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Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesdays Rugby News sees the All Black squad named, Some big names back in training for the Wallabies, a Safety review for Schoolboy Rugby and Henry Speight on the move.


 

LET THE MIND GAMES BEGIN

Wallabies v All Blacks, Suncorp Stadium, 21st October 2017

Just after Cheika named his squad for the Rugby Championship, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named his squad, with a few big names returning, a few rising stars and further proof the All Blacks have immense depth when the they can leave so much talent out. With the naming of the squad, Hanson has started with the mind games.

“The selectors found this an incredibly difficult squad to select, and whilst we congratulate those who’ve been named in the Investec Rugby Championship team, we also commiserate with those who’ve missed out” Steve Hansen (Via allblacks.com)

The NZ Herald doesn’t think there are any bolters in the squad, with the team looking to have a solid blend of experience and fresh talent, Jackson Hemopo, Shannon Frizell and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi are some of the surprising fresh faced inclusion. Chiefs Tahuriorangi is the biggest surprise, keeping Crusaders Bryn Hall and fellow Chief Brad Weber out of the squad.

With Dane Coles and SBW still under the injury cloud, Hooker Liam Coltman and Centr Ngani Laumape come in as cover players for the injured pair.

Hansen has started the mental games early this year, claiming he believes the Wallabies are favourites this year to win back the Bledisloe Cup, something that hasn’t happened since before I was in high school.

“We lost to Australia the last time we played them, so no doubt they’ll have a lot of self-confidence and are worthy of starting as favourites.”

I am not a gambling man but I wouldn’t be running to sportsbet.com any time soon. In fact the bookies seemingly disagree with the NZ coach, the All Blacks are paying $1.25 to win in Sydney.

Hansen claims to be expecting a well contested competition this year, with Australia and South Africa upping their games, and with Super Mario as the Argentinian head coach, Los Pumas could be a threat too.

“Both Australia and South Africa appear to have grown their games and will come at us with real energy and conviction, while the Argentinians have a new coaching group, which will present new challenges.

“All of this means that this year’s Rugby Championship will be a well-contested competition and we’ll need to once again raise the bar across the board when it comes to our preparation, our skill levels and how we handle pressure.

Here is the All Blacks squad for the 2018 Rugby Championship.

Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Kieran Read (C), Luke Whitelock, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Shannon Frizell, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Joe Moody, Tim Perry, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris, Dane Coles.

 

BIG WALLABIES BACK

Wallabies v Scotland-4

Sporting a moustache that rivals Ned Flanders, Tatafu Polota-Nau is back in Wallaby camp and looking to bring what he has learnt in the Northern Hemisphere and keep up with the standard set.

TPN missed the June series due to his commitment to Leicester, which paved the way for some of the younger hookers to put their hands up. Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Tolu Latu stepped up their game during the June Series, (lest we forget that National Anthem from BPA) and are both pushing for selection. Whilst it would be no surprise to see TPN be in the squad, there is some good competition to keep him honest.

In fact, Taf isn’t all that confident that he will get back into the match day 23, let alone wear the no. 2 jersey during the championship.

“Absolutely not. After today, I am not sure if you guys saw that but they have set a really high standard and I thought I would come back in and wriggle my way back in but I think I have left my run a bit late.”

“In saying that, I am always going to put my best foot forward.”

“I have to earn it,” he said.

In other Wallabies news Captain Michael Hooper is putting his best foot forward to be inline for a test return for Bledisoloe one, after completing all the drills on day one of the training camp.

Speaking with Rugby.com.au, Hooper said, ‘Yeah it’s feeling good. I am a little off the pace. It’s the first real footy I have played in over six weeks but I am comfortable in how the injury has progressed in getting here and I have had great rehab. I am putting myself in the best position to get myself right for the first game,”

Hooper will have a full week of camp to get him ready for selection next week, but even if he misses out, the Wallabies currently have a plethora of talent in the back row that some good players will naturally miss out.

HENRY SPEIGHT ON THE MOVE

Wallabies v Barbarians 2017 first half-20

Brumbies winger Henry Speight has signed a short term/ on loan contractwith Irish club Ulster during this off-season.

Fellow Brumby Christian Lealiifano used the same deal to Ulsterlast season.

Speight will be back by the end of the year in time for the 2019 Super Rugby season, but the move indicates that he will most likely be out of Wallaby selection for the Spring Tour

Speight has spoken about his excitement of joining Ulster and the new challenge he has ahead of him.

“I’ve spoken to Christian (Lealiifano) a lot regarding this move and he had only great things to say about the staff, players, supporters and wider community, which welcomed him with open arms.

“This is a fresh challenge for me and I hope to embrace it by relishing every moment and by adding value to the group as best I can. I can’t wait to arrive in Belfast and get to work with my new teammates.”

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar supported Speight’s move.

“We are fully supportive of Henry joining Ulster for the first months of the Pro14 season,” he said.

