Since the commencement of the international season and now well into the build up to the World Cup, the key criticism of the Wallabies has been centred on two issues.
1. The selection decisions made for the Auckland Bledisloe; and
2. The ‘recent’ World Cup squad.
Everyone take a breath and settle down. The biggest mistake people are making is to think that there has been some reckless abandon shown by Michael Cheika and Co in relation to perceived risks that were taken in relation to one and two above.
If Cheika and his staff have made an error in selection for either one or two above, it wasn’t made during the week leading up to the Auckland Test and it wasn’t made in the final week leading up to the World Cup squad announcement. The team/squad selections were made months ago when Cheika, Steve Larkham and Co. sat in a room and tried to plan how to win the World Cup, not the Bledisloe or the RC.
In that meeting, a couple of things were undoubtedly said, including:
“here is the team for England, here is the team for Wales, let’s work towards getting these two XVs ready because the turnaround between those games is too short for us to have identical XVs bask to back.”
“on that basis and subject to injury, Foley and Quade are getting two games each in the TRC, regardless of the outcome.”
“Quade is playing the Auckland Test – let’s put him in the most uncomfortable position possible and see how he goes.”
Coaches don’t make selections purely on a week-to-week basis. If you think that’s the case, you are kidding yourself – we are talking about someone who dedicates their life to thinking about this game. It is not – ‘he played well yesterday, I’ll pick him tomorrow’ or ‘he plays for a smaller province and/or looks promising – let’s give him a go’. No.
This is a World Cup year and it is a time for tried and tested individuals who fit in with what the coaches’ plan is. It is no accident that the squad includes four players who have just finished a Northern Hemisphere season. This was planned months ago.
So to the chagrin of many, the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe trophies were not the ultimate goal this year and were treated as secondary. This is annoying to say out loud and difficult to accept, but let’s taper our anger/criticism until we see how the World Cup goes.
But here is the clincher, the most important piece of information that we as outsiders have. It is also accurate that to a man, there is not one player in the entire world that Cheika wanted, who he did not get. Let that sink in – this is 100 per cent the squad that Cheika wanted. Give a winner what he wants and get a winning team.
That leaves us with two outcomes: 1. Optimism that the original plan is still in place and 2. The right to criticise the plan once we have been exposed to it in its entirety (ie after the World Cup).
In the meantime, I am excited and will reserve judgment until we have let the Wallabies’ coach carry out his plan to fruition. He is no fool and the winds are changing. Let’s trust the bloke with the clipboard and let’s celebrate that that plan he has hatched appears to have remained on course.