What’s happened to the Wallaby specialists?

What’s happened to the Wallaby specialists?

AAC: from pillar to post

Are one of the reasons why the Wallabies haven’t been successful lately due to the preponderance of players selected out of their specialist position?

I mean, it’s becoming more common place for us to use the same group of players but shuffle them around and the ‘where is he going to be playing this week’ feeling is becoming apparent.

It seems to me that the Eddie Jones concept of ‘total rugby’ is back in spades. Anyone can play anywhere?

I suppose one of the reasons that’s happening is a lack of player depth in certain positions. The injury toll of outside backs in particular has been fairly horrendous lately.

But you bring over a group of wingers on tour to South Africa and don’t use them? What’s the point of that?

The term ‘utility’ used to mean that you could never nail down a certain spot because you were regarded as ‘multi-skilled’ and you’d inevitably be assigned to the bench.

That’s not to say utilities aren’t a valuable asset because they are but the vibe I get now is that everyone’s regarded as a utility.

Sometimes I think you can look outside the square and it’s a success – Bernie Larkham is the classic example of this, although the skill-set requirements for fullback do have a degree of crossover with five eighth.

Do you go for a top quality player out of his specialist position or a ‘lesser’ player but one with positional expertise? I suppose that depends on a variety of factors?

I guess you can’t be blinded to the concept that certain individuals can play in other positions and up to a decent test standard.

When you look at the current Wallaby test team what do you see? Kurtley Beale playing fullback – his fourth position in the past 12 months (for the Tahs and Wallabies).

Five eighth, inside centre, wing and fullback. And you have some commentators suggesting we should move him to outside centre?

How does he gain experience, settle and mature when he’s shunted around all over the place. I understand there are two different selections involved but surely they could plan this a bit better?

At least now they seem to have found his best position (for the moment).

Mr Fixit – Adam Ashley-Cooper – is another whose been prodded from pillar to post. Inside centre, outside centre, wing and fullback.

His story is that he’s one of the few ‘certain’ selections and we probably can’t do without him.

Most of us would acknowledge that fullback is his best position but he’s used as a stop-gap whenever injuries occur.

With KB emerging as a potential long term test fullback it just might be the idea to leave him at outside centre for a while so he has the chance to really nail the position.

And what about JO’C? Fullback and wing, and add on five eighth and inside centre for the Force. Maybe he doesn’t have a specialist position?

JO'Cs a real utility

You’ve heard me bang on about where I think he should maybe end up (and Marto thought so the other night as well) but he’s another thrust into an unfamiliar environment.

He has the confidence and ability to pull it off but defensively there’s been a few issues. You’ve got to expect that when you’re thrown into unknown territory.

I think he’s been going alright but I can’t see him being the long term answer there especially when Ioane, Hynes and Shepherd are fully fit.

He’s one that you could probably regard as a real utility.

Drew Mitchell may have had an up and down season of late but he’s shown what a specialist winger is all about.

The other one that irks me a bit is flanker/lock. In particular Mummy. His aerial skills might leave a bit to be desired but I have noticed some improvement in his all-round play of late.

But that doesn’t necessarily make him a test standard lock? A very capable blindside flanker, yes. But physically he just doesn’t seem to be able to impose himself at this level.

Ben McCalman might have subbed a few games for the Force at lock but it’s unfair to place him in a position where he might have had to come on for Sharpie or Mumm and face up to Victor and co in the lineout?

Notwithstanding the debacle that occurred when a specialist lock actually did come on, although all the blame can’t be dropped at his feet.

And what does a non-specialist, occasional lock know about scrummaging against one of the best packs in the world? Bugger all I’d say but not his fault.

There is a ‘for and against’ argument about the utility concept. But I think it really is time for us to pull back on it and start picking more players in their specialist position.


Roscoe Tims (aka @LanceFree): A nasty, opinionated little man whose views are indeed narrow with a capital 'N'. Favourite Sport: mungo bashing. Does he ever have anything positive to say?

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