What will the Wallaby front row look like for the June tests? - Green and Gold Rugby

What will the Wallaby front row look like for the June tests?

What will the Wallaby front row look like for the June tests?

With the June Test around the corner we thought it was time to look at the contenders for wallaby spots in each game. We have Tests against Scotland on Tuesday the 5th and Wales on the 3 following Saturdays. The make up of the first test side will be strongly influenced by the Super Rugby schedule with the Reds and the Force both having byes on the weekend before the match. Further complicating things is the need to field a competitive side 4 days later for the Welsh test.

Firstly lets look at the contenders for the positions.

The Contenders:

From The Reds:
Ben Daley, James Slipper, Greg Holmes
Saia Faingaa, James Hanson
From the Force:
Pek Cowan, Salesi Ma’afu, Kieran Longbottom
Nathan Charles
From the Waratahs:
Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu
Tatafu Polota-Nau
From The Brumbies:
Ben Alexander, Dan Palmer
Stephen Moore.
From The Rebels:
Rodney Blake
Adam Freier

That’s a pretty big list! But not all of these players will be in the mix for a spot in the tests for various reasons. A test prop needs a good range of skills across all the front row disciplines and also needs to contribute around the field. Some of the guys above are not up there on one or more of the essentials.

The Incumbents.

James Slipper, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Salesi Ma’afu started the last test match against Wales on 3 December 2011. Of these three only Slipper has the weekend before the first test off, but he is also a possibility for the game day squad on Saturday against Wales.
Let’s look at how the candidates are going.

Firstly the props.

June Tests Props

Runs (No)Runs (m)Pen
Ruck &
Made (%)
Ben Daley48.143.1414.861.143.008.14/7.8597.57%
Greg Holmes40.713.2915.430.712.576.57/691.57%
James Slipper73.714.4314.571.144.438.42/7.1486.86%
Pekahou Cowan70.885.6321.750.636.259.5/8.3790.88%
Salesi Ma'afu46.503.008.381.382.885.37/4.2579.25%
Benn Robinson78.144.1411.291.143.869.71/8.2885.43%
Sekope Kepu62.712.148.571.002.149.42/8.1485.29%
Ben Alexander71.335.6720.000.835.1714/12.1685.67%
Dan Palmer63.202.006.600.602.2011.6/9.884.80%
Rodney Blake37.573.2914.860.862.865.57/4.4280.57%

I’m going to pick my front row for the Scottish test by ignoring the players I think will line up against Wales. So Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Stephen Moore Will sit out this game. Robinson and Kepu are still our best props and as long as Deans leaves Kepu on the tight head side he will do fine. The third props spot is between James Slipper and Ben Alexander. I think Alexander will get the nod here. He is playing a tighter game this year and I think his work rate is hard to ignore and the temptation of playing Slipper against the Scots will prove too strong to resist.

Which means Slipper is my first prop for the Scots. I think Dan Palmer is a chance for the second spot. The Brumbies have a Friday night game and the Aussie coaches will be keen to see how he goes. I’m picking a dark horse for the third propping spot. I think they will go for an old head for this spot. Someone who just gets the job done. So I’m saying Greg Holmes fits that description nicely.

Scrums - Who's got it and who hasn't

James Hanson and Nathan Charles are both great young hookers and this is a good chance to see how they look at the next level. I think at least one will feature in the Scottish test along with Saia Faingaa who has returned from injury with a bang.. As for the Welsh test I think Stephen Moore will start and Tatafu Polota-Nau will be on the Bench.

June Test Hookers

PlayerAverage MinsRuns (No)Runs (m)Ruck/MaulPenalties concededT/OverLineouts ThrownLineouts Lost On ThrowLineouts Not StraightTackles AttemptedTackles Made %
Stephen Moore74.507.6030.007.500.601.909.000.900.4013.2089.40%
James Hanson63.554.7320.914.550.181.648.910.450.458.2787.36%
Nathan Charles75.913.0012.092.640.271.0913.360.450.097.7373.45%
Tatafu Polota-Nau61.704.1028.303.300.501.307.900.200.607.5083.90%
Adam Freier31.132.754.632.630.880.754.630.380.135.7563.63%

So there you have it.  I think it couldn’t be clearer. I believe it’s entirely possible for Australia to field 2 completely unique front rows for the first 2 tests and still be very competitive. In fact if you look at the players running around Super Rugby this year it’s hard to think of a time where our front row stocks have been better. So have I forgotten someone? Let me know where you think I’ve got it wrong. But I’m right I know I am!

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  • Barbarian

    Surprised how good Pek Cowan’s stats are. He is quietly having a very good season over in the west. Not the greatest scrummager, but certainly not the worst. I hope he gets picked in the wider squad.

    • murph

      He’s a week-in-week out performer in fantasy footy. His stats are very good.

