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Wallabies dual playmaker system outdated


Cheika's system is undoubtedly being proved ineffectual at Super Rugby level

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are investigating a case in the Lakes District and are forced to camp out due to a lack of lodgings. After a good dinner and a bottle of wine, they retire for the night and go to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend.

“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

“I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes,” replies Watson.

“And what do you deduce from that?”

Watson ponders for a minute.

“Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe. What does it tell you, Holmes?”

Holmes is silent for a moment. “Watson, you idiot!” he says.

“Someone villain has stolen our tent!”

Jokes aside and in context to the 2019 Wallaby selectors, I certainly hope that the Rugby Director-in-waiting Scott Johnson, newly appointed selector Michael O’Connor and Wallaby Coach Michael Cheika have the clarity of thought illustrated by Sherlock Holmes and not that of his trusted side-kick Dr. Watson when selection comes upon them.

No doubt all three of those gentlemen will forensically sift through footage, facts and figures in the coming months prior to finalising a squad for the 2019 Rugby Championship and I suggest that a step towards solving any selection mystery is to focus on exactly what is happening in the present, not what may have worked in the past or could work in the future.

It is no secret that I do not support the dual playmaker system principally employed by the Wallabies. It is a system that has simply not delivered the success desired in the past, is not delivering now for Australian Super Rugby sides and will likely not deliver in the near future despite what any astrologist, astronomist, horologist, meteorologist or theologian may tell you.

The two Australian sides that employed a dual play-maker system in the latest round of Super Rugby were the New South Wales Waratahs with veteran Wallabies Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale in the 10 and 12 jersey’s and the Queensland Reds using the uncapped Isaac Lucas and Duncan Paia’aua in the same with neither side having any stunning success despite the Reds running down the Sunwolves in the latter stages of the game.

Firstly, on the Waratahs, to the naked eye, it could leave one flummoxed that a Wallaby-laden side like the Waratahs playing with the experienced Wallaby dual playmakers in Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale could be made to look relatively ineffective by a far less experienced Brumbies outfit.

Foley, a veteran of 68-test matches and Beale with 83, failed to dominate the less experienced Christian Lealiifano and Irea Simone with the Brumbies coming away 19-13 victors and were unlucky it was not by more.

Despite not being the Wallaby incumbent 10 and 12, both Foley and Beale have played a significant part of their professional careers in these positions, yet could not exploit the Brumbies and unleash to any winning affect the talents of Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Jack Dempsey, Sekope Kepu and the list goes on.

The last time Foley and Beale combined in the 10 and 12 jerseys for the Wallabies was against Wales in 2018 where the Australian backline play was hopeless, and couldn’t even score a try! They did not look that much better last Friday night in Canberra either.

Why is this so?

Quite simply that method of play is outdated and ineffective at test level and is now being exposed at Super Rugby level.

Hypothetically, if both Foley and Beale were selected at 10 and 12 for the Wallabies, I wonder, if they can’t beat the Brumbies, why would you expect them to beat the All Blacks, Springboks or Welsh?

Some may argue that this method brought New South Wales a Super Rugby Championship in 2014. And who could forget how lethal both Foley and Beale were against the English in the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup in 2015. But despite some patchy brilliance by both since there is no cogent evidence to support the method or selection of Foley and Beale in the 10 and 12 jerseys for 2019.

The game has moved on and the selectors should not be romanced by what once was, but by judging the evidence, can never be again.

The Queensland Reds looked their most potent in round one of Super Rugby when they played Samu Kerevi at 12 and Jordan Petaia at 13 against the Highlanders, however, since the ankle injury sustained by Petaia against the Crusaders, the Reds have moved Kerevi away from his most potent position and have struggled accordingly.

Kerevi was Queensland’s most effective back in their recent loss to the Waratahs and few would argue he was at his most damaging when he shifted in closer to the recycle as opposed to the fringes. Why he was ever moved from the 12 jersey still is a puzzle to me.

For reasons yet to be uncovered Queensland selected Kerevi again at 13 this time against the Sunwolves, but again the evidence indicates Kerevi is best suited to the 12 jumper as illustrated when Kerevi positioned himself close to the recycle, busted his way through defenders off a short ball, freeing his arms and offloading to the young Harry Hoopert who was simply too powerful to stop and scored a much-needed try contributing to Queensland’s eventual win.

With respect to the playmaking of Duncan Paia’aua, the Reds defence and alignment has looked out of calibration since his inclusion to the starting XV and I have been a strong advocate of moving Chris Feauai-Sautia off the wing and into the 13 jersey allowing Samu Kerevi to return to his natural position at inside-centre post the Petaia ankle injury.

Such a selection is congruent with the initial selection of Petaia at the commencement of the season and unleashes two powerful centres for an opposition to concentrate on, not two playmakers which are critical for future Wallaby success.

Future Wallaby success must be focussed on winning the collision and gain line through the middle of the park, not lateral play and sideline flirtations as seen in 2018. How this is achieved in 2019 with dual playmakers is unknown and I submit almost unachievable.

What is clear is that all the Australian sides have looked better in 2019 with larger bodies in the 12 jersey. A hallmark of any good side is their ability to win the gain line both in space and in the tight. This is a facet of play and subsequent selection the selections should have absolute clarity on. In fact, it is elementary my dear Watson!

Alan Wyn Jones and Warren Gatland on Wales’ Grand Slam:

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Cheika's system is undoubtedly being proved ineffectual at Super Rugby level