New breed to ignite Wallabies' World Cup drive
June 4, 2014
Nic White has been in fine form for the Brumbies © Getty Images
This week could mark the start of a new Wallabies era, with a new pair of halves take to the field against France. Incumbent fly-half Quade Cooper is absent with a shoulder injury, but Queensland Reds team-mate Will Genia missed the 23-man matchday squad as a result of his Super Rugby form this season, Genia has played behind a Reds pack that has often been outmuscled this season, and any No.9 would struggle to shine under those circumstances. At 26-years-old, it would be foolish to write Genia off from figuring heavily in the 2015 Rugby World Cup - and even the following tournament in 2019 is not out of the question. Cooper, also, is 26 having shown some of his best Wallabies form in the end-of-year tour last season, so we can expect him to return and stake a serious claim to reclaim the No.10 jersey.
Nic White, Bernard Foley in harmony%]
But the misfortune of the Reds duo brings an opportunity for a new pairing, Nic White of the Brumbies and New South Wales Waratahs fly-half Bernard Foley. These two men have got their feet wet when it comes to international rugby, but the series against France looks likely to present them with their first real taste of what it is like to play at Test level. Interestingly, Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie was quoted as saying he has a "very specific style of game we want to play, the Wallaby way", and he has full confidence in his new pairing to run the game as he sees fit.
We compare the new halves' performances to those of Cooper and Genia, for club and country, to discover whether the new men can fill the big boots left by their superstar rivals and, indeed, play rugby the "Wallaby way".
It is difficult to compare Foley to Cooper as an international half, given that most of three of the Waratahs star's cameos off the bench have been on the edges. He did have a stint at 10 against Argentina, and he raced clear to score his first Test try in that appearance. But his brief exposure at the top level has provided a glimpse of the dynamic attacking game he offers.
Cooper has excelled for the Reds this season at bringing others into play, and he has conjured 10 tries for others already. Foley, similarly, is no slouch when it comes to providing for team-mates but his ability to leave defenders in his wake and spotting gaps in the defensive line are the real value he can add to any side. His less expansive philosophy with regards to handling perhaps makes him a safer option than Cooper, turning the ball over less often, while he is kicking four from five this year - and this accuracy will definitely be needed at times during this series.
White is no stranger to a Wallabies jersey, and this should stand him in good stead when he crosses the white line on Saturday. He provided a reliable replacement in 2013, when he was not afraid to properly involved by putting boot to ball, but he is definitely a different model of player. Genia opts to go at defences and try to push his side over the gainline wherever possible, and the 55-cap man is a master of nudging his side further up the field. As for attacking output,
White has shaded Genia in Super Rugby this year, even though he is playing in a side that has performed much better than Genia's. While Australia have lost the offloading skills of Cooper, they have gain one of the top offloaders in Super Rugby through White; the Brumbies man ranks sixth overall in this category in Super Rugby this season, and second among men in his own position.
Foley and White are without doubt individual players who will bring their own qualities to this Wallabies team, but they may well also compensate for the traits lost in the absence of the man in their partner's position. The dangerous running of Genia may not be missed thanks to the diminutive Foley, while the lack of Cooper's outrageous handling abilities may be compensated by the adventurous White.
Bernard Foley has reached fresh heights in recent weeks © Getty Images
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