Australian Rugby Player Rankings

Brumbies Lineout Lift
Photo Credit: Lachlan Lawson

Every year I complain about the Wallaby selections, who’d I’d play where and why.

So, in 2019 I’ve put together a list of the top players at each position. This list is a living breathing organisism it will change week to week based on performances and injuries. The hope is that by June I’ll be able to pick a Wallaby squad that will compete for a title at the next world cup and maybe uncover some hidden talent.

Each selection has a brief rationale as to their position on the chart and again, week to week this will change.

I’ve no doubt forgotten players and am looking forward to players shooting up and down the board seemingly from nowhere throughout the year.

If you don’t agree with the list we’d love to hear from you shout us out on social media and let us know what you think.

1. Scott Sio - Brumbies
Is our most solid loosehead prop and our 2nd most experienced. At 27 years old and 47 tests under his belt we’re yet to see Scott’s best footy. If he can stay healthy in 2018 look for him to have a big year.
2. Tom Robertson - Waratahs
I’d assume he’ll play almost exclusively at Loosehead this year (with Kepu at tight but more on him later). Tom has been a bit of a swissarmy knife often being asked to play on both sides of the scrum. Ask any prop how difficult it is to do that successfully during a season. If we want to succeed at the next world cup guys have to start specialising.
3. James Slipper - Brumbies
It will be interesting to see how the Brumbies manage Slippers minutes with Sio’s. With a couple of years out of the game with injuries and some extra extracurricular activities he’s still only 29 years old and with roughly 80 tests his experience could be invaluable.
4. Harry Hoopert - Reds
While he only has 5 games under his belt, he proved himself more than capable in that small sample. Look for the 20-year-old to fly up this board as the season progresses.
5. Whichever Smith brother ends up playing loose - Reds
With roughly 90 Super Rugby games between them, the Smith brothers are more than capable at this level. There’s a spot up for grabs in the number 1 jumper if either of them wants to take hold of it.
1. Tolu Latu - Waratahs
We know Tolu had some disciplinary issues but if he can shore up his throw he’s our best option moving forward.
2. Folau Fiangaa - Brumbies
Folau was one of the breakout stars of 2018. He still looks like he’s growing into his body and I’m sure with another full pre-season under his belt the 23-year-old will go from strength to strength in 2019.
3. Brandon Paenga-Amosa - Reds
One of the best stories of 2018 and with the game to back it up look for him to have another strong year in the number 2 jumper for the Reds.
4. Hugh Roach - Rebels
Didn’t get much of an opportunity to play at the Waratahs at times sitting as far down as 4th on the depth chart behind Polota-Nau, Latu and even Fitzpatrick. He’s hoping that a move south will give him an opportunity to start full time and in this commentators opinion he could be one to move up this board given the opportunity
5. Josh Mann-Rea - Brumbies
At 37 years old Josh is by far the oldest on this list. But Josh has without question the best throw in Australian Rugby. He’s also a workhorse around the paddock. He could be one that surprises us all in 2019.
1. Sekope Kepu - Waratahs
At 32 years old and with 100 tests under his belt, he is without question Australia’s most experienced tighthead. As long as he stays on one side of the scrum this year it’s his job to lose.
2. Allen Alaalatoa - Brumbies
Another relative young gun, at only 24 years old he has formed a solid partnership with Sio and Fiangaa at the Brumbies. He has 22 tests under his belt and should he stay healthy he will feature heavily during at the world cup.
3. Taniela Tupou - Reds
The first time I saw this young man play, I wasn’t as impressed as everyone else. I saw an uber-athletic young man with a low work rate and below average scrummaging ability. Last season he showed huge improvements in the latter two. If he continues to improve he could be one of the top tighthead prospects going into the World Cup.
4. Jermaine Ainsley - Rebels
Another guy who is a bit of a swiss army knife often playing both sides of the scrum. One of the few products of the WA set-up he could do good things down in Melbourne given the opportunity.
5. Ben Daley - Rebels
At 30 years old it feels like Ben has been around forever. He’s got two tests and creates competition for the number 3 jumper down in Melbourne watch this space.
1. Adam Coleman - Rebels
If you want to play in the 2nd row you’ve gotta be a nasty b**t**d. At present Adam is our nastiest and most talented. Look for him to have a big year.
2. Rory Arnold - Brumbies
Less nasty than the man above but just a talented. If Rory can bring the aggression and really start to throw that 6’10 frame around, he could be a nightmare for the opposition.
3. Izack Rodda - Reds
