Wednesday's Rugby News - Green and Gold Rugby

Wednesday’s Rugby News

Wednesday’s Rugby News

Wednesday’s Rugby News covers James O’Connor’s return to the Wallaby squad, the inspirational story of a young Wallaby, the Wallaroos prepare to take centre stage and recaps the start of the Australian School Championships.

Joc-keying into the squad

James O'Connor

James O’Connor has been summoned into the Wallabies touring squad for the trip to South Africa.

O’Connor heads to Johannesburg this week to link up with the squad after Rebel Marika Koroibete remained in Melbourne for the impending berth of his child.

He will be included as a train-on member, with the delay in confirming a Super Rugby deal preventing him from being eligible as an ‘official’ member, delaying his test return at this stage.

With the announcement of his Super Rugby future set for the next fortnight, coach Michael Cheika believed that his addition to the squad allows O’Connor to further his integration back into the Wallabies set-up.

“Marika (Koroibete) should join us later in the week, but mother nature is in charge here, so until then it’s a good opportunity for James to integrate into the team playing principles,” Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said.

His return adds to the plethora of backline options that Cheika and the selection panel have at their disposal, with many speculating where he best fits in the squad.

According to former Wallabies coach John Connolly, O’Connor is best suited at inside centre, likely backing up gun Red Samu Kerevi.

“Working out James’s position is the first thing and it appears that he’s decided, and Steve Diamond at Sale decided, that 12 is his best position,” Connolly said.

“Good, well that’s important because at fullback he struggled, he was trialled on the wing, he’s definitely not a 10 and we’ll be looking for a backup for (Samu) Kerevi…And he’s played OK, he hasn’t played fantastic in England but he played reasonably well”

This sentiment appears to be shared by Cheika, who suggests that his most likely home will be in centres.

“He can play a bit of everywhere but I’d say in the middle, somewhere in the centres, but he could play in the back three,” Cheika said. “There were a lot of things to happen for him to come back and play rugby here. But from what I’ve seen so far, he’s pretty good.”

Injured back-rower David Pocock will also join the Wallabies squad in Johannesburg to continue the rehab process as he gets set to return from a niggling calf injury.

Isi ready to rumble

Isi Naisarani lines up his target, Force v Bulls

Isi Naisarani lines up his target, Force v Bulls

Wallabies newcomer Isi Naisarani is determined to step up and pull on the colours of his adopted home ahead of their Rugby Championship clash against South Africa next week.

Despite being born in Fiji, Naisarani has been long viewed as the solution to Australia’s No 8 dilemma, with his inclusion in the Spring Tour squad (despite not being eligible) along with electric form in Super Rugby all but ensuring his debut in Johannesburg on July 20.

“For me, hard work is No.1 to show the coach that I want to be in the 23 when the first Test comes up,” Naisarani said.

“It’s a great honour to be part of this squad. I’ve waited so long, three years, to be qualified (residentially), gone to three different clubs and it’s all about sticking to my goal of playing for the Wallabies.”

The story of Naisarani rise from unpolished barefoot talent in Naqali to Wallaby certainty is worthy of its own movie (or a 10 part Netflix series), with the barnstorming back-rower grateful for the opportunities that his adopted country has given him.

“It’s a very long story and I would always tell myself that coming to Australia meant opportunities I wouldn’t get at home,” Naisarani said. “When I was in my village, I was just a kid throwing a plastic ball around in touch rugby with the other boys.”

“My aunt and uncle live in Brisbane, saw me play a school game in Fiji, talked to mum and dad about giving me opportunities in Australia, and did all the visa stuff.”

Despite his heritage and upbringing, Naisarani is all in on the Australian dream, having fallen in love with the country and the Wallabies before his arrival in 2016.

“I’d always loved watching the Wallabies from that era of Gregan and Larkham when I was living in Fiji,” Naisarani said. “I know that I wasn’t eligible to play for the Wallabies in that year but I kept working hard so that when the Wallabies time came I was ready to go.”

“Now I’m training with them and I’ll keep working hard and see what the coach picks on game day when they choose the team.”

Wallaroos past patiently waiting

Wallaroos pre-game (Credit Keith McInnes)

With the Super Rugby season over and The Rugby Championship not taking place until next week, the Wallaroos are set to take centre stage in a barren rugby weekend against Japan.

The Wallaroos arrived in Newcastle over the weekend to begin preparations for their two-test series against 16th-ranked Japan starting this Saturday afternoon.

Despite their ranking, Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton expects a gritty and physical encounter, similar to their encounter in the 2017 World Cup, where the Aussies scraped home 29-15.

“Japan are tough,” she said. “In the World Cup they came at us and I remember standing behind the goalposts just saying that we needed to stick to our structures and we need to come out firing because they are very structured and they will come at us.”

“We’ve just got to come back at them and try and do our little things right.”

Since their encounter in 2017, the Wallaroos exposure and calendar has significantly expanded, with four tests scheduled for this year (the highest outside of a World Cup), before they will next year join a four-nation tournament involving Canada, USA and New Zealand.

This had led to significant improvements in the quality of rugby played within not only the national team but across the Super W, which is evident in the 11 new debutants in the squad according to Hamilton.

“There’s some new girls which is so lovely to see, there’s so much depth within Australia now. Those girls that are coming through, it’s a testament to the hard work they’ve been doing and, I think, the Super W seasons we’ve had.”

“So for us just getting out there and being able to blood some new girls within this team is incredible and they’re so lovely and I can’t wait to see what we do on the weekend.”

The added competition has juxtaposed the preparations of the Japanese, who have not played an international fixture since that World Cup, which Japan captain Saki Minami excited to represent the cherry blossoms once again.

“It’s a very hot summer right now (in Japan) and coming to Newcastle it’s nice and cool,” Minami said via a translator.

“The first match since the 2017 World Cup, we play against any international side so we are very excited to play this game and we have been preparing well for this game.”

School Championships begin

QLD Schools v NSW II Schools at 2019 Australian Rugby Championships (Photo Credit SPA Images)

Freckled-faced kids from all over the country have temporarily paused at spitting into burgers they make at work to descend on Riverview in Sydney to play some rugby union football at the 2019 Australian School Rugby Championships.

The first day saw four games played, with the second day set to see finals.

The first game of the day recognised the natural order of things as NSW 1 walloped QLD 2 27-0. QLD 2’s Tom Cregan, from St Philomena School, ended up in hospital after a nasty collision only seconds after the kickoff.

The following game featured a rejection of the natural order, as QLD 1 got up 36-20 over NSW 2.

Proud Queenslandahs will not that 8 out of 9 GPS schools didn’t send kids down to these games, due to something or other – I don’t know, Reg has covered it in proper detail – so a win here is a great result.

In game three, the ACT faced off against the Cavaliers Barbarians team, a team run by the Cavaliers Barbarians Academy who according to their Facebook is a rugby academy “based on the Barbarian philosophy of playing open and attacking Rugby without the pressure of having to win,” whatever that means.

Interestingly the Cavaliers have two South Australians in their squad – including the wonderfully named Spiridon Haratsaris – as well as a Tasmanian. Even more outstanding is they have at least 2 kids from state schools!

Oh yeah, the score – it was 26-20 in the ACT’s favour.

In the final game of the day, Combined States beat Victoria 27-24. Trying to one-up the Barbarians, Combined States had players from all states except Victoria, with 2 from Tas, 2 from NSW and 1 from SA.

Day two will have the mighty Barbarians taking on QLD 2, followed by NSW 2 tacking on Victoria. In the semi-finals, QLD 1 will face off with the Combined States and NSW 1 will play the ACT.

  • SO James O’Connor is going to take a Wallabies jersey off someone who desrves it ON FORM! Good way to make him see who’s boss? Obvious answer – he is and he has always thought.

    • Jason

      How much of James O’Connors form have you been watching?

      He’s been playing bloody well for Sale. He’s in much better form than DHP, Maddocks, and Toomua to name a few.

      You aren’t complaining about Nic White yet he’s keeping out guys like Joe Powell or Tate McDermott — and they are the future. You aren’t complaining about Adam Ashley-Cooper… maybe that you are upset about his previous off field issues?
      Then why aren’t you upset about Tolu Latu who passed out while driving his car…

      Is it maybe you are still holding a grudge from when a kid made a bad choice, followed by a string of other bad choices who has worked hard to try to come back and represent his country and do himself and Australia proud?

      • Geoffro

        Whats with the delay in him locking down the reds deal ? sounds like Thorn may be getting a bit holier than thou too

        • Hoss

          The Padre has him ‘going clear’ first.

        • AllyOz

          is that Scientology?

        • Hoss

          Short lived flirtation. Those electrodes played havoc with my hsjgi;gvgvrfgoe’aghflb nervous MNclhfcn cm”kd mrjfnfliyrgbfio’iqhgfvlfnje’w,:”Wlgt'[ system

        • Geoffro

          As long as his piss goes clear.Being a former Nudgee boy he should be able to profess his faith convincingly

        • Jason

          My understanding from what I have heard, is they have an in-principle agreement just working out the full details of his behaviour program, obviously there is quite a bit of scope for negotiation in relation to this, there are more than just one or two different people wanting a say on this one. Also wanting some assurances that they aren’t on the hook if things down sideways.

