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Anzac Super Rugby showdowns will sort Wallabies from chaff

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Who will top the Australian conference?

With three Australian teams in a position to qualify for the finals, it's a very good sign for Australian rugby.

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The true strength of Australian rugby’s pulse will become that little bit clearer over the next week.

The Waratahs, Brumbies and Reds, from who the bulk of the Wallabies will be drawn, play six matches against the four New Zealand opponents that will supply most of the All Blacks.

This is rugby how we all – players, coaches, fans – like it, with an edge. Super Rugby has been chugging away rather earnestly thus far. Now the stakes go up. There are Wallabies jumpers up for grabs.

ACT Brumbies forward Sam Carter has been a revelation in Super Rugby this season.

ACT Brumbies forward Sam Carter has been a revelation in Super Rugby this season. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

After Tony Woodcock did a job on Ben Alexander in Canberra, in the eyes of everyone except referee Rohan Hoffman, it is impossible not to think of Sekope Kepu’s job against the All Black’s angles and power as anything but a trial. For all their promise out wide, the Wallabies are still in desperate want of an anchor. In Canberra, Sam Carter’s progress – the beanpole has quietly emerged as one of the Brumbies’ best – will be measured against Brodie Retallick. Signs of Will Genia’s form, and legs, will be inspected in Wellington against the energetic T.J. Perenara.

My instincts when selecting a Wallabies 23 so far have a strong bias towards continuity. Memories must be short if the players who finished last season so strongly with the Wallabies suddenly find themselves usurped in proposed selections based solely on the fortunes of their Super Rugby sides.

Yes, a common line is that Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie will select ‘‘on form’’, but that may be a slightly unfair and less-nuanced version of what the coach has in mind this year as opposed to last year’s blank canvas.

Queensland halfback Will Genia is one of many Wallabies who will be under the micrscope this weekend.

Queensland halfback Will Genia is one of many Wallabies who will be under the micrscope this weekend. Photo: Getty Images

McKenzie has been keen to say he will judge players in the context of what they are being asked to do with their franchises. That is enough wriggle room to pick players whose deeds may be being clouded by malfunctions elsewhere in their operation. Look at the set-piece of the Reds, for example (in particular the improved scrum), and the Wallabies in their tight five can be exempted from some of the criticism that has come the franchise’s way. That is not to say McKenzie doesn’t have some new names to consider. The Force and Rebels should press for secession from the ARU if the names Matt Hodgson and Luke Jones are not somewhere in the mix.

But the real wildcard is Will Skelton. The Waratahs behemoth has hints of England’s Billy Vunipola in that mixture of huge potential and conditioning question marks. What the Wallabies do with Jones and Skelton will be telling. In financially restricted times, the model may be to go with two experienced men (James Horwill and Rob Simmons) and two hungry pups, cutting out the middle tier who have been around long enough to attract tasty offers from France without suggesting they can be imposing Wallabies.

Regardless, the Blues (and Hurricanes next weekend) will give us a bit more insight about Skelton’s ability to live with the big boys. The Kiwis will get stuck into him.

The question remains what these trans-Tasman games actually mean with regards to the Bledisloe Cup. In one sense, nothing. In the recent past they have been desperately unreliable indicators.

But let’s borrow a favourite from a modern coaching cliche manual and unclutter the mind. The one thing that really matters to Australian rugby this year is beating the All Blacks, specifically in that first Test in Sydney. Every little win matters for Australian rugby, and every little hint that it could be achievable will be greedily accepted.

Wallabies 23 based on Super Rugby to round 11. 1. James Slipper (Reds) 2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies) 3. Sekope Kepu (Waratahs) 4. James Horwill (c) (Reds) 5. Rob Simmons (Reds) 6. Scott Fardy (Brumbies) 7. Michael Hooper (Waratahs) 8. Scott Higginbotham (Rebels) 9. Will Genia (Reds) 10. Quade Cooper (Reds) 11. Nick Cummins (Force) 12. Matt Toomua (Brumbies) 13. Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies) 14. Adam Ashley Cooper (Waratahs) 15. Israel Folau (Waratahs). Bench: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs) 17. Scott Sio (Brumbies) 18. Ben Alexander (Brumbies) 19. Luke Jones (Rebels) 20. Matt Hodgson (Force) 21. Nic White (Brumbies) 22. Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) 23. Joe Tomane (Brumbies).

15 comments so far

  • Are you seriously suggesting out of form players should be selected?
    On current form Genia is certainly not the best half back of the Aussie franchises and Coopers non selection wouldn't raise too many eyebrows.Frankly several Reds players give the impression of not being too interested in really having a go.
    I would suggest the sole reason the Kangaroos have been so dominant in rugby. League over the past 25 years is selectors have in the main picked players based on their form,rather than reputation.
    Wallaby supporters want to see some decent consistent wins and out of form players will not deliver this.

    Circling Buzzard
    Date and time
    April 25, 2014, 1:24PM
    • Cully... welcome back to the fold as you've been missed. Heaven is a much better place with you here.

      Timely article and pretty much bang on the money. I'm a big supporter of Sam Carter and the improvement I've seen this season, as you've pointed out, bodes well for him.
      I've always thought Sam just needed to get his mind into gear and thus enabling him to wreak havoc at the collision area with his size and matter.

      Should be a good w'end of Rugby for the die-hards.

      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      April 25, 2014, 1:35PM
      • I log in whilst on holidays to check out the rugby news and find only joke articles!

        Why make any mention of this week's games having a bearing on Wallaby selection and then simply select the same nonperforming players always selected for the green and gold?

