Mitchell not happy at Waratahs axing

By Darren Walton, Darren Walton is a Roar Guru

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    Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell is “not happy” at being axed but that’s just how no-nonsense NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika wants it after ringing the changes for the Super Rugby clash with the Cheetahs on Friday night.

    Cheika on Wednesday made six personnel and two positional changes from the side thrashed 35-6 by the Brumbies on Saturday, with Mitchell and Test prop Sekope Kepu the highest-profile casualties.

    Mitchell and Kepu were both omitted from the match-day 22 altogether, with Cheika saying there was no room for under-performing stars as the Waratahs sought to avoid a third loss from four starts this campaign.

    “I want guys to fulfil their potential,” Cheika told AAP.

    “Maybe I judge those guys at a higher standard. I don’t think they’ve been playing poorly, but I think they’ve got more potential to achieve and I really want guys to play to the best of their ability at their own level.

    “That’s very important to me.”

    Cheika said he had a two-part “private conversation” with Mitchell before and after axing the 60-Test winger to explain exactly where the 28-year-old needed to improve.

    “He’s not happy, obviously. But I want them to be not happy. I want them to care about playing,” Cheika said.

    “He’s a quality player and I back him to organise himself so he’s right to come back and fulfil his potential and perform.”

    The first-year Super Rugby coach said Kepu was in the same boat.

    “He’s got a lot on his mind as well. His wife’s about to have a baby, but he’s a weapon and I want him to be a weapon for the team,” Cheika said.

    “I know he’s playing for Australia and all that, but he can be so much better. We need to be getting the guys who are playing for Australia to be of the quality of being picked in the World XV.

    “That’s when we know we’re in good shape. I believe Keps can be that type of player.”

    With Mitchell gone and new utility Ben Volavola relegated to the bench, Lachie Turner and Peter Betham have been promoted to form a new starting wing combination and marquee signing Israel Folau reverts to fullback.

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

    “I’m keen to get back out there,” Barnes said.

    “I’d be lying if I said I was 100 per cent, but I’m improving each week and I feel this week I can at least make some sort of contribution and I’m confident.”

    In the forwards, Paddy Ryan replaces Kepu as tighthead, while Pat McCutcheon returns to the starting team at No.8, allowing skipper Dave Dennis to revert to his preferred position on the blindside flank.

    Reserve hooker John Ulugia takes over from injured Wallaby Tatafu Polota-Nau.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (88)

    • March 14th 2013 @ 5:58am
      maxxlord said | March 14th 2013 @ 5:58am | ! Report

      Barnes is at his best playing 12. He is good at 15, and can play 10 in a kickfest, but 12 is where he should be.

    • March 14th 2013 @ 5:59am
      mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 5:59am | ! Report

      yet theres room for folau to start as fullback

      • March 14th 2013 @ 6:03am
        maxxlord said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:03am | ! Report

        They are prepared to give him a lot of rope obviously, all he has to do is dominate one game and he’l be away. Has to happen sometime

        • March 14th 2013 @ 6:06am
          mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:06am | ! Report

          i’m sure folau will one day be a good rugby player but is super where he should be developing? at the expense of mitchell?
          hope folau doesnt get a free ride into the wb’s , tho a part me would love to see him line up against the AB’s and Boks.

          • March 14th 2013 @ 6:32am
            Sportym said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:32am | ! Report

            He is there for the markerting dollar. Due to dwindling fan base, they need as many bums on seats as possible, izzy is that fan magnet at the moment. His there based on his past NRL hype, question is how long u use him to pull in the crowds.

            • March 14th 2013 @ 6:42am
              mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:42am | ! Report

              sportym – i fail to see the attraction aus has with league converts. i agree folau is a talking point and would spark up some interest in fans, but isnt it an insult to the intelligence of tahs supporters thinking that solely folau will bring them back? i thought winning would be a bigger priority to attracting back tahs fans.

              if tahs wants their supporters back then they need to start winning or lose with style

              • March 14th 2013 @ 8:26am
                kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:26am | ! Report

                mania there’s league converts and league converts.

