Rugby Union


Wallabies great Joe Roff says Ewen McKenzie is building Wallabies' back line around Matt Toomua

All the focus is on Kurtley Beale's shock selection at fly-half, but ACT Brumbies legend Joe Roff thinks Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie is building his back line around inside-centre Matt Toomua.

World Cup winner Roff also backed Australia to end its Bledisloe Cup drought, which stretches back to 2002 when it was last held on this side of the ditch.

Normally at fly-half for the Brumbies, Toomua has established himself at No.12 for Australia, while Beale has made the opposite positional switch from his Super Rugby team NSW Waratahs, where he spent the season at inside-centre.

Beale's move prompted New Zealand coach Steve Hansen to fire a barb across the Tasman speculating Beale was picked in the starting XV to ensure he didn't defect to rugby league.

But Roff felt the decision was more centred around Toomua and his unique skills as a playmaker, with his physicality setting him apart from other No.10s.

"It's in Ewen that we trust that these are the right combinations. The calibre of player is still out there, it'll just be interesting to see how they combine," Roff said.


"I think they'll go well, they're both naturally gifted.

"Matty Toomua's now a world-class player and you can build a back line around him, so I think Ewen's probably doing that in many respects and getting the people around Matt that will create opportunities.

"The way the Wallabies are playing they're probably interchangeable, but his great skill is he has the physicality of a 12 ... whereas a lot of the other more classical 10s probably don't."

Roff is the inaugural chairman of the Canberra Vikings, who will begin their National Rugby Championship campaign next Saturday at Viking Park.

But he made his name as a powerful outside back for both the Brumbies and Wallabies.

He was in France when Australia last won the Bledisloe in 2002, but played when the Wallabies won it the previous year.

Roff felt it was time for the fabled cup to return to Australia, with two home games and the momentum from the Waratahs' Super Rugby championship proving the difference.

"I think there's no one in the [Wallabies] side that's ever held the Bledisloe Cup ... but it feels as though the opportunity's there this year and I think it's going to be a mouth-watering series and one that Australia can win," he said.

"Psychologically I think [the Waratahs' win was] very important. NSW beat a Crusaders team with 13 All Blacks in it, it builds momentum.

"The thing about this Bledisloe series is it will come down to those turning points in a match where the one per centers or last-minute plays [are the difference] and to have the success of Super Rugby gives the team and individuals confidence to take those moments."

While the Brumbies bowed out of the Super Rugby race in the semi-final, going down to the Waratahs, Roff hoped the Vikings could go a couple of steps further in the NRC.

He was confident the ACT rugby community would put aside local rivalries and get behind the Vikings. 

Roff supported the new rules, like potential eight-point tries and reducing penalties and drop goals to just two points, and was confident they would result in attacking rugby.

But he was not confident the International Rugby Board would introduce any changes, even if they were successful.

"The game needs to continue to evolve and be exciting," Roff said.

"It's incredibly healthy around the world, but it's most challenging here in Australia because we compete with so many other codes.

"I think [the IRB] will observe them [but] I don't have a huge amount of confidence – given the minimal rule changes we've had since before I was playing – that too many of them will be taken on board.

"But there was a time when tries were three points."