Richard Brown (WA): For a player that looks so made for test footy, it’s easy to forget he only made his debut in the last domestic test of last year. Brown has carried over his sterling 2008 form into 2009 and is one of the most important players for the Force. Industrious, robust and tough – qualities Australian rugby has cried out for in the Wallabies, perhaps since the days of Matt Cockbain and Phil Waugh (in his prime).
The likely candidates:
Wycliffe Palu (NSW): Another player who was in exception Super form last year. It was arguably his best year of test football as well. Injury has slowed his start to 2009, and whilst there have been glimpses of his best, Palu has not performed to the same level, consistently, as a either Coach Hickey or Coach Deans would have liked. Perhaps the Tahs poor attacking performances could be as a result of his less than dominant displays?
Stephen Hoiles (ACT): OK, I’ll be honest. I had Leroy Houston here. Hangover from when I first drafted up these notes a couple of weeks ago. In reality it’s a two horse race between Palu and Brown. Houston’s now a Roughie to make the Reds team. As for Hoiles? Well he’s only just back from injury, and put in a half decent performance on the weekend (only playing half the game). He doesn’t have the physical presence of the other two, but has a certain nous they could fit into a fulling firing Wallaby team. Perhaps from the bench though.
What is Deans looking for?
The same thing he’s looking for from his wingers, work rate. And impact of course. Its why Hoiles, Houston and the others aren’t really options. Brown comes up trumps in the work rate column, whilst Palu makes the impact. That’s not to belittle the work Cliffey does around the field, as its an area he has clearly worked on and he’s almost unrecognisable from the player he was on debut 3 years ago.
Who is the answer?
Much will come down to the balance of the backrow. There are a number of ways Robbie can go here. Does he take a Force type approach with 3 pseudo opensides? It’s a different game than when we bemoaned the use of ‘dual flyers’ and George Smith could play wold class rugby with a 6 on his back. Throw in Brown at 8 and Pocock or Waugh at 7 and its an aggressive on the ball forward pack. A more traditional approach would keep a flyer at 7, a bit of size at 6 and a link man at 8. Either way, I suggest at this stage Brown may just have his flattened nose in front.