“Henry has been at the Brumbies for eight years now and this is a great opportunity for him to experience a new environment and culture”

It is a smart move by Speight, he would get more out of playing for Ulster than he would playing NRC for Canberra.

These short term load contracts may be the key to keeping talent in Australia that hasn’t broken in the Wallabies squad, or is looking for a way back in.

SCHOOLBOY SAFETY REVIEW

2018-QLD-GPS-GT-v-Nudgee-8

After a string of serious injuries to occur in Queensland’s GPS rugby competition, Rugby Australia has decided to conduct a review regarding safe practices in the game and training.

Nudgee College’s Alexander Clark suffered a spinal injury over the weekend in what is said to be a freak accident as he scored a try for the 15B’s

Four boys on four separate occasions have experience serious injuries in the early weeks of the season. Along with Clark, Gregory Terrace’s Conor Tweedy and Toowoomba Grammar School’s James Kleidon and Ollie Bierhoff have all suffered serious injuries.

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle has said she has made contact with Clark and said he can’t wait to get back to playing Rugby after he started to show some positive signs.

“Alexander Clark and Conor Tweedy are both in a stable condition and there are some positive signs but they are facing a rather long road to recovery,”

Castle went on to say,”We will be reviewing each of these cases individually because they were all in separate incidences either in the game or in training.

“There is no consistent theme that has caused any of the injuries.”

Tim Horan and Quade Cooper went to visit Conor Tweedy and Ollie Bierhoff in hospital, with Horan commenting on how distressing it is for families involved. Horan has also thrown his support behind the introduction of a certificatesystem for players packing down in the front row.

“Certificate 1 may be while you’re at training, you’re allowed to pack in the front row,” said the former Australian Centre.

“Certificate II means that you can now compete in a game, because you understand how to pack, where to put your arms, where to put your shoulders, what happens if the scrum goes down, where does your head go.”

He followed up saying you can’t remove the ‘push’ from schoolboy scrums, because they are a major part of the game, and something that will happen in clubland.

 

  • Brumby Runner

    I seem to recall that the Wallabies won the RC before each of the last two World Cups. If that is right, then they just might give the whole show a shake again this year. But it will be hard to beat the ABs twice to secure the Bledisloe.

    • RugbyM

      Something something Radike Samo running 60 odd to score in 2011!

      We need to win in Sydney to have a chance. Eden Park is, well, anything can happen, but, well, we all know… But the third Bledisloe is in Japan – that should be the interesting one if its 1-all

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        Was the last time we had a 1-1 decider Deans’ first year in 08? We actually came really close to winning the Bledisloe that year.

      • Nutta

        I’ll never forget that try. He got past Adam Thompson (fair enough – he was carrying a visibly hurt shoulder) and the Big Fro just kept going. It brought tears to my eyes at the time and still gives me goosebumps now.

        • RugbyM

          It was damn brilliant that try! The sheer brilliance of it, and how unexpected…

          “look at that aerodynamic hairstyle”.

          Still enjoy the fact that the big man is running around with the Classics and looks like he’s still got it!

        • Ads

          I remember big Radike looking like he was about to die when he crossed the line from exhaustion. Bastard never stopped running though. Great try.

        • RugbyM

          oh yeah, he was absolutely buggered after 10m but there was no way he was stopping

        • Ads

          I remember Deans thumping the table too in celebration. Said a lot to me that he did actually want us to win. All the conspiracy bullshit about him not really caring were gone in that single thump.

        • Greg

          1. he was buggered and
          2. did you note who recovered the box kick?

        • Ads

          Hooper got the kick didn’t he? :)
          And how good was Vicks pass to Radike. RIP big Vicks.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Visions of your own glory days mate

        • Nutta

          Never had the hair and to be fair my runs were more of the 5m pick & drive with a Moody-elbow bumper-bar variety.

          But after 18 schooys at the pub she was 60m with a side-step, chip-kick and pirouette…

        • Mica

          We need to have good/long memories though. :)

        • Hoss

          I go back further – Big Vicks snarling at the AB’s post Haka and the Aussies standing there after it was finished, staring and not moving an inch. Rocky Elsom as skipper, mongrel and size in the forwards. Ripper.

    • Ed

      It will depend on whether our home Bledisloe next year is the RC or the second Bledisloe due to the shortened tournament in 2019. In 2015, we had the dream RC draw of ABs and Boks at home and Argies away.

  • IIPA

    Is there any chance Cheika might start a returning Hooper from the bench ?

    I reckon a Timu,Pocock,Tui backrow would give the ABs something to think about as would the prospect of Hooper coming on with 30mins to play running around like a mad-dog.

    • Greg

      I don’t see it happening but honestly think this would be a far stronger approach.

      We get a top class 7 playing at 7. The back row looks balanced and then Hooper can go bezerk in the last 30…. where is the downside?

      oh…. and pocock or foley to captain. beale to kick in play, hodge or beale for line…. have I said this before?

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        we’ve all said it before mate

      • Braveheart81

        Can you please point me to the game where Pocock hasn’t had the same influence at the breakdown playing number 8 as he does playing 7? The number on his back is irrelevant to the role he plays.

