Australia v France first test preview: Head to head ratings


1.James Slipper – Underrated scrummager and proficient around the park. Will earn 50th cap at just 24 years of age.8Thomas Domingo – One of the top looseheads in the world, Domingo has, if anything, benefited from the recent changes to the scrum laws.8.5
2.Stephen Moore – Probably the best in the world if it were not for a couple of Springboks, Moore’s game really has no weaknesses.9Guihem Guirado – A solid hooker, Guirado has done well to keep the highly-rated Christopher Tolofua on the bench, but could struggle against Moore.7.5
3.Sekope Peku – Peku has been in good form for the Waratahs, but will have his work cut out Domingo.7.5Nicolas Mas – Age may be catching up with Mas, but he should still give Slipper a stern test at scrum time.8
4.Rob Simmons – Key to Australia’s set-piece, Simmons could be a difference maker for the Wallabies.8Sébastien Vahaamahina – The monstrous lock will look to overpower Australia’s relatively lightweight engine room.7.5
5.Sam Carter – Ousts James Horwill thanks to his superb form for the Brumbies, but needs to show he can make it at test level.7.5Yoann Maestri – Completes France’s gigantic second row partnership. The visitors’ set-piece will rest on his shoulders.8.5
6.Scott Fardy – Blindside flanker is an area of relative weakness for Australia, but Fardy will give a committed performance.7Fulgence Ouedraogo – Has struggled with injuries recently. One of the best in the northern hemisphere on his day, however.8
7.Michael Hooper – Exceptionally talented player, Hooper has all the skills to be a world class openside for years to come.9Bernard le Roux – Could struggle to compete with the Wallaby pack at the breakdown, especially Hooper.7.5
8.Wycliff Palu – Under pressure from Ben McCalman, Palu’s barnstorming carrying still gives him the edge – just.8Damien Chouly – Will be eager to put the disappointment of Clermont’s season behind him. Could be one to watch.8
9.Nic White – Good, all-round scrum-half who can do everything well. He is not Will Genia, but he is in better form.8Maxime Machenaud – Being the form French scrum-half is not the accolade it once was. Although a real threat on his day, he is maddeningly inconsistent.7.5
10.Bernard Foley – Enjoying the best season of his career thus far, Foley is a reliable 10 who can also spark Australia’s potent back line.8Frederic Michalak – Struggled for playing time with Toulon this season due to his habit of compounding mistakes. As mercurial as they come.6.5
11.Nick Cummins – You would have to live under a rock to not have heard of ‘The Honey Badger’ this season. Talented winger in great form.8Felix le Bourhis – Versatile back who can play wing or centre. Tough place to make your debut – expect him to be targeted by Australia.7
12.Matt Toomua – Usually a fly-half for the Brumbies, Toomua gives Australia a second kicking option. Runs nice lines, too.8Wesley Fofana – Arguably the most talented centre in world rugby, Fofana could wreak havoc in Australia this summer if France can secure quick ball.9
13.Tevita Kuridrani – Could flourish with the familiar presence of club teammate Toomua at 12. A powerful carrier that will test Fickou defensively.8Gaël Fickou – As exciting a prospect as rugby has to offer at the moment. An elusive runner who can tear teams apart in broken field.8
14.Adam Ashley-Cooper – The veteran of the Wallaby back line, Ashley-Cooper is a consistent, try-scoring threat. Few players read the game so well.8.5Yoann Huget – Continues France’s selection of mercurial players. Huget is a clinical attacking threat, but can often be found out defensively.7.5
15.Israel Folau – Electric counter-attacker, lethal with ball in hand and superb under the high ball. The odd positional mistake is all that prevents him from taking full marks.9.5Hugo Bonneval – Enjoyed a good year for Stade, but still inexperienced. Needs to regularly come into the line and play off centres to have maximum effect.8


By these ratings, Australia have the edge. The numbers show that France may have a slight advantage in the tight five (Stephen Moore aside) and at scrum time, but there are few other areas where they are likely to enjoy any kind of superiority. On paper, the midfield combination of Wesley Fofana and Gaël Fickou is one to watch with the popcorn at the ready, but whether or not they will receive the ball they need to excel, is another question. France look to be outmatched at the breakdown and without good quality ball, we all know Frederic Michalak can struggle, potentially limiting the effectiveness of a fairly potent-looking French back line. It is a quite baffling selection from Philippe Saint-André, with the likes of Maxime Médard and Louis Picamoles left out of the team, whilst the selection of Michalack has been forced by his somewhat questionable decision to take just two recognised fly-halves to Australia.

Australian head coach Ewen McKenzie has stayed true to his word of picking in-form players, a policy which has not only benefited Nic White and Sam Carter in the starting XV, but also the likes of Nick Phipps, Pek Cowan and Ben McCalman on Australia’s bench. France’s selection of Michalak will likely please McKenzie, as an open game will suit Australia’s devastating broken field runners, and could also help the Wallabies move France’s powerful tight five around the field and away from an arm wrestle in the tight. Providing Australia can hold their own at the set-piece, they should be too much for France, whose squad selection seems disjointed to say the least. Australia by 13.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

7 thoughts on “Australia v France first test preview: Head to head ratings

  1. Where’s Scott Higgingbottom? He has been in fantastic form for an over-performing Rebels outfit this year. Is he injured? He’d slot straight in at 6 or 8 if he was fit surely?

    The French selection really is baffling. Australia should win comfortably.

    1. He charged out of the blocks this season, before tailing off a bit in recent months – not unlike the Rebels themselves. Seems McKenzie has gone for the safer options, but I do think he should at least be on the bench.

      1. I must admit I’ve missed the last few Rebels matches but fair enough.

        Every time I watch him I think he just offers something extra. He has the xfactor, and ball carrying ability that Australia lack in the pack. I’d have him above any of that back row other than Hooper.

        Palu always looks very average at test level for me. McCalman I like, and I think Fardy is a good old fashion 6.

  2. @Jacob, Higgers didn’t make the team, surprisingly. However, he’s still a penalty machine and is prone to the odd yellow card. Palu and McCalman hav been in great form as of late, and Link stuck with Scott Fardy who has already shown he’s got the goods on test level, whereas Higgers hasn’t shown this kind of form yet. I expect him to make at least the bench this year, however, since he’s got a certain x-factor.

  3. Will be very interested in the scrum. I am not sure that Domingo and Mas (in particular) are the force they once were, and the Aussie scrum does appear to have come on since McKenzie took the reigns.

    If Slipper really is worth an 8 (seems high, BUT I don’t watch much Super Rugby) then Mas may really struggle as Moore is a good scrummager.

  4. As Alex suggests, French scrum-halves do not appear to be of the quality they once were, but I do wonder why the fella at Toulon isn’t in the party.

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