Weekly Wallabies Squad

Wallabies Squad
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

So, I got some feedback on my selections over the weekend some good some bad. But, that’s what it’s all about, I write because I want people to discuss the game. Without feedback, it’s impossible for me to improve.  And anytime someone feels strongly enough about something to attempt to change my mind I get excited! (See updated comments re Isi Naisarani).

Because of this, I’ve decided to keep the list alive and update it every Sunday after I’ve had a chance to digest the weekend’s games. It’s a living breathing list and for the remainder of the seasons players will move up and down, in and out until we settle on a Wallabies squad after the Grand Final.

The same rules apply below.

For this exercise, I’ve ignored injuries, players leaving after the season and the Giteau law. I tried to do this as objectively as I could, but the Brumbies have a large number of players in the squad. Anyone with a * has missed out on selection but were close enough to warrant an explanation.

Below is The Weekly Wallabies Squad after Super Rugby Au Round 10.

Loosehead Prop

James Slipper – Brumbies –

He’s split time in the number 1 jumper with Scott Sio. But has looked solid coming off the bench and generally provides a spark. I’ve always felt the knock on his game is that he’s never been a “scrum first” front-rower. However, in a brumbies pack that’s looked shaky at times, he has provided some stability. You also have to consider the man has played 91 times for Australia.

Scott Sio – Brumbies –

As above has shared the loosehead duties with his teammate James Slipper. He looked underdone coming into Super Rugby Au and seemed to struggle a bit at scrum time. However, over the last couple of weeks, he seems to have the scrum his focus and looked much more solid against the Reds last week. Again 59 test caps are nothing to bulk at. Scott is coming into his prime as a front-rower. History indicates that front-rowers start to play their best footy between 28 – 34.

Hooker

Folau Fiangaa – Brumbies –

The top try-scorer in Super Rugby Au also happens to have the ability to throw the ball straight in the lineout most consistently. And, in this writers opinion the hookers primary role is to scrummage and throw the lineout. Folau has proven to be the most consistent lineout thrower in Australia, and his scrummaging is improving.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Reds –

He’s been splitting time with Alex Mafi in the number 2 jumper for the Reds. But again he seems to have a more consistent lineout throw. And, looking at their stats side by side, he edges out Mafi (and all the other hookers in Australia) with his throw, his defence and his ball carrying.

Tighthead Prop

Allan Alaalatoa – Brumbies –

Has proven himself to be the best tighthead in Australia (Narrowly). The Brumbies scrum has had some challenges but perhaps we can pin that on the young locks? Additionally, Allen has proved to be a great leader, I hear the Wallabies might be looking for a new captain?

Teniela Tupou – Reds –

I’ve always felt that “the Tongan Thor” cared more about his highlight reel than he did about playing good footy. The criticism on his game early in his career was he didn’t do any hard work upfront. Instead preferring to stand out in the backline searching for his next highlight reel victim. However, this season he’s shown how hard he’s been working on his scrummaging and his work rate. He could be a devastating weapon off the bench in close games at the next level.

Lock

Rob Simmons – Waratahs –

Love him or hate him. He has been solid for the lowly Waratahs this year. I know that he’s leaving at the end of the year, but again we’re picking based on form. At a position, we seem to be lacking depth and experience, his 100 tests will come in handy. He offers about 90% of what you want in a lock. He lacks a bit of aggression but is still a very solid defender, ball carrier and lineout option.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Reds –

For me, Lukhan is one of the most frustrating players on the planet. He oozes ability and potential. But time and time again he does something silly and goes missing for periods of the game. But with that said, he has so much talent that he still gives you enough to warrant getting picked in the Wallabies. If anyone can unlock Lukhan’s potential we’ll have an exceptional lock on our hands.

Matt Phillip – Rebels –

Super reliable. He’s a journeyman of sorts, playing for Sydney Uni and then travelling over to Perth to gain some Super Rugby experience before landing in Melbourne for the 2018 season. He’s approaching 50 Super Rugby caps which should almost be a pre-requisite for playing test footy right? He doesn’t miss tackles, is a capable lineout jumper and is surprisingly good at creating turnovers (forcing 6 so far in 2020). He doesn’t have the ceiling of the man above or below. But you know exactly what you’re getting.

