In recent times, the back three of the Wallabies has been extensively questioned.

Currently, the Wallabies are using a combination featuring NRL convert Israel Folau at fullback, with bruising winger Henry Speight and Australia’s long range sharpshooter, Reece Hodge on the wings. The addition of Hodge is mainly down to the absence of Dane Haylett-Petty who has to be in the conversation.

They’ve tried out many others this year such as Curtis Rona, Eto Nabuli and Sefa Naivalu. Adding to this, Marika Koroibete appears to be making his debut against Argentina. This has resulted in Australia trying out almost every realistic option in their outside backs.

Israel Folau: Where does he sit?

Israel Folau has had a lock on the 15 jersey for years now. But we are yet to see him return to his incredible run of form in 2013. This is most likely due to most national teams having figured out Folau’s game, knowing his decision making and his style of play. And this is what makes me question his game. I believe the sign of a good player is consistency, and although teams may “figure them out”, they can evolve and change slightly to remain effective.

Folau in action recently against the All Blacks By www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons
Folau in action recently against the All Blacks
By www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons

Saying that, Folau should still be in this Wallabies team. But for me, the position for him is on the right-wing.

The Fullback

While this might be my Force bias coming through, I believe Dane Haylett-Petty should be Australia’s fullback when he returns. He’s being lost on the wings currently, and his positioning is removing the effectivity of his kicking game. He’s safe under the high ball, and while he might not have the incredible athletic prowess of Folau, he’s no dummy.

Players like Kurtley Beale and Karmichael Hunt have also had experience in 15, but it is my view that the Wallabies need both of them at 12, in particular, Beale. Hunt could line up at 15, but he has made the best claim to the inside centre role after Beale. This is the role Hunt will most likely be playing in the post-Beale era.

Dane Haylett-Petty By www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons
Dane Haylett-Petty
By www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons

The Last Winger

There’s a multitude of options for that vacant wing spot. In terms of recently capped players, I don’t think Curtis Rona and Eto Nabuli are up to the task of playing Test Rugby against the big dogs such as New Zealand and South Africa.

Reece Hodge’s inclusions in the XV recently were big calls given his inexperience in the position. His speed and size coupled with his kicking ability making a strong case for future inclusion. However, in defence against the Springboks, he took the position of Beale, who reverted back to wing for the defensive effort. This shows that his best position is in the centres. But this shouldn’t remove him from the conversation, and he will remain a good option for the winger spot.

Naivalu or Speight?

Sefa Naivalu and Henry Speight seem a strong chance to nail down this final winger position. At the moment, Speight seems the current choice. And while I would have him in the squad, I believe Naivalu should be the long term option, partly due to Speight’s poor defensive ability. Naivalu’s ability to play in the centres as well looms important for the Wallabies in terms of versatility as well as his combination of power and speed.

So I think that Israel Folau and Sefa Naivalu should line up on the wings with Dane Haylett-Petty at fullback. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Author: David Lind

David lives in Perth, Australia, but is a born and bred Kiwi. He spends his time between studies and running the drinks for his cricket club. His articles on the 1014 allow him to let out his rugby feelings online rather than at his mates.

8 COMMENTS

    • Hey Hugh, cheers for the comment. He was definitely a great prospect, but it unfortunately doesn’t look like he’ll return in the near future. He seems to be mainly interested in monetary gain unfortunately. I think the fans of the Wallabies wouldn’t want somebody like O’Connor in their team. That’s not a knock on his ability, obviously he’s still a great player.

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful article.

    I don’t watch every Aussie game, but it strikes me that pretty much all of your attack comes from Beale, Folau, Genia and perhaps Foley. You need to get them on the ball as often as possible and that is best done by leaving them where they are. Hewlett Packard is classy, but I don’t think he would have quite the same impact at 15 as Folau, although for me he is your best wing.

    As you say, Speight is a defensive liability. Not only that, he hasn’t had much impact on attack. I’m sure that Naivalu or some other Fijian import will catch him up soon.

    I wonder whether Hodge, like Crotty, could be turned into a wise head at 13. Such a reliable player with plenty of ticker, he could be a good partner for Beale.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the kind words JD Kiwi. Your point about Folau needing to stay in his position is a great point. Personally I believe Haylett-Petty can be one of those players, but he’s being lost on the wing. Also, a case can be made that Folau isn’t having enough impact, and some of what he is offering can be replicated on the wing such as his high-ball prowess. Certainly there are pros and cons either way. It looks to me that Hodge is definitely at his best in the centres, but my only worry for the 13 jersey is competition with Tevita Kuridrani, but that’s a battle he can definitely win. I’d personally like to see Hodge in the centres in the future, and his youth will hopefully see this eventuate.

  2. Rob Horne ?
    Is there a way back into the Wallabies for Horne, solid in defense and has the pace.
    He has had more than his share of injuries over the years, but still looked very sharp ball in hand against London Irish this weekend

    • Thanks for the comment Graham Smyth.

      I didn’t think of Horne when compiling this list, and I agree that he still has some of what made him so good a number of years ago. He’s only won 29 test caps which rules him ineligible to come back. Perhaps at the end of his contract, but he’s not a young man and I think he wouldn’t be needed.

  3. Thank’s David,
    The source I read gave him 33 caps ? but that’s still way short of 60 !
    Aged 27, I guess he would need to end his 3 year overseas contract prematurely, if he is going to be in the mix again.
    Whatever he decides, I hope it works for him, an exciting player to watch, makes things happen.

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