Who Should Be The Wallabies Number 13? - Green and Gold Rugby

Who Should Be The Wallabies Number 13?

Who Should Be The Wallabies Number 13?

Sully (@Only1Sully) wanted me to look at how teams attack using their number 13 and who should be the Wallabies number 13.

The role of a number 13 or outside centre has changed over time and today there a number of different ways they are used dependant on the overall attack strategy of a team. Later I’ll discuss the tactical choices a team has to make and the ramifications that has for the type of player you’d choose to play number 13 but I’ll start by looking at how teams use their number 13 in attack.

How a number 13 is used is largely dependent on the space available to attack in. Particularly on first phase attack from set pieces the space is determined by the ‘backrow range’, which is the width across the field the backrow can reach before the ball can be advanced across the gain line. Obviously if you can attack beyond the backrow range you’ll have less defenders to deal with, which will make it easier to achieve a line break.

In the amateur era the backrow range was quite different to that of today. The fitness, speed and mobility of backrow players in the amateur era was not what it is today and accordingly the ‘strike’ (the attempt to break the defensive line) could be aimed at a narrower point across the field and still get outside the backrow range.

Backrow Range (Narrow)

As a result of this limited backrow range plays were designed targeting the space outside number 13 who is normally the ‘defensive end’ with the winger hanging back a little to help defend a kick. The attacking number 13 necessarily had to be good at catching and passing the ball quickly to feed the outside players and was almost a third playmaker. The structure the Wallabies used involved a very narrow spacing of 10, 12 and 13 leaving around half the width of the field for wingers and fullbacks to attack in. Of course when the defence started to drift wider to counter these wide plays, space would open up through the mid-field as shown in the first video below.

As the backrow range increased the space outside number 13 reduced and teams started adopting an alternative strategy which involved spreading 10, 12 and 13 out and targeting the increased space between defenders. This strategy also took advantage of the introduction of synthetic balls which aided the ability to throw longer spin passes.

Backrow Range (Wider)

This wider alignment made the job of defending at number 13 increasingly difficult. With 10, 12 and 13 attacking in a narrow channel there was little space inside the defending number 13 so the main threat they had to deal with was how to cover the outside attackers if the ball got beyond the attacking number 13. With a spread attack there is space inside and outside the defending number 13 and the space inside number 13 is usually beyond the backrow range which means the defending number 13 has many more options to deal with.

As defences have improved with the introduction of rugby league defence systems teams have started using more decoy runners and passing behind them to confuse defenders and increase the space between defenders to strike into. These sort of decoy plays are not only used on first phase plays and they make it even harder to defend at number 13 as many decoy plays are designed to confuse the number 12 and then leave the number 13 facing two runners without help from inside.

Decoy Runner

Part 1 of the video shows examples of these different alignments and decoy runners.

[youtube id=”WIuJRGXerPM” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Regardless of improved defences and backrow range there is still more space available either side of the defending number 13 than just about anywhere on the rugby field, particularly from a lineout or a scrum within 15 metres of either touchline. The risk if you move the ball that wide on the field is that your own backrow cannot assist to retain the ball at the breakdown if the strike fails and the ball carrier is tackled.

So the first tactical choice a team has to make regarding its attack is whether to attempt to use its backline to attack outside the backrow range on first phase. This choice affects how the team will attack on subsequent phases and also the type of player that is required at number 13.

If a team chooses to keep the ball within their own backrow’s range they’ll usually use tactics such as having number 12 or 13 punch the ball up in mid-field within the backrow range. If the number 13 is used in this role they normally angle back in-field so they strike closer to the support of their own backrow. The aim with this tactic is to get the ball over the gain line on first phase without necessarily having to break the defensive line. If the resulting breakdown is beyond the gain line the defending backrow will have to run across field and backwards which sets up an opportunity to advance the ball further on the second phase.

The other tactic a team choosing to keep the ball within their own backrow’s range uses is to have a high percentage of short lineouts when they are attacking which removes much of the precious space around the defending number 13 because forwards are released from the lineout into mid-field. Again the aim on first phase using this tactic is to get beyond the gain line, not to necessarily break the defensive line.