        • Geoffro

          Yes,but if he is the reformed character he reckons there should be no problems signing a contract even with maybe overly strict conditions

        • Who?

          It’d also need to get past RUPA, the same way that Beale’s rumoured behavioural clauses over the years since 2014 have had to go through RUPA. Maybe that’s part of the issue?

      • onlinesideline

        @Jason – go measured response coupled with fair questions / rebuttal !

        Top of the class young fella.

        • Jason

          Look, I’m not going to think for a second JO’C is the saving grace of Australian Rugby, he’s decent but he’s no Kerevi. I’d hate to see O’Connor keeping out a guy like Petaia (for either Wallabies or Reds) but he is a quality player and he deserves another go. He was obviously thrust into the spotlight far too soon – far too young and didn’t have the support network or tools to deal with that. If anything we failed him more than he let us down. We owe him a fair go if nothing else.

      • Brumby Runner

        “And he’s played OK, he hasn’t played fantastic in England but he played reasonably well” – John Connolly, former Wallaby coach.

        Not a resounding recommendation.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Good enough to get into the Wallabies though

        • Yowie

          Ouch, below the belt!

        • Brumby Runner

          Yep. Fills me with the warm glow of confidence, satisfaction and contentment.

        • Yowie

          At least when the Wallabies exit the World Cup early they can start advertising Viagra.

          “…for blokes who can’t even get a semi”

        • From NooZealand

          LOL -bright!

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          WoW! Fills me with a sense of anticipation but also a wary outlook with low expectations

        • Damo

          In knuckles speak that’s quite a glowing assessment of JOC! He could never be accused of waxing lyrical.

        • Who?

          Knuckles reckons that the vast majority of the Wallabies team is up for selection, that almost no one’s stuck their hands up to nail down positions. Whilst many (most?) of us would debate a couple of decisions, I think most of us would say that at least 2/3 of the starting team (or even the 23) is nailed down on form.

        • Jason

          You say that like DHP, Maddocks or Toomua have been setting the world on fire!
          JO’C is a really nice squad guy he covers a lot of positions he’s got a wealth of very different experience rugby and can probably speak from experience to some of the younger guys in the squad. Not saying he’s gotta be in your starting XV but if you wanted to go a 6-2 split he’s gotta be in your 23 given he can genuinely play 10, 11, 12, 13 (apparently), 14 and 15.

    • Huw Tindall

      Which player is that?

    • Max Graham

      Is that you Donald??

  • andrewM

    What about WA Under 18’s beating NSW under 18’s 41-29 on the weekend? :)

    • Hoss

      Fake news.

      • ForceFan

        You’re right it was actually WA 41:20 NSW.

        • Hoss

          The prosecution rests.

  • Geoffro

    Cant wait to see Isa go around in Gold.No better side than the Boks for him him to cut his teeth on.and hope he has a big one and great to see someone with so much desire to wear the colours

    • Hoss

      Great read wasn’t it. Too read of his sacrifices and determination was nourishment for my jaded soul.

      Go hard Isi.

      • onlinesideline

        is he good, like Kefu good or Finegan good ?

        • Hoss

          Isi-what !!

        • Nutta

          Boom Tish.

          Seriously though, he has demonstrated a real ability to adapt game-plans from the free-flowing Isi we saw in the NRC/Force to the direct ‘tight-loosie’ we see him playing for the Scum. My hope is he is allowed to play a bit more creatively so as to put some doubt into the Defender; a bit of footwork and getting the shoulders through for the off-load as opposed to the straight pile-driver which is both predictable and career-shortening.

          He is also an 8. Not a 6. So come what may, Pooper is over (assuming the P bit is actually still capable of playing) particularly with CSL likely the 6 in Cheks eyes.

        • Hoss

          I hope the abomination that is the Pooper will be buried with the ghosts of seasons past mate.

        • Nutta

          I’ll join you in prayer Dear Brother. However the unfortunate bit is that if only Poet or Capt SK8R is on the field, I fear I both know and so disagree with who will be playing and who will be warming pine.

        • OnTheBurst

          Do you mean LSL (Lukhan)? Or have I missed another acronym

        • Nutta

          Lukhan Salakaia-Loto. LSL. Sorry, got it mixed up with Chris Feauai-Sautia (CFS).

        • OnTheBurst

          FFS ;)

        • Who?

          And Hoss calls LSL FKA (Formerly Known As).

        • onlinesideline

          Nutta – “a bit of footwork and getting the shoulders through for the off-load ”

          Cheika – “thhere’s a Waratah who does that, he’s called Jack Dempsey. Its settled then, the Waratah for 8″

        • Nutta

          In early season, JD was the only other Tarts Piggy along with Kepu that I argued should be in the Wobbs. But I reckon Luke Jones from the Scum out-shone him by years-end. And Jones along with McCafe, LSL, Isa, Poet & SK8R squeezed JD out.

          But i well take your point/warning/cynicism

      • Keith Butler

        Indeed a great read and I hope he gets to pull on the G&G jersey against the Saffa’s. My only comment (call it constructive criticism) though is that in a couple of Rebs games, in mid season, when we were under the pump and he really needed to step up and lead, it felt to me at least that he went a bit ‘lazy’.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I agree mate. Not sure if it was the environment or what but consistency seems a bit of an issue

        • Hoss

          Good morning Mr Mayor. Probably a fair rap and more inexperience than lack of willingness. I see the potential for him to be the leader of our pack for Wallabies for a while to come. Couple that with another big hopper at 6 in Granite Valentini and I am starting to get revved up.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Good story. Just wait until Stephen Jones from the UK gets stuck into the theft of PI talent again. The Wallabies May take the ABs place for him there. The cock!

        • Hoss

          Yep. Not like the ancestral Yorkshire names like Vunipola. Teo or the midlands feudal Tuigamala’s for example.

        • Keith Butler

          You should know that the Vunipola’s hail from S Wales. Their dad played from Bridgend or Pontypool I think. Inga the Winga now there was a great Wigan lad.

        • Nutta

          One born in Sydney and the other in Brisbane I believe…

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Be good to see an 8 playing at 8 and perhaps a more balanced loose trio although I wonder where Pocock will play when/if he comes back. Probably 6 lol.

    I admit I’m a bit sceptical of both JOC and White. I’m not sure good NH form transfers to good SH form and it certainly hasn’t much in the past. I also don’t see how AAC got a place as I didn’t see anything this year that justified selection. I hope JOC has matured as reported but I do constantly feel there’s a issue just over the horizon. I hope I’m wrong and they do play well and the Wallabies are better for them being there.

    What I really don’t get is this whole “back to the past” and “best new thing” that seems to the default setting here. Is this an admission that the player pathways aren’t providing players or that the coach pathway isn’t producing coaches that can develop players coming through? Either way it’s something that needs to be addressed because that default setting has taken the Wallabies from 2 to 6 in world rankings and could see them drop further if changes aren’t made

    • Missing Link

      In my honest opinion, Pocock should be on the bench. Simply because of his injury status, I’m not prepared to risk starting him but keep him on the pine for the last 20. He is going to be great at winning ball which we can hopefully use to either score point and/or defend our lines.

      Agree that NH hemisphere form isn’t directly transferable to SH. JOC, White and Toomua will be a little off the pace.

      • John Miller

        If Poey is fit, he is our best openside flanker, and best player. The grinding, central focused, hard-shouldered trench warfare of the first 40 minutes against tier 1 opposition in a knock out tournament, is where and when he is needed most. And we all know he is a big game player.

        Has there ever been a bloke who has come back from a long term injury layoff and been as immediately omnipotent as David Pocock in 2018? The bloke missed a third of the eligible voting season and still won the John Eales by a frankly embarrassing distance last season.

        Conversely, if Poey is not fit or too great an injury risk for any particular game. Just don’t play him. Select the best squad based on form, fitness and capability, teach them the structure and be clear about their role, and then trust them.

        • Braveheart81

          I think the back end of the game is the time when he can have the biggest impact. It’s easier to win turnovers late in games against tiring players.

          I also think that starting him and expecting 80 minutes out of him will mean he doesn’t get through a RWC. He has been too injury prone in recent years and the way he plays means his body gets punished. If he gets fit I think 30 minutes off the bench will be the option to maximise his impact and try and ensure he lasts through the tournament.

        • AllyOz

          I don’t disagree but I also think that Hooper’s attacking potential might be best in the last 30 minutes. You would potentially miss his defensive work throughout the game though. I can see the logic in starting Pocock if there is a potential injury risk and I don’t personally have a problem with using the Hooper Pocock combination for the last 20-30 minutes. I think starting with it would be a mistake given the impact on set-piece, ball runners etc but I still think it has some value against a tiring opposition.

        • UTG

          They will both finish the game on the field though. So you get your 80 minutes of work from Hooper if he starts plus 30 minutes of on-ball work from Pocock.

          We’ve also seen teams have specific game-plans to counter Pocock. Much harder to implement a game plan with half an hour to go and a combination of starters and reserves on the field.

