Leading Wallabies have gone MIA

David Lord Columnist

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    Australian coach Robbie Deans answers questions at a press conference follow their Rugby World Cup loss to Ireland at Eden Park(AP Photo/Ross Land)

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    Robbie Deans is looking a lot older than his 52 winters, and with good reason. The Wallaby coach won’t readily get over the failed Rugby World Cup campaign last year, even though winning the Tri-Nations for the first time in a decade eased some of the pain.

    But his major problems are current.

    If he was to pick a Wallaby line-up today purely on form, most of his normal first-choice selections would be watching the Test against Scotland in June from their lounge room.

    Captain James Horwill, vice-captain Will Genia, Kurtley Beale, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Rob Horne, Radike Samo, Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, the injury-prone Wycliff Palu, and to a lesser extent James O’Connor, would be missing.

    And with Quade Cooper, Drew Mitchell, Lachie Turner, Rocky Elsom, and Dan Vickerman long-term injury casualties, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

    Only David Pocock, Nathan Sharpe, Stephen Moore, James Slipper, and Digby Ioane deserve run-on status. But playing great rugby, and consistently so, fringe-dwellers Scott Higginbotham, Ben Mowen, Tom Kingston, Nick Cummins, and the flying Dom Shipperley have stamped themselves front-line contenders.

    And the “unknown” Force full-back David Harvey.

    A month ago, only Gordon and Shute Shield followers knew of the 30-year-old who was plucked from nowhere with the Force suffering a spate of injuries. Harvey was handed a four-week contract that should by now be at least two years.

    Harvey was been a revelation, and the form custodian of the five Australian franchises.

    Which begs the question why didn’t the Waratahs nab him, he’s been right under their noses for four years? And how did the Waratahs lose Mowen to the Brumbies?

    That’s all part of the on-going Waratahs malaise. But the Mowen move has been a blessing for the Brumbies, and coach Jake White.

    The South African Rugby World Cup winning coach made a master-stroke by naming newcomer Mowen as captain. A bolt from the blue.

    In one fell swoop White dismantled the player-power structure that has crippled the Brumbies internally, and given Mowen the chance of Wallaby selection which Deans must grab with both hands.

    As a direct result, the Brumbies are on top of the Australian conference, while the defending champion Reds have lost three on the trot for the first time since 2009.

    Judging from last season’s heroics, you’d reckon the Reds wouldn’t lose three in the entire tournament. And you could have named your own odds about losing 61-8 to the Bulls, and 45-19 to the Force in successive weeks, giving up 13 tries.

    The Reds will snap out of this slump, coach Ewen McKenzie will see to that. And that will improve Deans’ state of mind.

    But Deans has another problem with the ARU’s selection of Tony McGahan as the new Wallaby coaching co-ordinator from June to December.

    McGahan has been coaching at Munster for the last seven years, and the appointment will clash with Deans’ job description for the last four years.

    Is there a bit of Robbie Deans wing-clipping in the McGahan move? The jury is out.

    Thankfully it’s only early April.

    Hopefully by June 5 and the opening Test of the season against Scotland at Newcastle, the Wallaby stocks will be replenished with the heavyweights back firing.

    Anything less, and it could well be a long hard winter of discontent on both sides of the fence.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (173)

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 6:01am
      Mille Miglia said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:01am | ! Report

      The Wallabies play Wales in Brisbane just four days after the test against Scotland. How many first team Wallbies will on the field
      in Newcastle with so little rest between tests?

    • Columnist

      April 3rd 2012 @ 6:26am
      David Lord said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      Very valid point MM. Scotland lost all five Six-Nations games this season, scoring 56 points for to 108 against, and only four tries to 11. Does this mean the Wallaby selectors will “trial” a number of fringe-dwellers against the Scots? Dangerous.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 7:23am
        mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 7:23am | ! Report

        DL – dangerous but the only real time you can trial the rookies. come 4N you have to have your best squad ready

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:09am
        Mickyt said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        Worked well against Western Samoa!!!!

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:24am
          mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:24am | ! Report

          mickyt – i was in samoa when that game was played. d4m happy celebrations that week.
          yeah sometimes it backfires, that game vs samoa was weird. never saw gitteau panic until that day

          • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:15am
            RebelRanger said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            your Samoan?

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:27am
              mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:27am | ! Report

              RR – yes, NZ born but loud and proud

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 11:00am
                Justin said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:00am | ! Report

                So you are a Kiwi with Samoan parents…

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 11:15am
                RebelRanger said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:15am | ! Report

                I always assumed you were after I misread your name as Manaia.

