Wallabies Ladder - Green and Gold Rugby
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Wallabies Ladder

Wallabies Ladder

The upcoming Wallabies squad selection is possibly the most contentious one in recent memory. With so many key Wallabies (in Cheika’s estimation) out of form (Phipps, Stephen Moore, almost all the locks), and with a relatively easy opposition for this June series, this could be a time for Michael Cheika to dust off his selector’s binoculars.

Here’s a Wallabies XV, if there was to be a game on the weekend, and if they team was selected on form only. Hopefully, we can revisit this team in a few more weeks and see if anything’s changed.

* Incumbent Wallaby in that position. No overseas players have been selected.

Loose Head Prop

1. Scott Sio* (Brumbies)

2. Tom Robertson (Waratahs)
3. Ben Daley (Force)

On the back of the James Slipper injury, this is perhaps the position with the least depth in Australian rugby at the moment. Thank the Rugby Gods that Scott Sio has found his mojo again. He’s the attacking fulcrum of a dominant Brumbies scrum at the moment. Missed a chunk of the season with injury but is now reach peak Sio.

Hooker

1. Tolu Latu (Waratahs)

2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Force)
3. Robbie Abel (Brumbies)

Tolu Latu has been close to the Waratahs best so far in season 2017. His discipline has improved and his skills have too. His turnover ability is up there with the best in the competition. Incumbent Stephen Moore needs a dramatic form lift to be back in consideration. Veteran TPN in the west is showing form of old while Abel is reaping the benefits of being part of a strong Brumbies pack.

Tight Head Prop

1. Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies)

2. Sekope Kepu* (Waratahs)
3. Tom Robertson (Waratahs)

Allan Alaalatoa is another of the 2016 Wallaby debutants who has continued on his rise this year. As a THP, he is a key player in the strong Brumbies scrum but his workrate around the field has really caught the eye. He is doing the work that Sekope Kepu used to do regularly, however with a stronger defensive game.

Lock

1. Rory Arnold (Brumbies) & 2. Sam Carter (Brumbies)

3. Rob Simmons* (Reds)
4. Will Skelton (Waratahs)
5. Matt Phillip (Force)

Adam Coleman is obviously out of consideration due to a long term injury, while the incumbents of Kane Douglas and Rob Simmons have had mixed years to date. Rory Arnold‘s physicality has raised another level this year, notably in attack. Sam Carter has taken to the captaincy with aplomb and has produced his best form since 2014. Matt Philip of the Force is the darkhorse on the list given Izack Rodda‘s injury concerns.

Blindside

1. Scott Fardy (Brumbies)

2. Scott Higginbotham (Reds)
3. Ned Hanigan (Waratahs)

Many critics were prepared to write off Scott Fardy as a Wallaby contender on the back of an average 2016 and his decision to try his wares overseas at year’s end. However he has produced the old school form that first got him that Wallaby gig years ago and he’s making a fairly unarguable case for reselection. His breakdown work is first class.

Openside

1. Michael Hooper* (Waratahs)

2. Chris Alcock (Brumbies)
3. Matt Hodgson (Force)

Once again Michael Hooper has been the standout player for the Tahs this season. The energiser bunny of Australian Rugby maintains a high workrate despite the constant minutes. His attack work is a focal point for the team, and will be for the Waratahs. Chris Alcock from the Brumbies, however, is producing some very good numbers – and very comparable numbers and wouldn’t look out of place in gold if given the chance.

No. 8

1. Scott Higginbotham (Reds)

2. Ben McCalman (Force)
3. Michael Wells (Waratahs)

Scott Higginbotham had a bit of a shocker against the Brumbies in Week 7, but all up has been one of the bright spots in the Reds season so far. Dare I say he’s been a surprise packet? Many appreciated the skill he possessed but most questioned his commitment to the cause and perhaps the ability for his body to hold up, on the back of a season in Japan. He’s been excellent however and with the Wallaby incumbent, Lopeti Timani, suspended at the moment, Higgers was a must pick here. Young Michael Wells is one to watch too.

