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