The Wallaby Tour: Rookie Watch - Green and Gold Rugby

The Wallaby Tour: Rookie Watch

The Wallaby Tour: Rookie Watch

The much vaunted 25th anniversary of the Grand Slam tour gets under way with a ‘meaningless’ fourth test against the All Blacks in Tokyo. Add to this a couple of scrounged together midweek games for the dirt trackers and the tour gives us seven games, five of which are test matches.

Does this justify a 35 member playing squad? I dread to think how many support personnel are traveling as well. The original grand slam squad of 1984 numbered 32 with a few injury additions, but they had to play 18 games, including the tour ending Barbarians encounter.

With the addition of the two mid-week games, against Gloucester and another to be confirmed you can be assured that every player (injury permitting) will get a run. So let’s take a look at the seven uncapped players in the squad and do some guess work on what their immediate and short term Wallaby prospects hold.

Kurtley Beale

Who is he? The much heralded schoolboy superstar flyhalf from the Waratahs. No schoolboy player gained the acclaim that Kurtley did and he was always going to struggle to live up to the hype once he hit the big time. His skills are sublime, with a wonderful wide pass, astute kicking game (when in check) and an understanding of angles of both pass and run. His work in contact is probably his biggest down fall at the moment.

Who’s he like? Of the current squad it’s probably Quade Cooper. Which is ironic. Both were schoolboy prodigy fly halves of the same era, playing junior representative games against and with each other. At the professional level both have shown they can pull off the big plays whilst also being prone to real brain explosions.

2009 form? Beale spent the early stages struggling to overcome injury concerns. His form was patching and he looked, frankly, unfit. However the Waratah backline never looked better than we he was back in the side, one position wider at inside centre, as he was able to give more scope to his outside men.

Tour Prospects? His battle with Cooper will be quite fascinating. Cooper has done all that can be asked of him in his short test career some far, surprising many critics. It will be wonderful for Australian rugby, and his own confidence, if Beale gets his own chance. I expect it to happen as Deans will want to test out his playmakers, especially with the speculation surrounding incumbent flyhalf Matt Giteau. Who knows, he may even get a run with 15 on his back given the lack of fullbacks in the squad.

RWC2011 Prospects? The chance is there for Beale to really stake his claim. If not on this tour then in next year’s Super season. There is plenty of competition for the spot; however his versatility certainly plays in his favour.

Mitchell Chapman:Mitch

Who is he? The rangy Chapman is a forceful back rower with some handy ball skills and an aggressive defensive game. He tours as back up to Rocky Elsom, back can cover lock and even Number 8 at a pinch. He can pull off the big hit whilst also pull out a deft off load.



Who’s he like?

Mitch actually has fair bit of Rocky Elsom in him. Which makes him a handy back up. Both are built fairly similarly, depending on which web site you use, Mitch may have a centimeter or two in height over Rocky. Interestingly with Rocky making the move to the Brumbies, Mitch will now be battling to hold onto his Brumby 6 jersey and may end up in the tight five.

2009 form? Like Beale, Chapman started the Super 14 slow, inhibited by injury, however began to find some real form towards season’s end before injury struck yet again. He brought a bit of real presence and purpose to the Brumby pack as they began their ill-fated charge for the finals.

Tour Prospects? His versatility makes him a definite bench candidate for the test matches and his temperament seems to suit this environment. I believe he’s a very good chance of grabbing a Wallaby starting debut, either if Rocky needs resting for a match or perhaps as a lock option towards tour’s end.

RWC11 Prospects? The aggressiveness of the Wallaby pack is vital to our future success particularly at the next World Cup. Chapman marries this with some excellent skills and because of this he, injury free, seems an ideal back up to captain Rocky come 2011.

Dave Dennis:DD

Who is he? That’s a bloody good question. Who the hell IS he? Another player who has had an injury riddled year. In fact he’s had an injury-ridded career. He’s been on the Waratah books for a couple of years, yet barely been sited. In fact Dennis has effectively been cut by the Tahs as he has been released from the Super 14 squad and will train with the Academy side. Part lock (too short) part blindside flanker (mobile enough?) he’s received a massive leg up through injuries to Nathan Sharpe, Peter Kimlin, Tom Hockings, Will Caldwell and Sam Wykes, you would think.

Who’s he like? Well, this is one I really can’t answer. His middling between lock and flanker points to another Chapman type player. At 192cm, he can’t really be considered a test lock. 2009 form? He finished the season strongly for his club side Sydney University. But what does that really mean?