Scrumhalf

1. Jake Gordon (Waratahs)

2. Joe Powell (Brumbies)
3. James Tuttle (Reds)

Who wears the 9 jersey is perhaps the toughest question the Wallaby selectors will ask. Arguably better depth than Loose Head Prop, just without the standout candidate. Jake Gordon has managed to relegate Nick Phipps to the bench and provided capable and dangerous. A handy combo. Joe Powell will come into consideration too, but watch out for James Tuttle of the Reds as a possible option too.

Flyhalf

1. Bernard Foley* (Waratahs)

2. Quade Cooper (Reds)
3. Jono Lance (Force)

Is Bernard Foley’s noggin up there with Beckham’s foot as the most worried about body part in world sporting history? Maybe not, but I’m sure it’s dominating much of Coach Cheika’s worrying at the moment. The Waratahs are a much better side when Bernard is playing and he will be first choice for the Wallabies, if he stays ‘clean’. Quade Cooper was back closer to his best against the Lions and the clash between the Reds and Tahs in a couple of weeks’ time could determine final standings.

Inside Centre

1. Billy Meakes (Force)

2. Reece Hodge* (Rebels)
3. Samu Kerevi (Reds)

Billy Meakes has been one of the signings of the season for the Force and one that could have an immediate impact on the Wallabies. Billy obviously loves the physical nature of rugby, and does it well, but he’s proved an impressive link man to his free-running outside backs too. Incumbent Reece Hodge has struggled to regain the form of last year but remains a strong candidate as does Samu Kerevi who started 2016 in the Wallaby 12 jersey. Watch for Duncan Paia’aua as a potential candidate as well.

Outside Centre

1. Tevita Kuridrani* (Brumbies)

2. Samu Kerevi (Reds)
3. Israel Folau (Waratahs)

It’s a close run thing between two K-Trains. While Kerevi‘s attacking stats are league leading, these have been boosted by him being the main man for the Reds with no Quade and limited Hunt. His defensive work is a concern, however, and leads the league there too. Tevita Kuridrani isn’t relied on as heavily at the Brumbies but has been strong in attack, on the back of his excellent EOYT form, scoring crucial tries and defending more effectively.

Wing

wing-3

1. Henry Speight (Brumbies) & 2.Dane Haylett-Petty* (Force)

3. Sefa Naivalu* (Rebels)
4. Israel Folau (Waratahs)
5. Eto Nabuli (Reds)

Australia has rare depth at the moment in the wing position, especially when you consider the utility value of some of our players. Henry Speight is looking as close to his ‘pre-eligible’ form as we’ve seen while DHP continues to show the class we saw in the Wallaby jersey last year. While he’s at 15 for the Force, he must be in the Wallaby team and provides an excellent kicking option. Some are calling for the return of Israel Folau to the wing, however it’s tough to pick him over others who have shown better form of late.

Fullback

1. Karmichael Hunt (Reds)

2. Dane Haylett-Petty (Force)
3. Israel Folau* (Waratahs)

Karmichael Hunt is now showing consistently the glimpses we’ve seen over his initial two years in professional rugby. Most pleasing for Cheika is the impact he brings to the Reds in the front line, a position he would be used with Foley or QC at 10. Hunt has proven a smart contributor to the Reds from set and phase attack as well as on the kick return. DHP’s year in the Wallaby jersey has shown in the experience and leadership he is showing at the back for the Force. Israel Folau has been playing at 13 for most of the season but struggling without Foley inside.

Team in Full:

  1. Scott Sio (ACT)
  2. Tolu Latu (NSW)
  3. Allan Alaalatoa (ACT)
  4. Rory Arnold (ACT)
  5. Sam Carter (ACT)
  6. Scott Fardy (ACT)
  7. Michael Hooper (NSW)
  8. Scott Higginbotham (QLD)
  9. Jake Gordon (NSW)
  10. Bernard Foley (NSW)
  11. Dane Haylett-Petty (WA)
  12. Billy Meakes (WA)
  13. Tevita Kuridrani (ACT)
  14. Henry Speight (ACT)
  15. Karmichael Hunt (QLD)


Oh, and before commenting assume that Rugby Reg is biased against whatever team it is that you may support. That way, we can skip the finger pointing and get to the interesting discussion. Cheers – Ed

  • Pedro

    Nice write up, I can’t argue with much of the reasoning here. I think the wallabies will re release the kerevidrani in the midfield though.