Choosing to keep the ball within their own backrow’s range is a conservative tactic based on a desire to maintain possession and wear the defence down until the defensive line falters or a penalty is received when the defensive team infringes at the breakdown. It means that a team will run limited first phase backs moves.

If you want examples of these tactics in use watch any recent Wallaby match. You’ll see that even when the Wallabies use a first phase backs move the strike is targeted inside the defending number 13. This ensures that even if the strike is unsuccessful the ensuing breakdown is not outside the backrow range.

If a team chooses to use these sorts of tactics it impacts on the type of players selected in the backline. There is little point in choosing an expansive number 10 with a superb long pass if you want to play predominantly within the backrow range. As I’ve said before if the Wallabies are going to use these tactics they should select Berrick Barnes at number 10.

A narrow attack is also best suited to a number 12 and number 13 who are strong ball runners who run straight and hard. Their role is primarily to get over the gain line – there is little requirement or opportunity to use footwork to target space or the requirement to pass the ball.

Many wingers who move in to play number 13 are well suited to the role of ‘crashing’ the ball forward. The Wallabies used Digby Ioane at number 13 on the 2009 end of year tour and despite usually being one of the Wallabies more dynamic runners he was largely restricted to a ‘crash’ ball role and was largely ineffective. I’ve seen many people suggest Nick Cummins is the ideal candidate to play number 13 for the Wallabies and if using the narrow attack tactic that idea has merit. When he’s played number 13 for the Force the Honeybadger has predominantly been used in this ‘crash’ ball role or as a decoy runner and he’s had limited impact. I think both of those players are best suited to be wingers where they will have much more impact.

There are differing views on the type of player a team should use at number 12 and 13. New Zealand use their bigger player at number 12 (Nonu or Williams) and their more agile player at number 13 (Smith) as do Ireland with O’Driscoll at number 13 and Wales with Roberts at 12 and Davies at 13 (although in 2009 Wales started with these positions reversed). England use Tuilagi at number 13 and in the past the Wallabies used a similar setup with Horan and Giteau at 12 and Herbert and Mortlock at 13. Of course Horan was a pretty strong ball runner in his own right!

If a team is prepared to attack outside the backrow range the role of number 12 and 13 are vastly different. Number 12 has to be a second playmaker to help create opportunities for the wider players. There is still a place for a ‘crash’ ball at number 13 occasionally so the number 13 must be a strong runner but the key requirement is that the player has excellent footwork to move into the space around the defending number 13. If the number 10 has a good long pass the direct pass to number 13, cutting out number 12, can still open up most international defences but number 13 must be able to make subtle late changes of direction to run into those holes.

I rate Brian O’Driscoll at the best number 13 for a long time in world rugby due to his exceptional footwork which allows him to utilise the space around the defending number 13. Stirling Mortlock was a great number 13 for the Wallabies with Stephen Larkham throwing the cut out pass directly to him. Mortlock was a winger who converted to the number 13 role and I expect many people will remember him as a ‘crash’ ball runner but if you watch him closely he was actually very good at using a subtle change of direction to get into space. The best thing about Mortlock was he had the ability to either get into space or to ‘crash’ the ball over the gain line. James O’Connor may eventually find that number 13 is his best position because he could use his footwork to real advantage in that position, although I wouldn’t see him as a ‘crash’ ball option. Rob Horne is a straight runner who hasn’t shown the necessary footwork at international level and I remain unconvinced he’s the answer for the Wallabies at number 13.

I believe the current Wallabies should be more aggressive in their attack and this would start with attacking outside the backrow range more. Of course that’s not to say that there aren’t times when attacking within the backrow range should be used.

To attack predominantly outside the backrow range you need an attacking number 10 (and I believe that should be Quade Cooper), a second playmaker at number 12 (and I believe that should be James O’Connor) and a strong ball runner with good footwork at number 13.

