LEARNINGS APLENTY FROM THIS YEAR'S SPRING TOUR
This Spring Tour has been a rollercoaster of emotions with the lows unfortunately outweighing the highs. One of the few positives is that unlike previous tours, it has answered more questions than it has raised. So let's take a look at what we've learnt from the last 5 weeks.
1. The Overseas Restriction Policy Has To Go
Until we can afford to keep our best players in Australia we need to be able to pick them from anywhere.
This is less about results and more about keeping the faith of the Australian rugby public. Every time a locally based player doesn't front up there are the inevitable comments about how they should have selected one of the guys playing in Japan or France instead of using an overseas pick on someone else, or not at all.
It would be a different story if results where going our way but fans are unforgiving of selections when they are not.
The half in, half out approach to overseas selection is messy and gives clubs the opportunity to pressure players into making themselves unavailable so that an overseas pick will be used elsewhere.
Individual performances and results have shown we need these overseas players, so open it up and stop dealing in half measures.
2. Tom Wright & Andrew Kellaway Need To Play Fullback For Their Clubs Next Year
The rise of Mark Nawaqanitwase and the ongoing form of Marika Koroibete means there is very little room in the back three for two similarly sized blokes in Wright and Kellaway. Both will be in the squad next year but the fullback role is still the main undecided position which they need to put their hand up for.
Wright is a good ball player when he puts his mind to it and with Tom Banks' departure, the 15 jersey at the Brumbies is open slather. A full season there should put him in the frame for the Wallabies role, as he is a real attacking threat and could become the second playmaker the Wallabies need.
3. Improvement At The Breakdown And In Support Play Is A Non-Negotiable Directive From Rugby Australia
The reality is our problems here are costing us games. A lot of the ill-discipline issues derive from our technical deficiencies at the breakdown and we turn over a lot of pill from poor support play. We are probably the worst tier 1 nation in this facet of the game and that starts at provincial level where the majority of the improvement needs to occur.
The Ireland game was a good example of how we can compete with the best when we are proficient in these areas. The stuttering attack will improve dramatically if we can secure good pill over a run of games but the Wallabies staff can't be trying to address this once the players are back in camp next year.
The Super teams need to drive this improvement and Rugby Australia needs to resource it themselves if need be. I would even go a step further and say selection in the Wallabies squad should reflect which teams embody the desired improvement the most. Use it to decide line ball selections like McReight/Gamble/Wilkin, Wilson/Gleeson/Leota or Rodda/Frost/Phillip.
4. Who Should Be There Next Year
The big question before the Spring Tour was whether the Wallabies needed Will Skelton and the answer is a resounding yes. Bernard Foley has also shown that despite his lingering deficiencies he also needs to be on the plane to France.
Locally Nick Frost has cemented himself as has Jed Holloway, and Mark Nawaqanitwase looks to have become first choice with Marika on the wings. Against Wales Frost showed he still plays a bit light but the upside is tremendous.
A relaxed overseas selection policy, better run with injuries and a strong draw will have the Wallabies in a better position than most to make it to the World Cup semis next year. If 2022 has taught us one thing though, it's that you can't take anything for granted when it comes to this lot of men in gold.
Chips' 33 man World Cup Squad
Allan Alaalatoa, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Pone Fa'amausili, Scott Sio, Angus Bell
Brendon Paenga-Amosa, Dave Porecki, Lachlan Lonergan
Rory Arnold, Izaak Rodda, Nick Frost, Will Skelton
Michael Hooper, Fraser McReight, Pete Samu, Jed Holloway, Rob Valetini, Harry Wilson
Nick White, Tate McDermott, Jake Gordon, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Ben Donaldson
Samu Kerevi, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Iziah Perese
Marika Koroibete, Jordan Petaia, Mark Nawaqanitwase, Andrew Kellaway, Tom Wright
Match day 23
- James Slipper
- Brendon Paenga-Amosa
- Allan Alaalatoa
- Rory Arnold
- Will Skelton
- Jed Holloway
- Michael Hooper
- Rob Valetini
- Nic White
- Quade Cooper
- Marika Koroibete
- Samu Kerevi
- Len Ikitau
- Mark Nawaqanitwase
- Andrew Kellaway
- Lachlan Lonergan
- Angus Bell
- Taniela Tupou
- Nick Frost
- Pete Samu
- Tate McDermott
- Bernard Foley
- Jordan Petaia