A young tight forward at 22. He showed glimpses of that nastiness that makes the best locks. Look for him to build again in 2019.
4. Rob Simmons - Waratahs
At this point a seasoned veteran he’ll make the world cup squad.
5. Tom Staniforth - Waratahs
Tom is really nasty! Played club footy against him for years it was a smart move for him to head up to Sydney and I think he’ll cement himself as one of the first two locks picked each week with the tahs.
1. Lukhan Tui - Reds
He showed early in the year (2018) how talented he is. A big body with a high work rate. He may project better as a lock but I thought the couple of tests he played at 6 he was really solid.
2. Ned Hannigan - Waratahs
Ned has struggled a little bit in the 6 jumper for the Wallabies. maybe thrown in too early? I watched him play against the Canberra Vikings a couple of seasons ago and he tore them to shreds. Let’s see how the year plays out for him.
3. Adam Korczyck - Reds
The Reds will have headaches over selection in the back row. Like Tui, Korczyck can play at 6 or in the row. He was rewarded in 2017 with a Wallabies call-up but is yet to play a test. This could be his year if given the opportunity.
4. Esei Ha'angana - Rebels
While he’s only played a handful of games this young man could be a star in the making. He’s shown plenty of ability in the short sample. He could very well be the rebels full-time 6 and who knows possibly even a Wallabies nod.
5. Darcy Swain - Brumbies
I’m taking a flier on Darcy but I think he’s one of the best young players in Australia. Off the back off brilliant form in club footy he was rewarded with a couple of stints off the bench for the Brumbies. He carried that form into the NRC season and was fantastic. He’s definitely one to watch in 2019.
1. David Pockock - Brumbies
He is the best number 7 in Australia if not the world… He should be given the opportunity to play there for his country.
2. Michael Hooper - Waratahs
We’ve had this issue here in Australia before (George Smith and Phil Waugh). Michael Hooper might be in the top 20 of players around the world (maybe) but the unfortunate reality is that he’s the 2nd best number 7 in Australia. No doubt he’ll get his opportunity but we can’t continue to play him and Pockock together.
3. Liam Wright - Reds
He’ll have his work cut out for him in 2019. The Reds have built a stable of very talented backrowers. Based on his 2018 campaign at this stage, he should be the first choice in the 7 jumper. If he can stay healthy he could be a good chance to go to Japan.
4. Will Miller - Waratahs
He’ll spend a fair bit of time behind Michael Hooper and/or potentially play in the number 6 jersey for portions of the year. Having said that I still think Will is a strong prospect and performed really well when covering for an injured Hooper for patches last season.
5. Chris Alcock - Force
Chris is spending time over with the Western Force. Chris was fantastic at the Brumbies a couple of seasons ago covering for David Pocock’s sabbatical. He was again really strong during the NRC. He may not get a Wallaby nod, based on the relative uncertainty of the Force’s schedule for 2019 but he’s still in my view one of the top 5 number 7s in Australia.
1. Isi Naisarani - Rebels
After the 2017 season Isi was without question Australia’s best prospect at number 8. He struggled to find his feet in 2018 with the Brumbies. Now that he’s Wallabies eligible and is reuniting with his old coach in Melbourne, he’s still our best prospect. I have a feeling we’ll see some huge performances from this man throughout the year.
2. Caleb Timu - Reds
Another young Red. he was rewarded for his strong performances in 2018 with 2 test caps. As long as he finds a permanent spot in the back row I think he’ll get the nod for the world cup to back-up Naisarani.
3. Pete Samu - Brumbies
As close as you could get to a like for like swap for Naisarani. I don’t think we’ve seen the best from Samu yet. He hasn’t been given an opportunity to start full-time. Samu is one I’ll be watching really closely to see how he uses his bigger role.
4. Scott Higginbotham - Reds
At this point in his career he’s a whiley veteran. With 30 odd tests under his belt, he may have one last crack at making the world cup squad. It’ll all depend on how Brad Thorne decides to divey up the back row minutes. Timu or Higginbotham could spend some time at 6 which might open up an opportunity to fill the Wallabies vacant 6 jumper.
5. Richard Hardwick - Rebels
Another young backrower. Hardwick has 2 test caps from back in 2017. He may end up backing up Naisarani or could spend some time in the flank. either way, this could be his year.
1. Will Genia - Rebels
He’s still our best option in the 9 jumper. Even though he’s never quite regained the form he had before he tore his ACL way back in 2012 he’s still the most experienced and most solid option. Back playing with Quade Cooper might help him produce some magic during the season.
2. Jake Gordon - Waratahs
