Perhaps one of the more left-field suggestions made in the rugby world in the past week was that the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa could be shifted to Australia, where the COVID-19 pandemic has been kept relatively well under control.
Of course, it would no longer be a tour of South Africa – however the three tests would still be played between the Lions and the Springboks.
Even wackier still, however, was RA chairman Hamish McLennan suggesting that, with France and Australia also squaring off in Australia around the same time as the Lions tour, the British and Irish composite team could potentially have a hit-out with a Barbarians side composed of the best players from the Wallabies and Les Bleus.
While the Lions are seriously considering taking the tour to Australia – given the troubles of hosting the series in either South Africa or the UK – the second proposal is yet to be addressed, but it still makes for an entertaining thought exercise.
Strictly from a results point of view, Australia had one of their worst-ever test seasons in 2020, winning just one match from six. France, on the other hand, suffered just two defeats – to Scotland during the Six Nations and England in the final of the Autumn Nations Cup.
On form, how many Wallabies players would earn a spot in a combined ‘Wallableus’ selection?
Here’s our attempt at a team made from the best that Australia and France have to offer.
Reece Hodge (AUS)
Now, this is a selection that may already have a few people on edge, but hear us out.
Except for in incredibly rare circumstances, like in 2005 when the Lions came up against a rampant All Blacks side at the peak of their powers, few teams ever manage to put the Lions to the sword.
More often than not, matches come down to small margins. Six of the Lions’ last nine tests were decided by fewer than five points.
That means there will always be a place in a team for someone who can kick goals from all over the park – and there’s no one better in either Australia or France at nudging shots at goal over from past the 50-metre mark than Wallabies utility Reece Hodge.
Of course, if you’re after X-factor, then either Anthony Bouthier or Brice Dulin would be great selections, with the former shining in last year’s Six Nations and the latter proving a handful during the Autumn Nations Cup.
Teddy Thomas (FRA) and Marika Koroibete (AUS)
Teddy Thomas and Marika Koroibete are both right wingers, but the combination of pace and power is hard to leave out.
Koroibete has shown time and time again that if you want to stop him from carving up metres on attack, you’ve got to bring him down before he really gets his legs pumping.
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Thomas, on the other hand, is a nightmare to snag, and can wriggle out of even the tightest of grips.
France’s Vincent Rattez is another great option and a specialist left wing while Gael Fickou would be the optimal bench sub, capable of slotting in in the midfield or on the wing.
Virimi Vakatawa (FRA) and Jordan Petaia (AUS)
In a perfect world, we’d clone Virimi Vakatawa and throw him in both the No 12 and 13 jerseys but, in a perfect world, this match also wouldn’t be going ahead.
Jordan Petaia may still be a bit raw when he runs out on the field, with his decision making letting him down from time to time, but his undeniable physicality and pace would cause havoc in the midfield – especially when he’s feeding off the best centre in the Northern Hemisphere.
Romain Ntamack (FRA) and Antoine Dupont (FRA)
Why split up the best up-and-coming halves combination in the world when you don’t have to?
While Romain Ntamack won’t be available for the opening rounds of the Six Nations and had to sit out much of the Autumn Nations Cup, there’s no doubting his nerves of steel and exceptional ability to set a back-line alike.
The same goes for Antoine Dupont, who is head and shoulders above any scrumhalf that the Lions will be able to field this year.
Ntamack’s current fill-in, Matthieu Jalibert, would also fill the 22 spot on the bench while Wallabies halfback Nic White is capable of doing some damage too – but it’s impossible to go past Dupont and Ntamack as the starting combo.
Gregory Alldritt (FRA), Michael Hooper (AUS) and Charles Ollivon (FRA)
There are good loose forward trio, there are great loose forward trios, and then there’s this loose forward trio.
Despite the criticism that will likely always float around Michael Hooper’s captaincy, he’s an absolutely exemplary openside flanker who tackles anything that moves and can also cause notch up metres from a good supporting line.
Meanwhile, the French combo of Gregory Alldritt and Charles Ollivon caused many a side a problem throughout 2020, with Alldritt arguably the standout loose forward in the Six Nations.
Harry Wilson caused quite a stir with the Wallabies last year but the 21-year-old is still a few years away from being able to match what Aldritt can provide from the back of the scrum or the base of a ruck.
Bernard le Roux (FRA), Matt Philip (AUS)
Bernard le Roux is one of the first men on the teamsheet after the way he dealt to the English in France’s opening match of the 2020 Six Nations. If the Wallableus want to get some physical ascendancy over their opposition then le Roux is the man to lead the way.
For his locking partner, there’s a reason why Dave Rennie called upon Matt Philip to start in all six of the Wallabies’ matches this year – the man is the picture of consistency. While le Roux is busy causing carnage across the park, Philip can hit his breakdowns, make his tackles, and mark his man.
Otherwise, Australia’s experienced locking stocks are fairly bare at the moment while France could call upon the likes of former South Africa Under 20s representative Paul Willemse, if they want to really remind the Lions how ferocious the Springbok enforcers can be.
Taniela Tupou (AUS), Cyril Baille (FRA)
Taniela Tupou has emerged in the past 18 months months as perhaps the the leading prop in world rugby – especially if you’re focussing on attacking prowess. While the Lions certainly have great depth in the front row, they don’t have anyone quite like Tupou.
Cyril Baille, meanwhile, is one of the many looseheads that France called upon in 2020 following the retirement of Jefferson Poirot. Either he or Jean-Baptiste Gros could call upon the small amount of experience they have fronting with the best of Britain and Ireland in a titanic struggle in the front row.
Any of Scott Sio, Alan Alaalato and Mohamed Haouas could do the job from the bench – and perhaps ones of the tight heads could be a starting option, with Tupou able to unleash his impact game from the bench.
Julien Marchand (FRA)
Hooker is arguably Australia’s weakest position, with many having been tried in No 2 jersey but none ever really convincing over a long stretch.
That’s not a major problem, however, with France’s Julien Marchand and Camille Chat both capable of footing it with the Lions’ best. The two have been fighting hammer and tongs for the starting berth in Les Bleus’ front row and we’ve given Marchand the go-ahead to take the lead here while Chat can add some firepower late in the second half.
Folau Fainga’a, Brandon Paega-Amosa and Jordan Uelese can keep their phones clutched to their chests in case there’s an injury.
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