Welcome to the first edition of Coach’s Corner in 2022! First things first: there’s a new feature on Fridays, and that’s My Australian Team of the Week. Here he is for the second round of the Super Rugby Pacific:
Nick Bishop’s Australian Super Rugby Team of the Week
|7||Fraser Mc Reight|
|19||Fergus Lee Warner|
Alright, so that’s out of the way. Many questions revolve around how potential young Wallabies should be managed and prepared for Test Rugby – particularly when some key starters ply their trade overseas and their availability is uncertain.
Rugbyra addressed the issue of overseas availability and how to fit four or five top overseas players into the new rule of three:
jeznez immediately reported that “Marika Koroibete at 11 is one hell of a player to leave out.”
To remind us of the platform of the debate. Tim Horan commented in a Tweet that Force number 10 Reesjan Pasitoa should be immediately promoted to the Wallaby first team of 2022
“Reesjan Pasitoa has to be in the Wallabies team in 2022. Early days, I know that, but he’s a future star. At 20… the time has come,” he said.
Former Wallaby coach Michael Cheika preferred a much more progressive timeline:
“Seriously, forget young Pasitoa, let’s think about Noah Lolesio, or Quade Cooper, or James O’Connor, or those guys who are on the spot right now, and give them the confidence to play.
“This boy (Pasitoa) is good – he has time on the ball, he takes the ball running so he draws defenders before he even has the ball, you can see he has that ability. But let him really mark his authority to become a top player in Super Rugby, with the Western Force.
“Then inject him into the Wallabies as a player who will make a difference from the start, instead of having him come in there and maybe struggle a bit, and come out and earn his stripes.”
My own opinion is much closer to that of Michael Cheika than that of Tim Horan. Firstly, it is worth remembering that Tim Horan comes from the pre-professional era, in which it was still possible to pluck the Phil Kearns and Tony Daly from this world of club rugby obscurity and forge them into international players.
Cheika is a professional trainer who probably learned his lesson the hard way. He introduced the likes of Ned Hanigan to international rugby too quickly and Hanigan looked lost for a few seasons – thankfully he was able to go back and recover.
Pasitoa showed some nice touches, but no more than that. He hasn’t been as influential as Ben Donaldson at number 10 has been for the Waratahs so far, and he’s done nothing to suggest Quade Cooper and James O’Connor should be uprooted like the top two pick at number 10. That would be the top three away halves right now.
Dave Rennie will be fairly certain of the top 25 or so players in his World Cup squad. It will be about filling the remaining gaps with players who can provide added value or a USP.
Two of those players play for the Force, who, along with the Waratahs, look to be the biggest improvers of 2023. One is scrum-half Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, who made a surprising contribution off the bench against the Rebels.
Assuming Nic White and Tate McDermott will be the top two picks for the World Cup, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa can deliver real impact off the bench with his razor-sharp footwork and acceleration:
It’s always one of the most difficult tasks to get back on the pitch outside of a sideline. On two out of three phases, the ILF stops the three inside defenders dead in their tracks, meaning they can’t lead the defensive line forward with speed or momentum.
His sharpness in and around the base of the ruck provides the energy you want to inject into your offense in the final 20 minutes of the game:
In the first example he draws a yellow card at Reece Hodge for a deliberate knock-on, in the second he sets the game’s final score directly on the whistle.
Another player who should be considered for one of these final World Cup squad spots is ex-Sevens star Tim Anstee. He has improved his level of physicality and tight ball carrying, he has won two turnovers on the deck in the first two games and, most importantly, he can win the lineout ball on both sides of the throw:
Pure football intelligence in this second example is exactly what Wallaby’s coaching staff should be looking for. When the intended maul breaks, Anstee immediately makes an adjustment, taking the ball across the line himself, releasing it to the ground and picking it up again for an outstanding try.
The importance of ‘earning your stripes’ at Super Rugby level has been underscored by the development of youngster Angus Bell in New South Wales. Bell has indeed endured some tough times against Taniela Tupou and Feao Fotuaika in scrimmage lately, but this weekend there was only one boss:
The big change is Bell’s long left arm. It goes all the way down to Fotuaika’s hip, keeping his back straight and the forward drive low and powerful.