Centre combination needs time: Grey

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies need more time to adjust to their new backline combination, defence coach Nathan Grey says, as the possibility of change lingers ahead of the third Test.

With a third Test in Sydney this weekend, the Wallabies have the option of changing up their centres combination and introducing a second playmaker to the equation.

Michael Cheika stuck with his opener pairing of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani in Melbourne, using fullback Israel Folau as a second playmaker to support flyhalf Bernard Foley.

In contrast, England moved from barrelling centre Luther Burrell to a dual-playmaker combination of George Ford and Owen Farrell in Melbourne, a duo that proved deadly.

Matt Toomua could be in line for a Wallabies recall. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyMatt Toomua looms as a possible inclusion with another week of training under his belt in his return from a knee injury, while his Brumbies teammate Christian Lealiifano is another potential option, after starting on the bench the past two weeks.

Grey said the team had to adjust more to these new combinations, but Foley was far from alone.

“I think the way with that centre combination, we've got Izzy up in that playmaking role, you've also got Dane Haylett-Petty who can step in and be that first receiver and play from there," he said.

“Samu can transfer the ball quite ell, which he did a few times on the weekend, so in our attacking shape, there's plenty of scope for guys to come in and ball play.

“While Bernard did a lot of that on the weekend...certainly just finding that balance and that connection with the different guys doing that role when he's out of the play is something we can certainly work on.”

England has worked to limit Bernard Foley's influence .Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyEngland has seemingly targeted Foley and Wallabies scrumhalf Nick Phipps in the opening two Tests, cutting off the latter’s speed of service, but Grey said that was a pretty basic rugby tactic.

“You don't have to be a rugby genius to know that any team's attacking play is pivoted around their 9-10,” he said.

“Every team's trying to shut down a 9-10 in terms of their ability to play and I've got no doubt that England are no different.”

While Cheika has stuck fat with his backline structure, the forwards have been thrown around far more, with four changes coming in Melbourne.

Prop James Slipper, who came into the starting side for the second Test, said the reshuffle hadn’t hurt the Wallabies, despite facing an England side that has virtually had the same pack since February’s Six nations.

“We pride ourselves on having a strong squad and every player that’s pulled on that jersey has earned the right to, trained hard and performed well at Super Rugby," he said.

“Moving forward, into the future of Australian rugby the depth is really growing and I think we’re extremely happy about that."