                There are lots of good players in league, but at any time there are 10 truly outstanding players i.e. Inglis, Slater, SBW, Hunt, Barba, Thurston. Folau is one, so he is definitely a special talent.

              • March 14th 2013 @ 8:31am
                mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:31am | ! Report

                i sooo disagree KPM – there is no way that u can class folau with slater, SBW, Hunt, Inglis and Thurston. these guys are not only athletes but they’re smart enough to think on the fly and come up with ways of unlocking a defence. folau is a soldier and does what he’s told. he’s very good at what he does but his skills in rugby are limited

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2013 @ 8:36am
                B-Rock said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:36am | ! Report

                Well said Mania

                Winning is the first step, Style is second. Tahs fans demand both. Tahs fans on the Roar always say they would rather they lose in style than win ugly – absolute rubbish. You are irrelevant in Sydney if you arent at least competing for the finals. Izzys marketing pull will mean nothing if the tahs dont start winning

              • March 14th 2013 @ 8:38am
                kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:38am | ! Report

                mania I’m putting him in the same general bracket, not saying he’s as good as any particular one. But he’s at the star level, even if not the top of it.

                He may not have the super skills of Inglis or SBW, but he has a perfectly good skill level.

              • March 14th 2013 @ 8:41am
                mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:41am | ! Report

                KPM – “…but he has a perfectly good skill level.” in league. his one trick of attcking a bomb in the in goal is limited in rugby. he needs to learn new skills and tactics

              • March 14th 2013 @ 8:47am
                kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report

                mania he does not have just one trick.

                He may be tremendous under the high ball but he has a whole range of other attributes: power, elusiveness, pace.

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2013 @ 8:48am
                biltongbek said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

                Two things.

                In my view Mitchell has never fully gained the confidence he had before his injury. He still looks hesitant when going into contact and you can almost see the doubt in his eyes when he prepares to make contact.

                I oersonally think the there is far too much hype in regards to Folau, what has he done to deserve the attention he gets?

                He is just ankther takented League player who crossed over to Union and has played, what 3 games?

                And that in a team that has really not impressed in any way, shape or form.

              • March 14th 2013 @ 8:53am
                kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:53am | ! Report

                biltong you are aware Mitchell has started under 5 real games since his injury? This is why he may not be back up to speed.

                And if as you say his confidence is still fragile, will dropping him improve it?

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2013 @ 9:18am
                biltongbek said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:18am | ! Report

                KPM, sorry I should have been more clear, I disagree on the axing of Mitchell.

            • Roar Guru

              March 14th 2013 @ 8:29am
              Jiggles said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

              You do realise the Lions is sold out dont you. This is maximum bums on seats and had nothing to do with Folau.

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2013 @ 12:20pm
            Phil Bird said | March 14th 2013 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

            yes at the expense of mitchell, its a great call – I’ve been asking for it for ages now.

            mitchell doesnt seem to care – Folau is going to need time at the top before he develops

            ps should be sin binning AACooper as well

            • Roar Guru

              March 14th 2013 @ 12:59pm
              jeznez said | March 14th 2013 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

              the only other 13 in the squad is back from his latest injury and on the bench. AAC may get his wake up call next.

    • March 14th 2013 @ 6:14am
      kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      mania Folau hasn’t been included at the expense of Mitchell, Turner and Betham have.

      But what has Mitchell done to deserve it? Did he relly play badly? I thought he played really pretty well.

      • March 14th 2013 @ 6:29am
        Sportym said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:29am | ! Report

        I don’t believe Mitchell played badly as such, it’s just he can be so much more so I agree with cheika, players have to want to be out there and giving everything +10% . And I think he has nailed it, just cause they play for Australia does not mean they can cruise at the waratahs and just do enough week in and week out.