        • John Miller

          And how is it that teams are able to counteract Australia’s breakdown effectiveness if we are supposedly deploying a twin-jackal alignment? Another common misconception is that the broken dual openside alignment Cheika has disastrously deploying for endless seasons, strengthens our breakdown. The opposite is true. Hooper is moderate, at best, at the ruck and maul, and insignificant in the ground contest going both ways. Knowing this, good teams with collaborative back and second rows can easily double and triple team Pocock, pick him out of the defensive lineups and make him affect single tackles knowing no other ground contest threats exist. This is not a fault of Pocock, but one of combination and selection. A better balanced loose forward selection with more breakdown support on both sides of the ball would allow Pocock a freer reign in the area most like to equate him with.

          I’m far, far less interested in 80 minutes of work than I am in 80 minutes of impact.

        • UTG

          The double-jackal alignment was a forced selection because of a lack of 6 and 8 options. I don’t really understand who these players are that constitute more of a ground contest threat than ‘the moderate Hooper’ who Fox Sports lists as having the most pilfers of any Australian player this Super season.

        • John Miller

          You’ve missed the point UTG. It might have been a dual-openside alignment. It was not a dual-jackal alignment.

          Ah yes, the mysterious singular metric that encapsulates the ground contest, the “pilfer”. Still with Fox stats, if we expand that metric to include the other types of forced turnovers i.e. forced penalty and forced ruck and maul penalty, this is what moderate looks like:

          Across Super Rugby this year, Michael Hooper achieved 7 forced turnovers @ a rate of 0.5 per match. This is how his ruck effectiveness compared to the rest of the competition:

          – Kirifi: 24 @ 1.71
          – Savea: 20 @ 1.43
          – van Standen: 12 @ 1.33
          – Cane: 5 @ 1.25
          – Jacobson: 10 @ 1.25
          – Boshier: 16 @ 1.23
          – Kwagga: 12 @ 1.1
          – Schoeman: 16 @ 1.0

          Hooper’s moderate breakdown effort is dwarfed by some notable non-flankers:

          – Creevy: 17 @ 1.42
          – Marx: 19 @ 1.36
          – Vermeulen: 13 @ 1.08
          – Moroni: 15 @ 1.0
          – Read: 8 @ 1.0

          And within the Australian conference:

          – Wright: 24 @ 1.5
          – Pocock: 4 @ 1.34
          – Hardwick: 10 @ 0.84
          – Johnson Holmes: 12 @ 0.75
          – McCaffrey: 9 @ 0.75
          – Tupou: 9 @ 0.6

          Hooper’s decision making in the ruck contest is also questionable as reflected by his high penalty rate: 12 penalties conceded @ a rate of 0.9 per game. By comparison:

          – van Standen: 8 @ 0.9
          – Hardwick: 9 @ 0.8
          – Kirifi: 11 @ 0.8
          – Schoeman: 13 @ 0.8
          – Kwagga: 8 @ 0.7
          – Pocock: 3 @ 0.7
          – Savea: 8 @ 0.6
          – Boshier: 7 @ 0.5
          – Jacobson: 8 @ 0.4
          – Liam Wright: 7 @ 0.4
          – Cane: 4 @ 0.3

          So if the breakdown really is a battlefront these Wallabies intend to contest this season, in a Pocock-less world, Liam Wright should be our starting 7 this season. Wright also came 3rd across all of Super Rugby for tackles made with an almost identical tackle success rate to Hooper.

          With Australia’s best defender and breakdown exponent from this season installed at 7, that would allow Australia’s best forward attacker (Isi Naisarani) to assume his rightful 8 jersey. There are no shortage of 6’s to choose from this season (both within and outside of this squad).

          Zero need for dual opensides in 2019.

        • UTG

          I don’t know anyone who has claimed there is a need for dual open sides in 2019…

          I’m sure a couple of years down the track Liam Wright will be the starting Wallaby 7 after Hooper and Pocock have moved on and he’s worked on his game in attack.

        • John Miller

          There was never a need for dual opensides. Just never less so than now.

          And if you want balance across the pack: Naisarani is comfortably Australia’s best forward attacker. With no second openside clogging up the backrow, he can deploy that skillset. In Pocock’s absence, Liam Wright is Australia’s best defender – though his ruck support, linking and running game is none too shabby either. And there are a wealth of options at 6 who are set piece and open play conversant.

          These Wallabies need some breakdown presence if they intend to go toe with the top tier test teams in a knock out format.

        • UTG

          Who were these guys that were playing last year that would have done better than Hooper at 7 and Pocock at 8?

        • John Miller

          Pocock wore the 8 jersey and packed at the back of the scrum. he executed his openside flanking role exactly the same as if he were wearing the 7. With Hanigan or LSL or McMahon at 6, effectively, Michael Hooper was attempting to play the role of the 8, even being thrown up in a few lineouts. Just without the barging runs, hard shouldered ruck cleaning, set piece capability or maul defending acumen. These are the components we have constantly sacrificed in favour of (gutsy) wide running, mid-field aligned, support playing, workmanlike metronome. So a better question would be: who were the guys that would have done better than Hooper at 8? Answer: pretty much every first class Australian 8 in the country.

        • UTG

          That’s still not an answer as to who you’d have selected at 8 last year so we weren’t playing Pocock and Hooper. Who were these first class 8s?

        • John Miller

          Geez it’s a race to the bottom here UTG. I’m not sure if you are being intentionally obstructive or desperately trying to make the discussion tangential.

          Here’s not answering questions: “But these Wallabies need some breakdown presence if they intend to go toe with the top tier test teams in a knock out format. If it’s not coming from the openside flanker, where is it coming from?”

          It’s also 2019 and the Wallabies squad has been announced.

        • UTG

          I’ve asked a simple question a couple of times now and you’ve not been able to provide an answer. I don’t think I’m the one being obstructive…

        • John Miller

          You are just swinging for the hills now ITG aren’t you?

          So the question is: who would be a better eightman than Michael Hooper from the 2018? And let’s be specific – not necessarily a better individual player, but someone who might fulfil the key capability requirements of the game the 8 position generally fulfils within the loose trio which might include: lineout jumping, scrum piloting, maul wrestling, ruck cleaning, jackal destroying, tight channels running, central collision dominating to name a few. Can you think of any Australian loose forwards from 2018 that might have provided better capability than Michael Hooper across these areas?

          Leading contenders might have included: Holloway, Timani, Higginbotham, McCaffrey, Timu. That’s without even looking at the 6’s and 6.5’s who would also have done a better job than Hooper across these areas: Cottrell, Hardwick, Korczyk, Dempsey et al.

          Keep throwin’ though UTG. God loves a fighter.

        • Brumby Runner

          The real fear I have UTG is that it will be Liam Wright who moves on rather than Michael Hooper who still has, what, 4 or 5 years to go on his $1m/year contract

        • UTG

          Agree, that could definitely be an issue. Hopefully, Wright will know he is the anointed 7 and this will be a good enough draw card for him.

        • Brumby Runner

          If I were Liam, I wouldn’t put much store in being the anointed one. Remember Bernie Larkham. How did that go when he was openly touted as the replacement Wallabies coach for when Cheika belatedly leaves the post.

          And as far a 7s go, there is every chance LFG will return before Hooper’s contract finally wears out, and then we have McReight also coming through, and he looks like the second coming of David Pocock to me. There is just no guarantee that Liam will get his chance at the Wallabies while Michael Hooper remains.

        • Sevenwithasixonmyback

          That unscripted and spontaneous analysis quite simply says “Game Set Match” to me.
          Great breakdown operatives have a complexity most often unnoticed by the mere mortal.
          Well done sir.
          The pilfer is a wonderful thing to watch in the hands of a pro, though. Doesn’t take expert eyes to admire a good pilfer.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          That’s a very impressive set of figures mate. You’ve seen my outlook on this before; Lies, damn lies and statistics. The reson behind this is that most statistics put ouyt there are raw numbers with no analysis, like most meters run but no analysis to establish if those meters made a difference, were crap or led to anything. However, I will admit that there is some good analysis there compared to the simple “most tackles in the game, most meters run, most passes dribble we usually see.

        • John Miller

          Very true KRL. I seldom even trust the raw numbers put out by Fox Sport, Vodacom, ESPN etc. (even watching games without any forensic, critical eye you can often remember more specific instances of key metrics than get noted on the public stats sites). They can only be as good as whatever mug is collating them at the time. But across all sites, across a season or several seasons, they are generally pretty good at discerning trends which signify attributes. For all of his fine qualities, there is simply no argument to justify that Michael Hooper is a significant ruck and maul threat. The singular “pilfers” measurement constantly rolled out to back this myth, sh!ts me to tears. And there are simply no publicly available metrics to encapsulate the dark arts tapesty of all the truly great opensides. What we get instead is highlight reel bolstered by non-relational individual metrics and raw opinion which somehow becomes canon e.g. “the dual-jackal Pooper”.

        • A set of stats for the jackal that I’d mostly get behind. I’m not criticising you here, despite that first sentence but it needs a “opposition ball slowed down” as an extra stat in there I think. But otherwise that looks at a lot of the core role duties and doesn’t look good for Hooper.

        • John Miller

          I’d love a publicly available, “opposition cleaners committed” metric as well EP. So many telling components never widely considered within the portfolio of breakdown capabilities.

