Who Should Be The Wallabies Starting Hooker? - Green and Gold Rugby
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Who Should Be The Wallabies Starting Hooker?

Who Should Be The Wallabies Starting Hooker?

I was on Twitter on the weekend saying that I could see problems with Tatafu Polota-Nau’s lineout throwing and that was dragging the Wallabies’ lineout performance down.

I also said that I was surprised Stephen Moore had not been selected as the starting hooker. A number of people replied saying that the statistics showed the Wallabies lineout had been pretty good throughout the series against Wales and that TPN hadn’t done too badly.

The statistics will tell you that the Wallabies won 84.38% of their lineouts in the series. Taking out quick lineouts, that number falls to 83.33%. I think winning north of 85% of your own lineouts in Test rugby indicates you’ve got a pretty good lineout so the Wallabies don’t look too bad.

However, once again I don’t think the headline statistics tell the full story and I’m going to dig further into the numbers to justify my view of who should be the Wallabies starting hooker.

In my opinion the number one consideration when selecting a hooker should be his lineout throwing. While there’s nothing stopping another player in a team being the lineout thrower, in professional rugby it would be very rare to see anyone other than the hooker throwing the ball into lineouts (except when there is no hooker on the field due to injuries or yellow cards).

Let’s start with which of the two Wallabies hookers had the better percentage of lineouts won. Lineouts won with TPN throwing were 78.26% while with Moore throwing the Wallabies achieved 100.00%.

As you’ll see from the video that is included in this article, winning lineouts is not just about the performance of the thrower. Whether the caller correctly identifies space, the quality of the lift and jump, and the defensive work of the opposition can all affect the outcome.

To really understand the job a lineout thrower is doing I work through every lineout to identify what impact each of the lineout components had on the result. Sometimes a throw may look poor if it sails over the jumper’s head, but that may be the result of the lifters and jumper being too slow. In some cases a poor throw can still deliver possession, through luck or good recovery work.

Having looked at all the Wallabies lineouts during the series against Wales here’s how I rated the lineout throwing performance of each hooker.

Tatafu Polota-Nau 1st Test 2nd Test 3rd Test Series
Lineouts Thrown 6 9 8 23
Lineouts Won 4 9 5 18
% Won 67% 100% 63% 78%
Good Throws 3 7 3 13
% Good Throws 50% 78% 38% 57%
Stephen Moore 1st Test 2nd Test 3rd Test Series
Lineouts Thrown 1 2 4 7
Lineouts Won 1 2 4 7
% Won 100% 100% 100% 100%
Good Throws 1 2 4 7
% Good Throws 100% 100% 100% 100%

Based on that performance I say there is no doubt that Stephen Moore should have been the starting hooker for the Wallabies — and the change should have been made after the first Test.

I believe that the difference in performance with their lineout throwing should preclude any further need to discuss the merits of the two players. However, I know a lot of people think TPN is a better scrummager and also want to consider performance in general play.

On your own feed the number one job of your hooker is to rake for the ball — the engagement has been won or lost before they get their feet back on the ground and can help pushing. If the engagement has been lost, it’s too late for them to make much difference in the push. On opposition ball, if the decision is made not to strike for the ball then the hooker has a bigger role to play in acting as another prop. There’s nothing that would be evident to us as spectators that would indicate whether the hooker made an impact in a scrum or not, so we’re just guessing if we try to say one hooker is a better scrummager than another.

Let’s look at performance in general play as well.

Tatafu Polota-Nau 1st Test 2nd Test 3rd Test Series
Minutes Played 55 50 56 161
Runs 4 9 5 18
Metres Made 35 31 25 91
Average Metres Made Per Run 8.75 3.44 5 5.06
Ruck & Maul Involvements 3 6 5 14
Tackles Made 10 4 9 23
Involvements 17 19 19 55
Involvments / Mins 0.309 0.38 0.339 0.342
Tackles Missed 3 - 2 5
Tackle Accuracy % 77% 100% 82% 82%
Stephen Moore 1st Test 2nd Test 3rd Test Series
Minutes Played 25 32 24 81
Runs 4 2 3 9
Metres Made 13 7 7 27
Average Metres Made Per Run 3.25 3.5 2.33 3
Ruck & Maul Involvements 5 2 2 9
Tackles Made 6 1 2 9
Involvements 15 5 7 27
Involvments / Mins 0.6 0.156 0.292 0.333
Tackles Missed - - - -
Tackle Accuracy % 100% 100% 100% 100%

I don’t see anything in those numbers that is so significant to justify overlooking the difference I’ve shown in lineout throwing.