Tour Prospects? Limited to the midweek games I would expect. He may snaffle a bench spot towards the end of the series as injuries start to come into play.

RWC2011 Prospects? I’d be surprised if the name is in contention for the World Cup squad come 2011. Invest your money on a big screen TV Dave, and watch it on Fox Sports!

Matt Hodgson:
HodgoWho is he? The Force back rower who debuted for the Wallabies in the un-capped match against the Barbarians in Sydney earlier this year. He only survived the half before injury struck and he was never considered again all year. Originally an open side, he played a bit at number 8 before finding his place on the blind side of the Force scrum. A former 7s player, he has the mobility and skills to make his presence felt on the game.

Who’s he like? Probably Richard Brown, probably unfortunately. A bitsa player. The Force have really rotated their back row (other than Dave Pocock) to try to find the right combination. Hodgson and Brown are bother former club open sides converted to other back row position. They both have high work rates, yet probably lack the physical game for test match footy.

2009 form? His Super 14 form was really outstanding. He definitely deserved his Wallaby squad selection at the start of the season. We haven’t seen much of him since, but it’s a deserved selection.

Tour Prospects? Not bad. Although it’s never a good sign when the captain plays the same position as you. He could still get a game or two at No 8, a position the Wallabies still seem far from certain with. May well leap frog Richard Brown by tour’s end. Brown’s failings may infact work against him however as the selectors must decide whether they continue with converted 8s, or a specialist.

RWC2011 Prospects? Unlikely to be honest. A solid player, but will really have to pull one out of the bag to prove he is world class.

Rob Horne:
HorneWho is he? Just another schoolboy superstar. Came through the ranks like Kurtley Beale, without the same level of hype. His debut Super 14 season in 2008 was real class and if he can rediscover that form, he could be anything. Some would suggest he as Tim Horan like qualities that suit him playing 12. Others like his defense and angle running which suit him a spot further out. At a pinch he could cover wing and fullback, in all reality.

Who’s he like? I see a bit of Adam Ashley-Cooper in him, without the overt versatility at this stage. With a bit of age and size, he could develop into a Stirling Mortlock type of dominant outside centre.

2009 form? Unfortunately, 2nd year syndrome hit big time with Robbie. He scored a brilliant try in the first game of the season, but form slowly slid since. Yet again, injury restricted his field time to the point that he played colts rugby at season’s end to get more match fitness.

Tour Prospects? Big, I would suggest. The best of all the rookies in my mind. Much of this is due to the remaining uncertainty in the backline. Specifically in the jerseys 13-15. Horne could help solve these problems and I expect a Wallaby debut early on tour with a starting jersey towards the end.

RWC2011 Prospects? Very high. Horne is a definite talent. Some time under Deans should serve him well, as it has Quade Cooper. A full season with the Waratahs could see him a regular Wallaby squad member next year and an important component come the World Cup.

Richard Kingi:
KingWho is he? Another Academy player. The sprightly Kingi has played club football at inside-centre, flyhalf and scrumhalf. It was at the scrum base that the Reds needed him this year, as injury hit hard. Following an excellent 7s season, which drew praises from dual-international Michael O’Connor, Kingi’s selection for the tour is a massive shock. Nonetheless because just a week or two early he announced he had signed with the Reds, in their Academy program.

Who’s he like? Kingi is actually most like Matt Giteau in my eyes. Giteau’s perpetual motion, always a threat play, was an aspect I liked during his short career in the 9 jersey. It’s a similar high energy game that Kingi plays. Being a converted scrumhalf, his instincts are to run when he can, and his footwork and speed are definite assets in this area.

2009 form? We didn’t get to see too much of it as he only played a few games off the bench for the Reds. It was enough to see that he is an exciting talent. A test quality one? Who knows. He was excellent at club level and for the Australian U20 team. The IRB recognised this form by shortlisting him as a nominee for their Junior Player of the Year award.

Tour Prospects? Surely he’s there just for development opportunities. Perhaps to serve as a wake-up call to Luke Burgess? However, there are some who would suggest that Burgess’s Wallaby days are numbered (a harsh call in my eyes), so is Kingi the man most likely to replace him?

RWC2011 Prospects? Much depends on how Luke Burgess responds. Personally I think he is a fantastic player who, if he can work on the technical aspects of his pass, could be a dangerous component of our RWC campaign. Kingi? Let’s wait and see. Game time behind the test scrumhalf, Will Genia, and possibly Ben Lucas at the Reds may stymie his development.

