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Wallabies player ratings vs France | 2023 Summer Nations Series

By Finn Morton
Australia's wing Mark Nawaqanitawase (R) celebrates with teammate Australia's full back Andrew Kellaway after scoring a try during the pre-World Cup rugby union international Test match between France and Australia at Stade de France in Saint Denis, on the outskirts of Paris on August 27, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Wallabies will go into the upcoming Rugby World Cup on the back of five defeats from as many starts after falling to France 41-17 in Paris on Sunday.

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Playing in front of a spirited crowd, the Wallabies showed plenty of fight and resilience– especially during the opening stages of the Test. They dominated possession during the opening few minutes.

But they couldn’t turn their attacking pressure into points. Just as it has been all year under coach Jones, as well as former boss Dave Rennie, their poor discipline cost them in key moments – and Les Bleus made them pay.

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France ran away with a big win in the end, but the scoreboard doesn’t necessarily reflect how big, or small, the gap is between these two sides. The Wallabies were beaten, sure, but some players still managed to impress.

  1. Andrew Kellaway 7/10

The Wallabies have found their fullback. There were plenty of questions surrounding this position not too long ago, but they’ve been answered in an obvious way. Andrew Kellaway was solid in the No. 15 jersey against the French, having made his mark in both attack and defence.

Kellaway threw a brilliant long-range pass to teammate Mark Nawaqanitawase for the Wallabies’ opening try of the Test, and backed that up with a try-saving tackle shortly after. The outside back did leave the field looking a bit worse for wear, but coach Jones insisted during the post-game press conference that Kellaway was okay.

  1. Mark Nawaqanitawase – 8

It’s hard to remember a time when Mark Nawaqanitawase wasn’t a frontline Wallaby. The wing made his Test debut during last year’s end-of-season tour, and hasn’t really skipped a beat on the international stage since. Nawaqanitawase was solid on the left wing, and sometimes right, once again on Sunday.

Before scoring the Wallabies’ first try of the Test, Nawaqanitawase could be seen firmly planted close to the sidelines. The outside back was frantically waving his arms in the air – he wanted the ball, and he wanted it immediately. Off the following lineout, that’s exactly what happened, and Nawaqanitawase ended up scoring in the corner.

Nawaqanitawase, otherwise known as ‘Marky Mark,’ carried the ball 13 times for almost 100 metres – beating Suliasi Vunivalu by one metre to the title of ‘most carries by a Wallabies player.’ It was an impressive performance, but the wing can be even better – and that’s a scary thought for the likes of Georgia, Fiji, Wales and Portugal ahead of the World Cup.

  1. Jordan Petaia – 5

On his day, Jordan Petaia is one of the most exciting players in Australian rugby. There’s a reason that the utility back was thrust into the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup squad ahead of their campaign four years ago in Japan. The rising star knows how to shine, but consistency continues to plague his growth.

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Petaia didn’t exactly set the game alight at Stade de France. With just four runs and four carries to his name, the outside centre just couldn’t quite reach the heights that Wallabies fans would’ve wanted. But much like many of his teammates who were a bit off tonight, there are some valuable lessons to take out of this Test.

  1. Lalakai Foketi – 5.5

Midfielder Lalakai Foketi hasn’t donned Wallaby gold since playing Les Bleus at this same venue last year. Foketi scored a World Rugby Try of the Year contender that day, but left the field shortly after with an injury. But the No. 12’s return to Test rugby was underwhelming. Foketi failed to fire in the absence of Samu Kerevi.

Points Flow Chart

France win +24
Time in lead
75
Mins in lead
0
93%
% Of Game In Lead
0%
40%
Possession Last 10 min
60%
10
Points Last 10 min
5

  1. Suliasi Vunivalu – 8.5

Former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu was a surprise inclusion in Eddie Jones’ team to take on Les Bleus. With Marika Koroibete left out of the matchday 23, Vunivalu was picked opposite French flyer Damian Penaud – a player widely regarded as one of it, if not the best wing in Test rugby.

But Vunivalu passed this test with a touch of class. Other than a somewhat controversial yellow card late in the second half, the speedster had his best match in Wallaby gold.

Vunivalu looked dangerous every time he touched the ball. The wing made a number of half-breaks down the right edge during the first half, and was clearly causing some headaches for France’s defensive line. Vunivalu also crossed for a try in the 78th minute.

For the most part, all good signs from a player who certainly silenced some doubters and naysayers from Stade de France.

  1. Carter Gordon – 5.5

Young Carter Gordon had another tough outing in Wallaby gold on Sunday. Named as the sole flyhalf in the Wallabies’ 33-man Rugby World Cup squad, there’s a fair bit of pressure and expectation following Gordon at the moment.

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Gordon missed a few shots at goal, including an opportunity to open the scoring inside the first few minutes. The 22-year-old also mis-hit some kicks around the park, and appeared to be caught out of position a couple of times.

But give credit where it’s due, it wasn’t all bad. Gordon had some positive involvements, including in the leadup to Mark Nawaqanitawase’s try. The rising star will be better for this experience – the Wallabies certainly need him to be.

  1. Tate McDermott – 6.5

Halfback Tate McDermott did what was asked of him on Sunday, and didn’t really go beyond that. McDermott looked cool, calm and collected as he helped steer the Wallabies around the park in attack – his passing game was quick and accurate, which is of course what you want from your No. 9.

