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Thread: Wayne Smith rates the Wallabies

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    Wayne Smith rates the Wallabies

    After a failed Rugby World Cup bid, Wayne Smith rates the Wallabies and makes predictions for how the team can go forward.

    Ben Alexander: Selected at tighthead after having played the entire Super Rugby season at loosehead for the Brumbies, Alexander never quite built a compelling case for why he should be wearing "3" not "1". Both Ireland and the All Blacks brought real pressure to bear on him at scrum time, but he also scrummed well against the Springboks and, off the bench, against Wales. An agile prop, he bobbed up at unexpected times and improbable places and when Digby Ioane almost scored against the All Blacks in the semi-final, it was Alexander who was propelling him forward. Rating 6.5

    Adam Ashley-Cooper: His tournament was neatly summed up in a 10 second period against Wales when he threw a sublime pass out to the right wing to set James O'Connor free, then backed up on the inside of Anthony Fainga'a to charge over the tryline, only to lose the ball in the act of scoring. Still, he played in every match at the World Cup, scoring five tries in all, including the fastest hat-trick in Test history - just seven minutes for the three of them - in the match against the USA. Played in the centres, on the wing and at fullback to again live up to his tag as the Mr Fixit of the Wallabies backline. Rating 6.5

    Berrick Barnes: His Man of the Match award against Wales, when he played the last hour of the match at five-eighth following Quade Cooper's injury, showed just how valuable he could have been. As it was, his deep kick for field position late in the quarter-final lifted the Springboks siege and paved the way for James O'Connor to land the match-winning penalty goal. Barnes's solid defence against Welsh battering ram Jamie Roberts also gave the lie to suggestions he would not have been able to contain Ma'a Nonu had he been selected to start against the All Blacks in the semi-final. Rating 7.

    Kurtley Beale: Showed against the Springboks and to a lesser degree against Ireland, when he overplayed his hand but perhaps understandably, that he was Australia's most potent attacking player. He was badly missed in the All Blacks semi-final and it was not surprising coach Robbie Deans gave him every chance to play against Wales when, sadly, his niggling hamstring injury dramatically turned nasty. Rating 8.

    Luke Burgess: the French-bound halfback ended his career for the Wallabies on a high, coming off the bench against Wales and sparking the match-deciding try with a darting run and a deft inside pass for James Slipper before Ben McCalman finished off the movement. He didn't get many chances at the World Cup, being stuck behind Will Genia. Rating 6.5

    Quade Cooper: What a tragedy that he snapped his anterior cruciate ligament against Wales just as he was starting to show New Zealanders what he could do. Of course by then it was too late, his World Cup campaign was wrecked, so too Australia's. The Wallabies management should have handled the whole Richie McCaw imbroglio better to take the NZ media and public off Cooper's shoulders. But they let a 23-year-old kid from Tokoroa deal with being "NZ public enemy number one". Cooper is the type of player who feeds on love, not crowd hostility and even though he insisted the boos didn't bother him, clearly they did. Now he faces six months on the sidelines and it might just be that, in his absence, some of his critics might finally come to realise how important he is to the Wallabies. Rating 6

    Rocky Elsom: Made a couple of barnstorming runs but by the standards he set in Dublin for Leinster in 2009, he had a quiet tournament. Went to sleep when the US number eight scooted straight past him on the blindside for a try off the back of a scrum but generally was a hard-hitter in defence. Did not let the loss of the Australian captaincy one match out from the World Cup affect his play and he tried hard throughout. Rating 6.5

    Anthony Fainga'a: It was not his fault that Robbie Deans selected two near-identical players, him and Pat McCabe, as his centre pairing against the All Blacks. One stout defender in the midfield would have been fine, but two non-passing centres limited Australia's wide attack. Took a serious head knock in the final seconds against the USA and looked a little underdone when brought into outside centre in the reshuffle that followed Kurtley Beale's withdrawal from the All Blacks semi-final. Rating 6

