Wallaby Watch: The key match-ups for Super Rugby Pacific round three

Fri, Mar 10, 2023, 1:26 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Wallabies travelled to Cardiff for their final Spring Tour match of 2022.

'Wallaby Watch' is a new series looking at the players who are starting to make an impact on Super Rugby Pacific ahead of September's World Cup.

New coach Eddie Jones will be keeping a keen eye on the action as players test themselves against some of the best in the world.

The fight for positions has never been hotter and with two all-Australian match-ups, it serves as the perfect audition

With this in mind, here are five individual match-ups to watch for.

1. Michael Hooper v Brad Wilkin

It's the battle of the former teammates as Michael Hooper and Brad Wilkin look to control the breakdown at AAMI Park.

Hooper is the Wallabies incumbent and one of the best opensides in the world, starting 2023 how he left off 2022 with two excellent performances against the Brumbies and Fijian Drua.

Meanwhile, Wilkin has blossomed over the past 12 months, stepping into the captaincy role in Rob Leota's absence.

His partnership with Richard Hardwick is key whilst Hooper will be eager to limit their effectiveness at the breakdown whilst joining Langi Gleeson and Lachlan Swinton in breaking open the game in attack.

2. Monty Ioane v Mark Nawaqanitawase

It's a rematch of last November's Test, with Ioane out to replicate his Italian heroics.

Ioane is yet to open his try account for the Rebels, looking damaging whenever he touches the ball.

He will likely line up against Nawaqanitawase, who remains one of the most damaging runners in Super Rugby Pacific.

3. Ryan Smith v Nick Frost

An under-rated match-up as Smith looks for a statement showing against the Wallabies duo.

Smith broke through for Australia A honours and sat behind the pair in Japan, picking their brains in order to go one further.

Frost has started the season on fire, proving the anchor in their wins over the Blues and Waratahs.

4. Tate McDermott v Nic White

Arguably the top-two scrumhalves in the country going head-to-head.

McDermott was at his best during the 71-20 win over the Western Force, guiding their attack around the park.

White returns to the starting line-up after serving a 'closer' style role, getting the Brumbies over the line with his smarts and experience.

This is the type of match-up Jones will be watching with keen interest, providing the opportunity for either man to make a statement.

5. Jordan Petaia v Tom Wright

If there's any battle to watch this weekend, it's between the two fullbacks.

Petaia was the shining light for the Reds last week and continues to thrive at the back.

Likewise, Wright has filled the void left by Tom Banks and remains deadly whenever he touches the ball.

Both men are battling for the coveted jersey, with a strong outing putting them one step closer.