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  1. Angus Bell – 7.5

Prop Angus Bell has to be one of the first names on the Wallabies’ team sheet week-to-week. The Australian enforcer was picked ahead of veteran Angus Bell for the opening Bledisloe Cup Test in Melbourne, and Bell hasn’t looked back since.

Bell was one of the Wallabies’ best on Sunday. Playing against one of the more menacing packs in Test rugby, Bell wasn’t afraid to hit hard in defence or run the ball with fury and intent. The world-class loosehead led the way for the Wallabies with an incredible 14 carries, and as previously alluded to, held his own in defence as well.

  1. David Porecki – 5.5

David Porecki was quite good against Les Bleus, but that’s not the same as great. Porecki did what was asked of him without really going above and beyond. The hooker hit his targets at the set-piece – mainly flanker Tom Hooper – and got stuck in on the defensive side of the ball in particular.

  1. Taniela Tupou – 5

Prop Taniela Tupou hasn’t played for the Wallabies since their disappointing defeat to the All Blacks in Melbourne after picking up an injury. But Tupou was ready to go ahead of the World Cup, and coach Joens unleashed ‘The Tongan Thor’ upon a heavily favoured French outfit.

Tupou made his mark early on for the wrong reasons. The star tighthead was penalised for a high tackle inside the opening 10 minutes, and France went on to score shortly after – not that that was completely his fault, of course.

But Tupou was far from his best during the remainder of the Test. Playing against a fast, big and physical French pack, the front rower only carried the ball five times and made three tackles.

  1. Richie Arnold – 6

Richie Arnold was picked in the Wallabies’ pack alongside skipper Will Skelton. The pair, standing next to each other, are hard to miss. But it’s probably fair to say that the pair are still finding their feet as a second-row duo.

Arnold had some positive involvements, especially in defence, but the Wallabies were on the back foot for long periods of that Test. Arnold was a brick wall in defence, but was otherwise ineffective – notably, at the lineout.

  1. Will Skelton – 7

Towering lock Will Skelton became the 87th captain in Wallabies history when he led the Australians into battle at Stade de France. Skelton, by his own admission, is a man of few words – coach Jones wants the second rower to lead by example. At least early on, Skelton did just that.

The Wallabies went down 7-nil early on, and needed to be the next team to score – at least, that’s how it felt at the stadium. Skelton charged down an Antoine Dupont box kick to keep Les Bleus parked up deep inside their own 22.

Throughout the remainder of the Test, even if it doesn’t necessarily dominate the highlight reel, Skelton carried with purpose and intent. The skipper did plenty of solid work around the park, including in the leadup to Fraser McReight’s try.

Skelton, as coach Jones said he would, led by example.

  1. Tom Hooper – 5.5

With a few Test caps to his name now, young flanker Tom Hooper was picked in the Wallabies’ starting side to take on France. Hooper was disappointing on debut against the Boks last month, but came alive during the Bledisloe Cup series with the All Blacks. Hooper was the Wallabies’ best player during those two defeats to New Zealand.

But this clash with Les Bleus loomed as a pivotal challenge for Hooper. For a player who is still finding his feet in the Test arena, there’s no bigger task before a World Cup than taking it to the hosts on their home track.

Hooper, much like many of his teammates, worked hard on both sides of the ball – the flanker was better after the break in those two areas. But the young gun was especially impressive at the set-piece. Playing in a loose forwards trio where the other two players don’t traditionally jump, and with a hard-to-lift second row of Arnold and Skelton, Hooper was the go-to man for David Porecki.

  1. Fraser McReight – 7

Hopefully, this is the last time I’ll write this, but in a Test like this, it’s impossible to ignore. Coach Jones dropped a selection bombshell earlier this month by leaving former Australia captain Michael Hooper out of the 33-man Rugby World Cup squad. It was bold, but it pointed in the direction that Jones wanted to take this team.

A new dawn awaited Australian rugby, and the legendary coach wanted to take the Wallabies there. Hooper’s heir apparent, Fraser McReight, was named in the No. 7 jersey for the second consecutive Test.

After a slow first half, McReight was better after the break. The fetching seven finished in double digits for tackles, and also ran the ball for 40 meters – and, of course, scored one of the Wallabies’ three tries on the night.

  1. Rob Valetini – 7.5

It’d almost be easy to take the work that Rob Valetini does for granted. The rampaging No. 8 is relentless on both sides of the ball, and consistent as well. That trend continued against the French. Valetini looked dangerous every time he touched the ball – and ended up running the most metres out of any Wallabies forward, and third out of the whole team, with 48 from 12 carries.

Finishers

  1. Matt Faessler – 4.5
  2. Blake Schoupp – 4.5 – Blake Schoupp made his Test debut during this Test.
  3. Zane Nonggorr – N/A
  4. Matt Philip – 4.5
  5. Rob Leota – N/A
  6. Langi Gleeson – 5.5
  7. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa5 – Fines-Leleiwasa made his Wallabies debut tonight.
  8. Ben Donaldson – N/A – was only on for the last three minutes.
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4 Comments
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Derek Murray 329 days ago

Unfortunately for the Wallabies, Donaldson was on for much more than the last few minutes

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Jon 3 hours ago
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> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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