Deans risks career banking on seven Waratahs
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“It’s certainly the best team, in our opinion, for this Test match”. That was Wallaby coach Robbie Deans’ summation at the naming of the 22 for tomorrow at Suncorp in the first of three Tests against Six Nations Grand Slammers, Wales.
Deans must reckon he can get more out of the woeful Waratahs than their coach Michael Foley.
That’s the only possible explanation why seven Waratahs – the entire frontrow of Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, and Sekope Kepu, with No 8 Wycliff Palu, and backs Berrick Barnes, Rob Horne, and Adam Ashley-Cooper – have been selected in the starting lineup.
Yet the Australian Conference Super Rugby leading Brumbies have just one representative – inside-centre Pat McCabe.
Slightly better for the Reds, just a point behind on the Conference table, who have four – Scott Higginbotham, Rob Simmons, Will Genia, and Digby Ioane.
But between the two top Australian teams, there will be five Wallabies at the kick off tomorrow, still two short of the confidence shot Waratahs.
Not one of the seven Waratahs have put together even two decent individual performances back-to-back all season. But every one of them has been deeply involved in the franchise’s worst tournament in Super Rugby history.
Losing 10 games in a season for the first time, six games on the trot for the first time, and three losses in succession for the first time at Allianz Stadium, normally their fortress, are unwanted records of the worst kind.
The three Waratah backs can count themselves very fortunate there’s a litany of injured.
The list grew yesterday when winger Joe Tomane did an ankle at training to join Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Christian Lealiifano, Lachie Turner, and Ben Tapuai on the sideline, with Quade Cooper and Drew Mitchell back in action, but still game-time shy.
That translates to not one of the three Waratahs in the starting line-up if everyone was fit.
The frontrow could so easily have been overlooked for a combination of James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, and Dan Palmer who debuted against Scotland – Palu by Higginbotham, the form Australian forward, who has been shifted to blind side flanker to make way for the big Waratah who is injury prone and rarely sees out the full 80 minutes.
Ben Mowen should also be in the No 8 mix.
So it’s a brave gamble by Deans to trust seven Waratahs when their individual form suggests none are good enough at the moment to do battle with a formidable foe, unbeaten in Europe.
Every Wallaby supporter will have fingers crossed Deans can do the seemingly impossible by raising his Waratah contingent performance bar by wearing gold, instead of blue.
If that’s the case, and the underdog Wallabies get up, it will be one of Robbie Deans’ finest hours.
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