Deans goes for proven combinations
The Wallabies selectors have been clever in selecting proven combinations for the first Wales Test match.
The dramatic circumstances of last Tuesday evening and the short turn around dictated that this is the best approach.
Last week after more than 284 comments on my articles naming the forwards and the backs for the Wales tour, we now have the Wallabies squad.
I made 22 selections. 14 were correct, 7 were wrong and one was the correct player but in the wrong position (Higginbotham).
Here is the final line-up:
2. Polota Nau
5. Sharpe not Douglas
6. Higginbotham not Dennis
10. Barnes not Cooper, (Goal Kicker 2)
12. McCabe not Harris, (Goal Kicker 1)
14. Tomane/vuna not Monahan,
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper not McCabe,
18. Dennis not Pyle
20. White not Phipps
22. Harris not Foley
This is a must win Test match. Expect a no frills game plan from the Wallabies.
I expect that this team will seek to dominate the forwards. The best chance of this is the Waratahs pack. Like the Tahs or not, Michael Foley has presided over a dominant pack for several seasons. I worry whether Simmons has the weight to support the front row. If there is insufficient power coming through the second row, it will end in disaster.
McCabe at 12 is a no nonsense player. Barnes needs to under play his hand and allow the likes of Higginbotham (in the wider channel not the edge of the ruck), Sharpe, Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ioane and McCabe through the 12 channel, and supported Kepu and Robinson, by to get the team going forward with Pocock ensuring that there is fast phase ball.
If they can get into the Welsh 22, the forwards will take over and drive it to the line for 5 points.
The backs, as a backline, will not appear. As sad as this is, it will be a consequence of the selections and the lack of combinations between the players. Neither Barnes nor Adam Ashley-Cooper, two of the team’s spine, are in form in attack. Expecting scintillating play from them at this point of the season is naïve.
On an attacking continuum commencing with kicking through to practical go forward and on to Ella-like backline play, I expect practical go forward.
McCabe and Horne can blunt the Wales go forward. Adam Ashley-Cooper will defuse the high ball. Vuna will still be scratching his head as to why he was selected ahead of Monahan. If he can just keep awake in defence and make some yards in attack, I will be happy.
I have one concern: Barnes. He has clearly been very distressed by the Waratahs season. But, he has always played his best rugby in a Wallabies jersey. Deans is banking on this again. Berrick, take a deep breath, clear your head, relax into the game and maintain your concentration on the job in front of you, which is winning this game. Enjoy it.
The bench is strong. Moore and Alexander are experienced, in form, starting team players. Fainga’a is consistent, does the important things well and can lead from the front.
Hooper and Dennis will be jumping out of their skins to get out there. Harris could well decide the game with his goalkicking. White is auditioning for the part of Chris Whitaker in “The Benchwarmers.”
Robbie, use the bench fully.
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