The pecking order: Hookers

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Given that the current Wallabies captain plays hooker, this week's RUGBY.com.au pecking order should be a fairly straightforward process.

But these rankings are based on form and form alone, which means Stephen Moore does not reside atop the rankings after six weeks of Super Rugby.

That honour belongs to Tolu Latu - one of the form players in Australian rugby right now.

Here's how the order shapes up.

1. Tolu Latu

Latu has been in sublime form this season. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyNot only is Latu the best hooker in Australia at the moment, he's also the form player in the country.

The 24-year-old is the perfect foil for Michael Hooper, who is better known for his crunching hits and storming runs than he is for breakdown work.

Latu has led the Tahs to an 87.1 percent lineout completion rate while churning through an inordinate amount of work around the park.

He is the Tahs' best ball fetcher and at hooker, that is invaluable.

2. Tatafu Polota-Nau

Polota-Nau has impressed since forcing his way into the starting XV. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyTPN started the season warming the bench for the Force but he has grabbed the opportunity to start the last two matches with both hands.

The 31-year-old made a statement preseason when he told RUGBY.com.au he still wants to be the best hooker in the country and his form in the last fortnight indicates he still has that potential.

His ball carrying has ticked up a notch in 2017 and his defensive work is as dynamic as ever.

The question with TPN has always been his consistency at lineout time but he looks to have addressed that as well.

3. Stephen Moore

Moore has taken on the captaincy role at the Reds in James Slipper's absence. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe Wallabies skipper has been good without being great since he returned to Ballymore.

The Reds scrum is noticeably better when "Squeak" is on field and he still hunts work in both attack and defence.

His carries have little impact, though, and there have been games this year where Queensland's lineout has been dysfunctional - particularly early in the season.

One would think there is very little to absolutely no chance Moore is left out of the Wallabies starting XV - let alone the 23 - come June but he's no longer at the peak of his powers.

4. James Hanson

Hanson notched his 100th cap this season. Photo: Getty ImagesAlways on the fringe of national honours, Hanson has been his consistent self once again in 2017.

He missed the Rebels' season opener but has been rock solid at in the number two jersey ever since.

Hanson is similar to Latu in that he rips through work around the park but the lineout has been a major headache for Melbourne this season.

The 77.8 completion percentage is simply not up to scratch and as starting hooker, Hanson must take responsibility for this.

5. Andrew Ready

Ready has had his growth stunted somewhat by Moore's arrival at Ballymore but he is still one of the best hookers in the country.

He always makes an impact when he comes off the bench, usually with a pilfer or two.

News today that he has been dropped due to form and some off-field issues can't help his cause, though.

6. Heath Tessman

A rock solid option for the Force that has been overlooked for Polota-Nau.

Hard to see Tessman sliding too much further up this ladder without a change in the pecking order at the Force.

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