For me there is only one player that meets all the requirements I’ve outlined for number 13 and that’s Adam Ashley-Cooper. He has shown time and time again that he knows how to break a defensive line. He’s a very strong runner and in a ‘crash’ ball role can get over the gain line as well, if not better, than all of the other candidates but he has the footwork that the others don’t. Quade Cooper has the vision and the pass to take advantage of the space between defenders and Ashley-Cooper uses his footwork to change direction into the space and meet Cooper’s pass.

The one criticism I see people level at Ashley-Cooper is that on too many occasions he fails to pass the ball when other players are in a better position than he is. That criticism is valid and is something the coaches must work on but having watched every match again in which he’s played number 13 for the Wallabies in preparing this article the issue is nowhere near as bad as some people make out. It’s also not an issue that only he suffers from – I’m amazed at how many of the Wallaby backs miss opportunities outside them and either keep the ball themselves or kick it away.

If either O’Connor or Ashley-Cooper were not available I’d go with Christian Lealiifano at number 12 and Ben Tapaui at number 13 with Tapaui as third choice number 12. Ben Tapaui is a good player and has the footwork I think a number 13 needs but I have a preference for a genuine playmaker at number 12.

If the Wallabies are going to stick with their conservative attack plan, I see no reason not to leave BenTapaui at number 12 and Adam Ashley-Cooper at number 13.

I’ve included some footage on these topics in part 2 of the video below.

[youtube id=”q6Hceh5TifQ” width=”600″ height=”350″]

  • brumby runner

    A great, informative analysis, Scott. As usual. Not only can we see what should be done, but you show very clearly what has been going wrong at Wallaby level in recent years. I, too, would like to see a more attacking game plan aimed at creating opportunities at or wider than the defensive 13. With that in mind, Cooper should be our 10, with Lealiifano or O’Connor or Tapuai at 12 and I think you have convinced me that Ashley-Cooper is the right 13. O’Connor at 13 is an interesting thought, and given the opportunity he might just develop into another O’Driscoll.

    • Scott Allen

      I share your view on the potential of JOC at #13 – we’d need the Rebels to think the same way and try him there to see if that view is correct

      • jutsie

        I also believe o’connor has proven in the past that whilst he is best when using his feet on the outside he is also capable of playing the crash ball role despite his size. My only issue with him in the centres is his defensive reading although spending an entire super season in the centres may fix this.

      • JimmyC

        Another great article mate but our issue lies in that most of these guys will not be given a chance to develop in those positions during super rugby. I don’t see Dean’s changing his selections prior to the Lions either.

  • fatprop

    great work mate

  • Sohail

    Ashley-Cooper has lost some of that linebreaking zip in the last two seasons. He isn’t old but he isn’t a young lad anymore, perhaps age is catching up on him but I hope he proves me wrong this season. In his 2009 form, he was easily the best outside back in the team, in my opinion.

    I reckon had Will Chambers remained in union, he would’ve been the answer. He showed he was capable in 2010 but unfortunately after his shoulder surgery, he was given too little opportunities in 2011 to recapture his confidence.

    • Probably because AAC finds himself in a different position each time he fronts up for the Wallabies.

    • Roscoe Tims

      Will Chambers would never have been the answer as an international centre. He just can’t pass the ball and that was one of the reasons the Reds didn’t re-sign him.

    • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

      I’m wondering how important actual zip is compared to other aspects of the game, such as foot work, sleight of hand, off loading, setting-up your outside man, reading the game etc.

      I well recall Campo still playing well even after his speed diminished. Of course I’m not saying speed isn’t important (it’s highly desirable) but I’d like to see AAC given a chance to really develop other aspects of his game.

