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The three changes Eddie Jones needs to make to his Wallabies XV

By Finn Morton
Eddie Jones (coach) Australia during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Australia at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 08, 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Not long after the full-time siren had sounded at Loftus Versfield in Pretoria last weekend, Wallabies coach Eddie Jones attempted to explain Australia’s staggering 43-12 loss to rivals South Africa.

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Australia shot out of the blocks with an impressive start. World-class winger Marika Koroibete opened the scoring in just the eighth minute after a rapid burst down the left edge.

But the Springboks struck back shortly after – and continued to assert their dominance throughout practically the entirety of the contest.

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Jones is usually quite charismatic and outgoing, but the legendary coach stared into nothingness with a stunned look on his face as he began to reflect on the disastrous defeat post-game.

The shocking result was still quite raw, and the feelings of annoyance and frustration continued to sink in as Jones spoke with former Australian international Morgan Turinui on Stan Sport.

“We just got beaten to the punch… there weren’t too many positives today,” the 63-year-old said.

“But we went out there to play with a bit of pace and we were able to do that for 20 minutes but we weren’t able to convert any of the pressure we put on the Springboks into points.

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“The Springboks came back and every time they got an opportunity, they converted into points.”

Nobody likes to lose, especially Eddie Jones.

Ushering in a new era with the Wallabies, the 31-point defeat was far from an idyllic start.

But don’t poke the bear.

In a response to a question from a local journalist – which, as the Wallabies coach said, was about the Springboks fielding a “B-team” – Jones didn’t hold back.

“South Africans are good at winning. You don’t have to be a smart arse mate,” Jones said.

“We were well and truly beaten today by a Springboks side that old mate is calling the B-team, right? I never knew there was a Springboks side that was called the B-team.”

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Jones and the Wallabies were in the headlines for all the wrong reasons following their Rugby Championship opener in Pretoria.

But a week is a long time in Test rugby.

As cliché as that sounds, the Wallabies can make a statement in their first home Test of the year when they take on Michael Cheika’s Pumas in Sydney.

But they’ll need to make changes, of course they will.

Running through last weekend’s starting side from No. 1 to 15, there are three changes that the Wallabies need to make.

Now the Wallabies’ forwards weren’t great last weekend. Despite what my admittedly generous player ratings suggested, they were outmuscled by a physical pack.

Just to reiterate the point of this piece, yes there are a number of changes that Jones could make to the team, but these three in particular seem quite pressing.

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First, blindside flanker Tom Hooper wasn’t great on debut. The 22-year-old wasn’t just missing tackles, he was failing to even attempt some.

Boks flyhalf Manie Libbok ran straight past Tom Hooper around the 30-minute mark and made a devastating burst down the field, and the No. 6 was hooked shortly after.

Hooper was replaced by veteran Pete Samu. Samu hasn’t been given the chance that he deserves to impress in the starting side at Test level.

Samu, who is a Super Rugby champion following a decorated stint with the Crusaders, has only started one Test match at blindside flanker for the Wallabies.

But this is a player who, time and time again, has starred in that very same role for Australian powerhouse the Brumbies.

Hooper has to miss out this week, certainly from the starting side, so it seems quite logical that Samu receives a promotion from the bench and into the starting side.

Alongside Rob Valetini in the backrow, Samu could help the Wallabies form a formidable back row – with co-captain Michael Hooper also deserving of a place, although Fraser McReight isn’t far off.

Second – and this seems almost too obvious – Samu Kerevi deserves a run at inside centre.

Reece Hodge just isn’t an international midfielder, although can certainly play a role in the squad – and potentially do the Wallabies jersey justice if called upon off the bench.

Kerevi was once considered to be the best No. 12 in world rugby, but a significant stint on the sidelines may have rendered that an outdated opinion.

It won’t take long to remind the rugby world, however.

But Kerevi is good, very good. This almost doesn’t require an explanation. It’s just that obvious.

The former Reds captain is clearly match-fit if Jones as selected him on the bench last weekend, but Kerevi’s talents were wasted by the time he was subbed on against the Boks.

The Test was already lost.

Kerevi can help the Wallabies assert their dominance over Los Pumas this weekend with some threatening runs with the ball, and the centre can also create space out wide by doing so.

This just makes too much sense. Kerevi and Len Ikitau at the midfield pairing of the future for the Wallabies, so Eddie, let’s not waste another second.

Finally, Eddie Jones’ experiment with former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu might be over before it really began.

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Vunivalu turned to the Reds speedster last weekend, but Vunivalu gave away three tries on his wing – and was also yellow carded and conceded a penalty try later on.