  • Brendan Hume

    Given the results from last season, wiping the slate clean and building a squad for 2019 is probably the best option for Cheika now. We really have only two international seasons to work with – 30-40 games – before the next World Cup. Pick a squad and stick with it. Timani looked the goods last year – stick with him; Higgers will probably be a bit past it by 2019. Fardy is on the way out – find a good six and give him a crack. Toss Squeak – he doesn’t look to have the ability to roll around in 2019. We need a squad for the future that will take us on a rollercoaster for the next two seasons but will ultimately deliver us an exhilarating climax in Japan.

    • Steve

      Phew! That left me a bit hot under the collar…

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I agree. I think the obsession with winning now will hinder the build up for 2019. It has to be sold as such though and I think the hurt from the last couple of years is partly because there doesn’t seem to be any genuine growth or plans for the future. Older players like Mumm and Moore not performing but seemingly protected and keeping out others who will be the future

  • Bobas

    Great article and we’d all love for this approach to be taken when selections come round, but lets be honest:
    – Kepu and Folau will start.
    – Higgers wasn’t even a part of the training camp last week.
    – Mumm is sitting on 57 caps and Cheik will want to get him over the line so he can keep selecting him even if no other rugby team in Aus wants him.

    • Adrian

      I’d settle for Mumm getting 3 off the bench if he didn’t get any more!
      Actually he’s in better form this year than last year, but I still wouldn’t have him

    • Braveheart81

      Mumm shouldn’t be picked because his form isn’t there but I also don’t expect him to head back overseas. He came back to Australia in part due to having a young family and is the RUPA President. I reckon he’ll finish his career here and transition to life after rugby (which could very well still involve rugby).

      • Bobas

        Having the epitome of everything wrong with the private school hierarchy as president is a bigger mistake than cutting a super rugby team.
        Mumm has never been in form, he’s good at lineouts and he’s not slow, but that’s about it.

  • Rebels3

    Interesting article

    Based on form, availability and incumbency

    Loosehead (Sio, Robertson, 3)
    Hooker (Latu, TPN, Able)
    Tighthead (AAT, Kepu, Ainsley)
    Lock (Arnold, Carter, Phillip, Simmons)
    Blindside (Fardy, Higgers, Hannigan)
    Openside (Hooper, Faingaa, Alcock)
    No.8 (Higgers, rest have been crap)
    Scrumhalf (Powell, Gordon, Tuttle)
    Fly Half (Foley, Quade, Lance)
    Inside (Hodge, Meekes, Horwitz)
    Outside (Kerevi, Kurindrani, English)
    Wings (Speight, Nabuli, Peni)
    Fullback (Hunt, DHP, Folau)

    Still wanting to see the following wallabies team

    Sio
    Latu
    Kepu
    Arnold
    Coleman
    Fardy (if absolutely desperate through multiple injuries can play lock)
    Hooper
    Higgers (covers 6)
    Gordon
    Foley
    Folau (covers 15 or 13)
    Beale (covers 10, also 13 & 15 if needed)
    Kerevi (covers 12)
    Speight
    DHP (covers 11 & 14)

    TPN (obviously covers hooker)
    Robertson (covers 1 & 3)
    AAT (covers 1 & 3)
    Carter (4 & 5)
    McMahon (6, 7 & 8)
    Powell (9)
    Kurindrani (13 and 12 if needed)
    Hunt (15, but also 12/13 could play 10 if desperate)

    TPN, McMahon, Kurindrani and Hunt = lots of impact from bench

  • Dud Roodt

    Incumbent Stephen Moore needs to merely be showing that he is alive to be back in consideration.
    FTFY

  • Nutta

    My mob picked right now:
    1. Robbo
    2. Abel
    3. Allan
    4. Rory
    5. Carter
    6. Fardy
    7. Alcock
    8. Higgers
    9. Powell
    10. Foley
    12. Hodge
    13. K’drani
    Wings – Sauce & Speight
    15. K.Hunt

    Finishers:
    Pigs – TPN, Kepu, Dougy, Hooper, Smith
    Fairies – Gordon, Jono Lance, Folau

    Would like to pick:
    Toby (over Kepu), Coleman (over Carter), Timani (probably over Smith), Late Edition of Kellaway (over Speight)

    • McWarren

      Nutta, I’m guessing a bit of an oversight by omitting Quade? Oui?