  • tai

    AAC mate…he’s the best 13 they have available right now…

  • Johnny-boy

    AAC was close to the best 13 going round internationally a couple of years ago until he was screwed around positionally. He picked up his form this year with some consistent selection at 13 finally but he is nowhere as good as he used to be (slowing down, getting older, as you do) and his setup passing is appalling. I’m glad others are finally coming round to the idea of JOC being 13 (as well as an onfield backup 10). If we want to play dull boring crash ball rugby then yes AAC is probably better than JOC but if it’s consistent winning and excitement JOC is the man. In classic Australian tradition, just as Tapaui is growing in to the role as an outstanding 12, people want to move him to 13 where I have to say he is nowhere near as effective as he is at 12 and yes McKenzie made this mistake shifting him to 13 to cover injuries last year. Surprise suprise Tapaui got injured playing in an unfamiliar position.

  • david baldwin

    Scott – another great post mate! Firstly I wanna say that I live AAC, he is one of my favorite players and has been consistently good for the Wallabies for a long time, kinda like Conrad smith but with more bang I think! I. Saying that I don’t think he is our best 13, his passing is limited although not shocking it still does not set the outside attackers alight. Perfect example of the importance of this is the try Jane scored in the bled off the slick hands of Dagg, which I think is beyond Coopy. I don’t agree with Cummins nor Taps in the centers, I think JOC at 12 is good and I really want to Tomane have a run at 13. He displays every skill u talk about in the article – fantastic hands, footwork, speed, strength and above all can put players on his outside away with beautiful balls. Watch this vid – http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JUQ0asbR7S0

    • Scott Allen


      I’ve not seen Tomane play #13 nor enough of him to really comment on his footwork – will be watching him more closely this year as he’s certainly looks like he’s got potential

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

    Must say, great job with the vids. Even I could understand what you were getting at.

    I’m over this game plan of trying to contain opposition teams and praying for a mistake. I want to see us really take it to other teams, even if it means our plays don’t always come off. At the moment we are just too damn predictable to be much of a chance.

    For me AAC is still our best at 13. I wonder just what impact all that moving him about all over the shop has caused him really excelling at 13. Surely there’s subtle ’13 stuff’ (setting up his outside man, footwork, timing the pass, etc) that he’s not been able to develop because he’s been mucked about so much.

    I’ve never really considered JOC as a 12, up until now that is (thought Taps was good). Here’s hoping the Tahs leave AAC at 13 & the Rebs plonk & leave JOC at 12. It could be an absolutely lethal combo in Gold.

    • Great point about moving him around too much.

      I really hop the Tahs pick him at 13 and leave him there.

  • Pedro

    I was surprised that with all the injuries and what not that Andrew Smith didn’t get a go. He had pretty good stats at super level last year. Aac is the best, but I rate Smith better than most other options.

    • Agreed. I also like the idea of picking the best player in each position. If AAC can’t play then put the next best 13 there, Smith, not Tapuai who is a 12.

      If the the fullbacks not fit, pick the next best. Morahan.

  • Another great analysis Scott. And something we’ve all been saying for years. Put him at 13 and leave him there too become the incumbent.

    Also the backline you described is by far the best we could field and would excel internationally. That’s been the most frustrating thing about watching the Wallabies, especially last year. Sure O’connor got injured. But there were times when that backline could’ve been selected and stuck with. Help build combinations.


    12.Oconnor/ Tapuai
    14. Whoever you want…Cummins/ Shipperly/ Mitchell….even Folau once he learns how to defend and not too come in off his wing.
    15. Beale
    That is a backline that can and will beat anyone.

    10.Barnes/ Beale

    etc. you get the picture. The players Robbies been selecting.
    Is not an international backline.

    Granted there have been injuries etc. But over the years he first backline is one that should have been stuck with.

    It’s a travesty that AAC gets put every where. And what does it say to younger players like Morahan who have a cracking season but don’t get a look in because the coach likes a player to the point where he doesn’t care where he plays, just wants him on the field.

    • Mick

      Could not agree with you more, and I think a lot of fans agree, this backline is clearly the one that should be picked every game!

      9. Genia
      10. Cooper
      11. Ioane
      12. O’Connor
      13. AAC
      14. Whoever you want…Cummins / Shipperley / Mitchell / Tomane….even Folau
      15. Beale

      Beale, Cooper or O’Connor to kick goals, depending on form.

      Sure, the 10/12 channel isn’t the best/biggest defensive unit, but I think the attacking benefits outweight this.

