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The Australian Conference Preview

In this blog we look through each of the five Aussie teams and the newly introduced Fijian Drua to highlight all the must know facts! Keep an eye out for our Draft Rugby Show as well where we will delve a bit deeper into the ins and outs of each team.

Check out our show at the links below:

Youtube: Aussie Preview; Drua Preview


Full squad:

Props: Allan Alaalatoa, Fred Kaihea, Sefo Kautai, Tom Ross, James Slipper, Scott Sio
Hookers: Folau Fainga’a, Lachlan Lonergan, Connal McInerney, Billy Pollard
Locks: Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain
Backrow: Jahrome Brown, Ed Kennedy, Luke Reimer, Pete Samu, Rory Scott, Rob Valetini
Halfbacks: Lachie Albert, Ryan Lonergan, Nic White
Flyhalves: Rodney Iona, Noah Lolesio
Centres: Hudson Creighton, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Ollie Sapsford
Outside backs: Tom Banks, Cam Clark, Jesse Mogg, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright

New Faces:
Sefo Kautai (short-term contract), Fred Kaihea (short-term contract), Ed Kennedy (Scarlets), Rod Iona (Vikings), Hudson Creighton (Reds), Chris Feauai-Sautia (Oyonnax), Ollie Sapsford (Hawke’s Bay), Cam Clark (San Diego Legion), Jesse Mogg (Pau)

Bayley Kuenzle (Western Force), Issak Fines-Leleiwasa (Western Force), Reesjan Pasitoa (Western Force), Reece Tapine (Western Force), James Tucker (Blues), Harry Lloyd (Western Force), Mack Hansen (Connacht), Archer Holz (Waratahs), Solomone Kata (Moana Pasifika), Tom Cusack (Retired), Will Miller (Retired), Henry Stowers (Moana Pasifika)

Best 15:
James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Nick Frost, Pete Samu, Jahrome Brown, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Andy Muirhead, Irae Simone, Len Ikitau, Tom Wright, Tom Banks

Stocks are rising:
Jahrome Brown
– The Brumbies admiration for this young gun is becoming more well known. If he can stay free of injuries it wouldn’t surprise us to see the workhorse openside flanker hold down the 7 jersey all year.
Pete Samu – Only played more than 60 minutes in 4 out of 7 games. With no Tom Cusack and Henry Stowers we expect him to play 80 minutes week in and week out.
Nick Frost – He played more than 60 minutes for the last six games of the year in 2021. There is every chance he becomes a Wallabies bolter.

Stocks are falling:
Cadeyrn Neville – We wrongly called this last year, but the increasing quality of his competition makes it hard to imagine he will get as much game time.

Jesse Mogg – The former Wallabies flyer has always had wheels. After 6 years in the French Top 14 he could be anything if given a sniff.
Chris Feauai-Sautia – Chris made his Wallabies debut in 2013 at 20 years of age. When fit he is a genuine talent. Given an injury or two we could see him make a jersey almost anywhere in the backline his own.


Full squad:

Props: Cabous Eloff, Vaauli (Pone) Faamausili, Matt Gibbon, Cameron Orr, Rhys Van Nek
Hookers: James Hanson, Efi Maafu, Jordan Uelese
Locks: Ross Haylett-Petty, Trevor Hosea, Tom Nowlan, Matt Philip
Backrow: Richard Hardwick, Tamati Ioane, Josh Kemeny, Rob Leota, Michael Wells, Brad Wilkin
Halfbacks: Joe Powell, Moses Sorovi, James Tuttle
Flyhalves: Carter Gordon
Centres: Stacey Ili, Ray Nu’u, Young Tonumaipea, Matt To’omua, Jeral Skelton
Outside backs: Lachlan Anderson, Reece Hodge, Andrew Kellaway, Joe Pincus, Ilikena Vudogo

New Faces:
Tamati Ioane (Gungahlin Eagles), Joe Pincus (Aus 7s), Moses Sorovi (Reds), Efi Ma’afu (Yokohama Canon Eagles), Matt Philip (Pau), Ray Nu’u (Otago)

