Rugby World Cup: Picking a form Wallabies XV from this season

·7-min read
Wallabies: Split with Wright, Gordon and McReight Credit: Alamy
Wallabies: Split with Wright, Gordon and McReight Credit: Alamy

As the club season draws to a close and the international games and Rugby World Cup are fast approaching, Planet Rugby picks the form XVs from each country.

Next up, the Wallabies, who are a difficult team to select with Eddie Jones yet to take charge of a Test. Nevertheless, based on form, this is how we see the side.

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15 Tom Wright: The Brumbies outside back has been a consistent performer for some time now, and was one of the shining lights in the Dave Rennie era. The former rugby league man is a menace with ball in hand, constantly looking to make something happen. The star is a counter-attacking genius and will punish teams for kicking deep. Whether he is at his best on the wing or at full-back remains in question, but as the player with the most metres carried in Super Rugby Pacific, he deservedly earns a spot in the line-up.

14 Jordan Petaia: The 23-year-old is out for the rest of the Super Rugby Pacific campaign due to an injury sustained in the Reds’ clash with the Waratahs on Saturday. Not always associated with wing due to his versatility but one who has impressed for the Reds whenever tasked to wear 14 or 11. He is a physical player with a good kicking game and switched-on rugby brain – all attributes that help balance a back-three. With his experience at full-back he – when fit – will be able to work in tandem with Wright to comprehensively manage the backfield. Suliasi Vunivalu could be a more pace-based option.

13 Josh Flook: The Reds man has impressed this season with his ability to not only score tries but create space for those around him. Flook is a natural runner and can bring some X-factor. He has a boatload of development ahead of him and could be an exciting option. Izaia Perese and the versatile Reece Hodge are other options.

12 Lalakai Foketi: An interesting selection that will depend on who gets the nod at fly-half. The Waratahs star is a more traditional 12 and one who has been great this season without blowing the door down. His combination with Perese may also prove appealing to selectors. Alternatively, if Jones was on the lookout for a more playmaking or ball-playing centre then James O’Connor is a useful option after shining there at times this season. The veteran looks far more comfortable at 12 compared to fly-half.

11 Mark Nawaqanitawase: The rise of the wing in 2022 simply cannot be ignored and whilst he has not reached those same heights this season he has still shown his outstanding ability to beat defenders and sniff out a try. Joining Petaia and Wright in the back-three would make for exciting viewing and would also offer the Wallabies some healthy flexibility in the backfield and on the counter.

10 Carter Gordon: It has been simply blockbuster from the Rebel, who has been playing like a man possessed this season. Gordon’s overall skill-set is brilliant but the way he strings phases together and builds the attack is a joy to watch. Whether he is ready for the step up to Test level is a whole debate on his own, but he is certainly the form fly-half at this stage. Brumbies pivot Noah Lolesio will have something to say about that after an inspired performance against the Rebels last week, whilst Quade Cooper, who only just returned from injury, was not considered.

9 Nic White: The veteran scrum-half has a masterful rugby brain and is incredibly important to the make-up of the side particularly if an inexperienced fly-half is picked. White reads the game so well and has the kicking game to match. He has not reached his lofty standards yet but is certainly the most complete option for the side.

8 Harry Wilson: One of the more challenging selections with Langi Gleeson playing out of his socks. However, we have opted to side with the impressive work ethic that Wilson brings. The Reds star is the top carrier of Super Rugby Pacific and is not far from the top of tackle charts. He always empties the tank, something Jones will be expecting from everyone in his pack.

7 Fraser McReight: The Red gets the nod ahead of the great Michael Hooper, who will likely be the first choice. However, purely based on form, the top tackler of the Super Rugby Pacific earns selection. McReight is a proper workhorse just like Wilson, only the flank offers a complete package, including an impressive try-scoring nature. He is dynamic with ball in hand and also adept at the breakdown. He has an impressive future ahead of him.

6 Rob Valetini: Completing a bruising back-row is the experienced Brumby who never seems to dip in form. He is relentless in the carry and brutal on defence. Valetini’s work rate matches the other two loose forwards and ensures the dynamism of the trio is maintained.

5 Will Skelton: The gargantuan lock is the only player in our side not from Super Rugby Pacific, as his attributes and form are so useful he surely has to be one of the three overseas picks. He has been outstanding for La Rochelle and is simply an asset to any team that can field him. Skelton is absolutely monstrous and would add significant physicality to this pack.

4 Nick Frost: It has been a great start to a World Cup year for the Brumby, who has been very good in the line-out but also notably performing in open play. He has managed a couple of tries whilst ensuring the dirty work of the tight five has been done. Not far behind is Jed Holloway, who deserves a mention.

3 Allan Alaalatoa: The first of an all-Brumbies front-row, Alaalatoa has quietly and successfully gone about his business this season. A key leader in this team and one who is a strong scrummager and ball carrier when required. With Taniela Tupou on the sidelines for now, the experienced campaigner earns his spot in the side.

2 Lachlan Lonergan: The hooker has impressed throughout the season with his accuracy in a well-functioning Brumbies line-out. He also has a prolific nature and has scored a good number of tries in this campaign. His overall game is impressive as he misses few tackles and is decent at the breakdown.

1 James Slipper: The veteran has also been going about his business quietly but in almost every game notches up close or more than 10 tackles, which is a brilliant effort for a loosehead. In the scrum, he has been rock solid and he is also another key leadership element in the pack.

READ MORE: Rugby World Cup: Picking a form All Blacks XV from this season

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