Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Mogg may be the missing link McKenzie seeks

Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg has a long punt. Photo / Getty Images
Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg has a long punt. Photo / Getty Images

Write down Jesse Mogg as one of the missing pieces in the Wallaby jigsaw.

It's certainly no bold left field idea these days after Mogg was picked on the bench for the third test against the Lions and got in an hour's work on the wing when Israel Folau damaged a hamstring.

Just a few seasons ago it would have seemed a strange theory. Mogg was battling away in club rugby in Canberra wondering about a return to Brisbane and league.

The sharp eyes of Brumbies coach Jake White spotted Mogg and gave him a training chance with the Brumbies. Tonight Mogg plays at fullback for them as they search for a Super 15 title against the defending champion Chiefs.

Good hands, a strong kicking game and blinding pace were some of Mogg's skills which thrust him into White's viewfinder.

"He is absolute lightning and is part of a Brumbies back four which might be the quickest in the competition," former coach Eddie Jones suggested this week.

"With Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani and Clyde Rathbone they have got some real pace there."

Mogg's rise to prominence is one of the sub-chapters in the Brumbies book of success as they have shown a unity and direction which has not been a hallmark of their work.

The 23-year-old is sharp and an Australian rugby show this year suggested he was the fastest man in their game with a sub 11sec 100m.

New Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie has his eyes on Mogg and a dozen of the Brumbies tonight as he sifts the talent pool for a squad to open up against the All Blacks in Sydney on August 17.

With Kurtley Beale out of the game because of shoulder surgery and the Wallabies looking for a fullback and some different kicking options in their backline, Mogg looks the man.

He is rangy and slight at 90kg but his agility and speed keep him away from too much trouble.

His play has a bit of Chris Latham about it and also the parallels where Latham found it tough to crack the big time before he showcased his talent. Think Stephen Larkham too, the Brumbies backline coach, whose wiry angular frame began at fullback before switching to five-eighths.

Larkham knows Mogg came away from his time in the Wallaby camp before and during the British and Irish Lions tour with a much better understanding about his targets and his own game.

His confidence had gone to another level as he worked with the test squad.

This season the Brumbies have used Mogg, Nic White, Matt Toomua or former Waikato man Christian Leali'ifano, to boot the ball out of their own territory before they make their plays. Mogg has a long punt, often a raking spiral from his left peg or a soaring bomb to test the nerves of the opposition backfield retrievers. Those episodes and his counter-attacking speed are go-to Brumbies strengths.

"He's genuinely skilful, probably our most co-ordinated player and reads the game really well," Larkham said.

- NZ Herald

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