        Timu didn’t really have much impact in the two tests he played against Ireland. I don’t think he will make the 23 with Samu as the bench backrower.

        • Julesie Bolwell

          I think main point Greg is making is the backrow balance would be far superior and then Hooper still gets to run rampant later in the second half. Win win really!

        • Greg

          This is the point indeed. We lose an 8 at 8 so that Pocock can play 7 from 8.

        • Braveheart81

          Why would it be superior? Hooper and Pocock have consistently had more impact on games together than any tradtional number 8 we’ve been able to field in recent years. The best games by number 8s we have had in the last 5 years have come from Pocock and McMahon.

          Timu was pretty ineffectual in his two tests against Ireland. He had a reasonable workrate but he contributed almost nothing as a ball carrier.

        • Jason

          >Timu was pretty ineffectual in his two tests against Ireland. He had a reasonable workrate but he contributed almost nothing as a ball carrier.

          Yeah, because we had no ball while Timu was on the field, he did make a HEAP of tackles (not many less than Hooper), and did win his contact. I don’t think Timu can be fairly judged by those two games just watch his Super form if you want to see what he brings to the table. The other thing is Timu is an 80 minuet player most of his tries have come late in the game, because he’s big and fast, rather than just big like Tui or fast like Hooper for examples.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          He was also injured for all but the first 5 or so mins of the second test.

          I don’t think Hooper had a great series against Ireland either. He wasn’t bad, but not great by any means.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Timu had a big ball carry in test 2 to set up Beale’s try, actually. He was then injured immediately and played out the half injured.

          As I said above we didn’t have Hooper for most of the third test and it was the one where our forwards were actually most dominant and effective, particularly in the second half. The line out functioned better also.

        • Braveheart81

          And Tui had an excellent game in the third test which is why he’ll be starting at 6 with Pocock and Hooper.

          Maybe Timu will improve his impact, maybe Naisarani will get the gig when he is eligible next year. The reality right now is that Pocock is a better number 8 than any traditional number 8 we have.

          I think we are set with Hooper, Pocock and whoever best complements them (currently Tui and I think that has the potential to continue through the test season) and I expect that to continue through to the RWC. I also think it is the best option we have available.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          We don’t really have any indication that Timu doesn’t have much impact aside from the first test. In the second test he had a big impacting run and then got injured, so we basically have to ignore the second half.

          Tui probably will start there. But his speed at 6 has been found out by the Reds since then. The All Blacks’ loosies are more dynamic than Ireland’s also.

          I’m sure you do. However, aside from the 2015 RWC it hasn’t been a hugely effective combination. So we have a choice between trying something else to see if it is more effective or simply going for the same that we have since 2015. Our record hasn’t been great since then.

          And don’t say we tried differently last year. We still used two 7s with McMahon and Hooper, and we lacked our best player in Pocock.

        • Braveheart81

          Our best tests have been with a non traditional back row. We don’t have a superstar number 8 and we tend to play our best when we have as many of our best players on the park as possible.

          You make it sound like the Wallabies are an outstanding team and the only thing letting them down has been the combination of Hooper and Pocock or Hooper and McMahon not being effective enough. Whether we win or lose they are generally in our best handful of players.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          ‘Our best tests have been with a non traditional back row.’

          Really? How many times have we had a traditional back-row over the last two years for example?

          Looking over 2016 and 2017 the only one I can think of for sure was France in 2016, which we dominated.

          Equally, our worst performances have been with a non-traditional back-row.

          Most of our best and worst performances are with a non-traditional back-row as that is basically all we play…

          Don’t worry, I don’t think we’re an outstanding team, and I’m scratching my head as to where I even implied that.

        • Braveheart81

          Because we have not had any good selection options at number 8. Timu is slowly getting there but I don’t think he is there yet. Timani couldn’t consistently perform at test level and is now gone. The Waratahs had Wells at number 8. The Brumbies played with a player that is ineligible.

          I agree that we should change it up once there is clearly a classic number 8 who is world class. We are comparing our non-traditional backrows against a player that doesn’t exist though. Our options have been to pick our best players with one playing a position that is not their preferred position or pick an average player who is playing his best position.

          Anyway, I enjoy people complaining about it every week on here. It will continue until we have a test quality number 8. I don’t think Timu is there yet.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          I disagree about Timani. I thought he played better at international level than at Super Rugby level. Higginbotham was a good 8 also.

          I guess it was hard to get motivated when he was dropped for players that performed worse than him.

          Timu needs to be given international minutes to improve. Hooper wasn’t great until the spring tour in 2013 either.

          Whether Hooper and Pocock is best isn’t the argument. The argument is people like yourself who indicate that it is ‘clearly’ the best. This is just as bad as those who say that the Pooper is terrible and awful in every way.

          We need to try a traditional back-row a bit more to determine whether it’s better or worse than the current setup.