  • ooaahh

    I know your focusing on attack here Scott and you’ve done a damn fine job again. BUT the other side of that coin is that 13 is one of if not the most important defensive cog in the team. On this score alone Twodads beats all the others mentioned in your article. Let’s hope the tahs’ use him at 13 and we see his game develop even more. Passing after all is a learnt skill not an innate one. He has vision innately so it’s definitely something he can improve on.

  • Lewis

    I think we’d all agree that an ideal attacking Wallaby backline involves both Beale and O’Connor in some capacity. However, I’m worried that they will be restricted by the positions they play for the Rebels. The Rebels are likely to pick either O’Connor or Beale at 10, Beale in particular, whilst being lacklustre at test level, played well at 10 during Super Rugby. So if we want to develop O’Connor at 12, and play Beale at fullback, I would think the Rebels would need to play them in these positions, however, I doubt that this sits well with the Rebels, as I don’t think they have adequate cover at fly-half for these two players. Is it possible Beale could play 10 for the Rebels and 15 for the Wallabies?

    • Canuckruck

      Or maybe if you want to develop JOC for 12, perhaps he will best meet the needs of the Rebels at 10? Then he can be your 2nd best fly half and a playmaker 12 to Quade, with AAC at 13? Leave Beale at 15.

  • Dougs

    Great article Scott, clearly some hard work went into it.

    I tend to prefer the traditional All Black (as opposed to the current) back line approach of putting their best fly half at 10 “1st five”, their second best fly half at 12 “2nd five” and a big barnstorming runner at 13.10-12-13 combinations such as Carter-Mauger-Umaga or going further back in time Fox-Little-Bunce are good examples of this pattern.

    The way I see it, having only one playmaker in the backline is too easy to shut down by charging up on them (as Quade Cooper found out during the world cup). My preferred pattern is a number 9 who likes to run the ball putting stress on the defenders around the ruck, the blind winger on the inside shoulder of the fly half, the outside centre coming back against the grain ala Morty’s usual running lines and the inside centre drifting a little so that 2 quick long passes (flyhalf -> inside centre, IC -> fullback) can catch out any defence that’s trying to crowd the midfield. This way any part of the field from the breakdown, to the channel inside the defending fly half’s shoulder, the midfield and wide can all be attacked from any play and really without telegraphing it until the definitive pass is thrown. My personal theory on attack is to have as many options open (and all running straight and at gaps!!!) until the very last moment giving every defender as much of an opportunity as possible to make a poor decision.

    At the moment I think we have 1 option on most plays and on special plays 2 options with the decision usually telegraphed. Second rate defences shut us down way too easily and out of frustration and a lack of any other option we revert to kicking. I personally think this is why the players still kick despite being told not to.. they’re 10m behind the gain line with noone to pass to, no forward support for a possible breakdown and multiple defenders in front of them, what else could they do? As the match wears on we then start to kick off first phase ball as we lose all confidence in our attack.

    For the record I would probably go with Cooper-O’Connor-AAC at the moment with Lealiifano-Taps-HB as the backup.

  • Who?

    These columns are so frustrating… There’s nothing to debate. Nothing to argue over. All they leave you doing is wondering why on earth the Wallaby setup can’t see it. Because Mr Allen is so very, very rarely able to be picked apart. And I so very rarely disagree with him.

    On JOC at 13, I think Bob Dwyer brought that up a few years ago… I still like him at 12. People talk about Horan’s ball running, well, he’s basically the same build and size as JOC. Smaller than Quade! The only difference is that Timmy didn’t have to run at Roberts, Nonu and SBW. That said, I’m sure that he would’ve done fine against them.

