Why I want to see the Barbarians beat the Wallabies

Simon Douch Roar Guru

By , Simon Douch is a Roar Guru

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    The Wallabies’ fixture against the Barbarians gives Michael Cheika two options: accept that mistakes have been made and try and strengthen his team, or continue his inept, stubborn selection making.

    Through the debacle that was the June Test series, Cheika had the chance to narrow his selection field – and he did just that, just not in the way expected.

    The two most notable omissions from the Test squad were Quade Cooper and Sam Carter, two players of immense skills and international experience. Both were outcast to the NRC, and while they have both put on brave faces, that’s got to be a bitter pill to swallow.

    Fast forward several months and Rory Arnold and Lopeti Timani are also watching their countrymen do battle with players of lesser ability getting the nod in positions that they deserve more.

    Now, in an exciting revelation, Barbarians coach Alan Jones has named Cooper as captain of his side to face the Wallabies.

    Quade Cooper Australia Rugby Union Wallabies Test Rugby Rugby Championship Bledisloe Cup 2016 tall

    AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford

    Cooper has been targeted in defence (admittedly, a good tactic for an opposing team) and constantly been on the receiving end of late shots, cheap shots and all the rest in the NRC. Yet his skills are as good as ever, he reads the game well, his goal kicking is consistent, and he has the x-factor that is so painfully absent from our current national flyhalf.

    If Cooper, alongside the names mentioned previously, plus a few from the ‘discontinued’ Force franchise, were to put together a decent 80 minutes and beat the Wallabies in Brisbane, it would be one of the sweetest losses ever.

    Yes, that seems weird to write.

    Regardless, this loss would present an ideal opportunity for Cheika to seriously strengthen the Wallabies, especially if his ‘top team’ is outperformed by a Barbarians side full of his rejects. If Cooper and co. play well, with some passion, and ultimately, win, it will put some serious pressure on the national starting side and, more so, Michael Cheika.

    There is a constant battle for Cheika to maintain performance while building towards the future. Under that guise, we accepted Ned Hannigan’s introduction to international rugby in June. But it should have ended there.

    He always plays hard, and that is one of the first essential ingredients to a successful rugby career, but poor Hannigan has had too long in the cauldron. His reputation has been burnt and now he faces the near-impossible task of winning back the favour of the public while continuing his rugby education on the run.

    Cheika fast-tracked Hannigan’s development and it wasn’t even necessary. With a good crop of locks, David Pocock returning, Sean McMahon possibly staying in Australia (hopefully), Timani improving and Michael Hooper not going anywhere, it seemed almost cruel to throw the 22-year-old in the Bledisloe Cup arena.

    It’s definitely not the position which is most desperate need for a younger, incoming player. Why not throw Joe Powel into the squad to get some tutelage from an ageing Will Genia and Nick Phipps? Tom Banks could thrive after a few months with Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau. Even get Nick Jooste in for a little experience with plans to be our next flyhalf, post-Japan.

    Just to clarify, I mean training experience, not game-time experience.

    To his credit, Cheika has nailed Jordan Uelese’s introduction. It does help that Uelese is an absolute freak of nature, who apparently throws his weight around during training. That is definitely a man with a long career ahead of him.

    Looking to this weekend, the Wallabies are playing the Pumas in Mendoza and should come away with their second victory of the Rugby Championship. Put aside any negatives about the team and their 2017 record, it’s great to see the Wallabies play with a bit more cohesion and consistency.

    Hopefully, the darkest days are behind us.