Now that it’s the end of the regular season, and on the back of my last Wallaby Watch yesterday, let’s have a look at what our potential Wallabies team looks like. Reminder that this team has some players slightly out of position as we’re taking into account the Cheika factor. This team will account for all performances across the season.
1. Scott Sio (Brumbies)
A nice controlled game from Slipper. Made his tackles (8/8) and scrummed well.It is close between Sio and Slipper, but as Sio seems to be preferred at the Brumbies we will pick him for this too. Strong around the park and has been strong in the scrum.
2. Folau Fainga’a (Brumbies)
The firm front runner for the hooker position. I’d be surprised if anyone else gets a look in. His lineout throwing has been close to the best in the Australia conference, he is a strong ball carrier, can steer the maul and is apart of a strong scrummaging frontrow.
3. Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies)
Has outclassed Tupou and Kepu this season and should be starting at 3 for the Wallabies. He has been a workhorse in defence making over 10 tackles most games at a high completion rate. Most importantly he has been great in the scrums.
4. Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
Has been the stand out lock all season. A great target in the lineout and a strong ball carrier. Having his Brumbies front row in front of him will hopefully mean the Wallabies can have the same success using the driving maul as the Brumbies did this season.
5. Izack Rodda (Reds)
Has been a standout for the Reds this season leading from the front as a workhorse. Seems to be a great lineout technician and will add another hard working player to the pack.
6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Reds)
This was probably the most difficult pick for the entire team. I think this comes down to who else is in the team and what the team needs. You could also select either Jones or Samu here. Jones brings another workhorse who is a great lineout option, Samu brings a little bit of x-factor and is a strong runner, off-loader and pilferer. Salakaia-Loto brings big hits and bustling runs. The reason I’ve gone for Lukhan is due to the fact that he brings some grunt. He does have the tendency to go missing in games but luckily we have strong bench options and workhorses like Rodda, Hooper and Alaalatoa to fill the gap he may cause. I would trial all 3 in the Rugby Championship and see who fits the team play style the best.
7. Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
With Pocock being injured for majority of the season, it looks like Hooper will be our starting 7 for the World Cup. You can’t really fault him outside of the fact he sometimes gets bullied in contact. He gets through an enormous amount of work and manages to make plenty of metres with ball in hand. He isn’t amazing at ruck time which is where you may look to play Samu at 6. I’d be looking to interchange Hooper and Pocock depending on who the opposition is.
8. Isi Naisarani (Rebels)
Naisarani has been consistently strong all season. He makes the gain line a lot and draws in defenders when he runs. Could be the first line bending number 8 we have had in a long time. For me, McCaffrey has been great all season and I would also like to see him have a run at 8, that would leave us with 2 unproven player at international level fighting for our number 8 position but Naisarani gets first shot due to McCaffrey having a stint on the sideline and then coming back through the bench meaning he lacked a bit of game time. I fully expect Chieka to run ‘Pooper’ here but you could also have Samu at 8.
9. Will Genia (Rebels)
Although he hasn’t been in the best form of his career, he is a class player and class is permanent. Directs everyone around the park and makes his forwards work. Adds experience and a nice kicking game.
10. Quade Cooper (Rebels)
Okay, here me out on this one. Christian Lealiifano is currently the number 10 in form in the Australian conference but I think Quade can do some things that others just can’t. Cooper has been playing behind an average forward pack all season where Lealiifano has been playing on the back of a dominating one. With a center combination of Kerevi and Kuridrani, Cooper has distributing skills to pick the right man with the flat ball and put these devastating runners through holes. I’d be putting a dedicated 10 on the bench just in case Cooper is having a shocker. Another thing to test during the Rugby Championship.
11. Marikia Koroibete (Rebels)
Had a terrible start to the season, average mid season and then has been killing it in the last few rounds. No one had stood up and claimed that jersey for their own until Marika had at the end of the season. If he can sort out his defensive decisions he will be a great asset to the Wallabies.
12. Samu Kerevi (Reds)
Back at his favoured position this season, he looked completely at home. He has worked on his game and is now a better distributor and can put it on the toe. Has been locked into a Wallabies jersey all season.
13. Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies)
Burst back into career best form towards the end of the season. Great runner and very solid defensively. If Kerevi and Kuridrani have all cylinders firing they may be the most devastating centre combination in world rugby.
14. Tom Banks (Brumbies)
This was a hard one. Rona has been great all season and Haylett-Petty has been good at 15 and has also played 14 for the Wallabies on numerous occasions. Banks get the 14 spot due to unreal form and purely not being able to leave him out. Hodge could be an option here also.
15. Dane Haylett-Petty (Rebels)
So the reason I’ve gone for Haylett-Petty over Banks at 15 is due to Coopers selection at 10. A very reliable guy at the back, has a big boot and can take some pressure off Cooper at 10. This could realistically be Haylett-Petty, Banks or Beale as all have been good this season.
As for the bench, I’ll put down a couple of options for each as small changes to the starting lineup could change the bench considerably.
16. Alex Mafi, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Jordan Uelese – Mafi has been the form hooker behind Fainga’a but is untested. TPN has experience but looked off the pace last time he was in Australia and Uelese hasn’t played much rugby this year but has alot of potential.
17. James Slipper – Slipper has been great all season and is a firm second place (if not ahead of Sio) for the Wallabies. Great scrummager, strong around the park.
18. Taniela Tupou, Sekope Kepu – X-factor verses experience. Really depends on personal preference. Both have had off games this year but Kepu has been more consistent.
19. Adam Coleman, Matt Phillip, Rob Simmons – All decent options but I think even though he hasn’t played much rugby this year due to injuries, Coleman is the obvious choice.
20. David Pocock, Pete Samu, Lachie McCaffrey – I see McCaffrey as much of an 80 minute player but he is an option here. The obvious choice is to do with Pocock but he could well be starting at 6 or 8. Cheika may opt for a 6/2 split where you can have Pocock and Samu on the bench.
21. Joe Powell, Tate McDermott, Nick Phipps, Jake Gordon – All have been putting there hands up throughout the season but Powell has been the most consistent so I expect him to get the nod here.
22. Christian Lealiifano, Matt Toomua, Bernard Foley – Lealiifano has been in great form for a while now and report are that Toomua was playing well in the UK also. Foley hasn’t been at his best and I would leave him out as Lealiifano and Toomua can cover 10 and 12. My preference here would be Lealiifano.
23. Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Sefa Naivalu – Realistcially you’re probably going to take Naivalu out straight away due to only playing on the wing whereas Beale and Hodge can cover 10-15 in neccesary. Beale probably gets the nod here due to being able to come off the bench and spark something if the Wallabies are trying to chase the game.
Let me know in the comments what changes you would make to this team and who what team you’d choose!