        • Brumby Runner

          I think you are right BH – that’s what we’ll see, but that doesn’t necessarily say it’s the best solution for the Wallabies. Over the period we’ve played the Pooper, the Wallabies have been up and down, and are actually on a bit of a slide in comparison with Ireland and England for example.

          I am a big believer in Hooper being best used as a super sub in the last twenty or so minutes of a game. But I fear I will not see that in the next year or two.

          I am not yet sold on Tui as the best option for No 6 either. He looks to me to be a lock playing at 6, and has the limitations of most locks of not being athletic enough for the role of a 6. Maybe Dempsey, Samu or McMahon would fill the job better in aspects apart from the lineout. But if Naisarani does make the standard for the No 8 spot, he is also a good lineout operator, so less need for a primary jumper at 6.

          In any case, I can see a few combinations that would appear to offer much better balanced coverage in the back row than the continuation of the Pooper, but I also concede that in his present frame of mind, Cheika will not see it that way.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Not sliding as bad as England mate. Although the end of year tours may change that. I personally think Samu is the best 6 in Aussie rugby at the moment but the real issue is that you don’t have an 8 with the Pooper and the whole back row is unbalanced. I don’t think it works and although happy to have it against the ABs every game I think it needs changing.

        • Parker

          Can Tui be groomed as an 8?

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Maybe but an 8 needs speed and power. Too much importance here placed on size and strength but usually means they’re too slow

        • Braveheart81

          He’s trying to learn the intricacies to 6 at test level. Why would we move him now?

        • John Tynan

          UNless you are looking for a line bending ball runner as part of a no.8 repetoire, which I would like to see. Hooper is good wide and a bit looser, but not repeatedly doing dirty yards. Pocock has never really had a link/running game.

        • Nutta

          Dude the issue of what number they wear isn’t really here or there. The weight in grams between no’s 6/7/8 is not an issue. Certainly having the worlds best roving pilfering forward losing a good second (sometimes more) in clearing a scrum after the break is a problem when inflicted on that very player (seriously it’s 5-8m worth of ground covered). But for me the bigger issue is that by having 2 such guys on-field at once means our 4/5/6 must all be serious lineout jumpers as otherwise we just get owned at lineouts with only 2 options against teams who frequently have 4.

        • 22DropOut

          Yes the lineout stats for Australia lineouts in the 2015 World Cup (birth of Pooper) were below average (85% versus the best, Ireland, at 98%) and were tied last for steals.

          Not sure how much of this can be attributed to Pooper and also if the trade-off is worth it, but you’re right it is a point of concern.

          In saying that, they were one of the best sides in the competition contesting the opposition lineout.

        • Barry Power

          We had some of the same issues in Ireland for a long time. For instance, Darcy was clearly the second-best centre we had after O’Driscoll, but they were too similar for my liking. A defence could fly up on them and then sit a metre short and react to them stepping. No worry about either putting the other in a gap or running over the top of a stationary defender. BOD played his best when he had a big lump like Maggs, Henderson or Roberts inside him – if the defence rushed up to cut the big man before he gained momentum, BOD could dance. If they sat back to contain BOD, the lump could tackle bust or grab easy gain-line yards. We always talked up how much ball they both snaffled in the ruck, but once we had the ball we couldn’t take advantage of it.

          Conversely, we also often played with a 6 and 2 6.5s at 7 and 8. We would win heaps of line-out ball and tackle all day long, but we had little impact on the deck and very little go-forward ball, so we settled into attritional battles where they couldn’t break through but we couldn’t keep the ball long enough to score.

          I was definitely most worried in the June series when Hooper was of the pitch – you just seemed to offer far more variety then. Hooper is great. Pocock is great. But how many 7s do you need on the pitch?

          The way I like to think of it is, “What if you had 2 world class 9s?” Would you play one at 9 and the other at 10, just to get the two of them on the pitch?

        • Braveheart81

          In relation to your last point, I get what you’re saying but we have two world class backrowers and we need to pick three to start. I’m still convinced we’re a better team more often than not with both of them on the ground than not. Both are 80 minute players. Everyone who advocates against starting both of them still wants to finish with both on the ground. I also think Pocock plays the 8 role (and still dominates the breakdown) better than any number 8 we can pick.

          Outside of the set piece the role of the forwards is far less defined than it used to be. Everyone has to be able to do a bit of everything and they often play in zones in attack. Hooper and Pocock are the two best backrowers and two of the best overall players we have.

          Given you’d normally have one bench backrower, two need to play 80 minutes. We’re better off getting impact out of our third backrower who isn’t an 80 minute player (looks to be Tui) for 50 minutes and then finishing with another player who can provide impact.

          It’s about filling the required roles needed by the backrow and the forward pack and whilst it is a compromise I think it creates a better overall side than we would otherwise put on the field.

        • Mica

          Insightful words and good to get a NH perspective. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Hope you’re not sweltering too much back in Ireland.