Darcy Swain – Brumbies –

I wrote about Darcy as a possible Wallabies bolter last year. He’s still very young, and possibly still a little too early for him to wear a Wallabies jumper. However, he’s been the standout lock at the Brumbies, at 23 years old he’s already become the Brumbies primary lineout caller and option. He still has plenty to improve on, he’s super aggressive and as such gives away penalties at a high clip. And, he’s been prone to turnovers while carrying the footy. But he has a high work-rate around the fringes and doesn’t mind doing the hard work upfront. With some time in the Aussie setup, he could be a longterm option in the 2nd row.

Blindside Flanker

Rob Valetini – Brumbies –

Rob has finally shown the talent at the Super Rugby level that we all knew he possessed from watching him in the under 20s and the NRC. Now that he’s injury-free he’s been able to have a huge impact on the Brumbies on both sides of the ball. He’s got more ball carry’s, try assists, carry metres and tackle attempts than any other number 6 in the competition. He’s decent over the ball forcing 3 turnovers and doesn’t give away many penalties. Again a very young man, however, all the viable options at 6 seem to be quite young.

Jack Dempsey – Waratahs –

Jack is more effective over the ball than Valetini creating 6 turnovers to Valetini’s 3. Astonishingly he’s only missed 2 tackles so far in 2020 for a 98% effective tackle rate, which is unbelievable across a fairly decent sample size now, He does, however, give away a lot of penalties. Like Swain, this is likely due to his aggression but you can definitely live with that in the short term to see how good he can become longterm.

*Angus Scott-Young – Reds –

Probably a little unlucky to miss out. However, the stats and eye test show that he’s not yet as dynamic as the two men above. In a season or two, I suspect we’ll be having a very different discussion.

Openside Flanker

Michael Hooper – Waratahs –

Attitude aside, Michael Hooper has been a workhorse for the Waratahs. He leads the competition in turnovers created in 2020 with 11. He leads the Waratahs in ball carries and tackle attempts. He also leads in penalties conceded but in his defence, he seems to be involved in everything. Love him or hate him he’s been effective this season. Perhaps without Michael Chieka’s influence, he’ll be a less disruptive force in the team. He has played a lot of test footy and that can only help matters.

Liam Wright – Reds –

Liam is a more traditional 7. He carries the ball when his team needs it. But he has an uncanny ability to pop up in the right areas of the field. He’s right behind Hooper in turnovers created (with 10), he’s missed 13 fewer tackles and has given away 9 fewer penalties. Again, he’s very young at just 22 throwing him into test footy so early in his career could be a risk. But, if we’re really going to move on from Hooper, Liam is probably the Wright answer.

Number 8

Harry Wilson – Reds –

I watched Harry in person last week and he was impressive. He passed the eye test and looking at the statistics it seems to back up my claim. He has almost twice as many carries as the next number 8 prospect, over 100 more metres gained and more linebreaks. He has a much higher defensive work rate again with almost double the amount of attempts and with a higher completion percentage. He’s also very good offer the ball creating 7 turnovers more than the next two candidates combined (5). The Wallabies haven’t had a world-class number 8 since Toutai Kefu. Long term the stats seem to indicate Harry Wilson could be world-class.

Isi Naisarani – Rebels ▲

He must have heard me talking S**t about him. Outplayed Pete Samu and it wasn’t even close. He showed me what he’s capable of and while I haven’t completely changed my mind on him. That performance was enough to convince me of his capabilities. As such, I’m more than happy to admit when I’m wrong and I was. If he can continue to keep up this form then, for the first time in a long time we’ll have two potentially world-class number 8 options.

Pete Samu – Brumbies▲

Samu has now dropped out of the squad. He was shown up by Naisarani over the weekend. He went missing for large stretches of the game. It’s in this type of game where we want to see our 8’s step up. Isi did just that Pete went missing. It hurts me because he’s a Brumby but unfortunately, that performance was enough to convince me to put Isi back in the number 8 jumper. Pete’s had a mini resurgence the last few weeks he’s worked his way back in.

I’m picking all three of these guys now. Surely one of them could spend some time in the 6 jumper?