Lucio Sordoni (released), Ignacio Calas (Carcassonne), Steve Cummins (Pau), Lewis Holland (released), Frank Lomani (Northampton Saints), Tom Pincus (retired), Dane Haylett-Petty (retired), Isi Naisarani (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Marika Koroibete (Wild Knights), Albert Anae (Shimizu Koto Blue Sharks), Ed Craig (Eastwood), Michael Icely (Eastwood), Theo Strang (Bristol Bears), Campbell Magnay (released), Glen Vaihu (development squad), George Worth (released), David Wessels (released)

Best 15:
Cameron Orr, Jordan Uelese, Pone Fa’amausili, Matt Philip, Trevor Hosea, Rob Leota , Brad Wilkin, Michael Wells, Joe Powell, Carter Gordon, Lachie Anderson, Matt Toomua, Stacey Ili, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Hodge

Stocks are rising:
Rob Leota – Out of all the players that should make big strides forward in this side in 2020, Rob Leota should be the biggest improver. His 18 average was hampered by his inconsistent game time. When he plays over 60 minutes he averages 26 points, a number that should increase even further this year.
Matt Philip – The 7th ranked lock on averages in 2019 he will be a welcome addition back into the top locks of the competition. Of the players that outscored him in 2019 only Brodie Retallick is the only man left standing. Could this be Philip’s year to top the locks?

Stocks are falling:
Cabous Eloff – A fan favourite in Melbourne, he averaged a handy 22 points in 2020. Expect this to slide with a fit again Pone back in the squad.
Josh Kemeny – Enjoyed a breakout year in 2020. With Leota’s emergence in the Wallabies squad it is hard to see him repeating the effort without a few injuries.

Carter Gordon – The 10 jersey is his. We don’t think he will goal kick with the likes of To’omua and Hodge in the squad, but when his running game is on song he could score handsomly.
Ilikena Vudogo – a Fijians 7s squad member and impressive Fiji U20s player, we hoped we would see him last season but he didn’t quite cut it. An injury or two and it could be his time to shine.


Full squad:
Props: George Blake, Feao Fotuaika, Harry Hoopert, Zane Nonggorr, Taniela Tupou, Dane Zander
Hookers: Richie Asiata, Alex Mafi, Josh Nasser
Locks: Angus Blyth, Lopeti Faifua, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, Tuaina Taii Tualima
Backrow: Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Seru Uru, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright
Halfbacks: Spencer Jeans, Tate McDermott, Kalani Thomas
Flyhalves: Lawson Creighton, Tom Lynagh, James O’Connor
Centres: Josh Flook, Isaac Henry, Hunter Paisami, Hamish Stewart
Outside backs: Jock Campbell, Filipo Daugunu, Ilaisa Droasese, Mac Grealy, Jordan Petaia, Suliasi Vunivalu

New Faces:
Spencer Jeans (Bond University), Tom Lynagh (Harlequins), Lopeti Faifua (Wests), George Blake (Bond University)

Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Montpellier), Bryce Hegarty (Leicester Tigers), Moses Sorovi (Rebels), Matt Faessler (Brothers), Ben Grant (San Diego Legion), Sam Wallis (University of Queensland), Hudson Creighton (Brumbies)

Best 15:
Feao Fotuaika, Alex Mafi, Taniela Tupou, Ryan Smith, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Liam Wright, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Suliasi Vunivalu, Hamish Stewart, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu, Jordan Petaia

Stocks are rising:
Jordan Petaia – It is anyone’s guess how a much-hyped move to fullback could go for the prodigious talent. An excitement machine, you won’t see me betting against him to set the world alight.
Suliasi Vunivalu – The NRL’s 2020 top try scorer is an athletic freak. We saw glimpses of the enormous potential the man has with top scores of 66, 59 and 44 last year. If he can stay injury free I expect him to be amongst the top 10 outside backs.
Alex Mafi – Should finally have a mortgage on the No.2 jersey this year. A hooker on the back of the Reds rolling maul that is known for his explosive speed, that is just too good to pass up!

Stocks are falling:
Jock Campbell – There is so much to like about Jock Campbell, but short of a few injuries we can’t see 2022 being his year. Petaia’s move to fullback should see him used as a utility outside back rather than holding down any particular spot. I feel like the Waratahs would kill for a young kid of this man’s talent.