      • IIPA

        I’ve always thought maybe Pococks heart wasn’t quite in the idea of captaincy. He’s got so many other interests and passions and probably wouldn’t enjoy all the extra off-field and post-match demands of Wallabies captaincy.

        But I think the year off has really refreshed him and assuming he might give it away completely after the RWC, I could see him being all-in and a magnificent captain for the next 15 months.

        Geez if he skippered us to a World Cup you’d say the ARUs decision to let him take a sabbatical was the best decision ever.

      • Jason

        >foley to captain

        Oh god please no! Pocock is our one and only captain!

    • RugbyM

      I think the only issue would be the rest of the bench slowly backing away from Hoops while he sits and waits to get on… he looks one heck of a nervous bloke watching from the sidelines

    • 22DropOut

      Hooper is a full match player and one of the best in the world, we are stronger with him on the pitch. Too much is made of playing Pocock and Hooper in the same team, there is no significant drawback and huge advantages.

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        There are obvious significant drawbacks if you ask me.

        It means we lack a heavy bodied back-rower to clear rucks (that you normally get at both 6 and 8) and we also lack another line out target. We also lack another big guy to get us over the advantage line.

        Therefore, it weakens
        – clear outs on our own ruck ball
        – line out
        – gain-line running

        So there are obvious drawbacks. The question is, do the advantages outweigh the drawbacks?

        Personally, I wouldn’t start Hooper in Bledisloe 1 as he is coming back from injury. Our forwards dominated in the second half against Ireland when Hooper was injured and the reason we lost is that our backs didn’t do anything for long stretches and then Beale Foley were terrible in the last play.

        We can reappraise the situation after Bledisloe 1 regarding whether to play the Pooper or not.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Bang on mate. The entire Loose forward trio is out of balance with the Pooper. Not only that, but it’s been quite easy to counter it in the past few years so that the advantages are actually limited. It was a great iniciative when it first came on but it’s outlived its usefulness now and needs to be changed.

        • John Miller

          Agreed DB. This standard Hooper narrative “we are stronger with him on the pitch”, “there are no significant drawbacks” is rabbited ad infinitum with little empirical justification. Hooper is a tireless, gutsy worker, he has great technique and when he gets the timing right – such as a rush up tackle on a flat footed inside back, or tiptoeing through the three quarter channel between the 13 and winger – it makes for great highlight reel (which Fox Sports duly replays endlessly with nauseating accompanying hyperbolic verbal reach-arounds aplenty).

          But despite the hype, Hooper’s drawbacks garner little press. Hooper is not a great defender. It is a common misconception and this aspect of his play is almost completely overlooked. Even though he hasn’t played a match since June, Hooper came second across the entire Super Rugby competition in ineffective tackles (that’s every player and every team). And it’s not a one off, he has been in the top 2 in this category across the last three seasons. Hooper also misses a whole pile of tackles. Again, despite six weeks off, he is in the top 20 players in the comp for dead misses. With a 75% tackle effectiveness it means that one out of every four attempts he makes is either poor or missed altogether. By comparison, Kwagga Smith is constantly chastised for falling off too many tackles for an openside (the reason many speculate he hasn’t been able to crack the Springboks test team). And yet, (despite a far superior ground game and vastly better attacking stats), Smith’s tackle effectiveness is almost the same as Hooper’s (-2-3%) who is lauded for his defence and untouchable as the Wallabies 7 under Cheika’s myopic regime. Neither approaches Pocock’s 90% T/E benchmark.

          Hooper’s attacking and linking game is apparently his pièce de résistance in the selection debate at 7 ahead of Pocock. Well the numbers are in, and they are far from comprehensive. Per game Super Rugby averages:

          Hooper: 6 runs / 39 metres / 0.6 offloads / 6.1 passes
          Pocock: 6.4 runs / 33 metres / 0.4 offloads / 6.1 passes

          Even in the absence of Australia’s best openside flanker, David Pocock, last season, Hooper wasn’t even the Wallabies best backrower. Sean McMahon (who left Australia for Japan with the express desire to “really keep focusing on and working on my over the ball skills as well, so I can get a bit more specific to that No.7 role”), was the Wallabies standout and, when healthy, Dempsey was next best. At test level, physiologically, both are really displaced 7’s themselves.

          You also hear the “number doesn’t matter” argument rolled out a lot when it comes to Hooper’s inclusion. I call BS on that. If Pocock, who is our best 7 and plays the role of 7 (scrums aside), actually adorned the 7 jersey, the pure folly of replacing a test 6 or 8 with Michael Hooper would become much clearer. Scrums, lineouts, ruck cleaning, tight running, maul contesting are all fatally compromised and in the trench warfare of the first 30-40 minutes of grinding test rugby against the top tier sides. These aspects are premium. The Wallabies 6 or 8 doesn’t need to be a better individual player than Michael Hooper to gain those jerseys (or even that most subjective of measures “world class”), they just need to be better at: scrum leveraging, lineout jumping, winning collisions in the tight, cleaning out with blunt shouldered force and holding up marauding opposition forwards.

