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Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani hailed as Wallabies’ unsung heroes

Big hit: Tevita Kuridrani has been hailed for  his understated but crucial role with the Wallabies.

Big hit: Tevita Kuridrani has been hailed for his understated but crucial role with the Wallabies. Photo: AFP

If there is one thing Jim McKay loves more than his magicians, it is his unsung heroes.

Every time the Wallabies' attack guru thanks the rugby gods for talents such as Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale, McKay thanks them doubly for Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani.

McKay, the architect of the Reds' Super Rugby title-winning attack who was brought in by Ewen McKenzie to reinvigorate the Wallabies last year, knows what it means for Australia to boast a strike weapon like Folau, or winger Nick Cummins, in their back line.

Strong start: Matt Toomua.

Strong start: Matt Toomua. Photo: Getty Images

No one will be more satisfied – except perhaps McKenzie – when Folau performs the seemingly inevitable and swoops in for his 12th Test try at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

But McKay also knows is that if the Wallabies are going to be a credible chance of making it out of their pool at next year's World Cup, they will need a world-class mix of power and work rate in their mid-field.

More pressingly, when France unleash centre Mathieu Bastareaud, who weighs more than every other man in a gold jersey except prop Sekope Kepu, McKay knows his centres are not only up to the challenge but capable of toppling it. 

Tactics: Ewen McKenzie with attack coach Jim McKay  at Wallabies training on Thursday.

Tactics: Ewen McKenzie with attack coach Jim McKay at Wallabies training on Thursday. Photo: Getty Images

"I was joking about getting shoulder pads before but I've thought about it," Toomua said.

"You have to be smart. [Bastareaud] is bigger than me, I'm not going to get bigger by the weekend so I have to learn ways to shut down his time and space or aim in the tackle.

"He's not a guy you want to be getting up late and going high on, he's just going to get rid of you, so you try to find other ways."

Toomua is one of McKay's unsung heroes. Kuridrani is the other. For all of the Fijian-born Brumby's flair, it is his vision and work rate that has led him to shade the in-form Adam Ashley-Cooper for the No.13 jersey.

Kuridrani's first job this weekend will be getting first-phase gain line for his teammates and his second will be reading the defence. But the trait that sets him apart is his hustle.

"He does a lot of stuff that you don't see really well and that's impressive from an outside back who weighs 104 kilograms and has a lot of flair, who could sit back and watch if he wanted to," Toomua said.

"He's a traditional No.13 in his ball carrying and defence but his work rate is also huge. Tevita does a lot of work off the ball in kick-chase and getting back into position."

The Toomua-Kuridrani partnership is also important in light of international trends. While the Wallabies used Pat McCabe and Ashley-Cooper for much of the Robbie Deans era, other nations swung towards pure power in at least one of their midfield spots.

Wales blooded Jamie Roberts, England introduced Manu Tuilagi to the southern hemisphere and France was conjuring Bastareaud. The All Blacks, of course, always had Ma'a Nonu.

"There was a trend for a while when we went to the second five-eighth with guys like Matt Giteau, but we've started to go back the other way with Roberts and [Nonu]," Toomua said.

"I'm not the biggest guy but next to Tevita we're not a small mid-field either. You have to have that balance, especially in the games when it's heavy under foot and it's all about the direct carry.

"It's almost 10-man rugby and I think you have to have six to counteract that, otherwise teams will target that area."

Not to be forgotten in McKay's clutch of magicians and everyday heroes is the role of Toomua as chief pragmatist.

In a back line composed entirely of Brumbies and Waratahs players – with the exception of Cummins – the challenge to take the best of two radically different playing styles has been of central importance. 

The Wallabies bedded down the running part on last year's spring tour but have ground to make up when it comes to exiting their own half. In the 17 Tests that remain before Australia meet Wales and England in the pool stages of a northern hemisphere World Cup, that element will only grow in importance. 

"You can't just have touch players – and I'm not saying they are – but you need your point of difference and you need your all-round game," Toomua said.  

"I see that as half my job. I'm not going to step a bloke and score an 80-metre try – I've never done that in my life – but I look at little areas that I can add, it might be chasing the breakdown to win the ball and give it to our outside backs later."

It is work that goes unrewarded publicly, but McKay knows his inside centre is worth his weight in gold. He loves his magicians, after all, but he thanks the heavens for Toomua. 

3 comments so far

  • I think Matt is doing a great job, and Kuridrani is good and getting better.
    The idea that they don't get credit is less tenable. Throw in AAC while you're at it, but really it's the forwards that are under appreciated. They have to be big enough for scrummaging and still get to the breakdown ASAP.They have to pilfer. But people only remember the massive hits and the ball in hand running, not the GRUNT in tight

    Date and time
    June 14, 2014, 1:26PM
    • I agreed with this article. Their defence is the platform for their attack. They do not give any room to the other team to get balanced in attack and they do the same at the Brumbies. The replacements for these late in the 2nd half of the 1st test, did the attack, but were lazier in defence, allowing France to score 2 tries that looked unobtainable in the first 60 min.

      Date and time
      June 14, 2014, 1:35PM
      • A win is a win,and the Wallabies, did do the "hard yards", well against a vastly, improved French team, who in my opinion will get better, especially when they learn to hold onto the ball. As for Toomua, he was one of the "mainstays" of the Wallaby backline, which actually saw Kuridrani beaten on the odd occasion. Kuridrani, has been "shown up", a few times at super rugby level, and one wonders as to how he'll stand up against "stronger opposition"! Remember the Brumbies/Crusaders game? If anything the strongest of the "big three", playing this weekend, was without doubt, the Bokkies, with the likes of Bryan Habana, scoring a double & bringing up 55 tries in the Springbok jersey. The Welsh had no answer for the Bok's, who looked super impressive. Even the old foe Bakkies Botha, who went off injured, looked really sharp.

        Date and time
        June 15, 2014, 9:34AM

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