        Reds frontrow has not performed - Tahs frontrow has not performed (unless you mean at that classic Tahs tactic of 'lose your feet and hope for a penalty' - they are still masters at that).

        If the Wallaby selectors pick Slipper, Kepu, Horwill and Simmons (again) they deserve to have their pack destroyed (again). Hooper I like, but you can't honestly claim him to be the best choice at 7 - if Hodgson is not selected then The Force might as well just give up on national selection. The only player mentioned had to become an international personality AND score a hat trick.

        If Cummins were a Tah or a Red there would be talk of national holidays and knighthoods!

        Langkawi via Perth via Rakaia
        Date and time
        April 25, 2014, 2:44PM
        • @ piru

          Geez buddy... give the bloke (Cully) a break as he is most likely correct. The Wallabies (like most teams, Kiwi or otherwise) don't take S15 form as a yardstick as to national selection. Link will most likely go with cattle that have been branded and tested... breaking news, eh ?

          Listen, here's a free and well intentional tip...@piru Langkawi. Get back to the 'cocktail hour' special selection... make a choice and stick to it. Most of all enjoy your (as always) time in the sun.

          Fact : Cummins is not a Tah or a Red... and remember water and oil don't mix unless you bring alcohol (lots) to the mix !

          inner west sydney
          Date and time
          April 25, 2014, 5:50PM
        • Piru, I agree completely. If the criterion being used is current form, Cully's list is way off the mark (wouldn't be for a Kiwi hoping to skew Wallaby selections though).

          For me, Horwill (still giving away dumb penalties every game), Simmons, Cooper, and Genia for example are not the "in form" players; they are "reputation" players! I would argue that Toomua is currently ahead of Cooper by some margin at 10, and Nick White is playing way better than Genia -- and I'm a Reds supporter!

          Am not happy with Kuridrani at 13 at test level either, as I've argued before, since he's not smart /experienced enough to cover the big defensive role required there yet. And AAC on the wing ahead of Tomane, for example, is nonsense. If AAC is anywhere, it should be 13 since our options there are still thin (as with our choices for props). And until such time as Polata-Nau can learn to throw straight, he should not even be considered.


          Outside the tent
          Date and time
          April 26, 2014, 9:10AM
      • Your team was pretty spot on until you got to Ben Alexander and Kurtley Beale in the reserves. They both need to be kept as far away from the Wallabies as possible to avoid the negative impact their attitudes have on team spirit. Not even sure about Horwill as captain, as every successful international team has to have a hard arse or two to make sure opposing team players are worried about retribution to dirty play and Horwill and possibly Higginbotham are just the guys. You hamstrung their ability to police the game if you make them captain. Genia seems petulant at times but that might be confusing a burning desire for excellence, which could be good. Moore would be great but may not want it. Cooper suits vice captain. We need Leiliafano there as a back reserve and Mogg is worth persevering with because if he ever tightens his game up he will be d.y.n.a.m.i.t.e., as will Speight when eligible. Australia is developing some impressive depth at lock so Simmons needs to be incredibly accurate to keep his spot. Skelton is developing at a rapid rate and should be a shoe in for the end of year tour as is Godwin and preferably Tapuai, at 12 you dufus Graham. And Albert Anae is a sleeper. Maybe Cottrell too..
        I think the kiwis are in for a bit of a surprise this year in the internationals, not that they will see it coming hehe

        Date and time
        April 25, 2014, 6:13PM
        • I don't see any real surprises here that will have the ABs worried too much.

          Wrecking Ball
          Date and time
          April 26, 2014, 6:10AM
      • Well Paul welcome back as your presence has been missed, by not only by myself, but others as well. O.K. back to the rugby mate, and honestly Paul, if that team is selected against the All Blacks, all I can say is, "Another 10 years". Tonight, for instance, shall we watch two of your back selections go around against TJ Perenara & Beaudene Barrett. In the forwards Horwill & Simmons up against Thrush & his partner. Simmons although a good lineout forward lacks involvement in the physicality department. Also the front row, apart from Stephen Moore, needs to be seriously looked at. Cheers.

        Date and time
        April 26, 2014, 12:01PM
        • Interesting lineup Cully however Genia should not be starting. He has been quite inconsistent, lacking the form needed to be regained from his pre-injury days. I am not a fan of Nic White's constant kicking however at this stage he should be the starting half. It would be Phipps for his defense but lately has lacked form. I'd even debate Burgess needing to be in the squad.
          The time has come to blood new players like Carter, Skelton and Jones. i think we all agree Horwill should not be considered due to leadership, current form issues. Simmons needs to be replaced!
          Toomua at 12 is a great call! He is easily our best back in all aspects of our game. Not sure Coopers defense will hold up at 10, yet I cannot see Folau putting his body on the line that close to an opposing attack.
          Wing position is almost impossible to figure out with too many options. Cummins for his attacking power and commitment is a definite. ACC is more suited to the wing as he lacks drawing and passing but straightens an attack, plus brings experience. Folau at fullback but only because there is no other option. He needs to be more clinical and more involved.
          The bench needs youth and experience.
          I apologise to all Brumbies supporters but i do not trust Mogg as he is a very hot and cold player.

          Date and time
          April 26, 2014, 2:05PM
          • @ Mattty

            Bench, bench, bench, bench, bench, bench..... GENIA !

            OK... we get it.... AND also Izzy is crap, rubbish and not worth all the attention !!

            inner west sydney
            Date and time
            April 27, 2014, 4:09PM

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