I played with Jake for the (now defunct) Sydney Stars back in 2015. I spent most of my time with the team on the bench so I spent a lot of time watching Jake. I always felt he had it in him to be a great halfback and I think he showed that last season. I think it’s time to give him a chance to start full-time.
3. Joe Powell - Brumbies
I think Joe has the most potential of anyone on this list. Like Jake, I played with Joe for the Tuggeranong Vikings during the early stages of his senior footy career. Consistently one of the best passers I’ve seen/played with. He’s also got a brilliant running game which he’s yet to showcase at the next level. Hopefully, in his second year under Dan Mckellar (Our old coach), he’ll be given free rein to run when he sees some space.
4. Nick Phipps - Waratahs
Phipps it seems has been at the right place at the right time for most of his career. He’s shown flashes of being a good halfback. I think the reality for him now though is that he’s not even the best halfback on the Waratahs list. We’ll see how the year pans out for him and he’s only featuring on this list because of the uncertainty in the Reds 9 jersey and because of his experience.
5. James Tuttle - Reds
There’s going to be areal power struggle for the 9 jersey at the Reds. Tuttle, Sorovi and McDermott could all conceivably wear it at some point during the year. I think based on previous experience Tuttle probably starts the year as the 1st choice but that could change throughout the year. This will be one to keep an eye on.
1. Bernard Foley - Waratahs
Love him or hate him I think we’re stuck with him for now. I believe there are better options in the 10 Jumper (discussed below) however i am yet to see any of them step up and take that Jumper from him. I’m hoping 2019 in the year because I can’t see us competing in a world cup with Foley at the helm.
2. Christian Lealiifano - Brumbies
I’ve long considered Christain one of the most unlucky players on the planet, a concussion during his test debut, an ankle injury in Dunedin not long after and of course the devastating leukemia diagnosis in 2016. He’s come back from all of this and is still playing at a high level. I believe given the right circumstances he could be Australia’s best option at 10 come world cup time.
3. Quade Cooper - Rebels
Once considered the best flyhalf in Australia and maybe on the verge of being one of the top players in the world. Quade’s of field antics have derailed his career to some degree. So bad in fact that the Reds preferred to pay him to play club footy instead of having him be a member of the squad. I hope that reuniting with Will Guinea will spark some of the magic he produced early in his career.
4. Hamish Stewart - Reds
He’s about as accomplished as any 20 year old (Australian) footballer could be. He’s played two years with the Aussie under 20s, he’s won an NRC championship and now in year 3 with the senior side has 18 Super Rugby Caps under his belt. I believe Hamish could shoot up this list as the year goes on, he’ll be one to watch in 2019.
5. Wharanua Hawera - Brumbies
Now in his third season with the Brumbies, he’s shown improvement each year he’s been in the Brumbies jersey. He may not be the best 10 at the Brumbies but he and Lealiifano could form a solid midfield combo if played together.
1. Kurtley Beale - Waratahs
I’m still not convinced inside centre is Beale’s best position.And if it is then we need to figure out what we do at 13. If we play Beale at 12 then we need a big crash baller/defensively solid player at 13. However, I feel he is our best option in this jumper at the time of writing this.
2. Samu Kerevi - Reds
Recently appointed the captain of the Queensland Reds. It’s still not entirely certain which centre jumper is a better fit for him. Most of that is predicated on the style of play the Wallabies want to play. Maybe he and Beale could form a solid pair in the top squad during the world cup.
3. Matt Toomua - Rebels
I’ve long felt that Toomua is the best number 12 Australia has to offer. Before he took off to Europe, he seemed to have fallen out of favor with the man at the top. This is certainly a storyline I’ll be watching with great interest this year. I think He’ll shoot to the top of this board by the end of the season.
4. Bill Meakes - Rebels
After Bill’s season with the Western Force I thought he was the incumbent number 12 for Australian Rugby. He’s a capable playmaker, a great ball carrier and great defensively. He has never really been given an opportunity to start consistently for the Rebels and may not get a chance this year either. However, I still think he’s one of our top players for the 12 jumper.
5. Jordan Jackson-Hope - Brumbies
I’m taking another flier on a young Brumby. he was fantastic in the NRC. So good, that he picked up an award for his efforts. The knock on him is his size in the 12 jumper. I seem to remember another young Brumbies centre who people thought was too small as well. He may not get an opportunity behind Lealiifano and Hawera but if he does, he’ll be one to watch.
1. Jordan Petaia - Reds
