How do the Super Rugby AU squads stack up?

Super AU kicks off on February 19, meaning it is less than a month away.


The Reds, Brumbies and Waratahs have announced their full squads for the coming season and the Rebels and Force can’t be too far behind.


Let’s take a look at the relative playing strength of the various sides.


Starting tight fives







































BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
1James SlipperFeao FotuaikaCameron OrrAngus BellTom Robertson
2Folau Fainga’aBrandon Paenga-AmosaJordan UeleseTom HortonFeleti Kaitu’u
3Allan AlaalatoaTaniela TupouPone Fa’amausiliHarry Johnson-HolmesSantiago Medrano
4Caderyn NevilleLukhan Salakaia-LotoTrevor HoseaJack WhettonJeremy Thrush
5Darcy SwainAngus BlythSteve CumminsSam CairdFergus Lee-Warner

Looking at those line-ups it hard to see how the Brumbies and Reds don’t remain at the top of the Aussie pile. Both tight fives are full of strong players with minimal change from last season.


The Force have made some great strides with the additions of Tom Robertson and Santiago Medrano but will be ruing missing out on Julian Montoya after his wife’s visa problems.


The loss of Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons and Matt Philip from the Waratahs and Rebels packs will hurt them.


That said, it’s a 23-man game, the tight five benches will have plenty to say as well.


Allan Alaalatoa

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)


Tight five reserves

































BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
16Scott SioHarry HoopertCabous EloffTetara FaulknerGreg Holmes
17Connal McInerneyAlex MafiEd CraigDave PoreckiAndrew Ready
18Tom RossZane NonggorrMatt GibbonTiaan TauakipuluAngus Wagner
19Nick FrostTuania Taii TualimaRoss Haylett-PettySam WykesRyan McCauley

Very much advantage Brumbies here. The Reds have lost JP Smith and failed to strengthen their reserve locks, the Rebels look set to play Ross Haylett-Petty at lock despite listing him as a back-rower, and the Tahs have drafted in Sam Wykes in his 33rd year.


The smokies here are likely to be the Force, they’ll be hoping Greg Holmes can stay fit and that Andrew Ready and Angus Wagner can continue to improve as they did throughout last season.


I’ll be watching Ryan McCauley with interest, he had limited opportunities in three seasons at the Waratahs but at 2.03m, 115kgs and now 23 years old he should be starting to hit his straps.


Tight five squad players






































BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
Harry LloydJosh NasserRhys van NekAlafosio TatolaChris Heiberg
Lachlan LonerganMatt FaesslerJoe CottonJack Winchester
Archer HolzDane ZanderRobbie AbelKieran Longbottom
Tom HooperRyan SmithChris TalakaiVictor Harris
James TuckerBen GrantMax DouglasJackson Pugh
Jeremy Williams

What really stands out here is that the Rebels need to announce a few more tight five signings – the cupboard is bare outside the starting 23.


What is surprising the Waratahs’ depth is equal to or better than most. Yes, their remaining two locks are young but aren’t really giving a lot away compared to the other squads.


Back rows

































BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
6Rob ValetiniLiam WrightRob LeotaLachlan SwintonTomas Lezana
7Tom CusackFraser McReightIsi NaisaraniCarlo TizzanoKane Koteka
8Pete SamuHarry WilsonBrad WilkinJack DempseyBrynard Stander
20Jahrome BrownAngus Scott-YoungRichard HardwickWill HarrisOllie Callan

The Reds have a clear advantage with all three of their starters playing for the Wallabies last year and likely to improve further this season. The only question may lie on Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson standing up to the heavy load of a second professional season straight after their first.


The other three squads all look like they’ll be competive with one or two internationals. I’m excited to see Carlo Tizzano make his mark this season, he and Lachie Swinton will bring a lot of fire to the Waratahs back row. The key will be for these two to control themselves.


Harry Wilson in action for the Reds

Harry Wilson. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)


Back-row squad players























BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
Luke ReimerSeru UruMichael WellsCharlie GambleTim Anstee
Rory ScottSam WallisJosh KemenyHugh Sinclair
Jeral Skelton

The Rebels are the ones with the most depth here. They’re probably wishing they could convert one of these players into a different position.


Halves

































BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
9Nic WhiteTate McDermottJoe PowellJake GordonTomas Cubelli
10Noah LolesioJames O’ConnorMatt To’omuaWill HarrisonDomingo Miotti
21Ryan LonerganMoses SoroviFrank LomaniHenry RobertsonMichael McDonald
22Bayley KuenzleBryce HegartyCarter GordonTane EdmedJack McGregor

I’ll put my hand up and say I may have the Force bench wrong as they still have Ian Prior and Jono Lance, but I hope the young blokes get a chance to impress.


There is quality all through the starting line-ups. The Tahs probably have the most to prove compared to the other four squads.


Will Harrison lines up for a shot at goal

(Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)


Halves squad players























BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
Isaak FinesLawson CreightonJames TuttleJack GrantIan Prior
Lachie AlbertKalani ThomasTheo StrangBen DonaldsonJono Lance
Reesjan PasitoaJake Mcintyre

The Brumbies and Force have the clear edge on depth. Melbourne look thin but have the ability to shift Reece Hodge out of the centres to back up and cover Matt To’omua.


The Reds are reportedly fuming about the loss of Carter Gordon, while Ben Donaldson shows a lot of promise for the Tahs and will be pushing for a spot over Tane Edmed.


Centres







































BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
12Irae SimoneHunter PaisamiReece HodgeTepai MoeroaKyle Godwin
13Len IkitauJordan PetaiaCampbell MagnayJoey WaltonTevita Kuridrani
Reece TapineHamish StewartYoung TonumaipeaLalakai FoketiRichard Kahui
Josh FlookLewis HollandAlex NewsomeHenry Taefu
Hudson CreightonGrason Makara

The Reds look best placed in midfield with a pair of Wallabies, the very solid Hamish Stewart and the promise of Josh Flook to choose from. I’ve mixed starters, bench and squad since teams will be flexible in their midfield and back-three subs.


Shout out to the Force who will have a solid starting pair with plenty to prove and a mix of young and old to back them up.


The Melbourne starters have promise but need to deliver and they run the risk of needing Hodge at ten or 15.


This will be Len Ikitau’s chance to impress having had few opportunities behind Tevita Kuridrani.


Meanwhile, there are a few options in NSW with Joey Walton able to push in one and Izaia Perese listed as a midfielder during the squad announcement.


Tevita Kuridrani fends off Beauden Barrett

Tevita Kuridrani has moved form the Brumbies to the Force. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)


Back three













































BrumbiesRedsRebelsWaratahsForce
11Tom WrightFilipo DaugunuMarika KoroibeteJames RammTony Pulu
14Solomone KataSuliasi VunivaluTom PincusIzaia PereseByron Ralston
15Tom BanksJock CampbellDane Haylett-PettyJack MaddocksRob Kearney
23Andy MuirheadMac GrealyIlly VudogoTriston ReillyJake Strachan
Mack HansenIlasea DroaseseLachie AndersonMark NawaqanitawaseMarcel Brache
Brad Lacey

There is some quality across the back threes and, importantly for the Wallabies, more speed than we’ve seen in a long time. Will the experience of the older custodians at the Rebels and Force be able to keep up with the quickness across all the squads?


Jock Campbell should be one to watch this season, he was outstanding for the Reds last year and will be wanting to make a mark compared to the players Dave Rennie preferred over him.


So where do those squads leave us? The Brumbies and Reds are clear favourites with the bookies and that is probably correct.


The Force will be the other team making strides. It’s a shame they missed out on Montoya, but they’ve still recruited well.