      • Nutta

        Shit-stirrer. But I’ll bite. Who would you cut to make way for him?

        • McWarren

          I wouldn’t, his form is shite so far this year. Needs to do more than beat the Kings to earn a recall. But if push came to shove I’d stick at 7, sort of a seagulling 7 in the shape of Hooper.

        • Nutta

          It was always the great asset that Gits provided being able to cover 9-10-12. If QC could be relied on to cover 9 or 15 then he would be worth a punt as utility.

        • Adrian

          Cooper is a beautiful passer, and I’d seriously train him to become a back up 9. He can play 15, and probably played more games at 15 than at 10 for Toulon

  • David Creagh

    Loy to like about Gordon, pass seems good and a genuine scoot from the ruck base but it has got to be Powell for me. I think he leads the pigs around the park better and has a better pass.

  • Tomthusiasm

    Peni for your thoughts?

    • RugbyReg

      doing well but couldn’t place him in my top 5 wing options at the moment.

      • Tomthusiasm

        I reckon he’d go well, given the Force’s precarious situation it’d be wise for him to be locked down before he buggers off overseas, assuming of course he’s keen and eligible (I think he’s been in Oz over three years).

    • Nutta

      If he wasn’t hurt I would want Kellaway.

  • SuckerForRed

    Only one I would disagree with you about would be Scrumhalf. I would put Powell above Gordon, but all 3 have their moments & potential.

  • Adrian

    Not a bad team at all.

    Your early comment about the locks being out of form is off the mark though. They’re in better form as a group than they’ve been for years, and that includes Skelton who has been in various”teams of the week” 4 times, and has taken lineout ball. Coleman will be back next week.

    Folau patchy, that’s true, but he’ll effectively be a winger, though he might wear 15.

    Add Beale and Genia, and we have a cracking team

    My greatest concern is that Cheika will keep Moore, which would be a travesty, …. and keep the whinging culture in place

    • RugbyReg

      you think the Wallaby locks Skelton, Douglas and Simmons are in better form than they have for years? Skelton perhaps. I’d struggle to make that same case for the other two.

      • Adrian

        I didn’t mean Simmons and Douglas.

        I mean Coleman (in the game he played), Arnold, Phillip, Skelton and Arnold’s brother. They are all big, and can run and pass etc

        I know Carter has been in form, but I wouldn’t pick him either

  • Pearcewreck

    I think the “Different Strokes” pairing of Arnold & Coleman is our best bet in the 2nd row?

    • RugbyReg

      Agreed. Coleman is injured at the moment so can’t be considered for this team

  • phil peake

    Good team. I think Hanigan could play 6 or 8 – good to see him in there.
    One guy that hasn’t been mentioned at all is Tom English who I think has stood up for the Rebels at 13, although I’m not unhappy with Kuridrani there.
    I’m not convinced with Hunt. He tries hard and has some good skills but has big lapses with positional play and defence. I’d have DHP at fullback, his natural position and have Sefa and Kellaway (not mentioned?) on the wings. I don’t think Speight and Nabuli are good enough for Test rugby.

    • RugbyReg

      Kellaway is injured so not eligible, but I don’t think he’d be in my top 5 at the moment.

      English is a good shout, but I still think he’s behind this lot.

      Agree on Hanigan. Really keen to see how he develops.

      • phil peake

        I’d just like to see outside backs selected for test rugby that do the little things really well, can defend, can kick & have good rugby brains. I find Speight, Nabuli, Folau and other similar types too one dimensional especially for test rugby.

  • Foley at 10 because of form? hang on… he has form this season? If the article is based on form, it needs to be on form, not on incumbency. Fake news?! I’d like to have a solid 10 but if any other 10 had been out through injury, I doubt very much they would have the same selection ease.

