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Wallaby backline options

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Fan article originally published on The Roar's sports opinion website. Submit your own Rugby article to The Roar for potential publication on Rugby.com.au/Wallabies 

The purpose of this article is to display the options Robbie Deans has when picking his Wallaby team based in form and past experience.

Out of the back line I believe there are only three guaranteed players in the Wallaby backline, all of which have found some form of the Super Rugby season.

These are our options for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour.

9. Will Genia

He is the first of the guaranteed starters for this series. His decision making is crucial to win the series and he is by far the best scrum half in Australia and is regarded as the top in the world.

Other options:

Nick White – He was almost guaranteed his Wallaby debut last season but opted out to get a shoulder reconstruction. His form has developed and he has directed play efficiently for the top of the table Brumbies.

His quick ball service will catch out the Lions when he comes off the bench.

Nick Phipps – While the Rebels sit rather low in the Australian conference, their performances against New Zealand opposition have made them a really hard team to beat and Nick Phipps has been a stand out performer in offence.

While his error rate this season has been poor, his experience from last year’s European tour, will help if he is needed to face the British and Irish Lions.

10. James O’Connor

With Quade Cooper in constant dispute with Robbie Deans, O’Connor seems like the way to go for the flyhalf position.

Ever since the Rebels moved him to flyhalf they have scored 24 points or more per game. His isn’t a flashy playmaker but his ability to read the game and his composure under pressure will sit him as the leaden flyhalf in Australia.

His defence is worse than usual this season but he should be able to maintain the huge Lions centres in Jamie Roberts and Manu Tualagi with a strong defensive inside centre.

Other options:

Quade Cooper – I see Cooper coming in for game two or three in the series as a player to add some spark. His combination with Genia will be crucial as well as Digby Ioane who always looms on his inside shoulder.

His defence has improved this year as well as his error rate but he wouldn’t be able to withstand the pressure defending at 10 and it would be stupid of Deans to pick Adam Ashley-Cooper at fullback just to cover the inside channel when his playing so well at outside centre.

You can look at Cooper two ways: He could win us the series or lose us the series. Cooper’s unpredictable form is a problem if he is in the starting line-up.

Berrick Barnes – For me, he just hasn’t played enough rugby this season to be the crucial position of Wallaby flyhalf. Although his experience against the Welsh last year was phenomenal.

It will be interesting to see the results of the next few crucial Wallaby games against the Brumbies and the Crusaders to see if he will be a contender. He is a definite to the squad because he can play in many positions.

12. Pat McCabe

McCabe is struggling to make the Brumbies starting line-up because he doesn’t suit the style of rugby that the Brumbies play.

McCabe doesn’t really excel in Super Rugby at all but in international rugby he is at his best. He is exactly what a Wallaby back line needs; someone to hit the line hard and make the hard yards.

His defence his absolutely crucial against the Lions and that will place him ahead of Christian Lealiliphano. From what I have seen this season when he has come on for the Brumbies is that his ball skills have improved and he has some pace.

Other options:

Christian Lealiliphano – He has been one of the best players for the Table topping Brumbies let alone the competition this far. His move to five eighth was a fail against the Kings but he has solidified his inside centre spot in the Brumbies ahead of the top contender for Wallaby inside centre, Pat McCabe.

He may struggle to make the bench because of his inability to play multiple positions.

Ben Tapuai – At the beginning of the Super Rugby season, he was my top pick for Wallaby inside centre but his form hasn’t been great with him even getting dropped from the Reds starting side.

With an injury filled Wallaby side last year he was in top form during the European tour and played a crucial role in the game against England. He offers a strong left boot and his defence is strong.

13. Adam Ashley-Cooper

Cooper is the second definite player to play in this Wallaby back line. In previous years he has been used as the player to fill in the gap of the Wallaby back line to make room for specialist position players.

He found himself on the wing, full back and even inside centre before finding his home position at outside centre.

There is no doubt he is the best defensive player in Australia and his attack for the Waratahs this season has won them games. His kicking game will help with the lack of kicking wingers.

Other Options:

Adam Ashley Cooper never gets injured so there is no point for a back up. Rob Horne and Anthony Fiangaa are next in line but are far off from a starting position.

11/14. Digby Ioane and Israel Folau

Digby Ioane is a definite in the Wallaby side because of his sheer pace and his ability to attract at least 3-4 players every time he touches the ball. His form at the Reds is back to its best.

Israel Folau, the man everyone has been talking about for the last few weeks should make the Wallaby side even with his lack of experience for the game. It has come naturally this season for him, picking up seven tries and earning four man-of-the-match performances for the Waratahs.

Whether you are a fan or not, you can not deny his finishing ability and his footwork to get around someone, one on one. An extra addition to his judgement under the high ball, which he rarely gets wrong, limiting some of Sexton’s kicking skills.

He is occasionally found out of place in defence which could cost him if the Lions play a territorial game.

Other options:

Joe Tomane – At the beginning of the season he was in my Wallaby back line and he hasn’t done anything wrong to drop out of it. The game this weekend will be a great match-up between himself and Folau.

He is a great finisher but is often shadowed by is opposite wing Henry Speight who is ineligible to play for the Wallabies until the end of year tour.

He does lack Test experience with only one cap from the horrific Wallaby loss against Scotland early last year. It is a contest between him and Folau for that wing spot.

Nick Cummins – Only just getting back from injury Nick Cummins seems ready for Test rugby. His sheer pace and his recklessness is something we need in the upcoming series. He was one of the best players on the overseas tour last year and could find himself on the wing again this year despite there being less injuries.

It is quite a close contest between these three wingers from a thriving Australian conference.

15. Jesse Mogg

With Kurtley Beale now out of the picture, Jesse Mogg is the only true fullback option for the Wallabies. He has been electric this season picking up five tries in the first few games and while he had a shocker against the Crusaders, his form has been consistent.

His boot is where we will need him most and it is especially important because of the lack of any kicking wingers. I’ll add him to list of definites.

Other options:

Berrick Barnes

Berrick Barnes was a part of a successful experiment by Robbie Deans last year playing Barnes at fullback. Barnes’ kicking will make a crucial difference. He is a definite bench player for this Wallaby side.

There we have it, a Wallaby back line that will be very competitive against a strong British and Irish back line. Here is the back line:

9. Genia
10. O’Connor
11. Ioane
12. McCabe
13. Ashley Cooper
14. Folau
15. Mogg

16. White
17. Barnes
18. Cummins

Stay tuned, my Wallaby forwards coming out later this week.

*Disclaimer - Views expressed within this story are not necessarily the views of the ARU or rugby.com.au