The winger looked ineffective, and at times lost.

But if the Wallabies learnt anything during last year’s end-of-season tour it’s that rising star Mark Nawaqanitawase has a bright future ahead of him.

Nawaqanitawase was impressive on debut against Italy in Florence, but announced himself to the rugby world with two tries against Wales in Cardiff.

Those two scores helped inspire the men in gold to a famous comeback win over Wayne Pivac’s side.

Nawaqanitawase has done it before, and can certainly be considered less of a gamble. Again, much like Kerevi, this selection makes too much sense.

But if you’ve read this far, maybe you agree with what I’ve had to say.

But one player that I won’t throw into the deep end, yet, is playmaker Quade Cooper. Cooper wasn’t great against the Boks – not many players were – but the flyhalf deserves another chance.

Redemption awaits.

Pete Samu and Samu Kerevi can help the Wallabies assert themselves physically over Los Pumas, while Quade Cooper and Mark Nawaqanitawase can make the most of it.

Carter Gordon will continue to rival Cooper for that No. 10 jersey though, with the rising star impressive on debut off the bench last weekend. But the playmaker needs to earn his stripes off the bench before a veteran player is replaced.

The Wallabies are better than their performance against the Boks, and these selections will help them show that.

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9 Comments
R
Ruby 374 days ago

I would start Carter-Gordon, he's their most promising player and game time now would at the very least be a great investment

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Patrick 374 days ago

What about scrumhalf?

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Willie 374 days ago

How Jones could rate Vunivalu ahead of the electric winger with the alphabet for a surname is beyond comprehension.
Eddie might also want to retract the smart alec comment about one of the few Aust world class locks working in the factory assembly line and get him in the team.
And the alignment of the backs on attack suggest the Attack Coach is related to Warner's batting coach.

U
Utiku Old Boy 374 days ago

Front row was also a mess. The Argies were too so perhaps the need is not quite as dire, but Tupou and Bell are missed and hooker is a mess - especially at the throw.

m
mitch 375 days ago

The main change needs to be tactical, just kicking the ball away is one dimensional, the next change is you don't just play off 9 and 9 doesn't do the majority of your kicking as well as that's just too easy to target, again one dimensional and third is the defensive structure was passive and lateral and poor communication. These are needed more than changing players. You don't start Samu at 6 with Skelton starting and it also diminishes Samu's strongest part of his game; he's very quick, can play what's in front of him so takes advantage of tiring defences in the second half and he's not a good defender and misses quite a few tackles. A lineout option comes in at 6 so either Holloway or Kemeny. Faessler to start, he's the best lineout thrower, scrum and significantly better at the breakdown than Poreki. We missed a 2 that hits the rucks. Vunivalu goes as his defence is just not anywhere near good enough especially with Eddie's game plan. Hooper was targeted last week and wasn't good, he won't have the same issues this week but definitely need to consider McReight who's second efforts and support play are easily the best in the team. Eddie needs to own that poor performance before this team can move on, I hope his ego can do that for the benefit of the team.

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Flankly 375 days ago

100% agree with the analysis. Though I would have started with Vunivalu. Cheika will be kicking his lips if Eddie sticks with his right wing. Expect another winger hat trick on that side of the field if Eddie does not make that change.

The other big areas are mostly what Eddie called, namely set pieces, breakdowns, gain line, maul defense, and aerial battle. They need to sharpen these up in every game between now and the RWC, which is mostly just hard work.

I don't agree that the kicking game plan is the problem. Or at least I would say that we can't tell yet. You have to fix the foundations before you can evaluate the superstructure.

j
john 375 days ago

Once again a kiwi keeps telling us Michael Hooper is terrific, not surprisingly. We are over it. We get it. You want a weak seagull at 7 for the Wallabies so teams, especially the All Blacks can continue to walk all over us.

Hooper obviously provides zero inspiration for the Wallabies.

Would you have been happy for Taine Randell to stay as captain of the All Blacks for 10 years as the All Blacks slipped to being ranked 9th in the world ?

Obviously Vunivalu, Hodge and Michael Hooper must go. So should Slipper. They are just phoning it in.

However, Samu is indeed greatly under rated. So is Harry Wilson.

N
NHinSH 375 days ago

Kerevi is without question the no1 choice at 12, It's called player management.

He is just back from an injury picked up with the Ba's having spent most of the year out injured so why thrust him back against the Boks and risk losing him for the WC.

Bizarre journalism.

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Shaylen 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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