This Wallabies side selects itself

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    The upcoming selection of the Wallabies to play New Zealand in Sydney should not come as much of a surprise to any level-headed rugby follower.

    Assuming there are no injury concerns between now and the opening Bledisloe Cup match, the way I see it is that the only real contentious selection comes at number eight. Otherwise, the side will pick itself.

    It would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that there will always be contentious selections when we have various state allegiances all endorsing their own brethren. If you can put that to one side for a moment, and as Wallaby fans you absolutely should, there really ought not to be any contention at all.

    Let’s start with the front row. Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Allan Alaalatoa should come as no surprise as the starting front-row come August 19th.

    One could argue Stephen Moore could or should be selected but that would be only for sentimental reasons. I believe Moore has hit a point of no return in his career and looks a shadow of his former self out on the paddock. It is evident by his stepping down as Wallaby captain that he sees the writing on the wall himself.

    Sekope Kepu arguably scored the best try ever seen by a prop earlier this year and he does certainly bring a lot more to his game than most tight-heads in world rugby.

    Still, Alaalatoa’s form is overwhelmingly more impressive. He will certainly be the starting Wallaby no three with the elder statesman Kepu to no doubt play an important role from the bench.

    On the other side of the scrum, our loose-head stocks in comparison have all of a sudden become a bit bare. It is quite the opposite to the state of affairs just a few years ago. Nevertheless, the competent Scott Sio, who has battled injury of late, will certainly start if fit, with the pound-for-pound best scrummager in the country, Tom Robertson, set to be his back up.

    To the second row, and the exciting promise of an Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold pairing is too much to ignore. This giant lock pairing might even make the All Blacks look up to take notice.

    In regards to the reserve lock, all I can say is, who cares? Take your pick. I just can’t wait to see Coleman and Arnold take on the almighty Whitelock and Retallick duo.

    Adam Coleman wins a lineout for the Wallabies

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    For many, the back-row always seems to be the hardest to select. You need to get the balance right and that can cause all sorts of arguments.

    The fact is that the captain Michael Hooper has earned his spot from five years of winning every individual award he possibly can, bar the big one. An award that, despite having been nominated for, he has not yet won. An award that even the great George Smith was controversially never even nominated for. It is an award that has eluded even three-time nominee David Pocock.

    Yes, that’s right. It is ‘The World Rugby Best Hair Award’.

    I do apologise, I of course mean the ‘World Rugby Player of the Year’ award. It is my contention that Michael Hooper will trump everyone and become the first Wallaby to win that award. You heard it here first.

    Mark my words, Hooper will be named the best player in the world within the next few seasons. This hopefully would finally put to bed all the naysayers’ absurd contention that despite being nominated for this in the past, and despite currently having won not just one but two John Eales medals, as well as four and possibly come September, five Waratah player of the year awards in a row, that somehow he ‘ain’t’ all that good.

    He is. Deal with it.

    At number six there is only one viable selection. Ned Hanigan. If you can’t see this then you really need your rugby spoon-fed. He is a genuine lineout man with a penchant for hard-yakka that you’d naturally expect from a boy born and bred in the country. His form, for the Waratahs and the Wallabies, has been a highlight of an otherwise unremarkable 2017.

    Now, to the only contentious selection that I can logically assume will be difficult for the coaching staff. Number eight. Do we go with Sean McMahon, a dynamic ball carrier and excellent defender, a player that has surprisingly turned his back on the Wallabies ahead of the incumbent brute that is Lopeti Timani?

    This will depend on the conditions. If it is forecast heavy conditions than Timani makes much greater sense. If it is forecast dry, I would go for the more dynamic McMahon.

    Either way, the one selected will make his presence known to the All Blacks with the unlucky one to add their own variety of starch later in the match.

    To the backline and I ask, is there really a need for discussion? The two vice captains – Will Genia and Bernard Foley – will obviously make up the halves combination. The centre pairing will simply have to be the untested but exciting duo of the returning Kutley Beale and the now injury-free Samu Kerevi.

    Unless you’ve been hidden under a rock since 2013 you’ll know that the try-scoring freak that is Israel Folau will wear the no.15. Folau will no doubt be supported by Dane Haylett–Petty on the blind side wing with the open side winger to be the elusive Henry Speight, now that Sefa Naivalu has been ruled out with injury.

    Dane Haylett-Petty Wallabies Australia Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    We could argue for days who might be our three substitute backs but I’ll suggest Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete will be the most likely to warm the bench. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Curtis Rona on the pine either.

    However, I would be reluctant to split hairs over the back reserves because I don’t see them playing much of a role in the series ahead.

    The Wallaby side to take on the All Blacks will be as I’ve pointed out. When you think about it, it picks itself.

    But here is the kicker and the real point to the article.

    Despite that this is clearly our strongest XV, I cannot see anything other than an All Black victory. Take out any of the players I’ve selected and add your own version and it will just make matters worse.

    We cannot ignore the fact that, for the first time, no Australian sides could gain any success against New Zealand opposition in a whole season of Super Rugby. No matter what we think of Wallaby selection we cannot hide from that fact.

    There are no quick fixes, there are no miracle coaching cures, and there are no witty or drastic selection choices we can pull out to cause an unlikely upset.

    We are at the crossroads of acceptance. We can either choose to accept reality or delude ourselves based on a competitiveness that we once had with our trans-Tasman rivals.

    It’s not inspiring I know but for the time being we are going to have to accept a fate that we are programmed to never give into. We have to accept that for the time being we cannot win the Bledisloe Cup.

    To assume that our best XV, (and the side I’ve named is the best we have at our disposal), derived from the worst domestic season we are likely to ever see could possibly beat a team made up of five vastly superior New Zealand franchises is as far-fetched a notion as I’ve ever seen in sport.

    I want to go on record as stating I truly hope I am as wrong as a man can possibly be.

    Alas, I choose to live in reality. All we can hope is that they account for themselves with honour worthy of our national jersey.

    Based on the names above I have no doubt they will. But to expect these Wallabies to win on this occasion after the season we’ve had domestically? I say c’mon! Get real!

    Nevertheless I will be cheering them on as strong as ever. Go the Wallabies!

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