Mitchell axed amid wide Waratahs changes

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    Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell has been dropped as NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika rings the changes in his under-performing team for Friday’s Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs in Sydney.

    Cheika responded to last weekend’s thrashing by the Brumbies by making six personnel changes and two positional changes.

    Mitchell, who has made a slow start to the season, was dropped from the match-day 22 altoghter, while Lachie Turner and Peter Betham are promoted to form a new starting wing combination.

    Wallabies utility Berrick Barnes makes his first appearance of the season, returning from injury at inside centre at the expense of Tom Carter and giving the Waratahs another playmaking option.

    Wallabies Test prop Sekope Kepu is the other high-profile star left out, given time off to be with his wife due to the impending birth of their child.

    Pat McCutcheon returns to the starting team at No.8, allowing captain Dave Dennis to revert his preferred position on the blindside flank while Mitchell Chapman drops to the bench.

    Star signing Israel Folau moves from wing back to fullback, with last weekend’s starting debutant Ben Volavola dropped to the reserves.

    Turner is elevated from the bench to partner with newcomer Betham as wingers.

    A stand-out in last season’s ITM Cup provincial competition in New Zealand, Betham returns from a trial match ankle injury to take over from Mitchell.

    In the other changes to the pack, reserve hooker John Ulugia takes over from the injured Wallaby Tatafu Polota-Nau, while Paddy Ryan gets a start at tight-head.

    On the bench, Cheika has opted for a 4-3 forwards-backs split, with Rob Horne included for the first time this year as he returns from a hamstring injury sustained in a pre-season trial.

    NSW Waratahs: Israel Folau, Lachie Turner, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Peter Betham, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Pat McCutcheon, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Paddy Ryan, John Ulugia, Benn Robinson. Replacements: Luke Holmes, Jeremy Tilse, Mitchell Chapman, Lopeti Timani, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola, Rob Horne

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (62)

    • Roar Guru

      March 13th 2013 @ 1:54pm
      Jiggles said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

      Still a very weak pack. The back three looks very weak.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 2:06pm
        RugbyRene said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

        Why don’t we wait to see what happens instead of constantly putting them down.

        • March 13th 2013 @ 3:25pm
          Denby said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

          I am glad to see some changes. 3 weeks was enough of a time to give the guys a chance to perform.
          The forwards need the biggest kick up the butt, the Tahs has struggled all year up front.

        • March 13th 2013 @ 7:27pm
          Dave said | March 13th 2013 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

          It’s the thing that annoys me most about these forums. There are a group of people with a barrow to push. There’s nothing the Waratahs can ever do right. While I’m sure they think they’re being witty, what they’re actually doing is stifling sensible debate.

          • March 14th 2013 @ 9:35am
            Dirk said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:35am | ! Report

            I believe those barrow pushers you speak are called Queenslanders. It’s a shame they are so parochial and insecure. Pathetic really. Its the 21st C ffs.

        • March 14th 2013 @ 5:16am
          mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 5:16am | ! Report

          rugbyRene : becaue it saves time?

      • March 13th 2013 @ 2:35pm
        Jutsie said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

        good to see ryan start ahead of kepu though. Kepu has not been good this year thats for sure.

        • Roar Guru

          March 13th 2013 @ 2:41pm
          Jiggles said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

          Ryan has more upside than Kepu if he’s managed correctly

    • March 13th 2013 @ 2:01pm
      nickoldschool said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

      I don’t think Mitchell had been worse than the other backs but I guess someone had to pay the price. At least Cheika is doing something and won’t blame him for that. Dennis captain’s armband has to be under pressure too as he hasn’t showed any leadership so far. Would have promoted BArnes to captain in order to boost the morale of the troops tbh and give them a new start.

      Didn’t know that I would say that that early in the season but am happy Barnes is back in the starting XV. Hopefully Foley will feel more confident too. In all fairness, when you look at the roster it doesn’t look like a finals contender roster. transition year all right, again.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 3:28pm
        Denby said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

        I am very glad Barnes is back. He will take some of the pressure of Foley which will probably allow him to attack a little more.

        • March 13th 2013 @ 4:03pm
          RugbyRene said | March 13th 2013 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

          I agree Denby. Will be useful having two play-makers. Barnes should be jumping out of his skin to play.

          • March 13th 2013 @ 4:26pm
            nickoldschool said | March 13th 2013 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

            BB has ten games to earn a wallabies spot for the Lions tour. Agree, he should be hungry! Should the tahs work better with him, he would be seen as a savior. really hope he has a blinder on Sat. Cheetahs are the perfect opportunity.

            • March 13th 2013 @ 7:30pm
              Dave said | March 13th 2013 @ 7:30pm | ! Report

              I said after the brumbies game that I was disappointed with Mitchell so I’m glad to see him go. It might be good to have Barnes back, it just depends whether or not he plays like he did last year – way too lacking in creativity and spark.