        This complacency culture is what cheika is trying to kill. Before its done we will see a lot of wallabies not make the tahs 22 in the months to come. First coach to tackle the root of the problem in nsw

      • March 14th 2013 @ 6:34am
        mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:34am | ! Report

        yeah agree KPM mitchell wasnt outstanding but he played all right.
        sportym – u have a very valid point, but shouldnt u start with the players that arent performing well? mitchell may only be playing at 70-80% but thats still more than folau who is learning.
        tho i agree the complacency culture needs to coached out .

        • March 14th 2013 @ 6:53am
          nickoldschool said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:53am | ! Report

          agree mania; Dropping Mitchell is more a PR coup imo; Cheika wants to show he is in charge, he can take tough decisions blablabla. To drop a winger who didnt get to see much ball in the first few games because his forwards were dominated and the midfield didnt give him clean balls is harsh and i dare say unfair.

          Mitchell created a scoring opportunity last w-e, sure he could probably have done better but showed he was committed.

          The Cheika philosophy of ‘judging those guys at a higher standard…I think they’ve got more potential to achieve and I really want guys to play to the best of their ability at their own level.” is a bit of PR too imo. I like to judge ppl with what they do on the field rather than what i think i they should/can do. I just hope he didnt ‘break’ Mitchell as the guy is a veteran who knows his stuff and might have found that a bit childish to be dropped on political/strategy grounds rather than performance itself.

          • March 14th 2013 @ 6:59am
            kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:59am | ! Report

            Exactly nos.

            When he drops AAC and Dennis is when the policy becomes convincing.

          • March 14th 2013 @ 7:16am
            mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 7:16am | ! Report

            fully agree nos. mitchell actually contributed, albeit not greatly but as u pointed out he had limited opportunities and made the most of the rare occasions. judging players on what the coach thinks they should be achieving is a dangerous slope. so mitchells contributions are ignored because cheika thinks he should be doing more? and because folaus never played rugby before he gets an extended stay of execution because he’s still learning? WTF?
            the more i learn of cheika the more i question whether he’s the man to turn the tah’s around.

            • March 14th 2013 @ 8:09am
              stanley grella said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:09am | ! Report

              Drew has made a ton of mistakes in the first three games. he isnt playing to hisown standards and therefore dserves to be dropped. sure he looks dangerous at time but he s reliving pressure through poor handling and option taking at others.

              Falou has nothing to do with the standard Cheika is holding mitchell to. Falou is leaning his game and i being judged on a different curve. its reall asy to see if you think about it logically.

              AAC is probably lucky that there isnt great depth at 13 or he might be in trouble but as Cheika said before the season started its up to the rserves to put thee ands up and demand a spot. Turner & Betham hve both trained the house down and as a result have ousted those ahead of them.

              its not rocket science, its all justifiable hard nosed coaching.

              reardless of form anayway, Drew, AAC & Barnes are unlikely to be there next year so i think they shud be used sparingly anyway. bloo the young guys why the old guys are around to give them pointers.

              • March 14th 2013 @ 8:15am
                mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:15am | ! Report

                so despite mitchell contributing more, not getting as manhandled, and making less errors than folau he gets dropped? and all because cheika subjectively thinks that drew should be playing better but folau is fine because he’s learning? and not to mention that it was the forwards getting owned in the brumbies game that lost it?
                please rush folau into the WB’s. i cant wait to see the TRC this season

            • March 14th 2013 @ 8:20am
              Simon_Sez said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:20am | ! Report

              Cheika is doing a little grandstanding with Mitchell. I think Mitchell needs more game time so he can become dominant in his position; he has showed glimpses of his pre-injury form on the weekend. The problem with the team is the limp forward pack and the lack of quality at 9, 10 & 12. I am not sure if Berrick ‘Sir Kick-a-lot’ Barnes returning at 12 for the Cheetahs will have much of a positive effect. If you kick the ball to the Cheetahs they will run it back at you again, again and again. I think Cheika could have used Mitchell this weekend and may regret his decision of taking him out of the 22.

