Monday 11 November 2013

#RLWC2013 The changes Australia need to make now to repel Kiwis in World Cup Final

Time for Australia to copy the Broncos...

2013 Rugby League World Cup

By W D Nicolson - November 11, 2013

Sam Thaiday is a great footy player - but does he make Australia's best 17 for the run to the World Cup Final?

Time's up for Tate, Thaiday to prop, while Thurston walks straight back in to the halves.

Australian coach Tim Sheens has surely seen enough in the three pool games of the Kangaroos' campaign to realise that he needs more strike on the right edge if Australia are going to throw enough at New Zealand in the World Cup Final to wrest the title of the best team in the World from the Kiwis.

New Zealand are building nicely towards a spot in the Final (though their team is not without some faults that may yet be corrected at the selection table) and should have no trouble casting aside Scotland in the Quarter Finals and then the English in the Semi Finals.

Sonny Bill Williams has looked like... Sonny Bill Williams in his two games thus far and the Kiwis are getting great value from their playmakers and outside backs against their well beaten opponents in the group stages.

But beating Australia is another matter.

Thing is, for the Kangaroos - beating the Kiwis is also another matter entirely given how they've looked in the World Cup thus far.

Australia have - to be perfectly blunt - looked out of sorts for the most part.

They gave England a start in the first game before doing it easy by the time the fulltime siren sounded, played fairly well against Fiji without being overly dominant, and on Saturday their opponents Ireland defended stoutly for long periods as Australia looked devoid of structure and know-how despite a glut of possession in attacking areas.

Still despite a stuttering start to their campaign, the Kangaroos are 3-0 and coasting into a Quarter Final matchup with the USA. Which they will breeze through before facing Samoa or Fiji in the Semi Final - another relatively easy tussle before they get - the World Cup Champions New Zealand.

Changes are needed if the team Sheens picked for the opening game with England is the best guide to what he was thinking was Australia's best 17 entering the World Cup.

Brent Tate simply isn't much of a threat on the right edge and thinking through to the Final - making the most of Bryson Goodwin's defensive deficiencies has to be a priority for the Kangaroos and Tate (who is a good player in his own right) just hasn't looked like a player who will carve up Goodwin when Australia need him to. And the flip side of this is Sonny Bill Williams is likely to rove all over the field come the Final and will be used to target any defensive deficiencies Australia carry into the game... and the Tate and Brett Morris right edge combination in particular looked shaky in Game 1 v England.

Michael Jennings seemed like a sure thing for the right centre spot after his performances in the NRL Finals but lost out to Tate in Game 1 and then to Josh Morris in Game 3 in the battle to partner Greg Inglis in the centres.

The thing that surely Sheens has considered is playing Inglis at right centre and allowing Jennings or Morris to play left centre (their natural positions) - which also makes the right edge for Australia just that much more dangerous with Slater and Inglis pairing up.

If Australia are committed to making the right edge more potent then this is where Thaiday loses his starting second rower spot - but not his place in the team, as it is getting abundantly clear that his club position of prop at the Brisbane Broncos is where he can play his best footy these days - as he's not the hole running threat halfback Cooper Cronk needs him to be. 

Moving Thaiday allows Australia to play a more dynamic running option for Cronk to play with in the right edge second row spot - which makes Cronk's running game a bigger threat in the game.

Before getting hurt - Luke Lewis was the perfect replacement in the #12 jumper but now it is up to Nate Myles, Boyd Cordner or Josh Papalii to convince Sheens at training this week that they should start. The Myles option probably calls for him to play lock and shift Gallen to the right edge - which would certainly work.

Moving Thaiday to prop alongside Matthew Scott and Cameron Smith pushes James Tamou to the bench alongside arguably Australia's best forwards so far in Andrew Fifita and Corey Parker, with either Daly Cherry-Evans or Robbie Farah in the utility role.

DCE has looked dangerous in his two games in the halves, while Farah hasn't really been asked to do a whole lot when injected into each contest for Cameron Smith (that is the games have been decided by the time Farah sees the field).

The only other position battle comes down to Jarryd Hayne v Brett Morris to partner Darius Boyd on the wings, while Johnathan Thurston and Cronk will be the halves and Greg Bird will start in the backrow.

So here is our pick for Australia's best 17 entering the Quarter Finals.

  1. Billy Slater
  2. Jarryd Hayne
  3. Michael Jennings/Josh Morris
  4. Greg Inglis
  5. Darius Boyd
  6. Johnathan Thurston
  7. Cooper Cronk
  8. Matthew Scott
  9. Cameron Smith (c)
  10. Sam Thaiday
  11. Greg Bird
  12. Paul Gallen
  13. Nate Myles
  14. Andrew Fifita
  15. Corey Parker
  16. James Tamou
  17. Daly Cherry-Evans
  18. Robbie Farah
As for the best New Zealand 17? We'll take a look at their team later this week on

Likely World Cup Quarter Final Draw (with Samoa v France to come in final pool game):
QF1: New Zealand v Scotland - Friday Nov 15
QF2: Australia v USA - Saturday Nov 16
QF3: England v France (if Samoa win) - Saturday Nov 16
QF4: Samoa (if they beat France) v Fiji - Sunday Nov 17

What would be your best Australian 17 v the USA?
Let us know by commenting below or replying on Twitter.
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James Maloney won the #NRLTweetPlayerofFinals Award and the Grand Final Man of the Match after his Roosters defeated Manly 26-18 in The Decider. You can hear the full voting results and Grand Final cap with Waz and Maria on Episode 145 of NOT The Footy Show - the Grand Final Review Podcast.

You can subscribe to the NOT The Footy Show Podcast on iTunes - not sure if or when we'll be back on air again, but live in hope okay?