        • Have you listened to the latest podcast? Quite a lot is quite vague but interesting nevertheless. However, there’s a fun question near the end of the first segment about what stat the armchair analysts overuse or ignore which gets a great answer.

        • John Miller

          Haven’t had the opportunity as yet EP. Can I cheat and ask for your summation?

        • Sorry for the delay, builders were finishing up the renovation of our bathroom and there’s a lot of time and attention making sure all the little details were done properly (which they were, they were good people).

          There was a somewhat content-light chat about the stats that a professional team get. Basically for every contact or attempted contact you get tackle side, hit-type, outcome – left-arm, missed tackle or right shoulder, dominant tackle. If there’s a ruck or maul, you get order of players to the breakdown. You get direction (and it was implied distance, time and accuracy) of every pass. The statistical coding for a match is 1,000’s of lines long.

          But, it’s not always important… he’s a Cohesion guy. They talk about the 3P’s, People, Position and Plan (I’m not 100% sure I’ve remembered the last one right, but it’s something cognate to that). You have to balance these off – you want people who feel comfortable and have people playing good, experienced combinations with those next to them (that’s People). You want people that understand their position and play it well – it’s why when McCaw shifted to 8 to let Cane/Savea play at 7 before he retired he changed how he played, the requirements of someone at the base of the scrum and 8 in the line out are different (that’s Position). Finally you want players who will understand and execute the coaches’ idea well (that’s Plan). It’s probably why despite the armchair complaints QC was sent home – the selectors don’t feel he suits the style of play they want. It’s why the Wallabies squad come Japan is likely to be more sky-blue that everyone outside NSW wants – those players know the systems and can play to them.

          But, stats that coaches and analysts ignore and armchair fans love: Missed tackles and metres made.

          Missed tackles can depend on your system and how good a defender you’re seen to be. A particular player had a terrible missed tackle ratio – but he defended in the sweeper role and was nearly always defending line breaks against overlaps. He missed a lot of tackles because he was scrambling against rampaging wingers. The issue the team needed to address wasn’t him, it was the line ahead of him letting players get to him. Equally another player would typically get really low numbers of tackles – because he had a ferocious reputation and they never came down his channel.

          On metres made – it’s a lousy stat because it all depends. If your full back, or wingers hanging back get the ball kicked to them a lot, you can have great metres made, but to what effect? They can run 20-30 metres, more sometimes before they meet a tackler… empty metres in effect, because they’re still well behind any advantage or gain line. But their stats look great! He didn’t address what to do about that – one thing I’ve mentioned on here before would be, instead of metres carried, is metres post gain line. They’re the ones that matter… should be easy enough to measure and show to the public, they show the gain/advantage line on the TV after all, and I think (but can’t test, we don’t see it) it should be a more useful stat.

        • John Miller

          Wow. Comprehensive EP. Thank you for the effort.

          I’ve previously heard of metres beyond the gainline referred to as “positive metres” and always thought it a far better indicator of run effectiveness.

          Similarly, some of the best defenders in the 13 channel (for example) always seemed to have disproportionately poor metrics and I had absolutely thought it unfair based upon the sophistication of their defensive mandate.

          But your explanation certainly lends a whole new colour to some of the tradition, singular measurements so many hold dear.

          Thanks again.

        • UTG

          Why doesn’t it look good for Hooper? Strange that John Miller (who never could propose exactly who was meant to play 8 last year in place of Pocock and Hooper) would claim Hooper played more as a traditional 8 (which he does for the Tahs as well when they play Will Miller at 6) and then use a whole lot of metrics to judge him as a 7….

          No matter, Hooper will be very near the youngest ever to play his hundredth test match and people will still be claiming that guys like Cusack (top MT count in Super, top 5 penalties conceded) and Valetini (an out an out 6) would be better options at 7.

        • John Miller

          Looks bad for Hooper because it illustrates how ineffectual he is in the ruck contest in comparison to the top openside flankers (and non-openside flankers) in the competition; the breakdown being one of the key battlefronts for all the best world class 7’s. That really shouldn’t have required explanation.

          You could potentially judge Hooper based on capabilities more aligned to the key requirements of an 8 than a 7 if you wished – but that comparison would be even more stark. The briefest of glances shows that Naisarani is the form eightman in the Australian conference. If that there is no question.

          And you can stop attempting to land any wild, flailing swing you can muster now, Punch & Judy. I have indeed – again – though more specifically, answered the question of who would have been a better 8 than Michael Hooper last season (though I’m frankly stunned that I needed to).

        • UTG

          You might want to leave it to the guys who actually collate data and do the analytics before you start talking about comparative ineffectivness of players. Rugby Pass’s jackal score (which measures their ability to win possession from a tackled player, by collecting the ball from a grounded opponent while on their feet) has Hooper at 88 and Wright at 86. Not bad for a guy that’s ineffectual…

        • John Miller

          Fox Sports actually collate data and do the analytics.

          If you can nominate and quantify the formula, framework, criteria and/or methodology through which this otherwise arbitrary RugbyPass number is arrived at, it would be good to have a critical discussion.

          Can you?

          Are the Rugbypass stats at all questionable? Or is it only the Fox Sports stats (now that they disprove your theorem)?

          Which is it UTG?

        • UTG

          I’d like to see these breakdown effectivness analytics you’ve got from Fox Sports then. So far all you’ve done is post a bunch of turnover numbers (that aren’t the same as other sites) and called it ‘breakdown effectiveness’, that’s just raw data (which you later claimed you don’t like), not analytics.

          You can read more about the RugbyPass criterion here

          The RugbyPass stats may well be questionable, the Foxsports stats may also be questionable. Of course, you may not agree with the RugbyPass stats (now that they disprove your theorem) but they certainly question this whole “Hooper is ineffectual at the breakdown” narrative, you and others push.

        • John Miller

          You must have a goldfish memory UTG. You began the dialogue by posting a singular statistic from the same website you are now criticising for being inaccurate. Thick dripping irony.

          Rugbypass’ RIP looks an intriguing offering. And thanks for the link. Though, the explanation of their methodology is exclusively high level. There is no ability to critically examine their outcomes, process or criterion. The scores might be reflective, they might not. How can we tell?

          Even their RIP First XV lists Peter O’Mahoney as their top openside flanker and Matt Todd as their top blindside. Scott Fardy is the best Australian player on the planet (could be true – but not to Michael Cheika). And despite not playing for the best part of a season, David Pocock is an almost double figures better player than Michael Hooper.

          Indeed, if RugbyPass is to be taken as gospel, Jahrome Brown – the wet behind the ears backrow greenhorn from the Brumbies – is a 4 point better rugby player than Michael Hooper.

          It must be true then.

          I’m happy for you to question my analysis UTG. I’d do the same if you had any of your own to offer.

        • UTG

          A lot of strawmanning going on here. I’ve never claimed Hooper was better than Pocock, nor that he was the best Australian Rugby Player on the planet, nor that he’s even the best 7 by traditional metrics. I’ve simply contended that he’s not ineffective at the breakdown as you’ve so widely claimed and used RugbyPass’s analytics to back up my contention. Nowhere, have I claimed that FoxSports statistics are inaccurate. In fact, I said that the difference in FoxSports and RugbyPass numbers means that both sources maybe questionable. True to form, you’ve couched your arguments between dishonest ad hominems and tried to move away from actually discussing Hooper’s effectiveness at the breakdown now that I’ve presented analysis that leads to a starkly different conclusion from yours.

        • John Miller

          Once again, you’ve posted a link to website whose non-specified formula has a rookie Brumby backrower as a more effective rugby player than Michael Hooper. You have no idea how they arrived at that conclusion and have not contributed to the analysis. I’ve provided relational metrics from an independent data provider with calculations explained, repeatable; the reasoning of which is transparent and seems to make perfect sense to everyone but you alone. You can rage against the machine all you like. Hooper is a fantastic rugby player. He’s just not a ruck monkey, a set piece exponent or a tight channels metre eater and no amount of indignity will make it so.

        • UTG

          Here you are back at it strawmanning again. Their analysis of the breakdown doesn’t fit your narrative so you’ve had to jump to “oh it says Brown is a more effective 7 so it must be untrustworthy because he’s just a rookie.” Then in the next breath you’re praising Hooper for being a fantastic rugby player but not a traditional 7. You’re all over the shop, of course, if Hooper’s a non-traditional 7 he’s not going to be beating more traditional 7s in key metrics. I’ve never once claimed he fulfils all the traditional roles of a 7 well, just that he’s not as ineffective at the breakdown as you claim. Nice to see you add ‘set piece exponent’ and ‘tight channels metre eater’ to paper over your failed breakdown analysis.

          And, yes, I’m more likely to believe the conclusions of a professional data analytics group, with a profit motive to get the analytics right, than old mate John Miller from the interwebs whose provided some unreferenced raw data that doesn’t stack up with the conclusions of other “independent service providers”.

        • John Miller

          The “traditional” vs “non-traditionally conversation is an unimportant diversion and I never mentioned it – you did.

          You can try to divert the conversation as much as you like.

          But you and I both know – you have no clue how the RugbyPass rating number is formulated. Do you?

          I don’t. And you don’t. So tell us when you can work it out.