    Saia Fainga'a: Must have had his confidence badly dented when he wasn't called off the bench against Ireland even though Tatafu Polota-Nau, the last replacement for the injured Stephen Moore, was basically out on his feet. Ironically, Fainga'a looked at his best in a virtual all-Reds pack late in the bronze medal play-off against Wales. But as the third hooker in the squad, he was always going to struggle to make an impact. Rating 6

    Will Genia: Australia struggled all tournament to generate the quick ruck ball that he needed to be at his most dangerous. Will be remembered for his six box kicks against the All Blacks when he should have called a halt after the first two because clearly they weren't having any effect other than to simply hand the ball over to the opposition. There is no doubt he was playing to instructions, but as one of the team's senior leaders, even at the age of 23, he should have made the decision to abandon the futile kicking game and keep the ball in hand. Yet, easier said than done because he would have been one of the closely marked players of the tournament. Even so, when his forwards did provide him with a platform, he was always a threat. Rating 6.5.

    Scott Higginbotham: Thank goodness for the bronze medal playoff against Wales because otherwise Higginbotham would scarcely have been sighted all tournament. He showed against the Welsh Dragons that he could have been a real weapon for Australia, making 15 tackles and half a dozen great ball-carries. But with Robbie Deans preferring Rocky Elsom in the six jumper throughout the World Cup, the Reds flanker may have to wait until next month's two-match tour to Britain to get any serious game time. Rating 6.5

    Matt Hodgson: Should have been named in the original squad but for reasons only Robbie Deans would know, Australia went into this World Cup with only one specialist seven. Sure enough, David Pocock succumbed to a back injury before the Irish game and the Wallabies went in without a genuine fetcher and paid the price as Sean O'Brien dominated the breakdown for the men in green. Not used at all. No rating.

    Rob Horne: Just when it seemed he couldn't have any more bad luck, Horne suffered a fractured cheekbone against the USA. Made it back for the business end of the tournament and always looked a threat with ball in hand. He looks a wonderful talent but just needs some injury-free time to establish himself. Rating 6.5

    James Horwill: Captained Australia to a Tri Nations final victory over the All Blacks in his first Test as skipper and then scored the only try of the Springboks match to put the Wallabies into the semi-final. So not a bad start to his captaincy. An outstanding ambassador off the field, he was perhaps too diplomatic on it and should devote his off-season to studying tapes of Richie McCaw manipulating referees. His appointment as captain basically shut out any chance of seeing a Dan Vickerman-Nathan Sharpe second-row combination, which might have proved useful against the All Blacks. Rating 7

    Digby Ioane: Praise God for the deeply religious Reds winger because he was a handful for the defence every time he touched the ball. When the Wallabies were wallowing against Italy, he was the player who ignited Australia's World Cup campaign with two sizzling runs and he showed in the semi-final against the All Blacks that he could make even the best of defenders look feeble. Not good under the high ball, but any mistakes he made he quickly cleaned up and the pity was he broke his thumb late against Italy because his rugged defence in the 10 channel would have been invaluable against Ireland. Rating 8.

    Sekope Kepu: Like Alexander, he was selected on the other side of the scrum to the one he played in Super Rugby. So where he emerged as an outstanding tighthead for the Waratahs, he was no more than passable as a loosehead for the Wallabies. Had a tough night at the office against the Irish scrum and never really got into the All Blacks semi-final because of an eye injury. Rating 6.5

    Salesi Ma'afu: Finally got his chance in the bronze medal playoff and scrummed extremely well against an admittedly understrength Wales front-row that was badly missing Adam Jones. Still, that wasn't Ma'afu's fault and the Western Force-bound prop helped produce that rarest of World Cup sights, a Wallabies scrum advancing against quality opposition. Rating 6.5

    Pat McCabe: The bravest soldier of them all. Criticise his limited attack? Sure, why not? Everyone else has. Laugh at his one clearing kick of the tournament, that barely lifted one metre off the ground? Definitely. But question his courage? Never. McCabe looked to be headed home when he subluxed his shoulder against the USA but instead he emerged as the cornerstone of Robbie Deans's plan for the knockout stage of the tournament. Granted, it was a flawed plan and one that cost Australia dearly, but McCabe bravely played his part within it, mostly with only one good arm. He ran straight and he tackled hard and would that all of his team-mates had done the same. Rating 7.5

