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Wallabies power rankings position-by-position ahead of final round

By John Ferguson
Fraser McReight and Kurtley Beale of Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images/Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It’s the final week of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season for 2024, the standout players are consistently making their mark on the competition, and the time for Joe Schmidt’s first ever Wallaby squad is edging closer.

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The last iteration of this article was published just before round seven, and now six games later, there’s clearer insights into the players and their form.

Before getting into the latest power rankings, a quick refresher on what Schmidt has said he is looking for in his Wallabies.

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“[You] don’t jump into decisions around players in a short-term window… I like to take a longer-term view and have a decent opportunity to have a look at players,” Schmidt told reporters at the launch of the British and Irish Lions Tour tickets in April.

“What we need to be able to demonstrate is that we can be really consistent,” Schmidt said.

Work rate, consistency and technical proficiency are still the attributes Schmidt will have been keeping his eye out for.

Schmidt has maintained he is eager to choose domestic talent and has suggested overseas talent won’t be immediately available due to club/rest commitments.

Therefore, just like last time, no overseas players will be named except for one.

A reminder, these are the power rankings for the players that will make up the team to play in the July series, starting with Wales on July 6.

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Without further ado, here are the top three players in each position who are currently ticking Schmidt’s checklist, comparing round-7 to round-14 which just finished over the weekend.

Loosehead prop

RD7: Angus Bell, James Slipper, Alex Hodgman
Player to watch Matt Gibbon

RD14: James Slipper, Matt Gibbon, Alex Hodgman
Player to watch Isaac Aedo Kailea

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Slipper is the clear standout, not only is he the most experienced by a country mile, but he’s also played the most minutes this year.

Despite the ACT Brumbies’ scrum being outmuscled in recent weeks, a bigger and more experienced second row should allow Slipper to do the job against Wales.

Gibbon continues to move the dial; his scrummaging and work ethic have been real assets to the Melbourne Rebels in 2024.

The long-term injury to Bell, and injuries to Blake Schoupp mean they don’t feature.

Hooker

RD7: Matt Faessler, Dave Porecki, Lachlan Lonergan
Player to watch Billy Pollard

RD14: Matt Faessler, Jordan Uelese, Billy Pollard
Player to watch: Tom Horton

Faessler has no clear contender for the starting hooker role.

His lineout numbers are elite, and the efficiency of the Queensland Reds’ lineout has made it a real weapon.

Uelese has continued to improve throughout the season and although his throwing is still not test-standard, his physicality is a real point of difference.

A special mention goes to Western Force bound Brendon Paenga-Amosa, who may sneak into the reckoning, should he make a hasty return from French club Montpellier in June.

Tighthead prop

RD7: Allan Alaalatoa, Sam Talakai, Zane Nonggorr
Player to watch: Taniela Tupou

RD14: Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Sam Talakai
Player to watch: Zane Nonggorr

Alaalatoa is back on the park and looks right at home after a nine-month injury lay-off, hence he retains top spot.

Tupou has been building and his point of difference is his power at scrum time.

On the rare occasion he does carry, he makes solid gainline metres.

Put simply, he can do things others can’t and the Rebels’ careful management of the ‘Tongan Thor’ has brought out his better sides.

Talakai is Mr consistent, a high workrate matched with high all-round skill execution has him in the mixer for starting honours.

Loosehead lock

RD7: Nick Frost, Ryan Smith, Darcy Swain
Player to watch Josh Canham

RD14: Ryan Smith, Darcy Swain, Nick Frost
Player to watch Josh Canham

Smith has maintained a very high workrate throughout the entire season and he’s also played the most minutes.

His attacking ruck numbers as well as a gradually increasing carrying load in the absence of Harry Wilson must be getting noticed by Schmidt.

Swain has shown his physicality as well as his maul prowess, while Frost continues his improvement in the tighter parts of the game.

Tighthead lock

RD7: Lukhan Salakai-Loto, Cadyrn Neville, Izack Rodda
Player to watch Miles Amatosero

RD14: Lukhan Salakai-Loto, Izack Rodda, Cadyrn Neville
Player to watch Miles Amatosero

At test-level, size and power are crucial assets for a tighthead lock.

Although LSL is still injured, his aggression, power, and bulk are strengths he brings to any pack.

Neville and Rodda have swapped places because Rodda has made his presence felt since returning from injury.

Amatosero is standing out in a losing side, bringing bruising contacts and genuine bulk to the Waratahs pack.

Blindside flanker

RD7: Liam Wright, Ned Hannigan, Tom Hooper
Player to watch Rob Leota

RD14: Liam Wright, Rob Leota, Lachie Swinton
Player to watch Tom Hooper

Wright’s workrate is immense and is amongst the top 10 pilferers in the competition.

Whether he is a test-level no.6 or no.7 remains to be seen, but as far as Aussie SRP blindsides go; he has been in a league of his own.

Leota sneaks in ahead of Swinton based on his ability to genuinely cover most of the backrow and second row as well as the fact he is staying in Aussie rugby.

However, Swinton has been mightily impressive, especially with ball in-hand.

Openside flanker

RD7: Fraser McReight, Carlo Tizzano, Charlie Gamble,
Players to watch Luke Reimer

RD14: Fraser McReight, Charlie Gamble, Luke Reimer
Player to watch Carlo Tizzano

McReight holds his top spot thanks to a continued run of good form and high workrate.

Gamble has regularly showed he has a good running game paired with silky hands, but it is his physicality in defence that has impressed in 2024.

Reimer and Tizzano are jostling for third as the former can change a game’s momentum by his work at the breakdown, while the latter has the highest successful tackle numbers in the comp by some distance.