          Here’s what we all know: Liam Wright DID NOT MAKE ONLY FOUR (4) BREAKDOWN TURNOVERS THIS SEASON.

          Did he? That’s just wrong. Isn’t it UTG?

          So, what other part of RugbyPass’ analysis is incorrect I wonder?

        • UTG

          We’re talking about the jackal metric, not the turnovers won metric.

        • John Miller

          “”Rugby pass has Hooper with 11 turnovers won and Liam Wright with 4″

          When you write the comments in a thread UTG, they stay there.

        • UTG

          We’ve been talking about the jackal metric for ages, keep up.

        • John Miller

          No. You keep up. You have no idea how RugbyPass have arrived at their metric. But if they have Wright at 4 turnovers – which you have stated – they have arrived at it with incorrect data. None the less – nothing is quantifiable as it is not a transparent formula. And based upon several examples, highly questionable.

        • UTG

          Wright is ranked the same as Matt Todd by their breakdown metric as you’d expect him to be. They’re not using the 4 turnover stat for it.

        • John Miller

          You have no clue what they are using. You don’t know the formula.

          But if your own words are true, “”Rugby pass has Hooper with 11 turnovers won and Liam Wright with 4″, much like your entire argument, they are wrong.

        • Have a look at the stats and tell me where it shows Hooper looks like the best 7 in Australia this year – the year for which he provided the stats?

          Then ask yourself why some people say he looks busy on the pitch but doesn’t seem that effective to them.

          You’re entitled to a different opinion, but your questions aren’t pertinent to the stats being provided. There is a fair question being asked there but it’s tangential to the stats. To answer it with some numbers you’d have to first look at what the right numbers for a No. 8 should be, then try to crunch them from the publicly available data, then see how Hooper stacks up against the competition. (And then ask, if Hooper was playing more as an 8 and Pocock as a 7, why on earth Cheika didn’t put those numbers on their backs…)

        • UTG

          Well the stats provided are questionable to start with. Rugby pass has Hooper with 11 turnovers won and Liam Wright with 4. Based on their RPI for openside flankers Hooper is ahead of Wright as well (pretty good for someone who doesn’t play as a traditional 7). Obviously, he plays somewhere between a 7 and 8, trying to compare him to traditional 7 and 8s isn’t go to show favourably for him.

        • John Miller

          Ah, you were the one that nominated Fox Sport stats to (try to) make your point.

          You remind me of someone UTG.

        • UTG

          I made my point about pilfers, when we extend the analysis further it still holds true that Hooper is a more effective breakdown player than those you’ve proposed to replace him (e.g. Wright). You can post as much blather about the importance of ground contests as you want but at the end of the day your position isn’t backed by the data.

        • John Miller

          “Hooper is a more effective breakdown player than those you’ve proposed to replace him (e.g. Wright)”

          Flat Earth Society has nothing on you my friend.

        • UTG

          I’ve posted the analytics above that back up my claim…your cliched ad hominems would suggest you don’t have an answer to them.

        • John Miller

          You posted a link to a website that proffers a formula for rating players; the mechanics of which you have no knowledge of. Keep swingin’ fella.

        • Citing other sources with different numbers highlights an issue we, the armchair fans, have. We have no way to verify the data. You can argue the difference between Hooper’s 7 and 11 might be counting errors, although it seems unlikely – In the course of the season one place counted 4 more turn overs than the other could happen. The difference between 4 and 24 for Wright looks much more like there’s a typo on one site. Having spent far too long looking for a third site to cross check, and then a little while looking at the data on the two, it’s worth noting that Rugby Pass doesn’t appear to actually record turnovers conceded for about 2/3 of the season for Wright – it’s not recording 0 as it does later in the season, there’s just no entry for it.

          I would also point out that you’ve cherry-picked one part of the jackal’s contributions. Yes, it’s the big, showy one. But winning a penalty at the breakdown, slowing the ball down and so on are all important too. We can’t get data for the last one, although I’m sure the teams can. But selecting one feature an concentrating on it to the exclusion of the others is not really productive.

          The back row is a unit, much like the half-backs are. You wouldn’t argue that Genia and (for the sake of argument) White are our best two half-backs, so they should be the starting 9 and 10. You pick a specialist in each position and it’s rare to find a player who can play both. Parra for France, Weepu (with moderate success) for NZ. There are probably a few other French players down the years because of “le petit général” approach but I can’t think of any. Now, in the back row it’s, arguably, not as set in stone. You have roles to play which don’t have to be tied to your shirt number as strictly. But you need the jackal, the line-out option, the person at the base of the scrum, the tight ball carrier, the wider ball carrier, the link player, the clean-out specialist, the 10-harrier, and ideally they all need to be top-notch tacklers in the tight and in open field, but you can cope with one who is better in the tight, one who is better in the open and one who excels in both. Normally you package those in a certain way because the blindside is bigger and heavier – so clean-outs, tight ball carries, tight tackles and second line-out option go together. The open side is smaller and faster, and learns the rest to be a jackal, harry the 10, tackle in the open, have good hands to pass and link on plays. The 8 picks up the rest.

          There is nothing inherently wrong with Hooper picking some from the pile marked 7 and some from the pile marked 8. But it means whoever else you pick at 6, and in this case 8 since Hooper wears a 7, have to cover the missing bits of Hooper’s skillset. So you could pick a “6.5” who covers Hooper’s missing 7 bits, and a hybrid 6-8 who covers the bits of the 6 that the 6.5 misses and the bits of 8 that Hooper misses. Or a normal 6 and a 7-8 hybrid who is the complement of Hooper so they cover everything between them.

          Finding those players… I would argue that both the Tahs and the Wallabies have failed to do, and they’ve had an unbalanced back row because of it. Selecting your best combination of players, not your best (in the coach’s opinion) player in the country who wears a particular number in the back row is important.

          Analytics on player performance… well you’ve highlighted two different sources give a massive disparity in the turnovers the two players have won this season, something you’d think should be easy to count. I’ve done a fair bit of data modelling for complex systems in my career, far more complex than modelling how good a rugby player is when compared to a different one. If you can get me a breakdown of their modelling and their data, I’ll comment on it properly. Until then I’ll just remark confirmation bias makes it stunningly easy to make your model say things you expect and is incredibly hard to avoid in a system like this where you can’t really repeat the experiment. I did work with bacterial growth and immune responses – if I got something weird and thought the model might need a tweak I could develop a rational, test the hypothesis and rerun the experiment to carefully test it. And I would still fall into the trap of confirmation bias more than I’d like to admit but I would get results that would say “Nah, stuffed that up, try something else.” It’s quite hard to rerun the 2019 Super Rugby season though! I’m not saying they’re cheating, wrong, lying or anything like that.

          But if you expect the national side’s captain to show up as a great player (not an incredibly bad working assumption you’d think) and your model shows him as something other than that, you’re more likely to go back and tweak your model. If your model shows he’s useless, that’s probably the right thing. If it shows him as third or fourth best… is your model wrong or is your assumption wrong? That’s a harder call to make, particularly without a good way to retest the data.

        • UTG

          Did you actually look at the RugbyPass rankings for Hooper before you launched into this diatribe about confirmation bias? They don’t rate him highly compared to other 7s on the whole, Jahrome Brown, is ahead of him. So I’m really not sure where this conspiracy theory about them retweaking their modelling that covers 3000 players worldwide just to improve Hooper’s ranking is coming from.

          RugbyPass quantifies breakdown effectiveness of 7s using their Jackal score. It is not cherry-picked at all, the jackal score is analytics based on literally the same metrics J. Miller originally included in his figures and includes forced penalties, pilfers and any other breakdown turnover you can think of. It is not the same as the turnovers for each player. Lucky Liam Wright if it’s not registering turnovers conceded for him, always handy if the statisticians forget to record you dropping the ball. Anyway, he compares favourably to most other 7s under the jackal metric, he’s ahead of other Australian 7s like Jahrome Brown, he’s just not as high as Hooper so I don’t think they’ve duped him there. What RugbyPass analysis does show is that Hooper is nowhere near as ineffective as originally claimed.

          And, I disagree completely that you pick the bloke that fulfils an arbitrary conception of what their ‘role’ is. There’s a reason why we have are seeing a number of massive 120 kg steam engines on the wing in basically every major international competition, rather than a spindly 80kg guy who can kick a bit, is pretty fast, and isn’t too shabby under a high ball.

        • Please read what you wrote and what I wrote. You commented that a number of professional commentators rank Hooper ahead of Wright. I pointed out that there is big discrepancy between the stats between two sites where it’s hard for us to determine which of them might be correct. I also pointed out that modelling what a rugby player, it’s easy to produce results that show your preferred choice as the best. If you read that as a conspiracy theory rather than a comment from someone who has done the job there is no point continuing this.

          As I said, they’re not recording turnovers he forces, I don’t know if they recorded all the turnovers he conceded or not, but there is an entry every week for it.

          Those big wingers… are there because they’re fast, ideally catch the high ball, break tackles and (hopefully) they can be taught to kick a bit too and defend. The ones that last certainly add those last two qualities over time. They’re there largely because of a now deceased guy you may have heard of called Jonah Lomu. Coaches are looking for an attacking winger who breaks lines and scores tries and try to work out how to cover for the rest. They fit the concept of a winger as a finisher. That used to be small and nippy, and still can be, all the Bokke wingers are sub-100 kg for example but know their way to the try line.

