Benn Robinson (NSW): Fat Cat has established himself well and truly in the Wallaby team. He would be, I would think, one of the first two or three players picked. In fact, there aren’t many better loosehead props world-wide than Benn Robinson. I’ll go a step further and say he is the best Australian prop forward since Link McKenzie bade us farewell in 1997. Not a massively impressive statement when you consider the other options, but still significant. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS OF BENN VS FORCE
The likely candidates:
Ben Alexander (ACT): Wow. What a player. Everything about Alexander points to him being a Wallaby regular. Except his scrummaging. Leaving that aside for the time being, his work rate around the field is second to none. His effectiveness as a runner of the ball is almost unmatched across the entire Brumbies team. But in the end a prop’s most important role is in the scrum and it is here, and only here, that Alexander is not yet test quality. He’ll get there, I am sure, but will have to battle with the other Ben(n), Robinson, at the same time. Perhaps a bit of a focus on the tight head side will further advance his career. Not an easy task, but he has the physique for it at least. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS OF BEN VS BULLS
Matt Dunning (NSW): It would be interesting to see which side of the scrum Matt thinks he is better at. Not the side that will provide him better opportunities, just the side he is more accomplished at. His ability to adequately play Tight Head sets him apart from all the other Loose Head Props in Australia and all but assures him a test jersey, fitness permitting. Although…I am almost more intrigued to see how he copes overseas, with a UK or European based club, with their supposed greater focus on front row play.
Sekope Kepu (NSW): Is a Loose Head first and foremost. Well if you discount the fact he is a converted back rower. Loosehead was the natural stepping stone for him into the front row, as it is the easier side to play. Easier in that you only have one man mountain packing against you, as opposed to the Tight Head side who is up against the opposition Loose Head and Hooker. But then again ‘easier’ is a relative term isn’t it. A highly skilled player, Kepu has improved his scrummaging and is spending some time (probably not enough) at Tight Head. Unless Alexander can prove his abilities in the 3 jersey then Kepu is the man most likely to take the reserve prop spot, assuming Dunning isn’t available.
Greg Holmes (QLD): Has become even more of a roughie in recent weeks. Just hasn’t been able to recapture the hard nosed, action packed style of game that saw the country lad propelled into the Wallaby team, with some sense of relief from the rugby public, four years ago now. He is now on the verge of being dropped from the Reds and is another who’s future could be dictated by his ability to play on the other side of the scrum. Given he actually debuted for QLD at Tight Head and played most of his rookie season there, perhaps it’s an avenue worth pursuing.
Ben Daley (QLD): Here’s a bolt from the blue. When I first saw this chap play rugby, he was playing in the same Australian Schoolboys team as Kurtley Beale, David Pocock, Quade Cooper and Lachlan Turner. And his propping partner was the other leaguie progeny, Dan Roach. Our scrums got fairly mullered up against Samoa, and both props had a terrible technique. So it’s a credit to him, and perhaps an indication of his development potential, that some two years later he is holding his own in the Super 14. Behind a logjam of talent, sure, but a real shot of Wallaby colours this year.
What is Deans looking for?
It’s the same as has been said before. It all starts with the set piece. In history Australia have been happy to, or perhaps just wanted to, gain parity in the scrums. Or at least hold their own. Now they are ready to start attacking opposition scrum ball. Michael Foley prides himself on creating the scrum as an attacking weapon and he’ll want someone who can fight fire with fire at scrum time and impose themselves on the opposition and become the destructive force we have craved for sometime.
Who is the answer?
Benn Robinson is far and away the answer at the moment. However it will be important that the likes of Alexander and Kepu, perhaps even Daley, get some international experience over the next year or so. To at least have them under the tuition of Foles is important. Because all it takes is an injury to the Fat Cat and our scrum goes from an opportunity to a very real concern.