This video takes a further look at TPN’s lineout throwing

read more…

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  • Barbarian

    Great analysis as always Scott.

    In the end what shines through is both are quality players and it is one position we are blessed in terms of quality. At the end of the day whichever you see as superior will play 50 minutes, and the other 30.

    I agree Moore should start and TPN should come on as an impact player in the second half.

    I do question your 3rd test lineout stats for Moore, as we did lose a lineout with him on the field around the 70th minute IIRC.

    • Scott Allen

      With that lineout the ball was thrown to the right position but Sharpie was off balance at the top of his jump so he tapped the ball down but away from Genia. Ball then bounced back to the Welsh player coming through.

      You would be justified in saying it was a lost lineout but none of the stat providers counted it as a lost lineout either. Not clean delivery but throw was good.

      If you consider that a lost lineout Wallabies were at 75% on his throw in the game and 86% for the series on his throw. His good throwing was at 100% for series.

    • Scott Allen

      Agree – both are quality players and no doubt TPN is well ahead of 3rd option (IMO).

      Moore to start with TPN off bench but if TPN sorted out his lineout throwing to be at a consistently high level, I’d have TPN starting.

      I can’t understand how a great technical coach like Foley has not got more out of TPN at lineout time.

    • BDA

      Splitting hairs really. I’d be happy for either to start. but personally I think TPN should be the preferred starter for the following reasons:-

      1) he is the more physical of the two in attack and defence. The opening 20 minutes of any game is often the most physical period of the game. Games tend to become more about technique towards the back end. TPN is well suited for the opening exchange.

      2) I think skills like throwing accuracy are more important in the final 20 minutes of the game, than they are in the first 40 minutes.

      3) TPN is more likely to injure himself before the end of the game

      • JJJ

        On the other hand the less minutes TPN plays the less time he has to injure himself…

  • Smithy

    Yeah, I also have memories of Moore missing some.

  • Scotty

    Good stuff once again, Scott.

    Justifies my disgust that Deans didn’t have the guts to change the winning team after the first test in search of a better performance. Moore deserved to be given a starting berth over TPN in at least 2 of the test matches.

    As it was our performances got worse with each game after the first test, and no form players were added to the match day 22.

  • The Rant

    Great analysis again.

    At the end of the day the most baffling thing here is that Stephen Moore has been an out and out star leader for the young brumbies team and the engine in the pack – also leading from the front. He make make less metres per run but he runs a lot more in the tight and mmakes it past the gain line more than not. His season involvment stats back this up -with significantly more runs and ruck involements he’s a workhorse and solid as a rock in defence.

    TPN is a bit of a maverick which is why I belive Deans picks him but for me – one of the form players from the leading franchise misses out to the just back from injury player from a struggling franchise?

    I don’t get it.

    If you want bench impact – TPN will give it. I’d rather have moore do the business and execute for 50-60minutes.

  • redbull

    Well done. I like it when someone uses facts to qualify my own unjustified preferences.

    Moore hands down is the better hooker. So he doesn’t tackle head first, who cares. Better thrower, better support player, gets his tackles done and is not a liability in the scrum. Would rather have someone on the field that can get to a predetermined interchange time than a kamikaze looking for an injury

  • ignoramus

    i can understand re scrums the hit, but what about timing of the engagement. i noticed when Moore came on, the timing was a bit out and we were pinged going early a couple of times.

    • Scott Allen

      Three free kicks against Wallabies for early engagement in the match – two from starting front row and one when Alexander and Moore came on.

      Remember that it’s the tight head prop that leads the scrum in so Alexander was the one who got his timing wrong on that scrum, not Moore – see my article on the scrums from the match at http://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/wallabies-scrumaging-woes/#comment-242504

  • RJ

    James Hansen is the best hooker in the country.

    • murph

      He needs to go get him one of them Tahs contracts. There’ll be a Wallaby jersey in the welcome pack

  • RJ

    James Hansen is the best hooker in the country

  • Lee Enfield

    I love this site and I love the effort that goes into the articles.

    Moore is a lock in my mind to start with TPN to come on against tired players to do some damage. TPN must improve his throwing, it can be a liability. S.Faingaa isn’t that far behind these two, he isn’t quite as good, but it isn’t daylight.
    In saying that, I think one thing not taken into account in the third game stats, are the jumpers TPN threw to. Moore got to throw to Simmons, who, in my opinion is one of the best jumpers in the country. I know the throw must be good regardless of the jumpers, but if we were only using two jumpers, it makes it easier for Wales to put pressure on the throw, which can cause mistakes.