    For mine, your 10 has to have vision for the whole backline, your 12 needs to see opportunities two passes away, your 13 needs to be able to find the hole or setup the man alongside. If people want to criticise AAC for his passing, then why didn’t they criticise Mortlock for the same thing? When Mortlock played 12, his biggest failing – much like AAC at 12 – was that he couldn’t/didn’t pass. But if you look at their other attributes – their hole running, their lines, strength in the tackle – they’re very similar. The only big difference I can see (apart from some size) is that Mortlock had better coaching, so his initial running lines were better. Sure, he altered them as needed, but he was altering from a more difficult to cover position. A bit more adventure, intelligence and planning in the Wallabies’ attack, and AAC could do the same.

    One thing that I don’t think has been brought out strongly is the decline in the influence of the Wallaby 13 since Mortlock’s departure. Clearly, Mortlock was quite a player, quite a person. But everything he did came from time spent under Macqueen, Jones and Connolly. He had a year under Deans. Since then, all our 13’s have worked off Deans’ game plans, which don’t provide the starring role the 13 had when Bernie was feeding Snorky under Jones.

    On other options, Horne’s gone backwards in my estimation since the 2010 Super season. He showed more footwork there than in his entire Wallabies career since. Taps should be second choice. Digby’s time off last season made me very happy. Because even on the wing, he was being used as a battering ram, and it was a waste. We don’t have the coaching staff or game plan to use a player like McCabe (at 12) or Cummins (at 13) effectively and score tries. The same goes for Ant Fainga’a, even if he’s got better vision than both. Tomane? I’d love to see him get time at 13 for the Brums, but with the depth they have there, I don’t see it happening. And I don’t agree with Deans’ policy of picking his best 6 backs, then putting them in whichever jerseys fit best, leaving us with a talent like JOC wasted on the wing, AAC at 15, and Horne somehow at 13… Give Tomane time at 13 at Super level before putting him there in Gold.

    • david baldwin

      Mate cannot be happier that somebody else looks at the potential in Tomane and understands that he could be quite a wonderful 13! He already has all the skills and more than AAC does, just needs some time in the saddle during the Super Rugby season.

  • Robson

    Well, you might have changed my mind about Cummins suitability for OS centre. He’s a damaging runner all the same.

    As for AAC, he is a player with very few faults but I don’t believe he doesn’t pass because he can’t pass, I suspect that he doesn’t pass because his vision isn’t engaged in close quarter situations. Like a lot of playes once he gets into close proximity with the target defensive line his attention seems to be exclusively on the physical contact and I think this is, understandably, very heavily ingrained in him. Coaching it out of him could confuse him; especially if the process is administered in Dingoese. On the other hand will Deans see that the narrow semi defensive, “pseudo” attack structure is like him “way past its use by date”.

    All the same I now think (I’ve been converted) that AAC is a way better choice for OS centre than most others in the lineup of choice. So as long as Cooper and JOC play inside him – irrespective of the game plan – he will have optimum conditions in which to produce his best.
    JOC has got such superbly developed skills for such a youthful player (although he might not be the mascot bearer any more), he can be played just about anwhere in the backline. So he needs to be played where he has the ball in his hands a lot. That is not on the wing or at fullback, and it may not be at 13 either; and that doesn’t necessarily depend on the game plan. The playing conditions and the amount of possession that the side in any given match have could have a bearing on how frequently the 13 sees the ball. So I would prefer to see him at 12 or 10 and I have sneaky little feeling that he might potentially be a better 10 than Cooper.
    Whilst we are talking about creating space for the point of an attack to materialise I don’t hear much these days about creating space by the simple process of the loop pass or running support players close to the ball carrier to collect the off load. The latter is something the Wallabies just don’t seem to do a lot of, but it’s enormously effective, because it maintains a seamless attack; and big hands like SBW aren’t essential to execute it effectively.

  • Well I asked for t. I gusess I’ll have to take another look at AAC at centre.

    • Scott Allen

      Who were you hoping I’d go for Sully?

      • I actually don’t think we have anyone that can fill the role. I’ve seen AAC draw the defence time and time again only to take the contact rather than pass to the man he has made space for or throw an ordinary pass.