    • Hugh Cavill

      Foley has looked pretty good in the few games he has played. Quade has been on the sidelines for most of this year too.

      So really if that’s your criteria then it’s literally just Jono Lance that is eligible as the other 10s were injured, suspended or are just Kiwis.

      • RugbyReg

        It’s picked on the basis of a team being picked to play this weekend. Foley is the form, fit flyhalf.

        He’d be my pick.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        And that is killing development in the 10 area. Bringing in kiwis who can’t make a NZ super team just seems all kinds of wrong to me

  • idiot savant

    Nice fantasy Reg. I can’t believe you haven’t picked Mumm.

    I guess the closest this fantasy will come to reality is the captaincy (which you didn’t name I notice). This may well be the season that Cheika replaces Moore with Hooper. And the downside of that will be that Hooper will be the number 7 all the way to RWC in Japan. While I am in awe of Hooper’s motor, I believe a more traditional ball slowing pest will make us more competitive against the All Blacks and the English. Poccock played that role in the only win against the ABs under Cheika, as he did in the RWC win against the English. What are the odds that we can beat the ABs with no ball slower in the loose forwards? Add in Grey’s form as the D coach and we just have too many points to chase.

    • RugbyReg

      mate, pretty much agree with everything you’ve said there. I am really intrigued as to how someone like Alcock would go in test rugby.

      In the end though, the on ball work needs to be done by a few people and Latu and Fardy can assist here.

      • idiot savant

        Yeah hookers get out of scrums pretty fast! Seriously tho it makes Fardy seem hard to leave out.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Alcock would be awesome

    • Who?

      I agree with so much you say, but will point out that Hooper’s lesser focus on slowing the ball has been significantly hampered at Test level the last couple of years due to Cheika’s obsession with Dean Mumm at 6. Fardy this year is again showing why our backrow in late 2013 (after Pocock’s injury) looked so good with Hooper at 7. It was because Fardy (and Mowen) did so much work slowing the ball at the breakdown.
      For mine, the bigger issue with Hooper as captain isn’t his game (that just needs to be better supplemented by complimentary selections – something Pocock and Fardy have provided in the past), it’s the way he communicates on the field. He’s still insanely young for a bloke who’s got so many caps, but age and maturity don’t guarantee a bloke will grow into a captain. For mine, if he’s available, Genia should be captain… And get him back here permanently!

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I think you have a good point on Hooper but I’m still not sure what his role is in either the Wallabies or Tahs. He’s definitely not a fetcher so that means someone else has to. He hasn’t got the bulk or power to take the ball up into traffic and make ground consistently. It’s almost like he’s a third centre in the team. Not a bad idea but it does leave gaps elsewhere and the Poms and AB’s have consistently exploited that. Agree on loving his motor and commitment but not sure he actually offers that much in 80 mins. I still see him much more as a finisher

        • Who?

          Hooper’s role is effectively that of a blindside flanker. A short blindside. He tackles hard, counter rucks (rarely pilfers, and has to be set to counter ruck (because he’s easy to shift sideways)), and runs in the tight loose. He does also work as a third centre, given he does defend (generally) in the 10 channel. Grey’s system is built around him. Drop Hooper and the whole defensive line has to change…
          I don’t disagree that he’s got huge potential as a finisher, though realities are that Cheika wants him at 7. Last year, he wouldn’t have been my first choice there, because he’s not the style of 7 I’d want. Not because he’s a poor player (which he isn’t).

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah I agree and I think it unbalanced the loose trio. I’m always wary when a coach puts in a system that no one else does and leaves it in place. Ok for doing it once or twice as a tactic to put off a particular team but how likely is it that no one else has thought of it and it’s a genuine new winner? Especially in a team that has the poor record the Wallabies have had for the last year

        • Tim

          Why does Hooper get all the heat? All 15 need to be able to apply pressure and steal the ball. Why doesn’t anyone blame the rest of the forward pack?You look at the All blacks all 15 apply pressure to the break down. Wallabies only 1 or 2 will pressure the breakdown. Normally it would be Pocock or Fardy. Until all 8 of our forward pack actually learn how to pressure the breakdown we wont be able to beat the top teams.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I think Hooper gets it because he’s touted as being more than he is. Absolutely a good player with a lot if heart and some good skills but when you look at world class 7’s and what they do on the paddock he’s not up there. Thats not to say he doesn’t play well, he absolutely does, it’s just not that traditional 7 role. I personally think its a weakness that unbalances the Wallabies but that’s just my opinion.