Isaac Henry – There is a lot of competition in the centres at the Reds, but young Isaac showed he has what it takes to succeed at this level. He’d be a handy partner to Paisami if the chance arose.
Harry Hoopert – We really like what we’ve seen. The man just needs some consistent game time in that number 1 jersey. Can he overtake Dave Fotuaika and Dane Zander and hold it down?
Mac Greely – Another young excitement machine. His dynamic running game could set him up for some big scores.


Full squad:
Props: Angus Bell, Tiaan Taukipulu, Te Tera Faulkner, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Ruan Smith, Archer Holz
Hookers: David Porecki, Tom Horton
Locks: Max Douglas, Jed Holloway, Ned Hanigan, Hugh Bokenham, Jeremy Williams, Geoff Cridge
Backrow: Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Lachie Swinton, Carlo Tizzano, Michael Hooper, Will Harris, Hugh Sinclair, Charlie Gamble, Langi Gleeson
Halfbacks: Jack Grant, Jake Gordon, Henry Robertson
Flyhalves: Will Harrison, Tane Edmed, Ben Donaldson
Centres: Joey Walton, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Mosese Tuipulotu
Outside Backs: Mark Nawaqanitawase, Alex Newsome, James Ramm, Tristan Reilly, Tevita Funa, Dylan Pietsch

Best 15:
Angus Bell, David Porecki, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Max Douglas, Jed Holloway, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Jake Gordon, Will Harrison, James Ramm, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Alex Newsome, Mark Nawaqanitawase

New Faces:
Ruan Smith (LA Gilitinis), Jed Holloway (Toyota Verblitz), Ned Hanigan (Kurita Water Gush Akishima), Michael Hooper (Toyota Verblitz), Tevita Funa (Manly Sea Eagles), Dylan Pietsch (Aus 7s), Archer Holz (Brumbies), Hugh Bokenham (Sydney University), Langi Gleeson (Manly), Mosese Tuipulotu (Eastern Suburbs), Darren Coleman (LA Gilitinis), Geoff Cridge (Hawkes Bay)

Robbie Abel (retired), Chris Talakai (Bayonne), Jack Whetton (Castres), Sam Caird (Highlanders), Sam Wykes (retired), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors), Tepai Moeroa (Melbourne Storm), Jack Maddocks (Pau), Joe Cotton (Bristol Bears), Alefosio Tatola (Manly), Andrew Tuala (LA Gilitins), Michael Wood (Randwick), James Turner (Northern Suburbs), Rob Penney (Shining Arcs)

Stocks are rising:
Angus Bell – “At the ripe age of 20, Bell will take his thrown as the Waratahs number 1 Loosehead prop”. If you’re thinking that was exactly what we said this time last year then you’re dead right. I’m not sure how high stocks can go, but this man is a blue chip, potential number 1 overall pick. Just check out the leading prop scorers from 2021 below:

Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco – The 13th ranked backrower in 2019 for the Sunwolves. A starting spot isn’t guaranteed, but if he can make the No.8 jersey his, then his running game will get you off your seat!

Stocks are falling:
Carlo Tizzano – Probably the breakout player of the Waratahs last season, it’s impossible to see him getting much time with Michael Hooper back leading the side.

Smokies: (Smoking)
Mark Nawaqanitawase – There is no secret that Marky has some defensive frailties that kept him out of a starting jersey last season. If his rig is anything to go by, the young flyer will have no issues muscling up this time around.

Western Force

Full squad:

Props: Bo Abra, Greg Holmes, Harry Lloyd, Santiago Medrano, Tom Robertson, Angus Wagner
Hookers: Feleti Kaitu’u, Andrew Ready, Jack Winchester
Locks: Ryan McCauley, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jackson Pugh, Izack Rodda, Sitaleki Timani, Jeremy Thrush
Backrow: Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Kane Koteka, Brynard Stander
Halfbacks: Isaac Fines-Leleiwasa, Michael McDonald, Ian Prior
Flyhalves: Jake McIntrye, Reesjan Pasitoa
Centres: Kyle Godwin, Richard Kahui, Bayley Kuenzle, Grason Makara
Outside backs: Daniel Ala, Brad Lacey, Manasa Mataele, Jack McGregor, Toni Pulu, Byron Ralston, Jake Strachan, Reece Tapine