          At no point did I say you couldn’t pick Hooper, although if you’ve read what I’ve written in other places you know I wouldn’t. I pointed out that I think if you do, in order to have an effective back row I think you need some very unique players to play around him to fulfil all the tasks that the back row in a rugby team are expected to perform. Savea is not an archetypal 7 – he runs tighter, more like a 6, and he runs into (ok, often through) contact rather than linking. When he’s selected for the Canes or the AB, the coaches pick a 6 who runs wider than typical and has softer hands than usual. Ball-playing forwards are not hard to find in NZ though.

        • UTG

          Where did I say a number of professional commentators rank Hooper ahead of Wright? I’ve presented a reputable analytics source showing Hooper is not ineffective compared to the guy that others claimed should be ahead of him.

          Good, you picked up the bait on Jonah. When Jonah was on the scene there were many reticent about him playing on the wing because he brought a non-traditonal skillset but we know how he’s remembered as winger and the impact he had on how wingers play…

          If you think RugbyPass are changing their algorithms to increase the rating of Hooper then they’re doing a pretty terrible job because there are guys like Jahrome Brown ranked ahead of him.

        • Where did I say a number of professional commentators rank Hooper ahead of Wright?

          I’ll also add that looking at analytics on breakdown effectiveness (by the professionals), Hooper is ahead of guys like Wright.

          The second of those comes from about 12 hours ago in this thread.

          Since you apparently can’t read what I write nor remember what you write, I’m going to ignore developing any sense of a thread of argument here, but I will comment on your implicit elision of Hooper and Lomu.

          From when Lomu burst onto the scene to the ’97 RWC, in three short years, he changed the rules about what a winger should be. By 2001 teams were looking, with varying degrees of success, for their own Lomu, although now that’s going away and they’re remembering what made everyone throw out the rule book was Lomu’s strike rate. SA and Wales could go to the RWC with, between them, no wingers over 100kg for example. North might break that and make it 1 depending on form and fitness. Hooper appeared on the scene 7 years ago. It would be unfair to say the rest of the world ignored him, but no one else has rushed out to say “we must get our own Hooper” his impact on the world of rugby has just not been that great.

          If this hybrid role you say he plays so well was going to have a positive impact, rather than as I claim unbalance the back row, why isn’t the rest of the world following suit?

          If you’ll accept the truism that forwards win matches, the backs decide by how much then the Wallabies forwards are not up to the job.

          There are, depending on the match, between 5 and 15 times more breakdowns than set pieces give or take. So while the set pieces are critical, the amount of work done at the breakdown – largely but not solely the province of the back row whatever number they wear – would seem to be not up to international standards. We don’t have to dissect turnover rates and things like that, even if we discount playing the AB so often, the win-rate since England 2015 is terrible.

          My argument is simple: Cheika selects Hooper, this unbalances the back row because he doesn’t then select a suitable 6 and 8 to fill in all the gaps in the task list that the back row players have to complete to let the side be competitive. I think he probably can’t because they’re not there. My solution: pick a traditional 6, 7 and 8 who can play their roles well, get a balanced back row the easy way. Individually they may or may not be better than Hooper + 2 others, but as a unit they can and should be.

          Your argument seems to resemble what I understand of a cricket selector’s approach – pick the best player in 6, the best in 7 and the best in 8. Don’t worry about how they play together: what we need is the best 5 batsmen, the best 5 bowlers and the best wicketkeeper. I may have got my wires crossed a little, I don’t follow cricket. Rugby requires that they’re much more of a team than individuals performing their skills in isolation.

          I had a look at what RugbyPass laughably calls their explanation for an openside’s rankings. Some comments – I’ve already commented that without another source I’m not sure I trust their data and why. I also, on top of not trusting it, don’t know what it means. What constitutes a turn over – they talk about a Jackal and Tackle Turnover but they don’t make clear what the difference is. They also don’t say how these things affect their rankings. A jackal – winning the ball cleanly can then (as it did in the final) lead to a second turn over as the other side hold the ball up and win the maul. It can also lead, again as it did in the final, to a try of course. A tackle turnover, undifferentiated by their system apparently, could be a choke tackle leading to a maul and a scrum or something leading to a penalty. Without putting a value on the weighting for these, I think I’ll weight a penalty to my side as more valuable than a scrum thanks, whether that’s 3 points or a comfortable bit of territory gained and a line out. I’d really need to see what happens to a jackal, what the outcome is, to be sure how to weight it. My intuition suggests that it should be weighted by field position – inside our 22 a scrum is probably better because our 9/10 gets a better chance to clear. Maybe between the halves it’s about the same as a scrum, there’s that ref lottery on penalties, free kicks and resets, but it might break down to in our half, in their half 50-22. In their 22, I think a jackal ought to be better, it’s surprise ball against a disorganised defence so you ought to have a better chance of a try. This is just a first pass from intuition and watching lots of games.

          There is nothing about some serious aspects of the game for an openside – ruck involvements, impact (how much longer the ball stays in the ruck if the player gets there first or second) etc. They talk about how they measure involvement, but it’s really crude – and it explains why the Brumbies 7 scores so high. All those driving mauls will earn him a 2% points boost every time.

          You said previously I was inventing a conspiracy theory. No such thing. As I said, I’ve done this, albeit in a different, for a living. I have a pretty good idea of the sorts of things to look for. I understand they consider their model commercially sensitive – I consider what they have provided lacking – I’m not expecting them to provide me with a detailed model (although I’d like that), just pointing out their model lacks inputs it really should have.

          On top of that, the data they’re putting through, assuming it’s accurate (if it’s not, their scoring is going to be way off) is probably in serious need of refinement – I’ve listed a small number of the factors I’d want to take into account based on some really quite crude improvements to the raw data we get as a fans. If they’re doing this and people are paying for it, they ought to be able to get data at a far greater level of detail than I’m suggesting – just listen to the latest podcast for an idea of the sort of detail that is available.

          Oh, and after you’ve done it, look at their list of “standard metrics” and think about what someone who did rugby analysis for the Rebels and the Wallabies for a living said about some of the metrics they list..

        • John Miller

          EP, like all of the contributions I have ever read from you on GAGR, this is specific, referenced and forensically comprehensive. Bravo.

        • UTG

          Oh so now you’re abandoning the whole theory that they’re trying to manipulating the stats to make Hooper look better? Good, keep moving those goalposts.

          I’m not really sure how any of your refinements to their standard metrics don’t apply to any other data source. Where are you going to find publicly available data on the field position where the turnover was made? What data provider is timing how long the ball stays in the ruck when a certain player is involved (good luck eliminating the noise from that stat)?These metrics are as good as any we have and they show that Hooper is not some ineffective player at the breakdown. In fact, unlike FoxSports and other providers who just present raw data, Rugbypass have a commercial incentive to get the analytics right because they’re trying to run a predictive system that you can use to determine the outcome of the game. Their whole business is wound up in getting these analytics right.

          The point about Lomu was never to say that Hooper has somehow redefined the way 7s play. It was only to say you can have very successful players who don’t conform to the traditional way a certain position is supposed to be played. I can equally argue that the extra skills Hooper brings can counter other weaknesses that other players have.

          I’m sure teams have a whole bunch of in depth metrics they can look into. My point always was that Hooper is not ineffective at the breakdown as being claimed, by RugbyPass metrics we have available he is not ineffective.

        • This response has tipped me over the line I was walking.

          I’m going to respond to the most egregious points, and for anyone else that might still be reading this.

          You accusing me of a conspiracy theory to make Hooper’s stats look better does not make it a fact. I pointed out modelling is hard to get right and it’s easy to let biases sneak in. I used an example of changing your model to make Hooper look decent instead of bad.

          RugbyPass have access to commercial grade data as even the most cursory read of their limited information about their modelling system would tell you. I can’t guarantee all of that data I suggested in my model is in the commercial data you can get, but I’m sure a lot of it is. The bit where it says they boost scores by 2% for involvement says – if they openside has been involved in the last 2 minutes. I can’t be bothered to look up the exact wording, but the in the last 2 minutes is there, verbatim. What publicly available data source will tell you that? If the analytics available to the teams tell you what body part the tackler used, I’m pretty sure they tell you where on the pitch the tackle took place. As for the noise in the time in the ruck, yes, it will be noisy. I’m a biologist, I live in a world of noisy data. But there are, lets say 250 total breakdowns in a game on average and they’re roughly 125 each. You have a count of something like “disruptive involvements” and “constructive involvements” for an openside, plus other defensive and other offensive involvements respectively, and time for ball to emerge or null (if the maul goes dead). The disruptive, constructive, other defensive and other offensive involvements are rucks and mauls where the openside is first or second player there, so they can directly impact the ball, that don’t result in an outcome other than the attacking side recycling the ball – they’re a normal breakdown in other words – and they’re defensive and attacking ones respectively. So, in round numbers there are about 100 (probably more actually) of each per game. A good openside probably gets to 75% or more of those first or second, but lets say 75%. In every match, we get approximately 75 disruptive involvements, 25 other defensive, 75 constructive and 25 other offensive involvements. For a SR season, multiply by 14… that’s 1,050 and 350 of the two types, to round numbers. Will you see a significant difference? I don’t know. But I would like to find out.

