We’re a month down in the Super Rugby season, inching ever closer to the Wallabies’ June Series.
It’s been an intriguing open quarter of the year, with plenty of spots surely up for discussion as the Australian Super Rugby teams have battled early on.
So, we’ve asked the question: Who would be in the Wallabies 23 against Fiji, if the criteria was simply on current form?
Obviously, Test teams don’t tend to be picked solely on that, and we’re not suggesting this would be the team running out at AAMI Park, but if you were picking the in-form players, this might just be the 23 we’d have.
1. Pek Cowan
The Force scrum has been one of the most consistent this season and Pek Cowan is leading the way. The WA veteran has 10 caps for the Wallabies, the last of those coming in 2014, but he has been pushing his case, as well as scrums, in the opening four weeks.
2. Tolu Latu
Latu was a surprise inclusion in last year’s Spring Tour squad but he’s built on the form that earned him his Test debut. The Waratahs hooker is by no means the finished product but he is the number two exerting the most influence on games this season. Strong in scrums, Latu has been a revelation at the breakdown, using his backrow background to clinch crucial turnovers.
3. Allan Alaalatoa
Alaalatoa has shone in his switch to tighthead in recent months as the Brumbies scrum has solidified its reputation. The 22-year-old has taken a step up this season and should be rewarded.
4. Adam Coleman
Was calling the lineouts for the Wallabies last season and though he’s only played a tick over one game, was still the standout second rower in that time. His composure has taken a step up this season and the Force lineout has fallen away somewhat without him there.
5. Sam Carter
Carter has stepped up this season, taking on the captaincy responsibility along with Christian Lealiifano. The second rower leads the competition in tackles, making 53 over the first four games, showing the kind of mongrel the Wallabies need a major dose of.
6. Scott Fardy
Scott Fardy has been back to his best rugby in the first four rounds, even with a one-week rest coming against the Force. Influential at the breakdown, Fardy has established himself as the form six in the Australian conference so far.
7. Michael Hooper
Michael Hooper is just doing his thing in Sydney again this year, as industrious as ever. He has played every minute of the 2017 season and been close to the Waratahs’ best player in that time.
8. Lopeti Timani
The Rebels have put him in the second row again but Timani is firmly a number eight in the Wallabies’ eyes. A knee issue kept him out of round three but he has been one of the few positives to take out of the Rebels’ winless start to the year.
9. Ryan Louwrens
The halfback spot is well and truly up for grabs this season, with Will Genia’s availability never entirely assured while he’s overseas. Louwrens has been critical for the Force this season, helping them get on the front foot in attack, with a quick, clean pass.
10. Jono Lance
Lance fell agonisingly short of a Wallabies debut in 2016 but this season he has been the standout 10. Steering the way for the Force, he’s a reliable playmaker with solid defence. An accurate goal kicker as well, Lance deserves his shot based on current form.
11. Henry Speight
Henry Speight has been working his way into 2017 but he very much announced his arrival with a match-clinching double against the Waratahs. Speight had a disjointed 2016 but has made the most of a full preseason this year. The 28-year-old has genuine X-Factor , with out-and-out pace to go with strong finishing ability.
12. Kurtley Beale
Unlike Will Genia, Kurtley Beale has already committed to returning home before the June series and would certainly have the inside run on the 12 spot. Inside centre has been a tough spot for the Wallabies to fill in recent times, but Beale has been one of the best players in the Premiership, playing for Wasps and would likely slot straight back in here.
13. Samu Kerevi
Had a rough trot against the Lions but even in an uneven Reds start, Kerevi has seemed to be on another level. Scored off almost every touch in their opener against the Sharks and has had a hand in most promising Queensland attacking chains this season. Looks to have added more of a passing game this season, which makes him an even greater threat.
14. Chance Peni
They call him ‘Money’ Peni at the Force because he has dominated a training goalkicking challenge, but his aim off the boot is the least of his weaponry. The Force has been desperately in need of some attacking potency and Peni has brought it. The ex-NRL speedster has brought that in his first three games. Just edges Eto Nabuli in this contest.
15. Dane Haylett-Petty
Haylett-Petty and NSW’s Andrew Kellaway have been the two best 15s so far this season, but Haylett-Petty just get ahead of the youngster here. The Force’s backline has clicked well with plenty of new faces and Haylett-Petty is a key driver in that. His influence will be shown, ironically, in his absence over the next two weeks as the team heads to New Zealand.
16. Stephen Moore
He’s the current Wallabies captain but it’s been a slow start to the season for Stephen Moore. Still settling into the Reds environment, it would take a lot to leave him out of the 23 altogether but he’ll be desperate to make more of an impact in the coming weeks.
17. Tom Robertson
A switch to loosehead hasn’t fazed Robertson, who continues to build on a meteoric debut season. The 22-year-old has been solid for NSW in the opening month of the season, with form that would be enough to get him a gig.
18. Ben Alexander
Can play tight or loosehead and has been a key plank in the Brumbies scrum this season, one that has stood up against all comers so far. Hasn’t played a Test since 2014 but has been one of the form front rowers so far this year.
19. Rory Arnold
Arnold has been consistent this season but not quite the standout he was in 2016. Sam Carter’s form has shaded his in the opening rounds, putting him on the bench for the form 23 after four rounds.
20. Chris Alcock
Alcock has come into his own since joining the Brumbies from the Force. He’s shaken off injury concerns to finally make consistent appearances in Super Rugby and has been one of the Brumbies’ most influential, and one of the most effective backrowers, so far.
21. Joe Powell
Powell was picked out of obscurity last season as a Wallabies camp bolter and has only proven his coach Stephen Larkham right on his potential, stepping up in the absence of Tomas Cubelli.
22. Bernard Foley
It’s a bit of an indictment on Australia’s playmakers that Bernard Foley is yet to play a match but would still make a Test 23, but that’s the way the season has panned out so far. The next option, Quade Cooper, has been far from his best in his return to the Reds and the Brumbies’ Wharenui Hawera and Rebels’ Jackson-Garden-Bachop would both have to wait three years to be eligible for Australia, having only moved here this season.
23. Israel Folau
A standout game against the Lions showed exactly what Israel Folau can bring when he is on song, a ceiling that gets him into the form 23. Folau’s run at centre is over for now, with the 27-year-old named at fullback for NSW, back to the spot he made his own.