re able to make the most of the positions we’re in on the field.

          “What’s important (is) adjusting and adapting to games on the run and being able to play a little bit of both and keeping the opposition guessing.

          “It’s about being very smart and experienced in the point that we can adapt and not have this game plan that if it goes pear-shaped, we’re done for.”

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          To be fair I don’t want to see Foley in a kicking duel with Ireland.

          However, Hooper’s words can be taken to mean two things:

          a) it is Cheika speak for ‘let’s play our barge with the ball in hand endlessly and no plan-B’ in which case it is dismal to hear as an Aussie fan; or

          b) it actually means we’re going to look to kick more when appropriate, as we should, even though we are the inferior kicking team.

          I wonder which one it is.

        • Ed

          Hopefully it is B. Kicking is part of an intelligent game plan.

        • Adrian

          I’d say neither as plan A.

          Plan A will be fast backline switches centring around Beale at 12….ala Tahs this year

          The barge stuff only happens when someone else is at 12

          We’ll do tactical kicking to Folau, and exit kicks via whoever. We are only so so at that

        • Brisneyland Local

          So so. Is your optimism fading? Personally I dont think we are so so at it. We can be good when people other than Foley do our exit kicking. If he is doing it we are shite.

        • Adrian

          Well, that’s the least good part of our game, which is otherwise good.

          I agree Foley isn’t the best at it, but we’ll have Hodge or DHP I think, plus Beale.

          An interesting thing IMO BL, is that as the Tahs have kicked more tactically as the season goes on (primarily bombs for Izzy), … their other kicking (line and exit) seems to have improved, …or at least looks more competent or relaxed. A friend alerted me to this the other day, talking about how Foley and Beale didn’t look as hesitant as previously.

          Whatever it is, I think that quite rightly Mr Byrne will give this issue attention

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Fair enough in that you don’t want to play to your weakness. sends a good message to the rest of the world though

        • Ed

          I hope having Genia and Pocock on the pitch helps them adapt as the Tahs did not adapt to the change in the Saders’ game plan from the 30th minute or that Gibson had to tell them at half-time how to take advantage of their extra man against the Highlanders

        • Ed

          Our ensemble rugby is much better off set piece, while we still struggle on turnovers as it is not instinctual like it is for our neighbours. Larkham acknowledged Australian rugby had to attack more from turnovers last year, rather than relying on structured attack from set-pieces.

          Hopefully it has been drilled into our players – do not run upright as they will hold you up. Coleman and Simmons run far too high for my liking.

        • Adrian

          Hi Ed
          Yes, I think we need to be better at getting turnovers to attack from. Hopefully Pocock will help, and Hooper had quite a few (statistically) after about 7 rounds.
          A few others are doing it too.
          I don’t think Pocock and Hooper will strip the ball with 1 up and 1 down like they did in 2015, or at least they won’t do it all the time,… but rather use as a surprise tactic.

          I think we are more likely to do something on the first phase off a turnover without the conservative influence of Moore on the field. The Tahs (Hooper on field) have launched a few razzle dazzle moves with turnover ball, with Beale the key man.

          I don’t think Beale will drop back in defence, but stay up, for that purpose. Foley probably will drop back I think, ala Tahs, and similarly to RC last year

  • hippyb9

    Love the optimism Hugh, particularly when the last 2 Wallaby results were 6-30 and 24-53 and Ireland are the northern hemisphere team of the moment!

    • Bobas

      if they’re the last two results, they may as well not play

  • Hoss

    Hugh – that is journalistic Viagra right there.

    That article will save my wife 20 minutes hard work tonite

    • onlinesideline

      lmao – didnt you say once it was either on Christmas or your birthday. Its not Christmas, so happy birthday mate.

      • Hoss

        We have a ‘charter of rights’ at my place mate. I can propose and ‘out of season exemption’ – although Mrs Hoss does have the power to Veto said ‘charter’

        I feel for her mate – i wouldn’t put myself through it – there’s 20 minutes of coaxing and conjoling – its like trying to convince a Mufti to try a bacon and Egg role – he wants to and nearly can, but…….

    • Brisneyland Local

      Remember anything more than 30 secs is purely for their benefit! ;-)

    • Andy

      20 minutes. Your physio must be a rich man

  • Bobas

    RRrrrrrrrringggrrrose should have been a stand alone reason.

  • Andy

    There’s points in the squad, no doubt. I just hope they’ve learnt to defend this year. Last year was embarrassing in that department

  • Upfromdown

    Australia really need to start well. The last 2 games v Ireland – both in Dublin – they have been 17-0 down, or thereabouts, and have come home hard to only lose by a few points. No doubt Ireland both times were inspired by a parochial home crowd, so not having that will assist. So the key for me is being within a few points around half time, but not if they means Australia haven’t converted their chances or pressure.

  • I hope no one is surprised by the game. Ireland are a very well coached and intelligent team. So they will play the territorial game. They will try and keep us in our 22. We have only 2 lineout jumpers. So they will exploit that massively.

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A pretty average writer and an even worse player. Subbies struggler, supporter of the 2014 Super Rugby Champions.

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