Wallabies selections in the spotlight
Is it the end of the line for Robbie Deans?
The Wallabies squad for this Saturday’s match against Wales is more balanced than last weeks. The inclusion of a third specialist second rower makes it a more traditional side.
However, some of Robbie Deans’ team selections still have me scratching my head.
I’ll get the first one out of the way; those of you who have seen my posts will not be surprised that I cannot fathom why Ben Alexander has been retained over Dan Palmer. I’ve expressed my opinion on this before so won’t say much here.
I’d have given Kane Douglas the bench spot ahead of Rob Simmons. I think we have a pretty good idea what Simmons brings to the table. Given Nathan Sharpe and Dave Dennis are both capable of running the lineout, I think looking at another heavy lock should have been a priority.
This is particularly the case while there are concerns on Sitaleki Timani playing the full 80 minutes and given the pressure the scrum has been under in the last few weeks. Douglas’s large frame would have been useful.
The rest of the forwards I like. I’m always alert when Deans picks a 5-2 split on the bench, in the past (the 2009 Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park burns in the memory) he has picked extra forward reserves and then failed to use them. Deans has used his bench better in this series than he has in the past, I’ll be hoping he uses the bench well this weekend.
Normally I wouldn’t comment on the backs but the centre pairing in particular and the dropping of last week’s hero Mike Harris suggest to me there is a missed chance here. Pat McCabe and Rob Horne are not passing the ball and doing nothing to bring their wingers into the game.
Harris, apart from coming on to kick the post-siren match winner last week, has only been given one starting chance in the Scotland game. Given the conditions and Wallabies playing style in that match, he had little opportunity to show his wares.
Anthony Faingaa has also looked good in his cameo appearances, not least when he was instrumental in the final driving maul of the game.
Was that a deliberate error commending Digby Ioane for that play?
Putting Harris in 12 and Faingaa in 13 was a very viable option for this test. If Deans is committed to his 5-2 split, then one of McCabe or Horne would miss selection. Otherwise Michael Hooper as an extra openside would make way for both being kept on the bench.
Hooper’s selection is an interesting one, I think he is a fantastic player and it is good to see him getting blooded in the international arena. However, I wonder if the complaints that Deans failed to take a back up number 7 to the Rugby World Cup are now leading to him selecting an extra one in his match day 22.
David Pocock will play 80 minutes; he warrants it both given the style of player he is and as the captain. As such Hooper is really a luxury on the bench. If he is going to have an impact on the game then Hooper needs at least 20 minutes, I’ll be very interested to see when Deans brings him on this week.
I actually like the rest of the team. For me to have issue with the reserve prop, reserve second rower and the starting centre pairing is much less of a difference than I normally have with a Deans team.
Final comment has to be on Kurtley Beale’s return and Adam Ashley-Cooper switching to the wing for Cooper Vuna. Ignoring the off-field drama this to me is the sensible obvious selection decision.
There will be many opinions over whether the fact Beale was drinking while recovering from injury, or that he simply got himself in a state for the situation to arise is reason enough for suspension.
Without having full details it seems to me to be sensible to suspend the ARU disciplinary process until the courts have determined innocence or guilt in relation to the police charges.
If Beale is found innocent by the court should he still be suspended? If found guilty and punished by the court should the ARU have that information in mind when determining any sanction?
As I say, I think the team is largely correct with just a couple of selections opportunities missed. Unfortunately any experiment with the centreso and the tight five is now going to take place in the pressure cooker of the Rugby Championship.
I think Deans has probably managed about a B+ with the selection of this team.
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