Halfback

Tate McDermott – Reds –

Tate is almost the polar opposite to Joe, He has an exceptional running game and always seems to be in support when there’s a linebreak. He also has a good pass, a decent box kick and is capable in defence. Playing these two together, one off the bench and one to start would give the Wallabies two different looks in attack. Joe will shift the ball with speed and efficiency, while Tate will probe the defence. It could be a lot of fun.

Jake Gordan – Waratahs ▲

He still sits outside of the squad, But jake reminded everyone that he’s still here two. He scored three tries in the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s contest. He showed his speed, his running ability, his vision and even showed off a little kicking game. A few more weeks like this and he may push his way into the squad. Jake might be the form halfback in the competition over the last few rounds. He’s shown he has a consistent pass and probably the best support line game of any of the halfbacks in Australia. And, he seems to direct his pack around very effectively in attack and defence.

*Nic White – Brumbies

Since returning from overseas, it only took him a couple of weeks to work his way into the starting lineup. And he’s produced 3 or 4 highlight plays in just 3 games. For mine, he’s got the fastest service of any of the halfbacks and his ability to probe the line is impressive too. At the moment he’s still on the outer but don’t be surprised if his name is included on the Wallaby team sheet in a few weeks time.

*Joe Powell – Brumbies ▼

He’s been mister consistent for the Brumbies so far. His pass is consistent, he has a decent box kick, he’s solid in defence and more often than not makes the right decision. His support play is ok, but he hasn’t shown much of a running game. But, perhaps that’s why Joe and the man below would work well together as a 1, 2 punch for the Wallabies. Joe seems to have fallen out of favour even at the Brumbies.

Fly-Half

James O’Connor – Reds –

He’s probably the most exciting option in the number 10 jumper. He’s finally turned into the flyhalf Robbie Deans envisioned. He has 20 try assists in all games played this year, which is double the amount of anyone else. But, he carries the ball far more than you’d generally like from a flyhalf. While it means he’s constantly taking on the line, it does mean his decision making isn’t quite where it needs to be. His attacking flair, however, could provide us with some unpredictability which we haven’t had in a long time.

*Noah Lolesio – Brumbies –

He’s been the headliner of the young flyhalf class. However, it’s too small a sample size to hand him a Wallaby jumper this year. If he can continue his development over another season improve his kicking and show a willingness to defend. He could emerge as the long term solution in the number 10 jumper.

*Bayley Kuenzle – Brumbies ▲

A shaky start but over the last few games, he’s looked more and more comfortable. He’s not ready yet, but it’s exciting for the brumbies to have two young guys equally capable of playing fly-half at a high level. Could we see a Kuenzle/Lolesio 10/12 combo in the coming years?

 

Inside Centre

Irae Simone – Brumbies –

Simone has been very dependable for the Brumbies this season. He makes good decisions, he’s strong enough to straighten up the attack and has enough playmaking ability to move the footy to space. He’s a very solid defender with an 87% tackle completion rate. He also creates turnovers (forcing 6 so far in 2020) and has a decent general play kicking game. Another guy who’s not flashy but he won’t make many mistakes and he’ll be very dependable at any level.

Matt Toomua – Rebels –

The Rebels backline looked infinitely better with Toomua and Magnay in the centres and Deegan at 10. So Toomua now sits with inside centres. It leaves the squad a little short in the fly-half jersey. But Toomua can cover if needed.

Outside Centre

Tevita Kuridrani – Brumbies –

He’s not the attacking weapon he once was. And maybe that has to do with the way the Brumbies utilise him. He does a good job of straightening the attack but he has not broken the line once all season. Defensively, there’s no one better. He has an 87% tackle completion percentage and anyone who’s played outside centre will tell you it’s a very difficult spot to defend at. He reads the game very well and picks his spots with the precision of an assassin. Again (are you seeing a common thread here?) not flashy. But will not let you down.

Reece Hodge – Rebels –

Hodge has been unfortunate this season in that he’s moved around a lot. He’s had games in the centre’s at fullback and on the wing. It’s both a blessing and a curse. You want him in the side for his versatility, but it’s hard to place him in a specific jumper. He’s been a bright spot in the Rebels attack. He leads the team in linebreaks and has the speed in the open field to finish. Having said that, he’s a pretty ordinary defender at 73% success. However, we’ll put that down to him moving around a lot. Note: He was fantastic at fullback on the weekend. I’ve kept him here for now but he may move back there once Petaia is back to full fitness.

