Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Wallaby contenders trying to tame the Lions.



January's 46 man squad

Fullbacks: Luke Morahan, Kurtley Beale,
Wingers: Dom Shipperley, Digby Ioane, Drew Mitchell, Joe Tomane, Cooper Vuna, Nick Cummins
Outside Centres: Anthony Fainga'a, Mitch Inman
Inside Centres: Ben Tapuai, Berrick Barnes, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe,
Out-halfs: Quade Cooper, Christina Lealiifano,
Versatile: Ben Lucas, Mike Harris, Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O'Connor
Scrum-half: Will Genia, Nic White, Nick Phipps,
Loosehead: Benn Robinson, Ben Alexander
Hookers: Saia Fainga'a, James Hanson, Tatafu Polatau-Nau, Stephen Moore,
Tighthead: James Slipper, Paddy Ryan, Sekope Kepu, Dan Palmer, Salesi Ma'afu,
Second Row: James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Caderyn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Hugh McMenamin
Blindside: Dave Dennis, Scott Higginbotham, Ben McCalman,
Openside: Liam Gill, Michael Hooper, David Pocock,
No. 8. Jake Schatz, Wyclif Palu,

Glaring Omissions: Pek Cowan, Luke Jones, Israel Folau, Ben Mowen
Shouldn't be there: Luke Morahan, Cooper Vuna, Nick Cummins, Mitch Inman, Mike Harris, Ben Lucas


Recent 30 man squad

Fullbacks: Israel Folau, Jesse Mogg
Wingers:Digby Ioane, Joe Tomane,
Outside Centres
Inside Centres: Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Berrick Barnes,
Out-halfs: Christian Lealiifano,
Versatile: Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O'Connor,
Scrum-half: Nic White, Will Genia,
Loosehead: Ben Alexander, Benn Robinson, Scott Sio,
Hookers: Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polatau-Nau
Tighthead: Dan Palmer, James Slipper,
Second Row: Rob Simmons, James Horwill, Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani
Blindside: Dave Dennis, Scott Higginbotham,
Openside: Michael Hooper, Liam Gill,
No. 8. Wyclif Palu, Fotu Auelia, Ben Mowen

Glaring Omissions: Kurtley Beale, Alife Mafi, Drew Mitchell, Rod Davies, Anthony Fainga'a, Kyle Godwin, Quade Cooper, Matt Lucas, Nick Phipps, Luke Burgess, George Smith
Shouldn't be there: Pat McCabe

Full Backs:

Kurtley Beale is the best fullback in Australia. He's one of the top 3 fullbacks in the world. But, understandably, he won't be involved against the Lions.

The Contenders to replace him would be Mogg, Folau, O'Connor, Ashley Cooper and Berrick Barnes. Ashley-Cooper O'Connor and Barnes can play at 15, but it's neithers favourite position.

And why would you play them out of position when Folau, and especially Mogg are in great form. Mogg started the season like a speed train, and is approaching that form again after a small injury disruption, while Folau is still learning the game after converting from Rugby League and Aussie Rules.

Wingers:



The contenders are Digby Ioane, and Joe Tomane, although Deans has said that he can see Israel Folau doing damage on the wing, while James O'Connor frequently plays on the wing for the Wallabies, as can Adam Ashley Cooper.

How Deans can ignore the form of Alfie Mafi and the talent of Drew Mitchell is beyond me. Rod Davies has also been good since he's come back, with 3 tries in two games.

Digby is a cert for one wing, with the other up for grabs.

Outside Centres

From an outsiders perspective, the Wallabies seem to have an overload of playmaking talent in the 10,12 and 15 positions, and a few wingers. They don't have a traditional 13.

Adam Ashley Cooper is probably seen as the only 13 in the squad, although Ben Tapuai, Digby Ioane and Drew Mitchell can play there successfully too. Israel Folau is being touted as a potential 13, but he hasn't played there in his short union career.

I personally think James O'Connor would be best suited to 13.

Inside Centres

James O'Connor, Ben Tapuai, Berrick Barnes, Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe, Kyle Godwin are all contenders.

James O'Connor has to play. The question is where. If Quade Cooper isn't going to be trusted it's very likely that he'll be stuck in at 10, with Lealiifano or McCabe fighting it out for the 12 "jumper".


Berrick Barnes is always handy on the bench covering 10, 12 and 15, while Kyle Godwin is a younger, more exciting, more in form, less injury prone and less pornstar moustache than Berrick.

Outhalves

Quade Cooper, with O'Connor, Lealiifano, and Barnes as the other contenders.

Much depends on Dean's plans with Cooper. All others are contenders elsewhere, with the talent of Cooper, and in the form he's in, it would be hard to leave him out.