              • March 14th 2013 @ 9:12am
                Atawhai Drive said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:12am | ! Report

                My unscientific assessment is that Mitchell is playing below his best because he’s not 100 per cent fit.

                I’m a Mitchell fan and although it’s disappointing to see him dropped, the Cheetahs game might turn out to be a good one to miss.

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2013 @ 1:01pm
                jeznez said | March 14th 2013 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

                AD – agree that he looks underdone some how. I too have no science but it is the vibe I’m picking up.

                Surprised that Turner survived though – he got done on pace a couple of times last week and that was always his one big weapon. Think this weekend may be Lachie’s last chance as Kingston hasn’t done much wrong either.

      • March 14th 2013 @ 8:01am
        winston said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:01am | ! Report

        more than Falou IMO

    • March 14th 2013 @ 6:36am
      kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      Sportym but his isn’t really the case with Mitchell: he is effectively coming back from a massive injury, despite dipping in to the Wallabies at the end of last year. So it’s not suprising if isn’t yet at 100% but dropping him won’t get him there!

    • March 14th 2013 @ 6:42am
      kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      Cheika’s ‘no one is too big to be dropped’ mantra is selective.


      Dennis is UNDROPPABLE HOWEVER HE PLAYS. So the mantra is SELECTIVE.

      But everyone’s buying the mantra is seems?

      • March 14th 2013 @ 6:43am
        mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:43am | ! Report

        Folau is UNDROPPABLE HOWEVER HE PLAYS. So the mantra is SELECTIVE.

      • March 14th 2013 @ 8:19am
        Justin2 said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:19am | ! Report

        It’s only game 3. Does he drop the all?

    • March 14th 2013 @ 6:50am
      kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t selective in the cases of AAC and Dennis mania.

      • March 14th 2013 @ 6:56am
        mania said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:56am | ! Report

        agree its a maybe. i’m still waiting for folau to click but i reckon this wont be for at least another 2 seasons. intricacies of rugby take time to learn no matter how big, strong and fast you are.
        in regards to AAC, he’s a veteran, loads of experience and is an intelligent player. its a long season for test players so its no surprise that he isnt peaking yet.
        agree with u KPM that mitchell is coming back from major injury and based on the selections shouldnt have been the first to be dropped.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2013 @ 8:54am
        AlBo said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        Who would you have in place of AAC at 13? There is noone who would be a better option right now.

        And before you say it, that includes Folau.

        • March 14th 2013 @ 9:00am
          kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:00am | ! Report

          Albo the point of accountability is not necessarily who will replace he failing player, but that replacing him spurs him to greater performance and shows that player can’t just rest on their laurels.

          Other options such as Folau, Carter, Horne may not be great, but that isn’t the point. If the point is to show that a big reputation doesn’t demand a place, then it should be made even if the replacement is no better.

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2013 @ 9:30am
            AlBo said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

            Sorry KPM but that makes absolutely zero sense to me.

            I didn’t think he deserved it but Mitchell has apt replacements so the team is not necessarily hampered by the decision. Are you saying that you would take out a solid international player with a wealth of experience, who hasn’t been playing any worse than the rest of the under firing backline, and replace him with someone not as good, purely to make a point?

            I understand your point about Dennis but there are people who could replace him. AAC has been trying everything in his power to get the backline going but with a very similar style IC in Carter the defensive structure has been able to set up or him easily.

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

              I disagree on AAC’s performance. It has been utterly ineffective. Mediocre. Nondescript. In fact probably if you moved most of the alternatives to 13 although they wouldn’t be specialists in the positions, they would pose a vastly superior attacking threat to AAC. Frankly even Carter has been better as he hits the line harder.

              In any case even if the alternative were less good, which isn’t the case as the alternative would be the same porbably even maybe better, it would be important to show low quality performance isn’t good enough.

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