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 11:20am
                mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:20am | ! Report

                RR – i’m assuming u are as well? manaia LOL, no one would ever call me nice
                yes samoan parents but born in nz. hope its not an issue.
                love my dual heritage and superProud of both my countries…its my govts that scare me

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 11:48am
                Justin said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:48am | ! Report

                nup one of my best mates has the same heritage. Always fun times…

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 11:50am
                mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:50am | ! Report

                justin – yeah we’re a funny bunch. too prideful, too hedonistic and too loyal.

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:09pm
                RebelRanger said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

                Yeah Kiwi with Samoan parents living in Melbourne haha
                Yeah I know what you mean. I think I’m getting the best of 3 worlds here lol
                Samoan govt is worrisome (tsunami funds corruption) but I guess thats the way it is.

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:17pm
                mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

                lets not go there RR. u know the Samoan govt has never been audited? yes the tsunami fund is embarrassing but not surprising

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 1:30pm
                granville said | April 3rd 2012 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

                Fiji Government too is corrupt…..lol

              • Roar Guru

                April 3rd 2012 @ 3:55pm
                Sam Taulelei said | April 3rd 2012 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

                Hey great to see there’s more of us NZ born fobs here on the Roar, and another one in Melbourne too.

              • April 4th 2012 @ 5:23am
                mania said | April 4th 2012 @ 5:23am | ! Report

                FOB power REPRESENT. pacific islanders in the fale!!
                Malo uso’s, bula vanaka, fakalofa atu, aloha and to our palagi brothers; hi

      • Roar Guru

        April 3rd 2012 @ 11:19am
        The Bush said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:19am | ! Report

        I was under the impression that Deans had already indicated that Force and Reds players would make up the bulk (entire?) team against Scotland due to their bye in the week leading up to the game.

        If this is true, then plenty of starting Wallabies will miss out purely to be rested.

        Ironically, at the start of the season you’d have said that that team would be the Reds plus Pocock, except on current form it would be the Force plus Shipperly (or maybe Tupai…).

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 7:33am
      kingplaymaker said | April 3rd 2012 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      NSW produces 41% of Australian players, but probably loses another 100% worth of players on top. Most are snapped up by the 9 NRL teams, and many simply have no hope of entering a squad full of established internationals. It would be nigh-on impossible to make the Waratahs squad as a lock for example. The same is doutbless true in QLD which produces 31% of players and one can be sure loses a multiple of that every year (obviously Western Sydney and Gold Coast teams would transform this situation in the blink of an eye, but that’s another story). So the current set-up is shooting itself in the foot with the disastrous results seen. What young player could get into the Waratahs squad and how many are lost at every stage?

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:09am
        mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        kpm – you’d think that if a player were good enough then they force their way into the tah’s. thats how it works in NZ

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:27am
          RebelRanger said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:27am | ! Report

          Mania: I think there more important factors like team structure are considered when making selections. Phenomenal athletes like Adam Thompson, Jarryd Hayne might not also fit into the team though they may be individually superior than those selected.

          • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:33am
            mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:33am | ! Report

            RR – bizarre. team work is important definately but when team work is equal it comes down to the quality of each individual. why would a young dynamic player not make it in? if he didnt fit the team ethos then u take him on anyway and teach them the team ethos.
            so your saying that the tah’s look at the team dynamic and how the new player will fit in before contracting them? no wonder tah’s suck and are the great pretenders of the past 15 years of SR

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:53am
              kingplaymaker said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:53am | ! Report

              mania perhaps many players are lost in New Zealand too, but as they generally have more of them they still win-besides there are two types of loss here, one where players never get in the squad, two where they are pillaged by the NRL as teenagers because of the difficulty of making the squad, a problem New Zealand suffers far less.

              RR is right that often players are not identified accurately, and therefore need a chance to play to show their wares. There must be many examples of lost players who made it elsewhere, but a good one although from league is Jonathan Thurston, who had a lot of difficulty finding a club at one point but is obviously fairly good.

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:53am
              RebelRanger said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:53am | ! Report

              Mania: No I have no idea how Waratahs select there players. But I would rather decide what my team identity is and select players that can play that game. If your going to play a forward orientated game you’d pick strong forwards (that are generally slow) who are technically sound and out muscle your opponents (probably what the Waratahs are trying to do). Which means faster (but not as strong) players would not be selected as they are better suited to faster teams and play the link role and try to run a team off the park (Highlanders this year).
              If I was a Waratahs selector I wouldn’t pick Quade Cooper as I dot feel he would fit in the team structure and don’t have the personnel to make him reach his full potential.

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:00am
                mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:00am | ! Report

                RR – thats backwards. i had a new coach for gridIron and when he turned up he had a brand new play book. i had a look at it and told him it was never going to work. he asked why not and i replied that you havent even seen the team play and you dont know our strengths.
                told him that we being kiwi’s are a running side first and foremost and a passing team second. that coach didnt last long and was out after about 3 games.
                a coach should be dynamic enough to incorporate what ever cattle he can get his hands on.