          For you, UTG, a closing comment. That line you’ve tipped me over is convincing me you’re trolling me.

        • UTG

          You originally claimed that RugbyPass were likely guilty of confirmation bias given they would want to make Hooper look better as a national captain (a wildly inaccurate claim given that they don’t rate Hooper highly). Now you’ve completed shifted goal posts and are trying to say that you were referring to me changing my model (despite the fact I never built a statistical model). Unfortunately, this is not what you originally said and you were clearly referring to RugbyPass:

          ” And I would still fall into the trap of confirmation bias more than I’d like to admit but I would get results that would say “Nah, stuffed that up, try something else.” It’s quite hard to rerun the 2019 Super Rugby season though! I’m not saying THEY’RE cheating, wrong, lying or anything like that.”

          Unfortunately, this is not the first time you’ve misrepresented what I’ve said. You’ve claimed that “I’ll also add that looking at analytics on breakdown effectiveness (by the professionals) ahead of guys like Wright,” is somehow tantamount to saying a “number of professional commentators” when I’ve mentioned commentators nowhere and was obviously referring to the analytics being compiled by professionals.

          It’s sad that you interpret any form of dissenting opinion as trolling. Unfortunately, however, it’s not unexpected given that comment section of the GAGR Home Page is the same 6 people patting each other on the back over the newest iteration of the NSWRU = illuminati conspiracy theory. Personally, I’ve had a very enjoyable ( and now long running) debate with John Miller over Hooper at the breakdown none of which would have occured if I’d taken everything as a personal affront and blocked him.

        • John Miller

          UTG, you have no idea how Rugbypass are collating, analysing or utilising their data. According to you, RugbyPass believe Liam Wright has affected 4 ruck turnovers this entire Super Rugby Season.


          Does this even vaguely seem feasible?

          By comparison, Fox Sports is counting Wright accumulating around 24 across pilfers, forced penalties and forced ruck and maul penalties. 2nd best in the competition.

          You question all stats but now only quote Rugbypass?

        • UTG

          I’m not quoting their turnovers, I’m using their jackal metric, once again we see you tackling someone off the ball.

        • John Miller

          “Rugby pass has Hooper with 11 turnovers won and Liam Wright with 4″

          Please find a clue UTG.

        • John Miller

          UTG, if you have watched more than 1 Reds game this season, you know that Liam Wright has won more than 4 turnovers throughout the entire tournament at the breakdown.

          Don’t you?

          So you must then understand that “4 turnovers” must also be a mistaken derivation of “pilfers” and not actual “forced turnovers” – which is where your argument derailed right from the start.

          Keep swingin’

        • UTG

          If they have gotten it wrong, It hasn’t been factored into their jackal metric which is what I’ve referred to consistently because Liam Wright is well ahead of other 7s there when he’d be way down if he was only on 4. He’s just not as high as Hooper. QED.

        • John Miller

          They have very clearly got it wrong (or you have).

          There is simply no possible way a reasonable argument can be made that Michael Hooper had anywhere near the effectiveness of Liam Wright at the ruck this Super Rugby season. You are embarrassing lurching from fallacy to history rewrite.

        • UTG

          Knock, knock. Stats 101 would like to talk to you about data mining. Yeah, let’s just restrict our analysis to a year in which Wright plays as the sole fetcher in his team and compare that to a guy who plays in a backrow alongside Miller and Wells, two other fetchers and then proclaim Hooper isn’t as good as the breakdown. Unfortunately, your conclusions don’t hold up when we use out of sample data and Hooper compares favourably to other 7s in breakdown metrics. You’ve embarrassingly fallen victim to a basic statistical fallcacy they’d warn you about in week 1 of any intro stats course.

        • John Miller

          Righto. This from the bloke who is using as his sole platform analysis for which he has zero understanding of how they are arrived at. Using the words “data mining” is not thefait accompli lay down misere you appear to believe it is. At least we seem to be at the point that you have understood the numbers don’t favour Hooper. Certainly took a while UTG. Well done you.

        • UTG

          No, of course, I don’t expect the data you’ve dredged to favour Hooper. That’s the whole problem with data-snooping, you’ve found a pattern you think is true based on a limited set of figures which doesn’t actually hold when we extend the data set to include out of sample predictions. At least we’ve moved from the “data doesn’t support your claim” to “you don’t know what metrics they are using.” As I said before, I’m much more likely to trust analytics from a professional source with a commercial interest to get the numbers right rather than a handful of raw data conveniently cherry-picked dressed up as analysis.

        • John Miller

          The irony. You used singular, non-relational data across the exact same timeframe from the exact same source that you now revoke: 1 cherrypicked metric. Keep swingin’ UTG. It’s merely a flesh wound.

        • UTG

          Their breakdown metric is long term…

        • RedAnt


        • UTG

          You convince him to come back from overseas.

        • RedAnt

          You said there were a lack of 6 and 8 options – Fardy was around but apparently unwanted.

        • AllyOz

          yeah good point

        • John Miller

          The great misconceptions is that “turnovers” are Pocock’s sole contribution to the team. It is certainly the most celebrated and easily quantifiable, but it is far from his only or – I believe – most important contribution. Halfback distributions hampered, slowed pill, attacking cleaners committed, attacking rucks secured, set piece weight and leverage, maul strength, backline linking (as opposed to backline running), tight channels / pick and drive running – are every bit as important, particularly in the tight opening sorties. If his impact is waning, sure take him off. If not, and he has the match fitness, get your 80. The bloke could get injured in the last 30, first 30, warm up, any of it. If he’s fit enough to play – play him. If not, don’t.

        • UTG

          Except now he’s basically constrained to playing 30 minutes we want to play him where his efforts have the most impact. If we start him then all those things you list are most easily nullified by the opposition because they’re fresh and can implement a gameplan to target him. Bring him on with 30 to go and they’ve not only tired but it’s very hard to sync up a game plan between a mix of starters and finishers.

        • John Miller

          “He’s basically constrained to playing 30 minutes.” Based on…?

        • UTG

          Based on the fact he’s been an injury prone player his whole career and won’t last a whole RWC campaign trying to play 80.

        • John Miller

          Yeah, he’s never played out the 80. I’ve clearly imagined it.

        • UTG

          He’s now 31 years old and has had significant neck issues–an injury you don’t screw around with–and is recovering from a calf issue that would not have taken other players nearly so long to recover from. He’s not a fresh 21 year old anymore.

        • John Miller

          And if he’s so hampered by this, don’t pick him.

          If he isn’t, the bloke has shown time and time again he is an 80 minute animal.

          You’ve simply picked an arbitrary number to suit your narrative.

        • UTG

          I don’t really understand your argument. You think he’s a great player but you don’t want him to be played unless he can last a full 80, game after game? Well that’s not going to happen.
          He missed a good part of last year’s test season after we did play him for 80; his body couldn’t manage it. And then this season he tried to return from a minor calf injury and fell to pieces 3 games in. Better to actually manage his injuries so we can get some impact out of him rather than consign him to the rubbish bin.

        • John Miller

          No. You clearly don’t understand.

          A bench entry might be a logical way for him to segue back into match fitness. But if match fitness isn’t an issue – as it hasn’t been each other time he has come back from injury – he’s the best in his position (and this team) and starts.

          If he is still injured. Just don’t pick him.

        • UTG

          It has been an issue though, he’s broken down partway through every major series. Every major sporting team manages the workload of injury-prone players, this is not some new phenomenon.

        • John Miller

          You might not play your best players in lesser pool or knock out games to reduce risk of injury for the major games. But beyond that, managing injuries is akin to planning a lottery win.

          The best players play the best games. The All Blacks didn’t roll out a hobbled Richie McCaw in the second stanza of any matches during his last World Cup.

        • UTG

          It’s not really planning to win a lottery at all, for players with chronic injury problems you can quite accurately manage their game time to ensure you get the most impact out of them.

        • John Miller

          Like McCaw, Pocock is in his last test season before likely international retirement. When on two feet, he is Australia’s best openside flanker and player. Come RWC, what later rugby impact are they saving him for? If Pocock is fit enough that he and they think he is pulling on a jersey and his form is within spitting distance of last test season, 7 is his number.

        • Who?

          Pocock’s broken down partway through every series? That’s a big claim. I don’t recall him breaking down in the 2015 RWC. I don’t recall him being injured in 2016. I don’t recall him breaking down in any Tests last year (though I do recall him missing a game after having his neck illegally targeted for a whole game).
          Pocock’s larger (i.e. longer term) injuries have, from my memory, come in provincial games. Not internationals. He did his knee (twice) playing for the Brumbies. He was injured coming back to the Brumbies from Japan. This year, he was injured – along with three other (very fit) players – in an off season beach sprints session run outside the guidance of anyone qualified in sports science and fitness management (there’s no requirement to have a clue about strength and conditioning to coach a Rugby team, and personal history’s not the same as training), and then the injury was mismanaged in rehab.
          I’m happy to say he’s going to struggle to prove his fitness for the RWC. But that’s very different to saying he breaks down in every major series.

