Fridays Rugby News sees Kafer on the Wallabies, Will Skelton, Wales and the pop gun and a Pocock gamble.
Kafer: Wallabies need playmaker at 13
Personally, I’ve been calling for it for years but, it’s great to Kaf has finally caught up.
For Australia’s first two tests this year the Wallabies went with two power runners in the midfield. But for the last two, they played the more skilful James O’Connor at out centre. And for the most part, it seemed to work.
Back in the Wallabies fold after almost six years out, O’Connor shone in the upset win over New Zealand in Perth, but like his teammates found the going much tougher in the return bout with the All Blacks in the wet in Auckland last weekend.
Kafer favours a big ball-carrier at inside centre and a second playmaker at outside-centre because of the variety it offers.
He was delighted to see O’Connor given the opportunity to perform that role
“It was a brilliant selection from the coaching staff and the selection committee,” said rugby tv analyst Kafer.
“I hope it continues, whatever the model is, a ball player at 13.
“We saw the All Blacks do it with Mils Muliaina into Conrad Smith, their selection has always been a ball player at 13 for 10 years and I’ve liked it.”
“I think you need to have a combination of both specialists in certain positions and other players who can play a variety of positions,” he said.
“You only get to take so many players to the World Cup, so you’ve got to have guys who can play a variety of positions.”
No One told Saracens
Michael Cheika let slip that he was making a last-ditch play to get Will Skelton back in the Wallabies fold for the World Cup. Frankly, I’m not a fan of Cheika’s plan. I’m happy for Skelton to play but only if he qualifies in a legitimate way. Having a Super Rugby contract in the distant future ala Nic White doesn’t sit well with me.
But in all Cheika’s machinations, he forgot to let Skelton’s club management at Saracens of his plans.
Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, made it clear when Skelton signed a new contract with the club at the end of last season that it was on the basis that he would be able to cover the gaps in the club’s squad while Maro Itoje and George Kruis were on finals duty with England.
RugbyPass understands that Saracens have not as yet received any calls from RA about Skelton and expect him to continue at the club as they prepare for the new season.
Cheika, who names his 31-man squad for Japan on Friday, said in the wake of last weekend’s loss to the All Blacks that he planned to call Skelton. He confirmed at Fox Sports’ Rugby World Cup launch: “The team gets picked soon, so if he wants to come home he needs to get on the phone pretty quick.
“I have coached him here at the Waratahs and he was selected in the last World Cup team, so he knows what it’s about, he knows what it means and he will make the call that will best reflect how he is feeling.
“(We will make some) realistic phone calls over there to get a final opinion and see if he wants to be involved or not. It’s not just a decision based on the World Cup, it’s also the long-term about where he plays his footy. It’s a big decision for him as well.
Wales Has Pop Gun Attack
Through some unintelligible maths, Wales has become world number one without ever beating the team they took over from. In fact, Wales last beat New Zealand in 1953. But who’s counting?
Despite that Wallabies legend George Gregan say they don’t score enough points to win the world cup.
But Fox Sports Lab statistics back up Gregan’s assertion that Wales may not have the firepower to win the World Cup for the first time.
Since 2017, Wales rank only seventh in the world for both points per game (21) and tries per game (2.1).
New Zealand (33 and 4.5) top both charts, with Wales’ group rivals Australia clocking in at fifth (22) and third (3.1) respectively.
Wales scored the equal-fewest number of tries (10) in their Six Nations Grand Slam this year but will have goalkicking aces Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny to keep the scoreboard ticking over in Japan.
“They’re pretty comfortable with how they play, Wales,” Gregan said at the Fox Sports World Cup launch.
Fox Sports Lab found that the lowest scoring team to win a World Cup was Australia in 1991 with 21 points per game.
On average, World Cup winners have scored 38 points per game.
Wales are the favourites to top pool A ahead of Australia, with the heavyweight pair to square off in their second group game in Tokyo on September 29.
To Pocock Or Not To Pocock?
Question: you have an aging, but legendary, openside flanker with a long history of injuries who hasn’t played a second of rugby since about round 5 of Super Rugby. Do you pick him in your world cup squad tomorrow?
For me, the answer was no, but my choice means nothing in the greater scheme of things. the word on the street is the guys that matter a ready to include him in the squad.
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia coach Michael Cheika is expected to roll the dice and include David Pocock in his World Cup squad to be released on Friday despite growing concerns over the loose forward’s lack of match fitness ahead of the global showpiece in Japan.
The 31-year-old had been expected to feature in at least one match during the Rugby Championship and two Bledisloe Cup tests against New Zealand, but selectors kept him wrapped in cotton wool throughout.
Pocock has not featured in Wallabies gold since a test against Italy last November and he barely played Super Rugby this year while struggling with a problematic calf injury.
If selected, he would have only one warmup before the World Cup, a farewell test against Samoa on Sept. 7, to prove his body is still up to the rigours of test rugby.
Pocock returned to full training before the Wallabies’ last test against the All Blacks but ended up playing no part in the 36-0 humiliation at Eden Park.
Concern over the no-show has been compounded by the caginess of the Wallabies’ selectors over Pocock’s fitness.
“There’s no clarity off the field nor on it, especially after Australia’s near record loss to the All Blacks on Saturday,” the Canberra Times complained earlier this week.
As a masterful ball-poacher and one of the world’s most fierce combatants at the breakdown, Pocock is arguably worth waiting for, even if his return might mean change to a back row that appeared set after victory over the All Blacks in Perth.