Salesi Ma’afu:

Who is he?
A massive prop from the Brumbies. It seems that he will be another groomed as the possible test Tight Head Prop. Ma’afu is a powerful player, mobile and skilled. And aggressive. Sometimes to a fault. But perhaps that’s not such a bad thing for a test prop? He actually played prop for the Barbarians in their win over the World Cup winning Springboks back in 2007 which would have been an amazing experience.

Who’s he like? Ma’afu is a little like Ben Alexander and Sekope Kepu. All are highly mobile and skilled players who the Wallabies hope can step up and be taught to play the very difficult position of Tight Head Prop.

2009 form? Solid enough. He missed a few games here and there as the Brumbies tinkered with their pack. He really hasn’t stood up and claimed a starting jersey. Which shows the lack of depth in Australia for this position.

Tour Prospects? Ma’afu is one of six props touring so his chances of getting capped appear slim. But with the number 3 jersey and the bench propping spot still a long way from being certain, he may end up getting his chance.

RWC2011 Prospects? Personally? I think he’s an excellent prospect, who needs a lot of work. The Brumbies will have to work out who plays 3 for them next year. Guy Shepherdson, Ben Alexander or Salesi? The decision will have a big impact on the Wallaby team. Meanwhile young Waratah Dan Palmer is quietly working his way into contention…

  • great read noddy, well done, think dave dennis is a little hard done by, the guy earned his stripes if he stays fit he is easily in the same bracket as brown or hodgson in terms of mobility and power.

    • Noddy

      yeah I will cop it sweet re Dennis. Don’t know much of him, which aint hard considering how little rugby he’s played over the years. But the fact the Tahs have cut him isn’t a great sign.

      • my understanding is, they wanted him to remain fit, he may still be under a lessor contract, but were still one lock short and apparantly unless we find an invader of emmense talent, dennis will get the spot.

        would prefer the local anyway, dont understand the foreign rule at all!

        • mudskipper

          Interestingly the Waratahs haven’t signed Dennis until after the tour… He may cost them more by then…

  • James

    I only see chapman squeezing in to the backrow if elsom shifts to No. 8. Same for Hodson. Deans had suggested to Rocky that he get some game time at No 8 while in Ireland.

    However, I think Chapman is a good longterm prospects for the secondrow. He has the height, all he needs is a few kegs. He may actually see sometime there at the Brumbies with the arrival of elsom.

    Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised if Beale pipped Cooper for the inside back bench spot. His form at inside centre has been good and he offers more versatility being able to slot in at fullback.
    Ma’afu prospects of a start may rise over the tour if injuries force the Wallabies to play a light back five. He is a massive man. I think he had weight issues at the start of the S14. Surely some Wallaby conditioning and a few games of squash will make the world of difference.

    • Jets

      I think Cooper would have to do something quite bad to be overtaken by Beale. He too can play 10,12 & 15(I think he could also play 13 well). He also has the longest passing game out of the inside back going around at the moment.

      • Corvus

        I like the look of a Cooper/Beale 5/8, inside centre combo. Defense could be a problem though.

        • At the Wallaby training session I went to in Sydney, those two were singled out for defensive drills on each other!

        • Newb

          yeah their respective channels would get targeted often by the opposition you’d think. and so far they haven’t shown the goods to consistently stop runners.

      • El Dommo

        I agree Jets.

        And Noddy, where do you get the info on his Wide passing game…has everyone forgotten the big furore over Beale being UNABLE to unleash his outside backs because he couldnt pass?

        how quickly you Tahs forgive, and forget.

        Beale is a HACK!

        • beale was able to unleash his backs when he wanted to, problem was the nsw game plan, but in reality, it wasnt a problem, our strength was our forward pack and they more or less did the job, the problem for mine was 12/13 which was sorted when beale moved wider.

        • Groucho

          Waratahjesus is right: Beale just implemented Hickey’s game plan, as he was required to. But he has an excellent wide passing game, as anyone who watched him in schoolboys will attest.

          The people who say he “can’t pass” are simply saying what they want to be true. And I’m not a Waratahs fan saying this.

        • El Dommo

          Schoolboys was fkn years ago…he had more time, more time more time, and defences at Schoobo level are definitely not as structured or system oriented

          Seriously have to ask Grouch…are you actually watching Waratahs games? or just the highlights?

  • Scarfman

    Outstanding report Nod. Maybe a few too many new faces there for a tour like this. It’s not a bloody development tour.