    • johnny-boy

      Cowans been tried at international level. He’s a Deans romney. And like most of them he’s been found not up to it. Good Super XV player. Stats don’t necessarily maketh the rugby player.

      • Gaffachino

        I’m not sure this is a fair comment the bloke has played I think 6 tests and I would bet all of the bench. Not really a tried player. Many more have had more of a go to prove the self. If Pek was playing for one of the big 3 clubs he would be a wallabies started on this years form but the perseption from the east of force players is very disappointing

  • Rhydian

    Looking as the stats, is Pek Cowan not a chance? He’s had a brilliant season playing in a team struggling…

  • Pedro

    My fantasy experience says that Pek Cowan was doing pretty good. Hope he gets a go at some stage.

    I’m impressed with the amount of tackling the Brumbies front row does, they lead everyone, 1, 2 and 3.

    • You’ve had a Fantasy experience with Pek Cowan! Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      • Pedro

        Well played sir.

  • But seriously I’m not really sure about Pek. It’s hard enough watching force games let alone focus on one player.

  • Brax

    I’d say you’re bang on the money Sully!

  • aussie werewolf in london

    i agree there will be two different starting props for the two tests but i think alexander will be the 3rd prop in both matches. I agree Kepu/Robinson for the welsh and Slipper for the scots but the other one I just don’t know. I would have had maafu until i read these stats. Now i’m not too sure cos his stats are the worst.

    I would pick 3 hookers for to share the test matches. Charles to start against the Scots. Moore against the welsh. P-Nau to sub in both matches.

    I wonder if there are any stats on Jeremy Tilse. He’s a unit but is he statistically any good?

    • murph

      I would have had maafu until i read these stats

      Robbie? Is that you?

      • Patrick

        No but it says a lot about his rugby knowledge!

        • aussie werewolf in london

          Patrick at the moment you offer nothing to this website. All you do is either throw mud or suck up. Either contribute to discussion or fuck off!

        • Clay

          seems the werewolf is a bit of a pet lamb…

      • aussie werewolf in london

        What can i say I don’t spend much time thinking about who might be our 5th or 6th choice prop.

    • bill

      Moore and Hanson should be the first choice hookers and then The Shaft. When he’s on form Taf is great but he’s fallen off the pace at the moment. Charles is good, in fact they’re all decent but that’s the way I’d rate them.

    • Tilse in consideration ???? The guy is into his 8th season with the Waratahs and has never been able to cement a NSW starting spot during the tenures of at least 3 coaches and plenty of injuries to other props……….no thanks.
      Frustratingly he hasn’t stepped up and taken his opportunities at the Waratahs OR moved elsewhere to prove himself.

      Interestingly, Slippers stats reflect him playing tighthead.
      Slipper would be so much better in scrummaging, carries, tackles and work rate if he was moved from his tight head role to his best position of loose head.

      Love the way Moore is playing.

  • Coodabeenawesome

    Excellent article. Great to be able to compare so easily. I’m presuming the penalty stat is for scrummaging. Or is it for whole game?
    The problem with all these stats though is
    Aus rugbys problem in general. No measure
    for scrummaging ability. How do u get a better handle on that? We have always had hardworking ‘busy’ props aplenty but ones who can push straight in a scrum not so much….

    • Yup scrum penalty stats. I’ve thought for a few years that we need an outsider to coach our scrums.

      • bill

        Surely Sully Noriega would qualify.

  • Jiggles

    The Stats above suggest to me the pecking order for Hookers in this country is:


    TPN Will probably get the bench spot as he is one of the incumbents, however I would put him on warning. He is either unfit or lazy – neither are traits I want to see in the Wallabies to be honest.

    Hanson and Charles need to keep working and by next year both should leap frog TPN if they stay on there current development trajectory and if TPN doesn’t pull his finger out.

    • Patrick

      Absolutely agree

      • aussie werewolf in london

        see! do you have any thoughts of your own?

        • RJ

          whats your problem buddy? Full moon out of something?

    • Faingaa hasn’t got stats so he’s a bit hard to put into the order of things.

      • Jiggles

        Very True Sully. He has added a lot for the Reds in the last 2 games, although he is constantly found out at test level.

    • johnny-boy

      Agreed Jiggles except I would have Faiinga ahead of Charles. He brings a hell of a lot to a team with his fearless committment.

      • Justtacklehim

        Agreed – Faiinga’s comment is second to none. But I have always worried about his size and his first couple of throws when he comes onto the field. They’re a bit of a lottery (from memory)

  • murph

    A couple of thoughts:

    Maafu is confirmed as a lazy, useless, penalty puller

    How Greg Holmes continues to miss out is beyond me. His tackle percentage is great, he

    • murph


  • murph

    A couple of thoughts:

    How Greg Holmes continues to miss out is beyond me. His tackle percentage is great, he has a good participation rate, he can play both sides of the scrum and concedes few penalties

    Kepu’s level of participation in general play is very concerning

    Maafu is confirmed as a lazy, useless, penalty puller

    My two front rows:



    • Pedro

      No Alexander? The way I see it is deans made him play on his unfavoured side to make him the ultimate bench prop. That is, plays both sides plus is arguably the best open play prop. Maximum impact.