    Ben McCalman: Thrown to the wolves when asked to play hard on the ball following David Pocock's late withdrawal against Ireland. His strength is running hard with the ball, not scrounging for it at the breakdown. He got through an astonishing 19 tackles against Wales and bobbed up to score the match-winning try, worthy reward for good solid effort throughout the tournament. Rating 6.5

    Drew Mitchell: Scored three tries at this tournament to add to the seven he scored in France in 2007, making him Australia's joint leading World Cup try-scorer alongside David Campese. One of the saddest sights of Australia's campaign was of him suddenly clutching at his leg as he swooped on to the loose ball against Russia that would have given him the record all on his own. Deans would have been faced with a real problem fitting him, Digby Ioane and James O'Connor into two wing spots had Mitchell not been forced out of the tournament by his hamstring injury. Rating 6.5

    Stephen Moore: One of the standout players of the tournament for Australia. His late withdrawal from the Ireland match left the Wallabies scrum horribly exposed and arguably his absence was felt more keenly even than that of David Pocock. He struggled to hold the Australian scrum together against the All Blacks and it all but disintegrated when he was forced off with a sternum injury. An uncomplicated ball-carrier, he nonetheless put Australia on the front foot time and again with his solid hit-ups and he emerged from the World Cup campaign rightly hailed as one of the best hookers in the world. Rating 8.

    James O'Connor: The boy who saved Robbie Deans's career. If you want to know the difference between Australia's 2007 campaign and this one, it's that O'Connor kicked the goal to beat South Africa in the quarter-final whereas Stirling Mortlock narrowly missed his late kick against England in Marseilles four years ago. Had Mortlock's kick gone through, John Connolly might still be Wallabies coach. Instead, Deans was brought in. And with John O'Neill revealing that the ARU had declared reaching the semi-finals the minimum pass mark for this campaign, it may well be Deans would have been let go had the Springboks prevailed in the quarter-finals, as arguably they should have. O'Connor was a coach-saver more than once in this tournament, playing and kicking solidly throughout. Rating 7.5

    Wycliff Palu: Came into the tournament still under an injury cloud and then bowed out of the World Cup after re-injuring his knee against the USA. At his peak, his powerhouse running off the back of the scrum could have been invaluable for Australia, especially with its scrum going backwards so often, but Palu was nowhere near his peak here. No rating.

    Nick Phipps: Was at the tournament as Australia's third-string halfback solely to cover an injury to Will Genia or Luke Burgess that thankfully never eventuated. In the end, it would have made far more sense to have brought Matt Giteau as a back-up halfback, realising that he could have made a valuable contribution in the centres. But that was never going to happen, was it? No rating.

    David Pocock: Not only was he Australia's player of the tournament, he produced the best single display of any player at this World Cup with his storming match against South Africa. Had Pocock not been on the field against the Springboks, the Wallabies would have been sent packing at the quarter-final stage. Admittedly, he failed to make anything like the same impact in the semi-final against New Zealand, but then again the Al Blacks forwards were all over the Wallabies and one man, even a David Pocock, was never going to turn back that dark tide. Rating 8.5

    Tatafu Polota-Nau: Like Ben McCalman, he was thrown into the lions den against Ireland. Fitness-wise, he was way off the pace as a result of a string of injuries leading into this World Cup, which restricted his effectiveness. But by tournament's end, he was back to his best and it showed in his crunching ankle-high tackling. Certainly Welsh winger Shane Williams must have felt he had been felled by a cannonball when Polota-Nau launched himself at him early in the bronze medal playoff. Rating 6.5

    Radike Samo: Who would have thought, when he was sent to South Africa for this year's Tri Nations almost as an afterthought, that the 35-year-old would play in every match for Australia at the World Cup, becoming the first man to play in both the backs and forwards in the same tournament following his cameo as a winger against Russia. The big number eight might not have produced the same fireworks at this tournament as he did in the Tri Nations decider against the All Blacks when he romped away for a 60m solo try, but he added a real physical presence to the Australian pack. Rating 7