          The Pocock / Hooper selection has cost this Wallabies team dearly. It seems that it will continue to do so.

        • Dud Roodt

          Rather than being selective about stats, you should tell the whole story;

          Hooper also the third highest tackle ratefor #7’s at 13+/game (Pocock 10th on 11.2/game)
          Has more offloads than Pocock
          Same number of turnovers
          Less handling errors

          For his flaws, he also is one of the top performers in most categories across Super Rugby.

          No one is arguing that Hooper is a better player than Pocock (I don’t think). They both are incredible players. The argument being made is that the person replacing Hooper would be Pocock (fantastic), but the person replacing Pocock isn’t as good as Hooper.

          “The Pocock / Hooper selection has cost this Wallabies team dearly. It seems that it will continue to do so.”

          OK, so in your opinion, what player would have replaced Hooper in the team and won us the things we’ve lost? Is there some Toutai Kefu out there in Super Rugby who hasn’t had a look in? Of all the number 8’s we’ve had since the Pooper was brought in, none of them have anything close to the effect on a game that Michael Hooper has.

        • Andy

          Agree with this. There is merit in the arguments against the pooper but it’s more about back row balance than the numbers on their back. Adding Tui into the back row would be a more balanced setup than what we’ve had over the past few years. That being, Hooper, McMahon, Hanigan or Hooper, McMahon/Pocock, Mumm.

          I think when Naiserani is available at 8 then Hooper would make an exceptional impact player.

        • John Miller

          Lucky no one is arguing that Hooper is a better player than Pocock. He’s clearly not. He sure as beans isn’t the best openside flanker of the two.

          But then, that’s not really the point. Is Michael Hooper the best 8 in Australia. Because that’s what this Wallabies team sacrifices to have him in a starting jersey. And – once again – the argument shouldn’t be: “is the 8 a better individual player than Hooper?” Because he doesn’t need to be. Nor does he need to be Toutaui Kefu or even, “world class”. He simply needs to be better able to execute the vital forward-centric skills of an eightman. Scrums, lineouts, ruck cleaning, tight collisions, central gainline, mauls: there are a whole host of Australian loose forwards better than Michael Hooper at all of these skills.

          If we need fleet footed, support running, three-quarter channel line breaking footballers – half the team are designated as backs. Select them better.

          Interesting that you use the word “selective” DR.

          Tackles per match: Hooper 13.2 (@ 75% tackle effectiveness = 9.9 successful) / Pocock 11.2 (@ 90% tackle effectiveness = 10.1 successful)

          Handling errors per match: Hooper 0.15 / Pocock 0.3. Offloads per match: Hooper 0.6 / Pocock 0.4. So, MH makes 0.15 less handling errors and 0.2 more offloads per match. Yep, comprehensive stuff.

          Pilfers per match: Hooper 0.5 / Pocock 1.0

          Pilfers + Forced Turnovers + Forced Ruck & Maul Penalties: Hooper 0.7 / Pocock 1.8.

          Of course, there are no broadly available breakdown metrics for slowed opposition pill / harried halfback distribution / opposition attackers committed to the rucks-cleanouts etc. But surely, not even the bravest Hooper-phile would attempt to suggest that MH sits anywhere within Pocock’s universe conversant to ruck effectiveness?

          Indeed, the Pocock / Hooper selection has cost this Wallabies team dearly. It seems that it will continue to do so

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          I’m personally not a believer in raw stats proving much, especially those available to the public.

          I think it’s evident that both Hooper and Pocock are amongst Australia’s best players.

          John is right, though, in saying that Hooper misses a concerning number of tackles, both in absolute terms and in percentages. A lot of them are when he shoots out of the line at the coach’s instruction to pressure the player with the ball, which is fine, but he misses a concerning number of one on one tackles in the line too. It’s also fair to say that he’s not as good at the breakdown as most of our top 7s and that while he has an unbelievable running game he has often demonstrated himself (like Folau) to be unwilling to pass when he should.

          You’re wrong in saying that ‘Of all the number 8’s we’ve had since the Pooper was brought in, none of them have anything close to the effect on a game that Michael Hooper has.’ Timani played very well at international level and, whether people want to admit it or not, the performance by the forwards in the second half of the third test against Ireland is probably the best forwards display we’ve put on since the RWC, if not since before then too. And that was against the second best team in the world with an extremely good pack.

          Whether Pooper is the best option or not is debatable. However, people who try and make it seem like anyone who is against it is simply biased or objectively wrong are wrong themselves. The evidence is not at all clear to me that it is definitely the right policy. I think the jury is still out, and part of the problem has been Cheika’s unwillingness to even test traditional back-rows.

        • Darrin Briggs

          So on point.Hooper is a great player but he unbalanced our whole loose forward setup. I can’t see it changing unfortunately.

    • Mica

      No and yes.
      Short and sweet today.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Dylan,

    You know I wish these coaches would just stop the bullshit mind games and just coach. I doubt that any player or coach at this level gives a tinkers fuck what anyone in the press, opposition or anywhere else says about them or the team and this crap is just bullshit that detracts from the game.