  • Morsie

    Looking through the footage (great stuff and thanks) and that put up of the Brumbies pair (Tomane and Speight) something became apparent that seems to be common to a lot of these especially the greats in that position, they all have a superb accurate and powerful FEND with the strength in the fend to actually put a defender on their arse, its actually an attacking fend. Is that a particularly important and definitive skill in the arsenal of a great 13? Thinking through the list of names being tossed around I know AAC has a powerful fend.

    • david baldwin

      I would say that its not a particular ability that is at the top of the list – it is more like a bonus if they can do so successfully. Some of the ‘great’ 13’s of recent times were either extremely strong runners who ran good lines and/or possessed great footwork – Mortlock, Herbert, Little, Umaga, Bunce, O’Driscoll all stand out as quality 13’s and even Smith to a degree and they all bring different attributes to the position, however I would say from memory that none were known first and foremost for their fends – so probably not definitive, just really handy!!

  • JKB

    I have no words.
    Outstanding analysis.
    I agree with every view you have and it’s pretty clear on the footageincluded in your last few assessments who the wb’s should be picking and how they should be playing.

  • Bay35Pablo

    Nice analysis. Try finding that in any mainstream rugby media.

  • The Rant

    Scott: You know what I would rally like to see – analysis showing why and how Conrad Smith has had the amount of succes he has had. He sticks out of the pack as far as international 13’s go playing completely diferently and has zero pace yet apart from the last 12months has been the best 13 over the last 5years you’d have to admit (and as an Aussie I hate to admit it).

    • ooaahh

      for me it’s all to do with his defence (reads the opposition so well), his timing, support play and passing. He has no fend, no step, no real pace, but I’m with you. He stands out. I’m also convinced he’s the king of those little 1%’s busting his ass to get back in position, chasing kicks etc.

  • Hannibal

    Great analysis as usual. I certainly understand more of what the Wallabies have been trying and where they are going wrong. Refreshing stuff.

  • Seagull

    Scott just want to commend you on the massive effort you put into these articles and videos. After many many years playing and watching Rugby I’ve learnt more reading your articles than 100 pieces by SMH or the Oz.

    On the Wallabies narrow defensive game plan we all want to see it change but really why would Deans change it so far through his tenure as coach? He hasn’t got any new cattle to justify the change. And he’d have to admit Quade was right in his complaints about the gameplan. Sadly I just can’t see it happening until there’s a new coach.

  • Chris

    Great Article Scott.
    Just wondering your thoughts on whether Robbie’s insistence on playing a narrow attack structure is actually more related to the skill set of the current Aust back row. Palu’s strengths are his go forward and not his range. And while Pocock has great range, his ball carries are not as dynamic as say Hooper and so is probably better suited to a narrow focus. With Higgers capable of both. Thus possibly explaining why Mowen is not in the squad?

    • Scott Allen

      He’s played that game plan when Paul was injured and not in the backrow and when Pococok was injured and Hooper was at #7 – haven’t seen any change to the game plan with different players in the team.

      • Chris

        I agree mainly because on the whole Aust’s backrown skill set since G.Smith left suits the narrow focus. I assume it would be hard to shift gameplans week to week depending on personal available?

  • Gnostic

    A couple of things continue to concern me regarding AAC at 13. He is unable to pass effectively left to right. and he rarely breaks the line on the left side of the field when he has to fend with his right hand, unlike when he gets to fend off with his left.

    I saw no mention of Inman who has the pace, size and maybe the footwork to fill the requirements at 13. With him at the Rebels I doubt that JOC will get a go at the role.
    As for Horne, I like many others have never really seen him as a 13. He was always a 12 in my view but got shoved in at 13 and has been perhaps stereotyped into that role now.

  • bill

    There wasn’t much impressive overall in what I saw of our under 20’s in SA, but there was a pretty useful looking centre there who looked good. Sorry can’t recall his name. I had been trying to watch the big qld red guy, Chris F’ but this other lad caught my eye more.

    Out of our current crop AAC deserves some good time at 13, then I’d take a punt and look at Chris F’. Keep Taps at 12, Oconnor wing. Tomane would be worth a look too. I keep knocking Cummins, but he has shown an ability to improve his game.