    Nathan Sharpe: The 33-year-old veteran decided a few years ago that he wanted to be remembered as the team-member every Wallaby wanted to play alongside and there is no question that is how history will recall him. He did everything he possibly could do to change Robbie Deans's opinion of him when he was belatedly given his chance against the USA and Russia, but it made no impact on the Wallabies coach. Sharpe's lineout generalship was needed right from the start against the Springboks, with Victor Matfield stealing five Australian throws. Incredibly, he wasn't even assigned a bench spot against the All Blacks, which was an appalling selection. Finally he was thrown the bone of his 100th Test against Wales and he played heroically, soldiering on for 40 minutes after being dropped heavily by his lifters in an early lineout. Deserved far better treatment than he received. Rating 7.5

    Rob Simmons: Selected ahead of Sharpe on the bench against the All Blacks in the expectation that by the time he was thrust into the game, the match would have opened up. Instead, the game had closed down by that point, with both packs hammering away at each other. He might look fresh-faced but Simmons actually is quite the heavy-hitter and his crunching tackle on Wales battering ram Jamie Roberts in the final game was as spectacular a hit as any by the Wallabies at this World Cup. Rating 6.5

    James Slipper: Made a game-high 21 tackles against Wales, even if he did give away a penalty or two. He played his part at loosehead in a dominant Australian scrum, which came as no surprise considering how well he handled himself at the death against the Springboks. Thrust into the quarter-final 12 minutes from fulltime, he stayed strong in the final scrum when the Springboks threw everything at the Australian pack in the desperate hope of winning a final penalty. Rating 6.5

    Lachie Turner: Joined the Wallabies as a mid-campaign replacement for Drew Mitchell and he was never used. No rating.

    Dan Vickerman: Not surprisingly the Cape Town-born lock saved his best match of the tournament for the quarter-final against his former countrymen. One of the sights of the tournament was of Vickerman, all 204cm of him, swooping on a loose pass from South African centre Jean de Villiers, turning, hurdling a fallen player and then rumbling the ball into the thick of the Springbok pack. Though tough and abrasive, he struggled in the lineouts against the Boks and struggled to make an impact against the All Blacks. Rating 6.5.

    BY: WAYNE SMITH From: The Australian October 24, 2011 7:59AM

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  2. #2
    Veteran Sheikh's Avatar
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    Not a bad summary. I'm not sure about the rating for McCabe, but I supose he was following his coach's instructions. But the best five players for the Wallabies: Pocock, Moore, Ioane, Sharpe & O'Connor include three of ours. Maybe the Wallabies should have picked more than four Force players!*

    [* Off the top of my head - Cowan for Slipper?, Cheese for Fainga'a, Hodgson for Palu, Sheehan or Stannard for Phipps (Stannard can play 10), even Cummins for Horne, although that's more of a stretch.]

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  3. #3
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    I can only assume he was rating them on a scale from 5 to 10!

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    Veteran sittingbison's Avatar
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    6 for Cooper? 6.5 for Elsom?? What a laugh
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    Immortal jargan83's Avatar
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    7.5 for Pat McCabe?

    Wayne Smith is on drugs

    And I want some too!

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    It's pretty easy to see you get an extra point or two if you wear a Brumbies Jersey, surprisingly he didn't slag Sharpie this time around.

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    C'mon the

  7. #7
    Champion Rex Messup's Avatar
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    Mccabe was shite and his selection cost us the world cup. Our backline was dead with him in 12.

    It has been described as a 'coaching howler" in various sections.

    Every team worked out how to beat us. tackle Mccabe behind the ad line, flood the breakdown and make us use a sh1te kick.

    Did our wingers get the ball?

    Mccabe is a useless sh1te. If you can't pass, you shouldn' be playing 12

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    Controversy corner

  8. #8
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    "Wayne Smith rates the Wallabies, Wallabies don't rate Wayne Smith"

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    "Bloody oath we did!"

    Nathan Sharpe, Legend.

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