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Cheika has tough decisions to make in the Wallabies backline

Folau could be the name to propel the Titans forward, but can he be tempted back to the NRL? (Source: AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Expert
23rd October, 2014
168
2736 Reads

How new Wallabies coach Michael Cheika treats Will Genia, Will Skelton and the uncapped Kyle Godwin and Henry Speight will be key moments on the Spring Tour.

The 33-man squad leaves today for a five-game tour, playing on successive Saturdays throughout November.

It’s ideal the first game is more of a ‘social’ outing against the Barbarians before the ones that really count against Wales, France, Ireland and England.

Only John Eales Medal winner Israel Folau at fullback and outside centre Tevita Kuridrani are assured of their positions.

But Genia is the key.

As he proved in the past, Genia’s right up there as one of the best halfbacks in world rugby, and it’s vital he gets back to that lofty standard as the starting element of the Cheika backline.

Nick Phipps and Nic White have been the selected No. 9s under Ewen McKenzie with Genia injured, but the Queenslander is the best of the three when in form.

Godwin would have made his Wallaby debut much earlier had he not been a victim of persistent injuries. He’s a quality inside centre in both attack and defence, who will relish playing under Cheika.

So too Brumby Speight, without peer as a winger in Australian rugby. The flying Fijian has had to wait for his eligibility to qualify, before being hit by hamstring injuries.

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Now he’s fit now and raring to go.

Skelton, despite being a behemoth lock, must have been invisible to McKenzie, but he will be very visible to Cheika.

The 22-year-old, with his 203-centimetre, 140-kilogram frame, will create havoc for many years to come. He proved that for the Waratahs in their Super success.

But the backline holds the greater interest.

There are three half-backs on this tour: Genia, Phipps and White. There are three 10s: Bernard Foley, Matt Toomua and Quade Cooper. Finally, there are five wingers: Speight, Rob Horne, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Joe Tomane, and uncapped Tom English – which would seem to be an embarrassment of riches for a five-game tour.

That will give Cheika some headaches as he realises only too well that with no dirt-tracker games mid-week, players can get restless with training only.

A potential backline to test the water against the Barbarians? Genia (9), Foley (10), Ashley-Cooper (11), Godwin (12), Kuridrani (13), Speight (14) and Folau (15).

Despite recent turmoil, many exciting days are ahead for Australian rugby.

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