        • Tim

          I agree its a weakness because most of our forwards don’t know how to pilfer the ball. He is no Pocock but it just annoys me when nobody else in the team pilfers and he gets the blame. Yes traditional role of a number 7 is to pilfer but smart teams like NZ just hold Pocock off the ball then you have nobody pilfering.

      • Rob Malcolm

        Hooper at inside centre for me – specifically for the first half of the match. Anybody running the inside channel ends up going backwards. That allows McMahon, Timani and Fardy to feed.
        Second half of the match, when things open up a bit, we have plenty of flexibity to put him into the pack, and bring Kurtley into inside centre.

  • Pearcewreck

    7 Brumbies, so yeah, it would be a pretty good team.

  • Brumby Runner

    Reg, I don’t think I’d change any of the starting side you’ve nominated.

    Until his hammy went a couple of weeks ago, Jordan Smiler maust have been near to the best performing No 8 in the Aus franchises. Is he eligible? Has played 7s for both NZ and Aus.

    I think I would put Peni in the mix for a wing spot in preference to Izzy who hasn’t played there at all this year so really has no form to judge him on. I fully expect Izzy to be the starting No 15 when Cheika gets to pick his side.

    The other omission I think is Ben Alexander at No 3. His form has been quite outstanding again this year and he should be well in advance of Kepu who has been disappointing and Robertson who has missed a bit through injury.

    • RugbyReg

      I’m not sure about Jordan Smiler. He can’t have played 7s for both teams surely? Eligibility requirements and all that?

      • Brumby Runner

        Reg, from Wikipedia. It also aligns with what I understand is Smiler’s background.

        “Smiler was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand. He played sevens for the New Zealand and captained the Australian Sevens in 2011.[1]”

      • SuckerForRed

        Yeah. It has only been recently (about 2013?) that 7s has been part of the “elegibility” criteria. Before that you could play 7s for whoever wherever, it was only a 15’s test that matters.
        Shows how long Smiler has been around.

  • Tim

    Cooper? Really he has only played one decent game and that was against the kings. Jono lance should be ahead of him by a mile. I do like that starting 15 but i would like to see DHP at fullback and Izzy on the wing with Karmichael hunt on the bench. DHP is a better full back then izzy.

    • RugbyReg

      Lance has just been benched by the Force.

      • Tim

        Force has more depth in 10 compared to the reds.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    That’s a pretty good team there. Id have DHP at 15 as I think his defence is better. That would open up a wing position for Folau or better Naivalu. I’m not so sure on the loosies, I still think it lacks balance and with Hooper as 7 you really don’t have a fetcher to win the ruck ball. I think Alcock is a better 7 and perhaps bring Hooper on later for impact.
    I really like this as I think it opens up some competition for the places that hasn’t seemed to be there for a while.

    • onlinesideline

      agree big time re DHP as FB and Izzy as wing. Except maybe if Kurtley was playing – seems to be the ony guy who can find Izzy.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Mate I know I’m biased but I’d be Happy to see Beale play in any team against the AB’s and not okay when you are against anyone else. I don’t rate him at all

    • Harbo

      I just hate Cheikas obsession with playing people out of position

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        I know. Its just fucked

  • Twoilms

    Neither Tuttle nor Wells should be anywhere near the team. Otherwise pretty spot on.

  • MungBean

    The centres will be Kerevi and Kurindrani. Moore will be hooker. Mumm will be picked somehow.

  • BF

    Colby Faingaa is the form #7

    • Harbo

      Too bad he’s not a Tah…

  • Harbo

    Out of curiosity, if you weren’t just selecting who you believe to be the “form” 7 in Australia and you had to pick a Wallaby 15 that would give us the best chance to beat our opposition regardless of who they were on any given day would you still select Hooper at 7?

Rugby
@RugbyReg

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

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