    An AAC with hands and vision would be close to ideal.

    At the end of the day you want someone to stand up and demand their position

    • bill

      Folau has showed good vision and skill at wing in state of origin….but geez, it’s a big learning curve to expect him to play test union inside a year.

  • P

    Good article Scotty. There is one person no one has mentioned here who there has been some excitement about the prospect of playing 13… young Luke Morohan. I believe you would have seen him play a bit of club as well as for the Reds.

    He appears to have all the attributes of a good 13, speed, finesse, footwork, good hands, good in D, blistering pace(handy in both attack and defense at outside center). He’s a big kid too at about 6’3 and over 100kgs. I’d love to see him at 13 for the reds with QC at 10 & Taps @ 12 creating some space for him to stretch out. Also throw a couple of those exciting young finishers the reds have and you could see some electric footy being played… anyway I digress. Thoughts on Moz at 13?

    I also agree on O’connor being a possible 13 but I’m not sure if he thinks he will get enough pill there.

    • Scott Allen

      I have seen a lot of Moz at #13 and have always believed it’s his best spot.

      Obviously needs to secure the #13 spot for the Reds first but has all the attributes.

      • P

        Yup that’s the problem at the reds… almost too much talent. Not sure if the Reds have/will consider him as a 13 with all the centres they have Taps, Faingaa, Harris, Lance. In my opinion if he was given the chance at 13 and given time to develop at the next level we could finally have an answer to that pesky 13 jersey for the wallabies. He was dominant for Uni in the final few rounds last year and in the finals… even against the highly rated Tapuai brothers.

  • mazdiggettydog

    So it’s violent agreement that AA-C is first pick 13. But he’s no spring chicken – what is the medium term plan and/or preferred option if he is injured? I too like JOC and think he would make an ideal 12. But as with the 13 analysis are we thinking too much about successful players of the past ie Horan (12) and Mortlock / Herbert (13). As pointed out, Conrad Smith is remarkably effective and has little apparent redeeming features.

    • idiotsavant

      Agree with you dog, if the next world cup is the goal, AAC might just be a shade under speed for the role. If not, we all seem to agree he is the man for the job.

      Another brilliant analysis Scott. I cant believe I can read stuff of this quality for free.

      So, whats the next RWC option if AAC drops off the pace? I prefer either JOC or Taps from the current crop for 13. I think both have the footwork in attack, tho not sure about it in defence. 13 is a tough gig defensively in the modern game as Scott points out.

      I still cant believe Deans abandoned the backline structure that ripped the throat out the French 59-16 in 2010. That side had natural ball players on the inside (Cooper at 10, Giteau/Barnes at 12), a genuine outside back AAC at 13, and a curious mix of ball players and hard runners in the back 3, JOC and Mitchell on wings and Beale at fullback. It was a wondrous mixture of unpredictability that would have had every other rival coach devising containment plans. Yet within a year we switched to the conservative play Scott refers too.

      I loved the conversion of JOC to wing. An inside player throughout his upbringing, he brought something else to the wing position that I have rarely seen before. Not just great hands and good overhead but the instincts of an inside player. He is a winger that passes – remember that amazing AAC try against the Frogs in 2010 from the Barnes inside ball to JOC? Unquestionably Australia’s best back in the last RWC I think he is a proven weapon in that position and would only move him in one to 13 if I had to.

      Sometimes conversions are miraculous – Larkham from 15 to 10 for example (tho he was always an inside ball player). The hogging (not passing) problem mostly stems from players having played outside all their lives and never really learning the value of the pass. McCabe, for example.

      I hope Cooper is the answer at 10, tho I fear him him above the neck.

  • JamesN

    Great analysis, the YouTube video is also superb. Unfortunately the brass in tah-land will probably play AAC in positions such as wing and fullback, believing in Rob Horne’s claim to the sky blue 13 jumper. I dont believe this is the best option both before and after seeing this article. AAC at 13 with maybe even Horne at 12 could solve this. I think this is unlikely however. But who knows? Coach Cheika might read this and see the big picture


Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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