      • I put Alexander in the Test squad. Do you think he should start a game? He plays 4 days before the Scots and I’m not sure he’s better than Robinson or Kepu.

        • Pedro

          I would definitely have him as a reserve.

        • Clay

          At the end of the day, what do these “tests” count for?

          Sweet F A…

          When the extended rugby season is already a factor in team squads during the S15’s and player management. Why would you not use the opportunity to blood new talent in the front row?

          Wobblies have everything to gain by adding depth to our front row stocks, why not use these games to do so?

        • Garry

          spot on Clay.

          Take ourselves back four years and the same opportunities were lost. Following on 2 years from that time, and we had coaches who are bellaching about injuries and a lack of depth in postions.

          Without dismissing the occassion, now is the time to build depth in position. We have an excuse of a heavey schedule, so we can pick some ‘potplants’ who love a scrum. And the scrum experience gained from opposing these two scrums will be invaluable.

        • the realist

          These tests are very important. If we lose too many this year we could drop out of the top 4 rankings. With the rwc draw being done on december 3rd if we are not in the top four we will draw one of the other super powers in our RWC pool.

          Lets play it safe and then experiment next year.

  • Kiap

    Thanks for the article, Sully.

    I am very keen to see Palmer at THP against the Scots. If selected, does he play against the Rebels on the Friday before, or remain and train with the Wallabies squad throughout?

    I’d like to see the latter where he is stood down from the Rebels match. This should keep him fresh and (hopefully) injury free – and give Murphy a start for the Brumbies. Jake White has said he won’t stand in the way of his guys playing in the June tests and will offer Deans “whatever he needs”. It would be a bit much to stand down both Alexander and Palmer for Scotland, but one would be fair enough.

    If it wasn’t such a key test position with minimal backup (already stretched) perhaps he could play half a game against the Rebels, but why risk it?

    • Patrick

      Because the Brumbies really need to win the game? They are five points off the top off the ladder and they are up against the Chiefs, Crusaders and Stormers who basically all play (two of) each other and the Bulls so may very well drop a game here or there.

      Otherwise they are a real risk of maybe winning the first final and then flying to South Africa or NZ and then back to the other. Which equals an almost guaranteed loss.

  • Skippy

    Ben Daley should direct his energy towards losing a few kilos and moving into hooker… he will never be an international prop but has the potential to be a heavier scrummaging type hooker in the Tommy Lawton mould but with a good work ethic around the pitch. If he can drop a few kgs and learn the game from hooker, and this may mean he needs to move o/s or to another Super team he will offer more to the Wallabies in the future potentially. Whilst S Faingaa does a lot of work around the pitch he is never going to be an international hooker of any note due to his lack of size. In 2-3 seasons TPN and Moore will be at the of the their Wallaby careers (TPN potentially sooner) and Daley, Charles and Hanson will be the new breed…. thus giving Daley time now to prepare and change his game/body shape slightly to be a contender. Sadly however it won’t happen unless the Reds uncover another prop who is able to push Daley out of the side.

    • Like your thinking Skippy.
      Daley can certainly play rugby around the park.
      Wouldn’t it be great if we had specialist coaches to make your idea a reality.
      Cron has been doing this in NZ for years.

      • Kiap

        Oops. My above post was a reply to Patrick’s, not Skippy’s.

        Not a bad suggestion for Daley, though. Aus still need more quality props developed!

    • Kiap

      It should be the same deal for any Rebels selected to play against Scotland.
      — e.g. Kurtley Beale, or Hugh Pyle… if selected for the test should not be playing against the Brumbies a few days before. Fair is fair.

      Failing this, other candidates for those test postions come into the calculations.

      Anyway after this weekend’s rounds, assumptions on some of these test selections are quite subject to change.

  • dingdangdoo

    ‘competitive front rows’. The rest of the rugby playing world, including Russia, Georgia, Namibia and Kenya just fell off its stool laughing.

  • NC

    But are any of these front row options any chance of mixing it in the 4 Nations, …..not really when you look at who they are going to come up against.
    Wallabies for 4th this year I say


Just another Rugby tragic. Shane "Sully" Sullivan has been in man love with the game since high school in the 70's. He inflicts his passion on family and anyone who will listen. He can't guarantee unbiased opinion but he can tell you the Reds are Awesome! To read non-rugby content head to http://www.onesully.com.au

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