Waratahs title credentials on the line
The Waratahs have a big chance of winning the competition if they can beat the defending champs, the Chiefs in New Zealand.PT2M50S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-396bf 620 349 May 29, 2014
Stephen Moore has emerged as the frontrunner for the Wallabies captaincy just days out from Monday's announcement on the Gold Coast.
Despite coach Ewen McKenzie's high praise of Michael Hooper at the Wallabies launch last week, the Breakdown understands Moore had been told two weeks earlier that he was McKenzie's choice and would have Hooper as his deputy.
If true, the announcement on Monday will be the crowning glory in a stellar career for the 91-Test Wallabies stalwart.
Brumbies player Stephen Moore. Photo: Melissa Adams
Moore wouldn't see it that way, reserving that language for the day he holds a Webb Ellis Trophy or Bledisloe Cup aloft. Which is exactly why he will be perfect for the job.
CHEIKA PUZZLED OVER ROBBO SNUB
It was not lost on Michael Cheika that the only prop included in Ewen McKenzie's Wallabies squad last week was the one who has not been part of the Waratahs' starting side for the past three matches.
Cheika said he was disappointed Benn Robinson was left out of McKenzie's 32-man line-up, while Sekope Kepu was named and Paddy Ryan was earmarked for the wider training gorup.
The NSW coach vowed to use Saturday's Chiefs clash, in which Robinson will wear the No.1 jersey, to help his 67-Test loose-head prove his value.
"No one's hard done by, that's the way selections go, but what we need to do is try to help them," Cheika said.
"The coach would have given them some quite specific reasons why and what I need to do before the Chiefs game – because it's the last chance – is to tap into those things the guys have been left out for and try to get them going better. I feel that responsibility to them as their coach."
MEMO TO NEW SEVENS COACH
Big news this week is that Canada head sevens coach Geraint John will lead the Australians on the path to Rio in 2016.
John will join the team at the end of June and take them to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow before preparing them for the most important few months of the team's existence: Olympic qualification via the IRB Sevens World Series.
The men and the women must finish in the top four to automatically qualify. If they fail, they face a circuitous regional qualification process. The men managed fifth in this year's tournament, but face ongoing challenges that John will tackle during the next few months.
In honour of his impending arrival, the Breakdown presents a few salient facts about the men he'll be coaching. Consider it John's briefing note for the handover.
- They are small(ish). Compared with world-series champions New Zealand, who weigh in at between 96 kilograms and 97kg on average, the Australians average 91kg. The trend is heading inexorably upwards and players such as Tom Cusack (103kg) are the future.
- They are innovators – because of the first point. Under long-serving former coach Mick O'Connor, Australia pioneered the way the attacking breakdown is played to cut down on costly turnovers. The players go in square on and on their knees before rolling the ball back instead of just placing it. In defence they have also changed the game, again because they lack the size of their bigger rivals. It has required a lot of advocacy with referees but the tweaks have given Australia an edge over much larger teams (John's Canada included). Many countries began copying the techniques.
- They boast several world-class players but need a few game-breakers. Hence the interest in Israel Folau and Michael Hooper making a foray into sevens. Rebels youngster Sean McMahon was also on O'Connnor's wish list. The 19-year-old was the country's youngest ever men's sevens player and made himself indispensible during two seasons. His move to Super Rugby hurt big time.
- The newcomers will need time. If John wants to recruit from Super Rugby for the Rio campaign, he has time on his side. Any Test players involved in the Wallabies' World Cup squad could join the sevens team after a short break. O'Connor said Super Rugby players needed to make it to at least four world-series tournaments in 2016 before heading to the Olympics.