No.8

RD7: Rob Valetini, Harry Wilson, Langi Gleeson
Player to watch: Will Harris

RD14: Rob Valetini, Seru Uru, Charlie Cale
Player to watch: Langi Gleeson

Valetini has pulled away in recent weeks because of the unfortunate injury to his closest competitor in Wilson.

While many are on the Cale-train, he’s still only 23, so an experienced and dynamic player like Uru could be a great option to be able to ease the young gun into a national set-up.

Halfbacks

RD7: Nic White, Ryan Lonergan, Tate McDermott
Player to watch: Teddy Wilson

RD14: Nic White, Jake Gordon, Tate McDermott
Player to watch: Ryan Lonergan

White retains his top spot due to having the best all-round game, and because his game management has proved crucial for the Force at times.

Gordon and McDermott are neck-and-neck.

Gordon continues to show game changing ability, while McDermott is striking a better balance between running, kicking, and passing, which is unlocking the potential of those around him.

The strength of Lonergan’s core skills keeps him in the race despite some iffy form.

Five-eighth

RD7: Noah Lolesio, Ben Dondaldson, Carter Gordon
Player to watch: Tane Edmed

RD14: Noah Lolesio, Carter Gordon, Tom Lynagh
Player to watch: Ben Donaldson

Lolesio is starting to cement his top spot with the consistency of his game management and goal kicking starts to shine through.

Gordon has been solid all year but kicking in all aspects remain an issue.

Lynagh continues his upwards trajectory and snatches third spot; his maturity is really starting to become a point of difference.

Inside centre

RD7: Hunter Paisami, Lalakai Foketi, Hamish Stewart
Player to watch: Joey Walton

RD14: unchanged

Paisami is a cut above the rest with his physicality on either side of the ball being keenly felt by his opponents.

While the physical side of the game has always been his calling, a recognised ability to be a second playmaker is taking his game to new heights.

Aside from the Queenslander, the others all have their own pros and cons, but no standout deputy has yet emerged.

Outside centre

RD7: Len Ikitau, Izaia Perese, Josh Flook
Player to watch: Filipo Daugunu

RD14: Len Ikitau, Filipo Daugunu, Josh Flook
Player to watch: Bayley Kuenzle

Ikitau and Filipo are so close at first and second position because they both offer a lot on either side of the ball.

Both players have a wicked step, Ikitau off his left and Daugunu off both feet.

The pair can also kick effectively while offering specialised skills in defence, Daugunu with his pilfer and Ikitau with his elite defensive reads.

Flook places because he does very little wrong, while Perese drops out as he appears set on a swift transition to the UK.

Wingers

RD 7: Wing: Mark Nawaqanitawase, Corey Toole, Dylan Pietsch, Jordan Petaia, Andy Muirhead, Mac Grealy
Player to watch: Suliasi Vunivalu

RD14: Andrew Kellaway, Corey Toole, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Dylan Peitsch, Mac Grealy, Jordan Petaia
Player to watch: Triston Reilly

Kellaway is being moved from fullback to wing as Tom Wright is in a rich vein of form.

However, due to Kellaway’s elite attacking numbers he looks set for a matchday jersey.

Toole continues to impress and do the things that others can’t, with near competition-leading speed and a well-rounded skillset.

Despite Nawaqanitawase’s drop in form, he is a test-match animal, and Schmidt will devise a gameplan to bring his unique talents to the fore.

Peitsch and Grealy continue to get through mountains of work, whilst also providing a strike weapon to their respective backlines.

Fullback 

RD7: Andrew Kellaway, Tom Wright, Max Jorgensen
Player to watch: Jock Campbell

RD14: Tom Wright, Jock Campbell, Max Jorgensen
Player to Watch: Kurtley Beale

Wright’s form as mentioned has been stellar.

His defensive lapses are fewer, decision making is better, and the physicality in his carries is at a new level.

Campbell had a rough start to the year but has soldiered on and is now too in a run of good form.

Kellaway is still amongst the top two fullbacks and may be seen in the no.15 jersey, because Jorgensen is still a while away with another injury.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

7 Comments
N
Nick 23 days ago

Good piece John, particularly appreciated the separation of loose and tighthead lock, and can’t really fault you on your rankings of who the form players are. I think taking your top 2/3 players of each position would be pretty close to the WB squad short of a guy like BPA or wilson coming in off the back of injury etc. I agree R Smith is probably the form lock, but I’d still guess schmidt will give frost first crack. And although probably not the favoured opinion, I still have kellaway at 15 and wright on the wing. Not because of form, but because of balance. I think kellaway’s calm, communication and game management is needed more than wright’s attacking spark, although he does have the combo with noah.

m
mitch 24 days ago

Hope he doesn’t go for White at 9. If we want our 10s to develop we need to play off the 10 and have the 10 controlling the game. We’ve seen how White can kill off play off 10 and why Eddie dropped him.

M
Mzilikazi 24 days ago

I would have Tim Ryan as a strong wing contender. His flair and balance are outstanding. If Qld. do go deep into the playoffs, and he just continues at the level he is at now, I could see him start for the WB’s.

He very much reminds me of the impact Mac hansen had on arriving in Galway I do accept that he is a very new contender, and therefore one does need to be careful not to get carried away by a few good games.

j
john 24 days ago

Not a bad summary but there are 4 players who should be nowhere near the Wallabies
Uelese
Jake Gordon
Donaldson
Beale.
None of them are anywhere near test quality.
If any of those are selected we will know Schmidt is just out to sabotage the Wallabies.

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