    • Patrick

      yes it is. Let’s face it we are two seasons shy of a world cup and if you want to try out players it is best done now against NH teams than next season against the 3N teams!

  • mudskipper

    Nice work Noddy… Interestingly Chapman re-signed with the Brumbies after Elsom had already signed so I think he’s happy to play along with the rock…

    I can see Rocky moving to No.8. Playing a little like the Boks Pierre Spies. Chapman can slot into playing blindside flanker with Horwill and Chisholm as locks. And of cause great George Smith as openside flanker. Alexander, Moore and Robinson front row… Salesi Ma’afu, Pocock, Mumm and PTN on the bench for tests…. Hey now that’s effectively the Brumbies pack… It could end up being the Brumbies preseason tour of our northern adversaries…

    • El Dommo

      Yeha id rather not see Elsom move to 8. He is a 6. possibly the best 6 in the world at the moment. Why depower one position for the sake of another. they are technially different and significantly enough so that i would be disruptive to an extent.

      But i guess Rocky has the skill to play 8. I just dont like the idea of moving him there when he is a 6.

      He would be no pierre Spies at 8.

      • mudskipper

        Sometimes I feel Rocky at 6 gets left out off the scrum attack… its can be a waste… I’d like to see someone quicker than Palu coming off the back of the scrum…

        perhaps just more blindside plays with Rocky, the scrumhalf and winger combining may do the trick…

  • Paris Tah

    Great stuff Noddy. I think a midweek game backline of Kingi at 9, Cooper at 10, Diggers at 11 or 13, Beale at 12 or 15, Horne at 11 or 13, Turner at 14 and JOC at 12 or 15 would be quite good to watch, and a nod to the future.

  • Reddy!

    Good write up. If Horne does play some games at international level this spring tour, I would like to see him play on the wing to begin with. He is very quick and would not have the same level of responsibility on him as he would in the centres.

    • Ed

      Agreed, I reckon he hasn’t quite got the size yet to play the game he wants to play in the centres, but he’s got some blistering speed for the wing. He’s certainly stronger than turner and I reckon as quick so he might not be such a bad option.

    • I disagree, Horne is a devastating defender at 13 – wins the ball by smashing attackers.

      I also disagree that there is less pressure on the wings, playing in the UK in November it’ll be raining bombs.

      • El Dommo

        Hmm. I’m not sure he is int standard 13 as yet. And its all well and good to smash someone, the question is, is he an intelligent defender. probably has some work to do in that regard, but i will concede he is almost there.

        • i agree with all of the above, Horne would be great on the wing to start with, i think stirlo & AAC have the 13 covered atm.

          Horne played mostly on the wing during the trining game last week, didnt see much ball though.

          will say though, that i think his rugby intellegence is fantastic, he has always been above average while playing for the tahs and i really dont think he would be a problem if thrown into any position during the tour.

  • Alexandre

    From Brazil, I’m reading you high quality site” Cheers”

    • Lance Free

      Fair suck of the sav Lex – shouldn’t it be Brasil? Cheers to you too mate. Do you know anything about fuckin’ rugby?

      • Bobas

        sounds like the brasilian deans with comments like, ‘i am reading you’

  • wannabprop

    Are any of the 6 props selected a specialist tight head? (and I don’t mean recently converted). As Scarfman says, it’s not a development tour – I like to see the odd bolter pulled from club rugby for a major tour, but I have some real concerns about the selection process at present.

    • El Dommo

      Here here.

      As for the props selected. It is a concern when the TH stocks are low. i think the aim would be to tkae Ben Alex on a steep learning curve, but you are right…wheres the TH?

    • ash

      Ma’afu is a specialist TH. Dunning and Alexander will both be expected to play both sides, maybe Kepu too.

      I worry about Ma’afu technically. For a big lump, he’s been shown up a few times at S14 level (when he’s gotten a chance). Wallaby training may pogress him quick a bit, though. We’ll see.

      • wannabprop

        Good(ish). I don’t get to see the players much in anything other than the internationals. I thought Ma’afu may have been another of the desperate ‘converted’. Here’s hoping for progress.

  • Fantastic stuff Noddy.

    A fan of Horne also. Hope he gets some good time and makes the most of it.

  • Louie

    “Beale spent the early stages struggling to overcome injury concerns. His form was patching and he looked, frankly, unfit.”

    i think your letting him of lightly there.

    • El Dommo

      Exactly. HACK!