*Jordan Petaia – Reds –

I suspect by the tie the season is over, the number 13 jumper might belong to Petaia. He looked very good in his return last week against the Brumbies. He has the highest ceiling of anyone in Australian Rugby right now. Still looking to work his way into form, look for him to have a couple of big performances in the finals.

Wingers

Marika Koroibete – Rebels –

He could be the most devastating winger in the world. In the last few weeks, it looks like he’s become frustrated with his teammates seeming inability to get him the ball. So he’s taken matters into his own hands. Resulting in 24 players beaten, 10 clean breaks, 14 try assists and 3 trys for himself.  If we can unlock him on the international stage he’ll be tough to stop

Tom Wright – Brumbies –

the brumbies have looked really good when they get the ball out to the edges. Tom isn’t as powerful as Koroibete but he’s far more elusive. He’s averaging 7.2m per carry, he’s beaten 15 defenders and created 8 clean breaks. He’s a specialist at the long-range try, being the lynchpin in the two the Brumbies scored against the Force 2 weeks ago. He’s the perfect compliment to Koroibete’s power running. I’d love to see them team up in a counter-attack.

Filipo Daugunu – Reds ▲

I have to admit I overlooked Filipo, I’d like to apologise to Filipo and the Reds fans. The lesson here is to not rush through these to make my deadline… I promise to be better. He’s been impressive, particularly over the last 4 weeks scoring 3 times. He does miss a few more tackles than you’d like (79% success rate), he also had an opportunity on the weekend with the try line almost wide open and he left the ball behind him. But like Tom Wright, he has genuine game-breaking ability.

*James Ramm – Waratahs ▲

He’s been pretty solid all year, but Saturday may have been his coming-out party. He was brilliant on the weekend against the Reds. He showed some serious wheels resulting in 8 carries for 50 metres, a clean break and a try assist. Another young winger and still sits outside the main squad but could be a bolter if he keeps up his form from the weekend.

*Andy Muirhead – Brumbies ▼

He was poor on the weekend. Made a number of mistakes. Again it hurts me because he’s a Brumby but sometimes one poor performance is all it takes.

The diminutive Brumbies winger seems to be able to make people miss. When he gets the ball in space he’s creative and plays with great speed. He’s also able to make defenders twice his size miss him resulting in 14 beaten defenders and 8 linebreaks. Additionally, he’s a good defender on the edge completing 85% of his tackles.

Fullbacks

Tom Banks – Brumbies –

Tom is electric when he injects himself into the line. He has beaten 23 defenders so far in 2020 and created 6 clean breaks. He’s also been responsible for 7 try assists while scoring 4 himself. He’s also very dependable at the back making 86% of his tackles. he’s got the highest upside of any fullback in the competition. He has individual brilliance that can’t be taught and in 2020 so far he’s shown he can limit his mistakes. It’d still be a risk to hand him the number 15 jumper but the upside now might outway that risk. Update: Tom didn’t show much on Saturday against the Rebels, hopefully, this is a one-off, but if it continues he could start to slide down the rankings. Especially if the man at the bottom continues to perform.

Dane Haylett-Petty – Rebels –

He’s mister reliable. You know exactly what you’re getting with him. He doesn’t have the upside that Banks has. But he is very consistent. He’s a slightly worse defender than Banks, but that’s mostly due to teams being able to break the Rebels line at will. He’s the safe option, but given our recent test record is safe what we’re after?

*Jack Maddocks – Waratahs ▲

Jack has been pretty quiet so far this season. Since moving from the Rebels at the start of the year, and juggling his 7s commitments. It’s taken him a bit of time to settle in. He reminded us over the weekend why we were so excited about him when he first broke through with the Rebels.  He may be looked at for the Australian team as a winger but if he continues to perform as he did on the weekend, he could very well return to the Wallaby fold.

Wallaby Squad Super Rugby Team Tally

Brumbies – 14*

Reds – 10*

Rebels – 7*

Waratahs – 6*

Force – 1

*Includes players who currently sit outside the squad.

Written By
More from Liam McGrath

Peter and Liam Save Rugby in Episode 2 of the McGrath Report

In this weeks podcast. Liam and Peter discuss the state of Australian...
Read More