  • Fin

    Scott I agree with the overall sentiment of the article. I believe Moore was the form hooker leading into the June test window.

    However your analysis suggests that Moore is some kind of Rugby God and should be captain of the World XV and that TPN should give up the sport and trial for the Western Sydney Wanderers. Clearly they are somewhat closer than that. And to brush over scrummaging (which is the Wallabies biggest problem and has been for some time) as something that is too hard to decipher so let’s not bother? To me it makes your arguement appear one-eyed from the start.
    Next time I suggest you cook the books a little less.

    • Scott Allen

      Fin – it’s prety hard to cook the books when it’s all there on video for the world to see.

      I guess you didn’t read my view above on how close Moore and TPN are, so I’ll repeat it here for you

      “Agree – both are quality players and no doubt TPN is well ahead of 3rd option (IMO).

      Moore to start with TPN off bench but if TPN sorted out his lineout throwing to be at a consistently high level, I’d have TPN starting”

      As for brushing over scrum issues, I hope you take the time to read my scrum article earlier today – http://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/wallabies-scrumaging-woes/

      If you think scrum problems are solved by the hooker, think again!

  • KDog

    Scott well done mate great analysis again.
    I too love the depth of discussion in this site. It is a credit to you guys and all that engage in it.
    We are all Wallabies fans and love the game played in heaven. We all wish the Wallabies and Deans to achieve the No 1 position and bring back Bill.

  • Where is me gravy?

    Some opinionated problems i have noticed about the TPN throw just from this video.

    His hand work with and without the ball is sloppy. And he thinking too much about the quality of upcoming throw, and forgets the timings.

    The front hand is just to maintain shape on the throw, you should be able to throw accurately with just your dominant back hand. A throw gets the wobbles when you are using too much front hand.

    His hands should be following through with the ball and they should end up pointing where you want the ball to go. not flopping to your sides.

    His body/weight needs to follow his hands, and his hands need to follow the ball.

    This sounds silly, but i believe you have to be in two different states to throw. You body must be relaxed, but your mind must be clear and sharp. The relaxed muscles produces an accurate, clean and most importantly consistent throw, and your clear sharp mind times the throw to perfection.

    I am of the opinion that all the critical possession lost due to a sloppy throwing hooker, far outweighs the benefits of a harder working hooker. On that theory, i prefer Moore

    Why i think deans picks TPN over Moore, can be answered with this simple question: Who strikes fear into the hearts of opposition players at the mear mention of his name?

  • Joe Blow

    Great analysis once again.
    As Barbarian says, we have 2 top class hookers in our squad. Neither are out of place starting in test rugby.
    Stephen Moores game is more refined and he is a percentage player. TPN has the X-factor and can occasionally pull something amazing off. However his error rate does appear to be higher than Squeakys and there is always a chance that one of those mistakes will cost us points and possibly a test or momentum early on in a test.
    I would start Moore with TPN on the bench unless the latter was injured or in need of a rest.
    I think Deans stuck with the established Tahs combination because there was not a lot of time for a new combination to gel. I think we will see Moore starting along with Palmer early on in the RC if they are fit.

  • Mart

    Love the analysis Scott.

    Keen to see some sort of analysis on whats happening in the backline off the set piece.
    There seems to be a lack of set moves. Or very very simple ones. And when they run a slightly more complex one, they usually score from it.

    It really does feel like the backs have been dummed down to what we have seen in the past.

    Bring back the Eddie Jones moves that went on forever i say.

  • really?

    “I don’t see anything in those numbers that is so significant to justify overlooking the difference I’ve shown in lineout throwing.”

    Really??? TPN makes 5m per run vs 3m for Moore, a whole 2m more which I would suggest is quite significant.

    The ball running plus his dominant (but slightly dangerous to his health) tackling and his combination with Robinson and Kepu at scrum time is why he has been picked. Not saying I necessarily agree with it but the selection is not as baffling as the writer suggests.

    • JJJ

      2m more per run doesn’t mean much compared to loss of possession unless that run ends over the try line. I can’t recall TPN scoring any tries.

      I reckon the Springboks will contest the lineout with far more heat than the Welsh did, especially with HM coaching them. The Welsh aren’t know for their lineouts, or not in a good way at least.

  • muffy

    TPN and Squeak are the best, and our depth fighting for third is great.