New Faces:
Daniel Ala (Manly Sea Eagles), Issak Fines-Leleiwasa (Brumbies), Bayley Kuenzle (Brumbies), Harry Lloyd (Brumbies), Izack Rodad (Lyon), Manasa Mataele (Crusaders), Reesjan Pasitoa (Brumbies), Reece Tapine (Brumbies)

Marcel Brache (Austin Gilgronis), Tomas Cubelli (Biarritz), Rob Kearney (Retired), Tevita Kuridrani (Biarritz), Jono Lance (Honda Heat), Tomas Lezana (Scarlets), Kieran Longbottom (Retired), Domingo Miotti (Glasgow Warriors), Jordan Olowofela (Leicester Tigers), Jonah Placid (Southern Lions), Henry Taefu (Moana Pasifika)

Best 15:
Tom Robertson, Feleti Kaitu’u, Santiago Medrano, Izack Rodda, Sitaleki Timani, Fergus Lee-Warner, Kane Koteka, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior, Jake McIntrye, Manasa Mataele, Bayley Kuenzle, Kyle Godwin, Toni Pulu, Jack McGregor

Stocks are rising:
Manasa Mataele – Cast your mind back to 2018. Mataele is starting on the wing for the Crusaders and has the 15th outside back average of 37 points. He scored 0.72 points per minute, a number only equalled by Israel Folau. Mataele might night be at that level now, but it’s hard to see him being anything but a revelation for his new side.

Stocks are falling:
Brynard Stander – This was a hard one to pick. With the continued progression of Tim Anstee, Stander could be the man to be phased out of the starting side in 2022.

Reesjan Pasitoa The young excitement machine has returned home after a stint with the Brumbies. He’d have to pass McIntyre, but with his running game and raw talent, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock of the year.

Fijian Drua

Full Squad:

Props: Haereiti Hetet, Jone Koroiduadua, Meli Tuni, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, Manasa Saulo, Samuela Tawake, Timoci Sauvoli
Hookers: Mesu Dolokoto, Tevita Ikanivere, Zuriel Togiatama
Locks: Chris Minimbi, Ratu Rotuisolia, Sorovakatini Tuifagalele, Viliame Rarasea, Isoa Nasilasila, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta
Backrow: Joseva Tamani, Kitione Salawa, Meli Derenalagi, Nemani Nagusa, Raikabula Momoedonu, Rusiate Nasove, Vilive Miramira
Halfbacks: Leone Nawai, Peni Matawalu, Simione Kuruvoli
Flyhalves: Teti Tela, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, Baden Kerr (injury cover), Caleb Muntz
Centres: Apisalome Vota, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Kalione Nasoko, Seru Vularika
Outside Backs: Onisi Ratave, Vinaya Habosi, Kitione Taliga, Napolioni Bolaca, Selestino Ravutaumada, Alivereti Veitokani, Kitione Ratu

Best 15:
1. Manasa Saulo 2. Mesulame Dolokoto 3. Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, 4. Viliame Rarasea 5. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta 6. Ratu Meli Derenalagi 7. Rusiate Nasove 8. Nemani Nagusa (c) 9. Simione Kuruvoli 10. Teti Tela 11. Onisi Ratave 12. Serupepeli Vularika 13. Kalione Nasoko 14. Kitione Taliga 15. Napolioni Bolaca

Stocks are rising:
Ratu “The White Shark” Meli – The former Fijian 7s captain can play at six and eight. He is a dynamic runner, can offload the ball and is a handy lineout option.
Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta – Watch this bloke in the Bunnings NPC and you’ll see what gets us excited. Named at lock by the squad, it wouldn’t surprise us to see him line up in the loose forwards.
Onisi Ratave – 3 tries in his first two games at the Bay of Plenty this year. James Parson’s says he is a freak. Watch his highlights and you’ll see why!

Stocks are falling:
It is impossible to name anyone in this slot, but the props and locks seem to be the closest contest for starting spots in our eyes. Be cautious with players in these positions.

Kaliopasi Uluilakepa – 22 year old NZ U20’s prop, has some stiff competition but looks to be a real prospect.
Joseva Tamani – The 24 year old lit up the Shute shield for Newcastle last year. A freakish runner and offloader he could be fantasy gold if given a crack. Check him out here.

Written by your local rugby nerd Harrison Dale.