As the 2020 season comes to a close, Dave Rennie will have seen the end of his first rock-and-roll season with the Wallabies filled with plenty of ups and downs as well as the unearthing of some new talent in the likes of Matt Philip, Harry Wilson and Hunter Paisami.
However, the draw with Argentina drew attention to the underlying question mark of who should be Australian captain given Michael Hooper’s questionable performance and leadership. Here is a breakdown of the contenders with a chance of filling the captaincy for the green and gold.
Why he will be captain He’s one of the best flankers in the world and has over 100 caps at the prime age of 29. He has captained over 50 Tests and Rennie may opt for conservative approaches in order to keep Hooper at the forefront of the team.
Why he won’t be captain Hooper’s form has not dipped since late 2018, but his role certainly changed. Hooper changed from being a proper fetcher to someone having to do the dirty work for most of his pack. A game that shows this was against Wales in the World Cup in which Hooper carried tenaciously despite his size disadvantage.
Moreover, many question if Hooper holds a losing mentality similar to that of Michael Cheika and his resignation as Waratahs skipper is a sign that perhaps he would prefer getting back to playing his best rugby, which Australia need. With Hoops going to Japan in 2021, perhaps it is time for Rennie to look elsewhere for captaincy material.
Why he will be captain Named after Australian cricket captain Allan Border, the Brumbies veteran has the Test experience necessary for captaining the Wallabies. Alaalatoa is a calm leader and has led the Brumbies to the SR AU title as well as them being a force in Super Rugby – the Brumbies are one of the best club sides in the world. Alaalatoa could be Rennie’s next captain due to his cool but influential leadership.
Why he won’t be captain Alaalatoa is competing with Taniela Tupou for the tighthead jersey. Whilst both are quality Test players, Alaalatoa would have to win the starting jersey outrightl before being considered for Wallabies captaincy.
Why he could be captain Philip has been Australia’s player of the season and is quickly becoming one of the best engines in world rugby. He does the ugly work very well and is a good winner in collisions. He lets his rugby do the talking, which is what Australia might need.
He is a quality player for the Melbourne Rebels. A stint in France will hopefully improve his already impressive game, which could see him return to Australia an even better player than he is right now.
Why he won’t be captain It is early days for Philip. The stint in France may already end the talk of him being considered for captaincy. Could he maintain his consistently good performances under the pressure of being captain?
Why he could be captain He is only 23, but Wright has been outstanding for the Reds in Super Rugby leading from the front. A direct competitor for the 7 jersey, Wright may also be the like-for-like replacement fetcher for Hooper.
Why he won’t be captain Wright needs to break into the starting team. Like Alaalatoa, he has been given scarce opportunities. His performances from the bench have been short but decent cameos to suggest that Wright does have a future in the Wallabies’ set up. However, I would prefer to see him get a few starts and show us why he is a brutal flanker before becoming the heir to the captaincy.
Why he has a chance of being captain The hearty, ever-giving eighth man has been imperious this season for the Reds and Australia. Like Philip, he does the talking on the pitch and his inspirational performances suggest he could be a good enough leader for Rennie.
Why he won’t be captain Perhaps it is too early for young Harry Wilson. He is becoming a regular in the team but at the age of 21, it is a big ask to give him the armband yet. Come 2023, it could be a different question though. The next Kieran Read.
Why he has a slight chance of being captain A Wallabies veteran, he has been criminally underrated as a very skilful playmaker. I think 12 is his best position to utilise his kicking game and brutal defence. He has the experience of two World Cup campaigns and is a selfless player that can play 10, 12 or a finishing replacement.
Unders, surely you can’t name a back as captain This is why the chance of To’omua being the skipper is very limited. Some teams do give the captaincy to the 10 or 12 like England, Ireland and Scotland (Stuart Hogg), but this is Rennie’s preference. The purists among us perhaps would find it unusual to see To’omua given the captaincy. He may be better off as a lieutenant in the trenches rather than the out-and-out general.