    I like the idea of TPN starting and going guns and hurting people with Squeak coming on a 50 to use his good rugby nouse and flanker like play (Faainga also does this quite well)

    Not opposed to changing the start order to keep the opposition on their toes though

  • Jez

    I think Deans has got it right. To me its about balance in the starting team and the reserves. If we agree that the starting locks for the RC will be Sharpie and Simmons, clearly the two best jumpers in Oz, they will be able assist TPN in securing lineouts through the first 50 mins. Come the final 10 mins of the match, with one of the locks having been replaced, scores level and a lineout 5m out from our line- who would you prefer to be throwing? Definitely Moore.

  • wiggety

    Great article, but I do have one question… when you said “On your own feed the number one job of your hooker is to rake for the ball”, is that even true anymore? Refs stopped policing the straight feed of the ball into the scrum a few years ago, and halfbacks now feed it directly between their LH and hooker’s legs. So do hookers position themselves to hook anymore? Or are they now more like a 3rd prop? Should we thus now be using bigger props to play as hooker?

  • BarneySF

    I’ve always thought how good it would be if TPN converted to prop to allow Squeaky’s accuracy in the throws and TPN’s brick shithouse power plays. Not to say that Squeaky’s workrate around the paddock isn’t bad. (Oh, and convert Hooper to a 12).

    • Hooper for 12

      Amen to that Brother.

      Hooper for 12.

      Lets keep on mind that Deans is timing the season. He needs to give TPN a start to keep him keen, and to keep SM striving. Come RC, Moore will start. Also, re Barnes at 10, dont forget we have given the ABs and Springboks NO FOOTAGE of how we will play with the 3 Amigos back in the RC.

  • Nutta

    One of the repercussions of the recent foolishness in scrum engagement calls is the need for familiarity between the front 3 in terms of understanding when they are engaing/delaying. Years ago the engagement was much more staggered but this has become tighter and tighter to the point now that it is necessary to have an almost zen-like understanding across the front 3 of when you are going. This is largely achieved through familiarity with each other and good referee management. You get it wrong and it’s going to be a long day. So in this seemingly endless period of Oz scrum weakness where we must turn every percentage to our favour it is sensible to use an established combination. Thus TPN gets a nod off the back of Tahs scrumming this year.

    But Squeakys lineout is better hands down. With both Squeak being clean and reliable but also from TPN suffering from what my Dad used to call “contaminating confidence” issues – that is jumpers & lifters lose 100% faith in your ability to perform so they begin to try and over-compensate, get out of shape/timing and thus fk things up even more.

    I would normally say weight the scrum choice more. But I think in this case I’m wrong. It seems clear to me more 1st phase bll originates from lineout then scrum so if your lads are fairly close in terms of scrum then go for the better lineout option.

    That seems to give Squeak the nod. That means I’ve changed my mind from last week.

    Lastly look at penalty count in general play – does either give away penalties? Neither is a Mumm from my recollection…

  • Nabley

    An intersting approach in the Article. Thankyou Scott for the effort. Without those detailed stats, I have been of the opinion for some time that our Arab should start and TPN come on after. My reasons are simple and relate to their playing styles. Moore is a hard man, TPN while not soft, lacks a level of impact. Games go through cycles. Because you can not rotate them on and off more than once without injury, you are broadly forced to break those cycles down to their prdominant characteristics. The first part of the game just about always calls for tight, accurate play against an opponent who is fresh. You are wearing the opponent down. Moore suits this rather than TPN. The second part of the game has more gaps and opportunities, TPN suits this. There is one other factor. TPN has the worst tackling technique in the Wallaby Squad and the injuries he gets which are too frequent for my liking, tend to be a result of it. The way he carelessly puts his head in front of knees or the underside of a tackle is asking for parapalegia. If he comes on second off the bench he is not on as long and statistically wont get injured as much. But if he does get injured, Moore can still cover him by returning to the field.

  • Jimbo81

    James Hansen is the best Hooker in the country!

  • bill

    I’m a big fan of Moore, i think he’s been our best hooker in my memory, Great runner and a very solid technical bloke. I used to be appalled at the way Foley would be ignored at the start of test seasons only to come in later when it was obvious we couldn’t afford the heamorhhaging at the line out we used to go through, and believe me i felt Foley was an embarrasment in general play for much of his career.

    But this year Moore’s not looked that flash, I’d have TPN, starter, Faingaa sub, Hanson as sub if we went outside the squad in eligibility. Moore needs to regain his form. At his best he’s still the best we’ve got, but not at the moment. TPN is no Jeremy Paul. There’s elements of that issue in his play but not enough to make him the liability Jeremy was for most of his career. Paul did come good late on. It wasn’t Paul’s fault, it was the guys who kept asking him to throw in when he was unsuited to the job.

  • Sonu Verma

    very informative article.

    Hotel management coaching in cahndigarh

Wallabies
@ScottA_

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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