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:12am
                RebelRanger said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:12am | ! Report

                Dammit I’ve replied twice but forgot to add email.
                What position you play? Since you brought up gridion, I’ll use a gridion example. A run first orientated team would pick a tough receiver with good blocking skills (Hines Ward, Anquan Boldin) over a fast more game breaking receiver (deSean Jackson) as the dual catch/ block WR are more benficial to the team as a whole.

                Mark Hammet cleared out 2 of the most senior (still playing for ABs so not over the hill guys) players and is doing better without them as they are playing to his structure. Wayne Bennet tried to clear out the Knights as he wanted athletes that play his style.

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:26am
                mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:26am | ! Report

                RR – ok kinda of good examples but the wayneBennett one is extreme. i play gridiron i dont watch it. positions i played, fullBack, tailBack, strongSafety, Linebacker.
                in hammetts case another extreme case where the he couldnt incorporate world class players. so far hammetts right tho i fail to see how detrimental hore would’ve been to the squad. nonu i’ve heard rumours that he is disruptive.
                but using another example is when JohnMitchell and robbieDeans ran the AB’s and they dropped ChristianCullen (amongst a bunch of other world class players). OK Cullen was no longer the great player he was earlier on in his career but he was still the best FB in the world. mitchell and deans went on to lose the world cup but also tried 3 fullbacks to replace cullen.

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 11:57am
                jeznez said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:57am | ! Report

                mania, from what I have read Hore apparently likes to have a beer and Hammet wanted him to stop drinking. I think Hore obviously has this under control because he is playing good footy. My suspicion is that Hammet was more concerned about the younger players in the squad following the senior AB and them not playing to their potential because of it.

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:08pm
                mania said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

                jeznez – yeah i think though more likely its from when they played against each other and hore smacked hammett in the mouth

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 1:32pm
                jeznez said | April 3rd 2012 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                ha ha, finally getting his own back. Is Hore taller than Hammet? There could be a grudge there as well!

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 2:33pm
                Kuruki said | April 3rd 2012 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

                Hammet wanted to bring the Crusaders culture to the Canes. The senior Canes were happy with the culture they had which was very relaxed. Hammet showed them the door.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:25am
        Justin said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        KPM – can we please have one blurry thread where the NRL and its players is not brought up? Its pretty dam tiring after the 50th run of the record.

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:58am
          kingplaymaker said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          Justin once the issue is not the ultimate key to the question raised in the article, then yes.

          • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:09am
            Justin said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:09am | ! Report

            Do you think by you writing about it in every thread something is going to change?

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:21am
              kingplaymaker said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:21am | ! Report

              Of course!

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 11:04am
                Justin said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:04am | ! Report

                Very good, continue on 😉

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:00pm
                jeznez said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

                ha ha ha :0

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:17pm
                kingplaymaker said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

                Justin surely you know that the SANZAR bosses spend all day reading what’s written on here and following the ideas proposed to the letter?

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:57pm
                Justin said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

                It slipped my mind briefly, I remember now I got the memo…

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 1:16pm
                kingplaymaker said | April 3rd 2012 @ 1:16pm | ! Report


    • Columnist

      April 3rd 2012 @ 8:20am
      David Lord said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Mania, the difference between NZ where rugby is a religion, and the Tahs who lose the plot and players on an annual basis.

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:35am
      Mille Miglia said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      David – Scotland coming all the way to Australia to play a test, after a disastrous 6-N, is kind of like the Russian fleet sailing all the way to Japan in 1904 only to be blown out of the water. And the same holds true for poor old Ireland – also a lousy 6-N – traveling to NZ for three tests when they hardly have enough manpower for one. Whoever the Wallabies pick they’ll handle the Scots partly because they’ll want to reverse the last embarrassing result. With three tests against GS Champs Wales, Deans will want to get as many first choices onto the field at Newcastle as he can. But that risks injury as well as fatigue. And from this far out nobody knows the makeup of our best squad anyway. Who plays 10? It can’t be Barnes. He may not even make the runon.
      C’mon back, Quade, all is forgiven.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:28am
        Denby said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Mille Miglia,
        You forgive quade because he has not been playing? Forgiveness should be earned. He was horrible in the RWC. I doubt a serious knee injury has improved his form.

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:42am
      rl said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      David, as a Reds fan I’m absolutely crestfallen about the display from our pack – can’t rely on injury excuses there, uinless there’s undisclosed tearing of the heart-lidge, enmass.

      On the bright side, there’s been some consistently solid form from some of the lesser lights – based on form to date I’d have no fears about turning out a “no-name” pack for Scotland from the Brumbies, Rebels and Force (including that bloke Sharpe – where’s he come from???). Mowen is just about an automatic at this point, and what about the re-birth of Pek Cowan?