              • Roar Guru

                March 13th 2013 @ 9:37pm
                AlBo said | March 13th 2013 @ 9:37pm | ! Report

                We saw what he could do with ball in hand against the Welsh. Let’s hope he puts it back into practice. He is deceptively quick and defenses hold off on him so could open gaps up for the back three. Defensive channel is solid too so nothing lost there.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 10:07pm
        Dan H said | March 13th 2013 @ 10:07pm | ! Report

        I agree about the captaincy as I have stated before I really dont rate dennis at all, and I think its really good that cheika is doing something about this team. Hopefully a few fresh faces in the starting line up will introduce a bit of passion with players who are wanting to prove a point. Might help put a rocket up the rest of them hopefully some hungry attitude will rub off. Sick of seeing the tahs do badly… unless they play QLD of course. Its brining all of aussie rugby down with it which doesnt have to be an issue but unfortunately rugby is fairly nswcentric in this country.

    • March 13th 2013 @ 2:07pm
      RugbyRene said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

      I’m glad to see Chieka is standing by his claim to pick on form and not reputation. Maybe now the players who have been dropped will realise they aren’t automatic picks because of their name. Should make for a competitive season.

      • March 14th 2013 @ 5:17am
        mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 5:17am | ! Report

        how does folau’s form see him escape the axe?

    • Roar Guru

      March 13th 2013 @ 2:19pm
      stillmissit said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

      Michell is hardly the guy who let the team down last week. I am stuffed if I can see what Chicka sees. Compare him to Carthorse and there is no comparison.

      This loss was down to forwards not commiting to the battle and therefore leaving the backs with a rampaging defence on the front foot and in thier faces.

      If the forwards don’t take responsibility for the speed and enthusiasm of the game then we need to revert to 30 year ago Wallaby strategy when we only had small forwards The plot was get the ball out quickly regardless of the circumstances and put all the faith in fast backs to create a win. It was this situation that Alan Jones took over and started the moulding of a forward pack but we always had fast creative backs, NOT by an act of god but because they had to be or we would get flogged.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 2:31pm
        Jutsie said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

        Its ridiculous, mitchell always puts in and has worked his A$$ of to get back from a long run of injuries. Its not his fault the the ball rarely goes past carter/AAC.
        On the rare occasions he got a touch in the last few weeks he always managed to bend the line or make a half break, only volovola has provided a greater threat in the tahs backline (although he was disappointing on sat nite). Lets be honest folau shows some promise but there is no way he deserves to be in the 15 ahead of mitchell or volovola. Folau manages to keep his spot after three weeks of ok to mediocre performances yet volovola gets dropped after one poor game. I want to see folau continue to develop but let him do it of the bench and let the bloke who actually spark the backline start.
        Im happy with barnes coming in and even betham getting a go but i think mitchell should have been on the other wing with volavola getting another go at 15.

        • Roar Guru

          March 13th 2013 @ 2:41pm
          Jiggles said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

          Mitchell doesn’t deserve to be dropped but he does have a history of being a petulant brat. Maybe this is Cheika stamping his authority on the Tahs culture like he said he would…

          • March 13th 2013 @ 11:02pm
            Dexter William said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:02pm | ! Report

            Jiggles

            You mean Mitchell might not have done his homework 🙂

        • March 13th 2013 @ 3:30pm
          bmwwilliams said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

          starting to look like folau is an untouchable selection already…

          • March 13th 2013 @ 5:18pm
            Denby said | March 13th 2013 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

            It is hard to judge the backs accurately when all they get is back foot ball or have to defend when the oppositions forward pack is so rampant.
            Not saying Izzy or any of them have been great. Volavola has shown the best form of the three rounds but he is now dropped to the bench.
            It is strange that Mitchell and Volavola who I both thought played okay under the circumstances are gone, and Izzy and AAC who I thought have both been less impressive have both stayed. But then I only watched the train wreck of the game once and could not even pay attention after halftime, was too painful.

            • March 13th 2013 @ 7:35pm
              Dave said | March 13th 2013 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

              I thought the brumbies killed us at the breakdown last week, I never felt the ball was safe. They constantly killed momentum by disrupting the ball. Having said that, was there a single back who showed any spark at all? They looked like they were in a permanent slumber. I’m not sure how anyone could argue against any of them being dropped to be honest. I’d say Mitchell was dropped to put a rocket up him, whereas folau was kept because he needs to be nurtured at the moment.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 2:31pm
        RugbyRene said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

        The loss was down to 15 players (plus subs) not playing as a team. Hopefully the players who have been dropped have received their wake-up call.

        Tell you what though. I would not like to have been on the receiving end of Chieka’s spray at half or full time.

