Who would you rather have in your team? Jesse Mogg ...

Who would you rather have in your team? Jesse Mogg ... Photo: Melissa Adams

Rugby union is a team game but there are 26 Wallabies representatives in Saturday night's Super Rugby grudge match between the ACT Brumbies and NSW Waratahs. So, if it came down to it, which players would you choose on your team? The Canberra Times assembled an independent panel of three experts – former Wallabies coach JOHN CONNOLLY, former Wallabies fullback GREG MARTIN and former Test No.8 TOUTAI KEFU – to go through every position in Saturday night's contest and see who really boasts the star power.

Scott Sio v Benn Robinson

Verdict: Robinson (JC, GM, TK) Sio

... or Israel Folau?

... or Israel Folau? Photo: Getty Images

JC: There's only a whisker between them. Sio is a player on the way up and could easily be the Wallabies' loosehead prop by the end of the season. Robinson has experience and is probably the best loosehead scrummager in Australia but, whether he's got the game Sio's got, I'm not sure.

GM: It's a draw and both have got heaps to play for, but Robinson because of experience.

TK: Benn Robinson has the runs on the board. But you can never discount young guys who are hungry like Sio.

Stephen Moore v Tatafu Polota-Nau

Verdict: Moore (JC, GM, TK) Polota-Nau 

JC: Moore is slightly ahead because of his core game at the lineout and his scrummaging.

GM: Moore, he's the captain of the Brumbies' tight five.

TK: Steve Moore, he's had more consistency over the past four to five years. He's a stalwart of Australian rugby.

Ben Alexander v Paddy Ryan

Verdict: Alexander (JC, GM, TK) Ryan 

JC: Ryan's got enough experience to have parity, I don't think Alexander's too big a challenge for him. But I have to go with Alexander.

GM: This is close. It's almost 3-3 in the front row but always in the big games go with experience – Alexander.

TK: I'm a big fan of Paddy Ryan but I think Alexander has to get the nod with experience. Alexander is still hungry.

Leon Power v Jacques Potgieter

Verdict: Potgieter (JC, GM, TK) Power

JC: Potgieter adds an aggressive streak to the Waratahs' forward pack.

GM: I love Potgieter's raw aggression and brutality.

TK: Potgieter is the type of player where he goes minute to minute and doesn't think too far ahead. He does everything like it's the last thing he will do and his life depends on it. He hits every ruck at 100 miles an hour. I love that.

Sam Carter v Kane Douglas

Verdict: Douglas (JC, GM, TK) Carter

JC: Douglas, but it's a toss of the coin. Experience leans the way of Douglas.

GM: I think Douglas is the best second-rower in Australia this year. He's upped his aggression and work rate, it looks like he's become fitter. We're seeing him more off-the-ball and some of his defensive work has been super.

TK: I think Douglas is aggressive and rugged with no frills. He's very similar to Sam Carter, they're close. But I think Douglas gives you an edge in mobility and he's a pure lock.

Scott Fardy v Dave Dennis

Verdict: Fardy (JC, TK) Dennis (GM)

JC: Fardy has been the surprise packet of Australian rugby. Injuries got him into the Wallabies' team but he stepped up to the mark.

GM: This is as near to a draw as you can get. I'll go with Dennis because of hunger. Dennis was out with a knee injury and has only played one game.

TK: Fardy is blue collar, no frills and the type of player who rolls his sleeves up to get the job done. Dennis is more of a ball runner, which gives you an advantage too. But I'd take Fardy. 

Jarrad Butler v Michael Hooper

Verdict: Hooper (JC, GM, TK) Butler  

JC: Hooper obviously. I think potentially he's the best openside flanker in Australia. I think he's a better player than [David] Pocock, he's got a great all-around game.

GM: This one's clear – Hooper. At the moment, he's the best seven. I like the way he led the Waratahs' last game too, he's captaincy material.

TK: Michael Hooper, he's taken it to a new level. I even think he's better than [David] Pocock. They're both very similar over the ball and their strength around the ruck. But Hooper runs the ball, he's like George Smith.

Ben Mowen v Wycliff Palu

Verdict: Palu (JC, GM, TK) 

JC: Palu clearly. Mowen adds a a lineout dimension but Palu's power running is definitely a factor. He's a destructive player, he can bend the line and he's an attacking weapon.

GM: Palu is one of the key ingredients on why the Tahs have gone forward this year. Sum it up this way, Cliffy's fit again.

TK: They're two different players. If you combined them, you'd get someone like a George Smith. I'd take Cliffy purely because of his impact. But I'm a big fan of Mowen because of his leadership.