        • UTG

          Yeah, well your memory has failed you. He missed the Scottish Game in the 2015 WC. He only played the first match in England’s 2016 whitewash before being injured and last year he missed matches in the RC and the EOYT against SA and England.

        • Who?

          Breaking down generally implies not being able to recover, though. As in, copping an injury and not being able to come back. He played the RWC semi and final. He played the end of the RC and on the EOYT. Plenty of players miss a game here and there, it’s not the same as breaking down.
          Beyond that, you’ve picked out what, five Tests he’s missed of the games he’s been available over the past 4 years? He’s older than Warburton was when he retired, and Warburton missed more games. He’s the same age Richie was when he won his first RWC. They played Richie in that tournament on one leg. I’m not advocating that for Pocock, I’m just pointing out that exaggeration doesn’t help.
          He’s absolutely got to prove he’s fit. I think that’s got to include – given the history of the injury, with scans proving that the muscle wasn’t knitting back together – clear evidence of that muscle healing in scans, as well as running. But no player is usually expected to go through a campaign like a RWC without missing a game to rest at some point. Even backs!

        • Braveheart81

          I agree with you completely that turnovers are not Pocock’s only contribution.

          I am working on the basis though that he isn’t going to make it through the RWC playing 80 minutes a game. I am also working on the basis that Hooper is the captain of the team and will start.

          The option of playing the smaller backrow with two 7s is better for the last 30 minutes than the first 30 if that’s what you are choosing between.

          My take is that Pocock is likely to end up in the 20 jersey if he can regain his fitness. Otherwise it will probably be Samu to provide a similar role (also ones he regains fitness).

        • John Miller

          If we had to play with two 7’s, I’d agree that I’d prefer this in the back 30 rather than front 30. And I think if Poey is in his first games back (like any player coming back from long layoff), bench is a fine interim segue. But if he re-enters the fray as he did last season at full fitness, Poey starts with the 7 jersey every day of the week with a proper 6 & 8.

          Hooper shouldn’t be captain for a whole host of reasons (the fact that he’s not our best openside flanker is only one).

          Whilst a different style of player, like Dempsey and McMahon, Samu is another 6.5 (particularly at test level) and another interation of the small backrow that has crippled this team for endless seasons (without the Pocock freak factor to mitigate it).

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Logic! Really?

        • Brumby Runner

          The fairest and most accurate assessment I’ve yet seen on the Pocock/Hooper situation.

      • Who?

        Poey on the bench is a tough one. I get why you’re saying that, but I can see a counter argument. If a bloke’s likely to get injured, isn’t it better to start him, so you can replace him? If you get 25 minutes at the beginning before he feels he needs to leave to ensure avoiding re-injuring himself, that’s better than sticking him on at the end where he might feel the same way after 15 minutes, but he won’t have the option of leaving (because the team would then be short a player).
        Not sure there’s a right answer. :-

    • Braveheart81

      We won’t see Pocock and Hooper both starting this year purely because we have good number 8 options available. There’s also substantially more number 6 options that are good.

      Of the current squad, Salakaia-Loto was only available for the first half of the test season last year and Dempsey the last few tests. None of Jones, Naisarani or Valetini were options.

      I think AAC is there as the backup starting 13. If Kuridrani is unavailable AAC is a better option than Hodge. I think Kerevi is a better 13 option than AAC but I’d prefer to keep Kerevi at 12 rather than shifting him across. I think this is Cheika’s thinking too and why AAC is there. If Petaia can find fitness and form quickly I expect he will replac AAC in the RWC squad.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Sad indictment on the development if the 2nd best 13 in Australia is AAC mate. He didn’t set the world alight for the Tahs so why would he for the Wallabies?

        • Braveheart81

          It is what it is. Petaia would be there if he was healthy. CFS played 13 for the Reds most of the season and whilst he started pretty well he didn’t finish well. If you brought him into the Wallaby squad you’d need to do plenty of work to ensure he was ready for the role etc. AAC will slot straight in without difficulty and minimal preparation.

          Hodge and English were generally the 13 options for the Rebels and neither did particularly well.

          I’m not really sure who Cheika should have selected instead or whether he should have just planned that Hodge is his replacement 13 in case of injury even if it is an inferior selection.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Just saying it’s pretty sad

        • Larry Jorgensen

          Well, we could say the same of Ma’aa Nonu in years gone by. Not that I am suggesting they are of a similar standard.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Why? He was never brought back from anywhere

        • Dud Roodt

          I think the point was that Nonu, like AAC, was a player who could have a very average year in SR and would always be picked for the national team as they always played better in the national jersey.
          As has been brought up already, you can’t take every new young guy on the hope they will step up when required, there are plenty of young guys in this squad, old heads don’t hurt a team at all, even if they’re not the flashiest new thing in the driveway.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          OK that’s fair. However, I think Nonu was always better than AAC has demonstrated this year. Maybe I’m being harsh but it just doesn’t make sense to me

        • Dud Roodt

          I don’t think anyone would ever argue that, but there were definitely seasons that he was in no way the best 12 in NZ and was still picked.
          I don’t think the Wallabies will be worse off for AAC being there.

        • Larry Jorgensen

          Underperformed at SR level then lit up at Test level.

        • UTG

          Most people would have Akira Ioane over Luke Whitelock at 8 in a heart beat but Whitelock was continually selected over Ioane despite not having the same physical presence, ball running capabilities etc. However, Whitlock fitted in much better with the AB structure and there was no need to upskill or compensate for certain parts of his game. AAC might not be as dynamic in contact as someone like CFS and certainly isn’t as good a 13 as Kerevi but he’s the easiest to slot into the 13 role at short notice given his experience at international level. In a WC year it’s not all about selecting the players with the highest ceilings, particularly in squad roles where players are solely there for injury cover.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Not sure “most” people would have. I certainly wouldn’t and nor would a lot of people I know. The point is though that Australia needs to develop players not rely on has beens

        • UTG

          Australia has developed players though, there’s Petaia who is injured and Kerevi who’s been converted into the best 12 in the SH…AAC is simply injury cover and has a mountain of experience and also has never let us down at test level before. I don’t see why giving guys like CFS or English (both who have been around for a while and haven’t really shown they’re capable of consistently performing at 13 at international level) a squad spot in a WC year is going to suddenly turn them into a wonderful backup option. Nor do I see what they’re going to add to the squad with their limited test experience.

        • From NooZealand

          Hi, just replied to UTG re Akira Ioane with comments from Hansen.

        • From NooZealand

          re Akira Ioane – AB coach Hansen: “It’s the same problem he’s always had,” said the All Blacks coach. “He came into the season probably not as fit as he could have been, and played every game for the Blues at the same time as trying to get fit.
          “He’s a tired athlete. Did we see the best of him? I don’t think we did in Super Rugby and other people played particularly well and put themselves in front of him.”

        • UTG

          Exactly, it’s not he doesn’t have the potential to play at test level, he just hasn’t been able to fit the squad requirements.

        • Mica

          Does your last question really need to be answered? :)

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Not as confident we won’t see both. Cheika has already said a couple of times that they are both too good to leave out

        • John Miller

          Wright has made the side because Cheika knows a Pocock-less Wallabies are fodder at the ruck contest. It can be the only possible reason Latu has eye-wateringly made the squad as well. I’m supremely confident Cheika will do everything possible to re-deploy some version of the dual openside monster he has created when the Wallabies get found out on the ground – be it with Pocock or Wright wearing another number or smaller loosies like Dempsey or Samu charged with contesting breakdown possession singlehandedly and without the requisite skillset. Anything to deflect focus and responsibility from the other side of the scrum.

      • Brumby Runner

        BH, having a rare foray into the front page? I hope we don’t see Pocock and Hooper together this year, and I very much agree with your comments otherwise.

    • Mart

      you could have left your post after first 9 words and i would have been happy to read and leave. Ha (players in positions c’mon!!!)

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        It’s a conceptual idea more than fact

        • Brisneyland Local

          Its Mabo, the constitution, ………its the vibe.

    • Tim

      I was fuming when AAC was named in the squad. He can barely hold his spot in the tahs and on some occasions he was hooked from the field.

    • adastra32

      Form anywhere else in the world is an indicator of playing health. If that health is good, the real issue is how and whether the culture and coaching that the player returns to is compatible and fit for purpose.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        It’s also a reflection on the game being played, that tactics being used and the team around them. I think that’s why it doesn’t translate back so well

  • Hoss

    Jim ??? Are you planning on washing your socks mate ?

    I prefer his French cousin – Jacque.

    • Keith Butler

      Merde! and wash my mouth out with Holy Water. I did of course mean Gentleman Jacque. And very nice it is to- and not the water.

  • RF

    I would like to see JOC on the wing he still has his pace (having not seen him play for years I have no idea).

    The article mentions that JOC could be backup for Kerevi at 12. While I would start Kerevi there, I still think they Cheika will prefer Beale who pulled the strings for every bit of success that Cheika had enjoyed after Leinster from that position.

    • Brumby Runner

      And pretty much dropped them all in the games where success wasn’t forthcoming. Wait, was that about 60% of the games they played?


Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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