So reliable … Berrick Barnes trained lightly at Rushcutters Bay yesterday. He is in the Wallabies' Test team to play Scotland tomorrow night despite the Waratahs' woeful season. Photo: Steve Christo
ROBBIE DEANS is adamant the Waratahs he has selected in tomorrow night's Test team to play Scotland in Newcastle will soon forget their provincial woes and immediately produce for their country.
In a new-look line-up that includes five players involved in their first Test, the coach has picked three Waratahs - five-eighth Berrick Barnes, breakaway Dave Dennis and second-rower Sitaleki Timani - who have to pick themselves up after suffering six straight losses with the Waratahs. A fourth Waratah - Adam Ashley Cooper - is on the bench, backing up a team that includes newcomers - Reds fullback Luke Morahan, Brumbies winger Joe Tomane, Reds utility back and now Test goalkicker Mike Harris, Brumbies prop Dan Palmer and Dennis, who is also playing his first Test.
''This quick transition is going to be challenging for the playing group, but it is a good test for them. What makes it easy is that they just have to look at the [Australian] jersey. You're pulling on a different strip and so it's a great switch,'' Deans said yesterday.
Wallabies selections for Scotland Test
Luke Morahan of the Queensland Reds. Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images
The greatest demand is on Barnes, who, after a fluctuating season, takes over as the Wallabies' chief playmaker, consolidating the role because James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale are unavailable, and Quade Cooper is not quite ready for a Test return. Cooper will return to Brisbane today and Deans said he ''needs more playing time before he is ready to play in a Test''. Beale, who has shoulder concerns, remains a possibility for the final Test against Wales in Sydney on June 23.
Barnes had limited time with the Test squad, running with them for about an hour during a spirited training session at Rushcutters Bay yesterday. Deans has always had strong faith in Barnes, as he has often produced for him at Test level, including last season.
''The great advantage about Berrick is that he has background with us. We want to play positively and we see Berrick an important part of that. It is advantageous for us to have Berrick in the role he's in. The key for him is to have people working off him,'' Deans said.
''He has done well in the Test arena before and we expect him to do the same again.''
Deans is expecting even more from Dennis, a warranted selection in the Test back row after being easily the Waratahs' most consistent forward in their flawed season.
''Dave has clearly earned his start. You only had to watch last night's game [against the Hurricanes] to see how much he puts in. He has been playing great, consistent rugby. He just continues adding to his game, and you could suggest that his cumulative growth has been slow and deliberate. But the great thing is he has the ability to be consistent. Every week you know what you are going to get out of Dave. He's adding elements to his game and we are expecting him to do really well. He is playing like a Test player now, so it's not a step for him at all. He is just a lot more explosive. He's heady, runs good lines, is adaptable and is very good at lineout time.''
And as revealed in Fairfax Media about a week ago, Deans yesterday confirmed that David Pocock would be the 79th player to lead the Wallabies in a Test match. In James Horwill's absence, Pocock was the obvious choice, especially after taking over as skipper at the Force.
''David understands the game. He cares about the people around him, and the ability to work with a group is crucial as a captain. It's not necessarily about having all the answers, but it's about getting the group to come together. You've seen a good insight in his effectiveness with the Force this year,'' Deans said.