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Wallabies player ratings: Ikitau impresses during mixed year for Australian centres

By Finn Morton
Len Ikitau of Australia runs with the ball during the Autumn Nations Series match between France and Australia on November 05, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

The wounded Wallabies showed plenty of fight, passion and character throughout a tough international season where they failed to win as many games as they probably deserved.

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Time and time again, week after week, indiscipline and inconsistent team selections ultimately hurt the Wallabies who lost a number of crunch clashes by agonisingly small margins.

Australia started their season with a bang, beating rivals England in Perth by two points – but wins proved hard to come by throughout the rest of 2022.

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After losing their next two Test matches against old foes England – and the series on home soil – the men in gold lost four of their next six matches before heading to Europe.

The Wallabies overcame a valiant Scotland at Murrayfield to begin to their five match spring tour, before losing their next three Tests by three points or less – including a first ever loss to Italy.

While they were able to complete an incredible comeback against Wales to finish their season, the disastrous run of form cannot be ignored less than a year out from the World Cup.

The rugby world saw glimpses of greatness from the men in gold throughout both their spring tour and the year as a whole, but they’re just slightly off the pace.

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But don’t rule them out from winning rugby’s greatest prize next year just yet.

This week, RugbyPass will be rating the Wallabies players’ performances from the year that was. After going through the outside backs on Monday, we’re not going to take a look at how the midfielders performed this year.

 

Midfielders

Len Ikitau – 7/10

Played: 13 (12 starts)

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Best performance: Argentina I

When Len Ikitau made his international debut last season, rugby fans would’ve been able to tell that there was something special about him – but he’s simply gone to an all new level this year. With Samu Kerevi unavailable for a significant part of this season, the 24-year-old really stood up as a leader. In fact, the Wallabies backline – especially defensively – wouldn’t be the same without Ikitau in the side.

Ikitau played a consistently high level this season as he continued to complete tackle after tackle, and do the things that wouldn’t necessarily make the highlight reel. The Brumbies centre had two standout performances against Los Pumas this year, where he scored a try in each of the two Test matches – and ran for 55+ metres on both occasions.

But to bring it back to his defnece and leadership, one of his best performances of 2022 came in the Wallabies’ final Test match against Wales. Ikitau made 11 tackles without missing any, was vocal in both attack and defence, and ran the ball six times.

The Wallabies wouldn’t be the same without him.

 

Samu Kerevi – 7

Played: 3 (3 starts)

Best performance: England I

On his day, Samu Kerevi is the best midfielder in international rugby. There’s just no question about it. But unfortunately for both Kerevi and the Wallabies, the star centre wasn’t able to don the coveted gold jersey beyond the July internationals.

Kerevi sustained a significant injury during the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, which ruled him out for the rest of the year. But the 29-year-old was able to play all three Test matches against England – and he starred in each of those Tests.

But the first Test of the year was a great one for Kerevi, who played a crucial role in Australia’s thrilling win over their old foes. Kerevi ran the ball a staggering 15 times for 39 meters, and made six tackles as well.

If Kerevi is fit and available for the World Cup next year, then the Wallabies backline could become extremely interesting.

 

Hunter Paisami – 6.5

Played: 9 (8 starts)

Best performance: Argentina I

Hunter Paisami has to be one of the most exciting and destructive players in Australian rugby right now. Time and time again, Paisami shows how lethal he can be with the ball-in-hand, and how dominant he can be with some major tackles in defence.

Paisami also sustained an injury during the opening few minutes of the crunch clash with Ireland, which later saw him head back to Australia early. It was, certainly at the time, a big blow for the Wallabies ahead of their final Test match of the year.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Australian midfield takes shape ahead of next year’s World Cup, with Kerevi and Ikitau also in the mix for starting roles. But similar to former All Black Ngani Laumape, Paisami could cause some major headaches with his impact off the bench.

 

Lalakai Foketi – 6

Played: 3 (3 starts)

Best performance: France

After making his international debut on the Wallabies end-of-season tour last year, Foketi was given another few opportunities to shine in green and gold – before an injury ended his campaign.

Foketi started both Test matches against the All Blacks – including a promising display in the first Bledisloe Cup clash – and was given his next chance to start against France last month. The 27-year-old returned to the Test arena against the world’s second best team and he didn’t skip a beat. In fact, he scored one of the tries of the year, as the Wallabies ran practically the length of the field against Les Bleus.

But unfortunately, injured ended his night in Paris, and was later sent home early from the end-of-season tour.

 

 

Reece Hodge – 6

Played: 1 (1 start) *in the midfield

Best performance: Wales

Reece Hodges’ versatility is simply an invaluable asset to Dave Rennie and the Wallabies selectors. Australia’s Mr Fix It started one Test in the midfield this year – against Wales – and he did the jersey justice with that performance.

Hodge ran the ball hard and with purpose, and also made his mark in defence with nine tackles – the second most tackles made out of the Australian backs. Rennie won’t be able to pick everyone in next year’s World Cup, but a combination of Hodges’ versatility and long-range boot seemingly makes him a likely option.

 

Irae Simone – N/A

Played: 1 (0 starts)

Best performance: Argentina II

Simone only played one Test match this year and it was certainly one of Australia’s worst performances of 2022. And while that’s not a reflection of him or his ability, it’s quite tough to rate a player as a result of that.

The New Zealand-born centre came off the bench in Australia’s disastrous 48-17 loss to Argentina earlier this year. Simone was only able to run the ball once and make four tackles after coming on with just under 20 minutes to play.

Full ratings (to date)

Outside backs

Tom Wright – 7.5

Marika Koroibete – 7.5

Mark Nawaqanitawase – 7

Andrew Kellaway – 6.5

Jordan Petaia – 6

Jock Campbell – 6

Reece Hodge – 5

Suliasi Vunivalu – N/A

Tom Banks – N/A

Izaia Perese – N/A

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