    That is a strong looking AB team. I like that Luamape has been asked to look at the next level of skills he needs. No one is disputing his rugby skills on the fileld playing the game but to step up he needs to take his management, thinking and mentoring skills to the next level. I think this focus on the top 10% is a great part of what makes the ABs so successful. Your playing ability gets you looked at but without that higher level of thinking and decision making you may not succeed.

    Great to see TPN back I’m not so sure he won’t waltze into the side but either way he’s a great addition to the team.

    • Greg

      You are not drinking the cool aid @krl. They are underdogs ok… do you hear me?

    • Who?

      Come on KRL, the mind games are awesome! Shag’s a bit off his game though – does he seriously think anyone’s buying his lines about being underdogs?! He’s normally the master at that!

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I used to like them, especially when they were witty and clever but now I think they go over the top, especially when those Trolls in the press start up with clown faces and grubs that are just stupid.

    • 22DropOut

      Provoking a backlash to build a siege mentality in the NZ dressing room.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Mate you are always in a seige mentality at an away location. Doesn’t matter if it’s club, province, Franchise or country. Not sure the bullshit contributes to this in any meaningful way.

      • Missing Link

        Easier for them to plant another bug in their dressing room

        • Archie

          Haha I think you’ll find it was an Aussie security guard who did that. Crafty Aussie b@stards

        • Missing Link

          C’mon mate, you know he worked for the darkness and you know he took the fall for what was supppsed to be a team motivation exercise that got blown out of proportion. I’m sure Jaycar has a tranaction on their books for a “simple FM bug ” under the name “Steve”

        • Archie

          No… I’ve already cut this one out and stuck it in my ‘dastardly deeds by Australians’ scrapbook… right next to the picture of Trevor Chappell.

        • Hoss

          Love it Archie.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Ba-boom!

    • Fatflanker

      Hallelujah to that. No-one would rate the ABs as anything other than overwhelming favourites – just silly to say otherwise.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Concur. Just play the games. No one gives a crap about the mind games.

  • Who?

    The schoolboy thing is very interesting. A few points/questions.
    1. Does RA have any jurisdiction whatsoever over schoolboy rugby? These players do not pay RA insurances or affiliation fees. Which leads me to think they’re outside RA’s control (though I believe they’ve got a voice in RA and are partly funded by RA).
    2. Why is it that we hear about issues with injuries like this in School rugby, but not club rugby? What’s the cause? Is it higher demands in competition? Increased pressure? Surely (given the priority the school coaches get in coaching accreditation placements) it’s not lower quality coaching than you get in club.
    3. The certificate rubbish for coaching. When my team (the one I managed) hit U10’s – where you start pushing – we spent 2 months drilling scrummaging technique. We started with body positioning, binding, then the Mayday call (you can’t practice it until you’re bound), then pushing, etc. We scrummaged one on one, two on two, etc. We didn’t ever have a scrummaging injury, we had a dominant scrum. And we didn’t ever injure anyone (even if we did push past 1m on a number of occasions – the refs couldn’t call stop quickly enough!). If a team is well coached, there’s no issue with scrummaging, because the hit’s completely de-powered.
    4. Pressure, and refereeing. I question whether part of the issue is the focus on the result, which pressures referees to referee as competition games, with less focus on player safety. If there’s an issue with safety at the scrum, referees have the capacity to call it. If they’re permitted to do so… If there’s school pride, competition points and the like up for grabs, perhaps this means the focus is on rewarded dominant scrums over player safety..? When I’ve refereed games, I’ve rewarded dominant scrums, but if that scrum dominance is coming because the weaker team has technical issues that could risk safety, I’ve coached the scrums on the field (improved alignment, etc). But that’s in clubland. If the focus is on competition, do referees feel pressured to overlook that..?
    5. 7’s. 7’s isn’t the way forward. Not on its own. It should be developed, but you can’t restrict junior/teenage Rugby to 7’s only. It excludes too many kids (what happens to those who aren’t sprinters? They get discouraged and leave the game), and it leaves skill development until too late an age (because we can’t ban international XV’s).
    With all this, it’s got to be remembered that the goal for schools in Rugby is enrolments. Nothing else. They’re looking to preserve there prestige, and a winning Rugby school will garner enrolments. If this blows up, and they don’t resolve it, it wouldn’t surprise me to see these schools walk away, rather than risk losing enrolments. Given the risk to enrolments, regardless of the public statements of some principals (which might appear wooden and distant), they’ll take some action, but given their independence, there’s no guarantee it’ll be the right action for the game (though it’ll be something that appears to attempt to resolve any problems identified by what are, thankfully, rare incidents).

    • onlinesideline

      Mate offer up your brain to GGR officially (and I dont mean literally in a jar) and start your own column – You’re good !

    • Braveheart81

      I think this has been an unbelievably bad run of injuries in the last few weeks and is in no means part of a trend. Only one of the four injuries was in a scrum apparently.