        • Roar Guru

          March 13th 2013 @ 2:59pm
          stillmissit said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

          RugbyRene: Maybe thats what they do when they get a spray, go back to the hotel, go to bed and suck their thumb in the foetal position?

      • March 13th 2013 @ 3:42pm
        carnivean said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

        I think some players were dropped and others were rotated to allow testing of different combinations. I think Mitchell was the victim of the need to test a new combination. Turner and Betham, especially the latter, deserve their chance to shine, and the only way to do that is to bench the incumbents.

        I think Volavola is also not being dropped as such, but rather not being pushed too hard. As an impact player he made an impact, but as a starting player not so much.

    • Roar Guru

      March 13th 2013 @ 2:28pm
      AlBo said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

      Dropping Mitchell is a strange one. He certainly looked the most dangerous of the back three and was getting back to his best. For me the problem was that the forwards weren’t putting us on the front foot enough for the backs to work with space. Granted the backs didn’t exactly create much either but I would have given someone like Drew a chance with both Barnes and Foley in the mix. Still happy to be proven wrong if it means good footy.

      One theory that I have is that it’s a long season and the wing spots are so evenly contested that he wants to see all of them start a game to see who are the match day front runners. Let’s hope Betham can bring his ITM form in to Super Rugby.

    • March 13th 2013 @ 2:37pm
      kingplaymaker said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

      Actually stillmissit I don’t even think the players played badly.

      I think that they struggled to put a very new gameplan into action successfully against a good team, and that therefore the whole didn’t work. The whole not working is not enough against a good team.

      On an individual level few really did badly. Dennis was anonymous, Carter his normal self, but the generally unfamiliar backline strategy wasn’t really the players’ fault, nor was the forward strategy not coming off as desired.

      I think it just takes time to put into play such a completely new style, and that dropping players whose confidence might be fragile and haven’t done much wrong, especially those coming back from injury or new to Super rugby, is a way to break down players who might otherwise be perfectly effective.

      Dropping established players would be fine if they were under performing and resting on their laurels, but does this really apply to Mitchell after his injury and newcomer Volavola?

      Plus Folau at 15 again? If there needs to be any move I would even hazard him at 13 rather than 15 if the idea is for him to be more involved.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2013 @ 2:56pm
        stillmissit said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

        KPM: Now you are not a dunce and you aint a genius either but how long does it take a team of players to understand running lines and approach to kick off, breakdown and line out? These guys have been at it for months not the last couple of weeks.

        Christ! mate if we were as slow on the take up as these guys we would not have been employed for long…..

        How would you discuss performance with a staff member who could not do the basics after – – – How long?

        I think a lot of this is attitude to fitness and speed 2 things the Tahs have been short of for years. OTOH they sure now how to press weights and get those big pecs man! How good do they look on the beach?

        • March 13th 2013 @ 3:02pm
          kingplaymaker said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

          stillmissit in terms of fitness, training in the past you get the impression the likes of Foley just let them off. But Cheika has been training them for ages. If they’re not fit enough or doing the right things AS A WHOLE then he is responsible.

          There’s no talk of the Tahs refusing to train as they did under Foley, and Cheika is a much more fierce boss. So he must be responsible if the training hasn’t worked.

          If it were just individuals not playing well that would be one thing, but the problem is when I look at the match I saw that a lot of the players actually did ok or well given what they COULD within the strategy. What I mean is that the strategy just doesn’t seem to have worked, and despite the old Tahs bashing we hear a lot of these players are good and perform well at higher international level. Again Cheika is responsible.

          I think it does take time for things to come together with a dramatically new strategy so would cut Cheika slack. But not throwing half, and some of the better players out.

          • Roar Guru

            March 13th 2013 @ 3:28pm
            jeznez said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

            I think they need to hit the Kurnell sandhills rather than the Coogee steps next off-season. Clearly they are fitter than they were but it still isn’t enough.

            • March 13th 2013 @ 3:29pm
              kingplaymaker said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

              But jeznez Cheika’s running the fitness regime and there’s no word of them refusing as under Foley.

              • Roar Guru

                March 13th 2013 @ 4:24pm
                jeznez said | March 13th 2013 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

                Cheika is a Randwick boy and the Coogee steps are probably enough to get you set for club rugby – it takes sandhills for the next level.

              • March 13th 2013 @ 5:28pm
                carnivean said | March 13th 2013 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

                Jeznez, if Kurnell sandhills are good enough for Super Rugby, then what are they going to be running during Wallabies traning? The stairs at Centrepoint?

              • Roar Guru

                March 13th 2013 @ 7:29pm
                jeznez said | March 13th 2013 @ 7:29pm | ! Report

                They should probably run the marathon du sables! 😀 You wouldn’t recognise FatCat after attempting that!

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