  • Louie

    also i’m a bgi fan of horn too. nice write up on him

  • Lance Free

    Dave Dennis was another one of those players (like Ben Alexander, Lachie Turner, James Horwill, Luke Burgess, Josh Holmes etc) who’s abilities were recognised and developed in the much lamented ARC of 2007.

    He played with David Croft’s Melbourne Rebels and was the standout forward in their early games before his first anterior cruciate injury (he did the other knee in 2008) knocked him out for the rest of that season. He’s also a former Australian Schoolboy player. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes – you’d think a ‘dirty dirty’ early on.

    • El Dommo

      He was a loose forward in ARC too wasnt he Lance?

      Skillful player, probably lacks the physciality at the moment, but this could be a good tour for him in the absence of Sharpe…he is only one injury away from a spot in the lineup.

  • Newb

    great work again noddy. it will be interesting to see how it all pans out on this tour, but i’m in agreeance with you on pretty much everything you’ve predicted here. 18 matches in about 2 months time is remarkable by todays standards!

  • El Dommo

    It seems to me the crucial positions to sort out over this tour are TH prop, 13 and 15. Throw into the mix sorting out a lock pairing that is competitive, brutal and respected, it seems like it will be a tough tour for the wobblies.

    I am loking forwad to Ben Alex experiencing the tour, he will take the reigns as the premier TH for the next 3Ns provided he remains fit. But more importantly, i’d like to see what they do with 13.

    Morty, Cross, Horne, AAC. as we are only a couple of sweason away from the WC…this i think would be the concern for Deans…a clear lack of go forward in the midfeild. Maybe Ioane on the wing would add an element of go forward when he comes off it…..BUT…lets face it…without a dangerous defence-threatening 13, even Ioane would be read and neutralised (granted not all the time, he is damaging after all, but a majority of the time).

    Building the 15 threat with AAC, fine. Wing threat with say Ioane, fine. but the have to feed of an attention-seeking 13, for that to all be effective.

  • mudskipper

    I’d like wouldn’t mind seeing Quade Cooper get a run at fullback…. and JO’C on the bench…

    • El Dommo

      I just like the fact JOC would be on the bench…OR out of the 22 all together. HA!

      Quade at 15, you certainly get the playmaking role taken care of in that setup. But quade is know for elusive running i guess not power running, you would wnat to make sure your wingers can really do some damage with the ball in hand (ie Ioane).
      Then again, JOC isnt a power runner….and not a playmaker…i dont know what he is really. a supporter? he gets tries from support play a lot which granted is a good thing, but really…it he our 15 of the future?please say no

      • Robson

        He is absolutely a “something” of the future – I’m totally sure about that.

        He has got some sublime skills and we got a glimpse of them at Wellington even when the rest of his game that night was undiluted crap.

        My thinking about him, eventually, is “10”, because (a) he knows how to straighten his run (b) he has a massive step off either foot and most of all (c) he’s got a great cut out pass – flat, wide and fast. Don’t know about his kicking yet, but that can be developed.

        He is still very, very young. By the time 2011 rolls around he will be good to go and hot with it.

        • El Dommo

          So was Dan Heenan. Portley Beale was touted as a something as well. and Josh Holmes. I could go on

          the sorry thing is that often…taht something…ends up being “a player who had potential, but didnt fully realise it”

        • Bobas

          dont forget burgess el dommo, george gregans ‘successor’.

      • Seb V

        I think JOC is the inside centre of the future. Id also like to see a lot more of quade, think he has a lot of “spark” in his game. hopefully he can stop goffing up n start stepping up next super 14 season. Which i think he will after being with the wallabies for a while now.

  • Congrats Richard Kingi it’s great to see a sevens star working he way through the ranks so successfully. Fingers crossed he gets some game time in a wallabies shirt. I will be at the game at Kingsholme so hopefully see him in a mid week game.

    • mudskipper

      Yep Kingi showed some good rugby in 7S this year,,,, pity he is behind Genia at the Reds, as he may not see lot of rugby next S14 season….

  • Searsy

    With the lack of fulltime second rowers, is there any reason Van Humphries wasn’t given a look in apart from the fact he is older than prostitution? I thought he had a decent season at the reds.

    • El Dommo

      Probably an injury. He was out of prem rugby for some time with an injury, and i think he may be spending some time getting over it. But i could be wrong.

      would have been good reward for a good few seasons and staying in there for so long. would loved to have seen him get rewarded.

  • mudskipper

    Talking locks Ben Hand also had a good S14 season…

    • louie

      true… but why would they pick him? he’s a brumbie after all.

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