Petaia was brilliant during the NRC season, predominantly wearing the 13 jersey. He all but made his debut for the Wallabies on the spring tour had he not picked up an injury he would have been played. At 18 years old he’s only going to get better and maybe with a full year of Super Rugby under his belt could separate himself as one of the first choices in either the 13 or 14 jersey.
2. Reece Hodge - Rebels
It’s hard to know what to do with Reece. Undeniably talented but he (and us) are yet to really figure what his position is. With Cooper and Toomua in Rebels colours this year and maddocks emerging as one of the better fullbacks in Australia, 13 might end up as Hodges home for 2019.
3. Tevita Kuridrani - Brumbies
I watched Tevita score a hattrick in a half of footy during the Brumbies Trial against the Rebels. He looks to be in fine form, perhaps having a full preseason with the club has helped him come back to peak fitness. If the Brumbies can figure their attack out, look for Tevita to have a huge year.
4. Adam Ashley-Cooper - Waratahs
The most experienced player in this list at 34 years old he has over 100 tests and over 100 Super Rugby caps. I haven’t watched him play since his exit from Australian Rugby a few years ago. If he can still play his experience could be invaluable for the world cup even if he doesn’t play a whole lot.
5. Len Ikitau - Brumbies
Another flier on a young Brumby. I think this guy is the real deal he was a key cog for the premiership winning Tuggeranong Vikings (locally) and featured heavily for the Canberra Vikings in the NRC. Look for him to burst onto the super rugby scene in 2018 (possibly as a winger).
1. Marika Koroibete - Rebels
Big fast and Dynamic. He’s shown the most finishing ability of anyone of this list. Perhaps more effective in Rugby League but now coming into his 3rd season he should be into the swing of the game. At present I think he’s our best winger. We just need to figure out how to get him the ball/
2. Dane Haylett-Petty - Rebels
Mr Reliable, he’s as solid as they come. Fullback seems to be his favored position, however, with Jack Maddocks emerging as one of the best young players in Australia I think he ends up playing on the wing for most of the year. He’s good defensively and adds a wrinkle to the attack with his kicking ability. We’ll be watching to see how he’s utilised in 2019.
3. Henry Speight - Brumbies
He can be dynamic and some of the tries he’s scored throughout his career have been otherworldly. The issue with Henry has always been consistency and, maybe that has to do with some of the stale and uninspired backline play the Brumbies have put on the field in the last few years. I thought late last year he was starting to play some really good footy. His stint over in Europe in the offseason will only strengthen his case for higher honours in 2019.
4. Sefa Naivalu - Reds
Capable of individual brilliance the above comments about Henry Speight can be mirrored here. Perhaps a change of scenery up to a young Reds team will help him find some consistency or, at the very least unshackle his game and encourage him to back himself more and more. He’ll be one to watch in 2019.
5. Curtis Rona - Waratahs
A try scoring machine in his NRL days once clocking 23 tries in a season. He has an obvious ability to find the tryline but we’re yet to see it in Rugby. perhaps an indictment on the way we play currently. Either way I think Curtis has a chance to shine in 2019 on the end of a very solid bakcline in NSW.
1. Israel Folau - Waratahs
He’s one of the best players in the world. One of the arguments lately has been whether we play him at 13. I think 15 is his position however, we need to figure out how to utilise his ability and free up space for him, currently, he does it on his own.
2. Jack Maddocks - Rebels
One of the best young players in Australia, he had a breakout season in 2018 and I think he’s only going to get better. The only question will be whether the big boss sees him as a fullback or a winger at the next level and that may dictate where he plays during the year.
3. Tom Banks - Brumbies
A breakout star of 2018, he was rewarded with a couple of tests. He’s another player capable of some individual brilliance, I’d love to see what happens if the players in his midfield start to create space for him. Also incredibly dangerous on the counter-attack something Australian rugby has lacked for a while. He could and should move up this board as the season goes along.
4. Aiden Toua - Reds
The true definition of a confidence player, throughout his career, he has shown flashes of brilliance. Perhaps being back home and with a group of young players, he’ll have the confidence to really open up in 2019.
5. Karmichael Hunt - Waratahs
It’ll be interesting to see how Karmichael is used in this team, I think he’s deserving of a starting spot but the question will be where. Does he push Falou into the 13 jersey? Does he end up on the wing? Or, does he push Beale to 10 and play in the centres? Only time will tell but i’m looking forward to see how he fits.
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