Scrumhalves

Will Genia is without doubt the best scrumhalf in the world. Kahn Fotauli'i, Ruan Pienaar and Morgan Parra are close, but Genia has a O'Connell like influence on any team he plays for.

He is a general of the team and certain to start.

The big question is who will be the backup. Nick Phipps took over from Genia when he was injured, but Nic White is in better form for the Brumbies. Or with the returning Luke Burgess skip the queue to Genia's no.2?


Loosehead

Scott Sio has been impressive off the bench for the Brumbies. The 21 year old has an exciting future, but I think this will be a few years too soon. Benn Robinson has been the form loosehead and the incumbent. Ben Alexander can play on both sides.

Hooker

When Ireland beat Australia in the World Cup, it would put down to the absence of David Pocock. I think it was equally down to the non-appearance of Stephen Moore, who along with Bismarck du Plessis is one of the best hookers in the world. Moore is solid out of touch, a strong scrummagger, and dynamic around the park.

Tatafu Polata-Nau is ahead of the rest of the field.

Tighthead

Ben Alexander has the ability to play both sides of the scrum, and is the incumbent. Don't rule out James Slipper who has been in outstanding form this season, but there are question marks abouts his scrummaging. Sekope Kepu is motoring along nicely for the Tahs too.

Second Row



James Horwill's stature is growing, and most likely at the end of this Lions tour, he will be respected a lot more by the Northern Hemisphere supporters who don't follow Super Rugby.

Who partners him will be a race, with regular partner Rob Simmons in with a shout, while Timani is in good form for the Tahs. He might be disadvantaged with the announcement of his impending move abroad though. Kane Douglas is also a strong contender.

Blindside

Blindside options are Dave Dennis, Scott Higginbotham and George Smith. With Ben Mowen an option too. Higginbotham hasn't been good in a poor Rebels side, and faces pressure to retain his "jumper".

Much is dependent on the decision at openside.

Openside



One of the most intriguing subplots to almost every week in this year's Super Rugby competition is the battle for the Wallaby 7 jersey. David Pocock, the captain and the incumbent injured his knee and has been ruled out. Fortunately for the Wallabies, unlike in 2011, they have alternatives. And the contenders are in form. The top 3 players who have turned the ball over in this years competition are Michael Hooper, Liam Gill, and George Smith.

Hooper had a breakthrough year last year, starring in the Wallabies tour to Europe, Liam Gill is the even younger pretender who has shone in all aspects this year, and George Smith is the wily veteran, having lost none of his powers and hoping to join a select group who have faced the Lions twice. Smith is versatile enough to play 6 or 8, or even 12 or wherever he wants.

No.8

Wyclif Palu is the injury prone incumbent, with only Fotu Auelua and Ben Mowen challenging, both in great form for the Brumbies. Smith is an option here too.

Much like blindside, it's important to look at the balance of the backrow, and with Smith a live contender in each spot, it's going to be close.

My squad.

In a few weeks, Deans will pull 25 or 26 players from Super Rugby duty that will form his first squad, with a further 6 to join making a 31 man squad
If I were in Dean's position, this is the squad I'd pick, complete with starting XV and subs.

1. Benn Robinson (Waratahs)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies
3. James Slipper (Reds)
4. James Horwill (Reds) (c)
5. Sitaleki Timani (Waratahs)
6. George Smith (Brumbies)
7. Liam Gill (Reds)
8. Ben Mowen (Brumbies)
9. Will Genia (Reds) (vc)
10. Quade Cooper (Reds) / Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies) if Cooper isn't selected.
11. Digby Ioane (Reds)
12. James O'Connor (Rebels)
13. Ben Tapuai (Reds)
14. Rod Davies (Reds)
15. Jesse Mogg (Brumbies)
Subs:
16. Tatafu Polata-Nau (Waratahs)
17. Dan Palmer (Brumbies)
18. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
19. Rob Simmons (Reds)
20. Scott Higginbotham (Rebels)
21. Nic White (Brumbies)
22. Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies) / Berrick Barnes (Waratahs)
23. Israel Folau (Waratahs) (not to be pulled from Super Rugby - needs game time)

Extras:
Michael Hooper (Waratahs) - I'd prefer to have Hooper over Higginbotham, but I couldn't justify having 3 openside flankers in the 23 man squad.
Berrick Barnes (Waratahs) / Kyle Godwin (Force)
Kane Douglas (Waratahs)

To be added: (and Folau)
Alfie Mafi (Force)
Scott Sio (Brumbies)
Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs)
Wyclif Palu (Waratahs)
Kyle Godwin (Force)/ Nick Phipps (Rebels)