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5 talking points ahead of the Wallabies' trip to Europe

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika

The Wallabies end of season tour kicked off with a morale boosting 63-30 win over Japan in Tokyo over the weekend. Some of the rugby on display was excellent to watch and Michael Cheika tested some players out in different positions and gave a couple of fringe players the chance to impress.


There will be sterner tests ahead as they head over to Europe to end their season, but some of the performances will have given the coach a reason to smile – as well as a good headache as to what to do when the bigger nations come up.

Here are five points from the game in Tokyo:

  • Reece Hodge is becoming one of the first names on the squad list. A year after his debut the versatile Hodge has played wing, centre and now fly half. He was perfect off the tee on his first test start in the 10 jersey and he controlled the game well, ordering his forwards around, making sure he had runners where he wanted them, and his slight of hand for the inside ball for Henry Speights try was superb. His crunching tackle that led to Nick Phipps try also showed his prowess in defence meaning that teams will think twice before running down his 10 channel. Bernard Foley is no longer a shoe-in.
  • Kurtley Beale suits the fullback role. Yes, Israel Folau is an incredible attacking weapon from the back and his aerial prowess was, at times, missed. But he was superb for the Waratahs at 13 and it would be great to see the effect he would have in the same role at international level. When Beale plays at 12, at times he tries to do too much – defensively he is moved either to the wing or fullback and Hodge has been used in the 12 channel as cover. However, at 15 he had a pretty free reign to get involved in the game as and when he wanted to. He has great feet and can spot a gap, his support line from Speight’s break to set up Samu Kerevi’s second try really encapsulated what he is about.
  • This was the type of game that Tevita Kuridrani needed. A player that has been pretty non-existent in the past few tests attacking wise and defensively has been caught out a few times bounced back well. Yes, it wasn’t against the greatest opposition but he ran hard with ball in hand and was rewarded with a hat trick. His combination with Kerevi worked very well, the latter’s powerful runs bent or broke the Brave Blossoms line and Kuridrani was more often than not on his shoulder to continue the good work. Defensively his reading of the game was a lot better and he got his shoulder into tackles, a confidence booster ahead of Europe.
  • The Wallaby set piece functioned well. Three scrums won against the head and a lineout steal was a good day out. Their own lineout was perfect, showing the work that Tatafu Polota-Nau has been doing as this was a weakness of his. They did mess a scrum up of their own but this was after a raft of changes had disrupted the flow of their game. One thing they will be slightly concerned with was the ability of the Japanese to drive a rolling maul. At times the Wallabies had no answer and Japan made easy yards around the rucks with their three tries coming from close range drives.
  • Should Cheika have used a couple of youngsters? Stephen Moore has announced his retirement from test rugby. It would have been the perfect send off for him beating the All Blacks at his home ground in Brisbane – but he is still coming off the bench. With a World Cup only two years away new, younger players need to be blooded in the test arena to gain vital experience. A lot of players got minutes against the Barbarians in Sydney last week but playing a non-cap test match in front of a half-empty Allianz Stadium is a far cry from running out at a packed house in Japan. Karmichael Hunt is player that big things are hoped for, and it would have been nice to see him given a run. Time will tell if these decisions were correct or not – but this could have been a trick missed by Cheika.

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William 2 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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