      I wouldn’t be too concerned about the result at this point – current form from our “A” team suggests we need to get more fringe players exposed… now!

      On Horwill, Genia et al, they look jaded. Maybe these blokes just need a break? The NZRU send their “stars” on sabbaticals, or certainly don’t rush them back from minor off-season stints at the penal beaters.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:54am
        rl said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        or should that be “panel beaters” – you decide…

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:58pm
          charles said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

          I thought you meant they’d spent time in gaol and got beaten up. 🙂

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:22am
        WQ said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        I think you are on the money rl, these guys are jaded. Just take a few seconds to think about how much high intensity Rugby the likes of Horwill and Genia have played over the past 12 months?
        The difference between the likes of the New Zealand Super Rugby squads and the Australian Super Rugby squads is the best players in the New Zealand squads get a break due to depth in the squads. The best player in New Zealand has not even played Super Rugby yet, and nor did he until late last year as well.

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 1:50pm
          El Gamba said | April 3rd 2012 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

          He is getting old though. The best flanker in the World, DP, doesn’t need a break.

          • April 3rd 2012 @ 3:14pm
            WQ said | April 3rd 2012 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

            You are entitled to your opinion El Gamba, however I know which one of them I would have in my Team.
            The point I am making though is not just about the best player in NZ, it is more about the depth of their squads. Have a look at what has just happened with Adam Thompson. He got knocked around a bit in the first few games of the year so they rested him and brought him back fresh, during the season. Unfortunately the same level of depth does not allow the Australian Super Rugby franchises to do the same.

          • April 3rd 2012 @ 3:45pm
            RebelRanger said | April 3rd 2012 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

            Seems to take one during every AB game he plays. Funny that. Much like BOD

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 4:09pm
              WQ said | April 3rd 2012 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

              I take it you are not a Adam Thompson fan then RebelRanger!
              By the way who is BOD?

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 4:39pm
                RebelRanger said | April 3rd 2012 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

                I was referring to Pocock. The one dimensional flanker rated number one by one eyed Australians hahaha
                I love Thompson. My fantasy team captain.
                Brian O’Driscoll, always choked against ABs, much like Shane Williams

              • April 4th 2012 @ 8:33am
                WQ said | April 4th 2012 @ 8:33am | ! Report

                Ah, my apologies I misunderstood your comments.
                I do rate Pocock, however believe he has a long way to go in terms of longevity and Test matches played, leadership skills and an ability to run with the football before he even gets a mention along side Richie McCaw

          • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:07pm
            Another Toff said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

            If DP is the best flanker in the world…lol..it really showed in the WC Semi didn’t it!!! Ritchie smashed Pocock all over the paddock that night and will continue to do so until he retires. Maybe Pocock should learn to keep his mouth shut on the paddock too, instead of crying like a girl when he gets penalised!!! Pocockk is good..but Ritchie is great!!

            • April 4th 2012 @ 5:30am
              mania said | April 4th 2012 @ 5:30am | ! Report

              pocock is possibly a better openside flanker but richie is the best rugby player ever produced.
              pocock is a great player though. if he played for the AB’s then richie would have to move to 6 or 8. of course richie would still be the captain and if push came to shove pocock would get dropped before richie. pocock is awesome at what he does, ie turn over balls at the rucks. richie dominates every other facet of the game and isnt a bad fetcher either.
              RR – i like Adam Thompson but he struggles in games vs the big boys, ie the boks.

              • April 4th 2012 @ 2:29pm
                WQ said | April 4th 2012 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

                Nicely done mania, I think the other thing about McCaw that is underated is his support play, how many times do you see him link up on the end of an attacking raid? He plays the game with incredible vision.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:29am
        Wilson said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        I agree that Cowan should be back in the mix. After seeing him play beside Maafu I can’t believe that he is favoured over Cowan. Cowan is faster, as strong, and he works all game. Maafu is slow and lazy. Worst recruit for the Force in years.

        I don’t think that you can say that you can rate Pocock without also including Hodgson in that breath. Hodgson has been consistantly out playing Pocock this year and Pocock has been outstanding. The stats by the Force show a truer picture over other stats as the commentators and the like keep giving Hodgson’s acheievements to Pocock. You would think by now they would be able to tell them apart. Pocock can be 5m from the ball and still be attributed with a Hodgson pilfer. Hodgson started the year at 6, is really a 7 and has been dominating at 8. If he isn’t at least on the bench then Deans is a fool. After watching the Reds back row (and entire forward pack really) get dominated by the Force you can’t back Higgers, Robinson or Gill over Hodgson.

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 1:45pm
          Dassie said | April 3rd 2012 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

          Totally agree, Force forwards are dominant and in form. Outplayed Tahs, Reds and Rebels, play well as a unit. Charles going well as hooker.

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