Crossing the Line: Why It’s Time for Rugby Australia to Reconsider National Team Selection

For many years, the Australian national rugby union became something of a series of cliches…but for all the right reasons.

The Wallabies were tough and uncompromising up front and packed with pace and power in the back division – that was just the way it was. And it was a combination that enabled the green-and-gold to win matches in different ways, from creating set piece positions through rugged forward play or by running through the lines when the ball was spun out wide.

The 2020 edition of this Australia side is not as solid as it once was up front, but more alarming is the sheer lack of creativity and guile amongst the backs. The Aussies simply aren’t running bucketloads of tries any more, and while that is partly down to the conservatism of David Rennie the personnel on the pitch also have to shoulder some of the blame.

In the team’s last ten internationals, which incorporates the Tri-Nations, the World Cup and the Rugby Championship, Australia have scored 30 or more points on just three occasions – and one of those was against whipping boys Uruguay, a side that shipped 140 points in just four World Cup 2019 games.

As mentioned, one of the reasons the Wallabies aren’t crossing the whitewash as much is Rennie’s forward-led strategy, but it will be very difficult for Australia to reassert themselves as one of the best rugby nations on the planet if they don’t have that ability to bank five or seven points with regularity.

It’s one of the reasons why Australia struggle to convert leads or good starts into victories – the Wallabies led Argentina 15-6 in their recent encounter before being pegged back to 15 all. The Aussies are available at around even money with a -13 point line against Argentina next time out in the Tri-Nations rugby union betting odds, and that also confirms their difficulties in running up substantial leads.

So how can Rennie turn his team’s lack of creativity around?

Hard Running and Fleet of Foot

In the three Tri-Nations games that Australia have played so far, the starting back five have contributed just two tries between them. Perhaps a change is needed then, and Jack Maddocks is one player that could be given a go on the wing or at full back. The versatile 23-year-old is back doing what he does best – scoring Super League tries, and after crossing the line ten times last season he will be looking to improve upon that tally this time around.

With seven international caps to his name already, it’s high time that Maddocks and his line-breaking running were welcomed back into the Wallabies fold. Andy Muirhead is another back who has caught the eye in domestic action, and is now the time to set Filipo Daugunu free as a starter on the wing – his bursts of speed and tricky footwork make him a nightmare for opposition wide men to stop.

It’s not as if Rennie is short of attacking options to freshen up his back division, and return Australia to the glory days of prolific try-scoring brilliance.