Nic White v Nick Phipps

Verdict: White (JC, TK) Phipps (GM)

JC: That's a tough one, but White. I think Phipps has played very well but I can't get out of my head some of the games he played at the Rebels last year.

GM: I think White's been a bit off this year, sometimes he looks to be in two minds. I think Phipps seems to be suiting the Waratahs.

TK: Nic White hands down. He's a typical halfback from the old days, feisty and zips around the ruck. He can kick. He's a bit of an annoying mongrel as well.

Matt Toomua v Bernard Foley

Verdict: Toomua (JC, GM, TK) Foley

JC: Toomua for his all-round game. Foley's improving in leaps and bounds, he's gone from a Sevens player to a 15s player but, at this point now, Toomua.

GM: You can't separate those two, they're both so important. But I think the Waratahs could cope more without Foley than the Brumbies could without Toomua, especially while Christian Lealiifano is still out injured for the Brumbies.

TK: Toomua is very confrontational. Stephen Larkham has said that Toomua's built for Test rugby and I totally agree with him. He's low risk but he can take the ball to the line.

Henry Speight v Peter Betham

Verdict: Speight (JC, GM, TK) Betham 

JC: It's a toss of a coin, but Speight because it's in Canberra and he'd be more comfortable on his home track.

GM: Speight is a sensation, he's worth so many points. Not only finishing, he gets involved in every part of the game. He's a match-winner.

TK: Henry Speight gives you that X-factor. He's very quick and very strong. He almost always breaks a tackle and can create something out of nothing.

Pat McCabe v Kurtley Beale

Verdict: Beale (JC, GM) McCabe (TK)

JC: Incredible contrast, but Beale because of his attacking ability and flair. McCabe will cause Foley and Beale issues if the Brumbies can get front-foot ball.

GM: Pat had a good game last week but Beale has found his role. He seems to have become a better player at second foil, with the focus off him.

TK: Kurtley Beale is one of Australia's best rugby players but I wouldn't have him at inside centre. At inside centre, I'd have Pat McCabe. He's there to do a job and I'd take him because I think Beale's playing out of position.

Tevita Kuridrani v Adam Ashley-Cooper

Verdict: Ashley-Cooper (JC, TK) Kuridrani (GM) 

JC: Kuridrani is on the way up but he's still got a few holes in his game. Cooper, for experience.

GM: Kuridrani is there to get over the advantage line and he does that better than Cooper. Cooper's been solid,consistent but he no longer tears up opposition teams like he did.

TK: I've been a big fan of Adam Ashley-Cooper for a long time. He's been one of the most consistent Wallabies players over the last eight years. I'd have to take him.

Robbie Coleman v Alofa Alofa

Verdict: Coleman (JC, GM, TK) Alofa 

JC: Alofa is a great attacking player but he's still got a lot to prove but we haven't got a good grasp of his all-round game. I'd lean Coleman's way but Alofa Alofa could be anything – we don't know whether he's rocks or diamonds.

GM: Coleman's been there, he's got experience.

TK: I've watched Robbie closely over the past few weeks and he's really quick. I remember Ben Tune said once he had trouble with the zip-zip guys, they're hard to mark. I think Coleman can become an X-factor for the Wallabies in years to come.

Jesse Mogg v Israel Folau

Verdict: Folau (JC, GM, TK) Mogg 

JC: You'd come down on the side of Folau. But Mogg is an incredibly dangerous player and, if he plays up in the line like he did against Wellington, he's an incredible threat. Defence is the issue with Mogg.

GM: Mogg only misses out because it's Izzy. Jesse's a long way off Izzy. I reckon Jesse's still got another year to smooth out a couple more things. The counter-attack of Folau, he always beats the first two men.

TK: You take Folau because of what everyone thinks and knows. He's got a big X-factor, he's strong, quick and I think he's just finding his feet in rugby to pop up whenever a try is available.


JC: NSW We've said for 25 years this could be the year for the Tahs, you get tired of saying it. But I think the big strength is the depth in their squad. Across the board, I think they have more attacking threats with Foley, Beale, Folau and Ashley-Cooper. Even Hooper and Palu are runners.

GM: NSW They've got depth and backs that can score in Izzy and Beale. They've got a well-balanced team and a strong bench.

TK: Brumbies I think the Brumbies are building into the season well. Their game plan suits these types of local derbies where it is confrontational and there are a lot of collisions. The Brumbies have played this type of rugby for the past couple of years. They've played more important games and have that experience over the Waratahs.