      • Who?

        That’s one of the key things – we hear ‘Rugby’ and ‘spinal injury’ and the automatic assumption is scrum… That’s why it was my third point, and it’s interesting to note it seems to have been Horan’s only point.

    • RugbyM

      I’m with you on the 7s. 7s is great in its own right, those players are bloody fit to be able to do that.

      7s is not great if you are set to be 6’10 or look like you enjoyed the pre-game BBQ or build like a filing cabinet.

      7s is not a direct pathway into XVs. Its got its own set of skills and talent, same as XVs.

      If RA want people to play XVs at a higher elite level, then you gotta get them play XVx early – juniors, schoolkids etc etc

      Accidents and injuries can happen at any stage of a rugby game – its a collision sport. It is unfortunate that these 4 kids in the last few weeks have got probable life-changing injuries at such a young age.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Well said mate, you raise some good points. I have been extremel lucky in my refereeing in that I’ve never had a serious injury. In saying that I am especially mindful of safety in the scrums at schoolboy level and have instigated uncontested scrum,s in the past when I’ve felt a side is not able to compete safely.

      Agree 100% that 7’s is not the way forward. It’s a great game but the lack of people easily crossing between the codes at a high level indicates the skill sets are different and it won’t be the saviour it’s thought by some to be. I also agree that the little fatties that gravitate to the scrums now will miss out and go elsewhere

  • Adrian

    Thanks Dylan

    You hit the nail on the head re Hansen.

    Mind games and attempted comedy from guys like Hansen and Cheika take up valuable space in press releases. They of course would like to be in the big league of deadpan comedians, but watch so little of it that they don’t realise how dumb they sound!

    Still,..it could be worse, … like an Afrikaans comedian for example.

    Yes, bookies do have NZ as hot favourites, which is to be expected, as odds are driven by punter cash.

    Australia are better placed than this time last year,,…..but I suspect NZ are too.

    Bring it on

    • Missing Link

      Aafrikaner humour is as dry as the Kalahari :)

      • Adrian

        Not only dry, but not funny.

        I like dry, but only if funny.

        Hoss may have another interpretation of dry, but I’ll leave it for now

        • Hoss

          Always found the Dutch Dirt Diggers warmth that of a a cross between a maths teacher and aggressive Rottweiler. Combine it with the Afrikaans accent and even a compliment feels like a aggressive blow to the crotchel region.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          That’s gold mate

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Hey Adrian. I think it’ll be close but the Australian midfield may struggle as they are so new.
      Looking forward to this

      • Adrian

        Yes KRL
        I’m still trying to work out what I think the team will be, then adjust my thinking when it’s announced.
        This particularly relates to 13, but also to 10 with the non set-piece defence pattern.
        Hooper usually stands at 10, with Foley on the blind wing. If Hooper doesn’t play, it will mean a less competent tackler in that spot. The Tahs were effected by this I think.
        Fortunately, if what I’ve read today is true, Hooper will play.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Mate why the fuck doesn’t Foley defend at 10? Putting Hooper there means you lose his presence to react to play elsewhere and that reduces his effectiveness and increases the imbalance of the loosies. I really don’t get this, if Foley can’t defend he should fuck off and play soccer

        • qwasimodo

          With the traffic teams are sending down to the 10-12 channel nowadays it isn’t that strange to have one of your best tacklers there. Even if Foley could consistently bring them down, they’d still make easy metres and exhaust him so he’s less potent in attack

        • Greg

          Good point. If he is exhausted he won’t get any distance on his line kicks.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Most other teams do it. Sure give him support but this policy of moving players in and out of the line all the time is a shit tactic. Apart from them having to manage this it constantly puts them out of position when the play changes. So if Foley is hiding on the wing and the opposition drop the ball and it’s pounced on, you now have your main distributor sitting on the wing being as effective as a pork sausage at a Jewish BBQ. It’s just crap

        • onlinesideline

          oy vey

        • qwasimodo

          Personally I’d never have let toomua leave and work on developing 10s with vision who can kick, pass, run and tackle. I’m just saying that given Foley’s limitations, it isn’t completely insane to hide him in defence.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Isn’t it a better option to make him learn or fuck off?

        • qwasimodo

          Aussie teams don’t have the depth to throw away talented players with limitations or who don’t fit the culture :(

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          And that ensures they don’t need to continually improve when they get there. Bit of an issue isn’t it?

        • Who?

          To be fair, Beaudy often defends at the back. Like Quade did. But to be fair to Beaudy (and Quade), he’s a much bigger threat returning the ball in open space (and much safer under the high ball (not necessarily true for Quade)) than Foley.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I’m not sure he’s so much of a threat that you gain more with a fucked up complicated system to have it.

        • Who?

          Which player – Foley or Beaudy?

  • Dud Roodt

    Great quote that Adrian, cheers…

Rugby
@DylanGLanges

Once captained the 3rds Rugby team, but then again so did Nick Farr-Jones

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