The June Internationals talking points: Everyone gets a bench spot

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    The first weekend of international rugby down this neck of the woods has resulted in two results that two countries were kind of dreading.

    But if anything, the Wallabies and Springboks’ losses have really added some spice to this second weekend of Tests; try and imagine the build-up if England and Ireland were touched up last weekend.

    As a result, the anticipation for the Tests in Melbourne and Johannesburg is far more pronounced, which will, in turn, be matched by the level of nervousness of the respective supporters.

    It’s another big weekend of international rugby, and here are the talking points for the weekend’s fixtures.

    Strength in numbers
    Train stations in Melbourne were being scoured this week to find a bench long enough to cater for Michael Cheika’s reserves list, after he named 11 players on an ‘extended bench’ on Wednesday night.

    As it was, the team announcement came a day earlier than the usual protocol. Which kind of begs the question of why, if no firm decision had been made around the bench by that time. Cheika then admitted in interviews later that he would be reverting to the traditional 5-3 forwards-back bench split, which with the need for three front rowers means that three of Dean Mumm, James Horwill, Ben McCalman, Liam Gill, and Wycliff Palu will be trimmed at some point today.

    Quite why the team had to be named early when such indecision remained is beyond me. If Cheika really didn’t know which two forwards he was going to go with by then, why name a bench at all?

    Either way, his final decision today will be interesting. Horwill wasn’t terrible after replacing Rob Simmons last weekend, and with Rory Arnold not likely to last 80 minutes, the Harlequins lock deserves to hold his place. Additionally, if Sam Carter went down early, then I’d be a touch worried about an Arnold-Mumm pairing.

    And then the decision becomes one of who provides the most back-row influence. McCalman was probably unlucky not to start at No.8, and though he’d be solid, he’s not typically an impact-type player. Gill coming on late in the game to tear into the breakdown certainly has appeal, but equally, Palu has averaged 31 minutes a game this season for the Waratahs, and has certainly added a physical presence when coming off the bench.

    I like the idea of Palu, but I’m still worried about the Wallabies’ ability to force the issue at the breakdown, meaning I can’t easily discount the need for Gill. Two backrowers and Scott Fardy as the lock cover, I wonder?

    Eddie doubles down on Larwood
    All the talk before the first Test in Brisbane was around Eddie Jones wanting his team to play ‘Bodyline rugby’ against the Wallabies, and there’s no doubt the Englishmen fronted up in the physicality and pressure stakes.

    It’s hard to see England going away from that plan in Melbourne, though it was certainly interesting to see Luther Burrell benched inside half an hour last week, replaced by George Ford. Ford has retained his place in the starting XV for the second Test, suggesting that England will attack with brains rather than brawn.

    But they’ll pick and choose their time to attack, too. With Ford and Owen Farrell alongside each other, they obviously won’t be wanting to play a lot of football in their own half. And in keeping the same forward pack, plus adding an extra bench forward – it’s Eddie’s turn to run the 6-2 bench – it’s a clear sign of their intention.

    And it means the Wallabies need to deliver on their talk this week of learning the lessons of discipline.

    In saying, “We’ve picked a 23 to get the job done in Melbourne,” Jones is laying down a gauntlet. ‘You better make sure you get a lead, because if we get ahead again, we’re just going to close you down,’ he’s saying to the Wallabies. If the breakdown was a mess in the last 20 in Brisbane, it’s going to be a whole lot worse in Melbourne.

    I’m building my own anticipation levels just writing this. If the Wallabies can survive this test, it might be a moment in their development they look back upon fondly. It should be a cracker.

    The bus parked
    All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has sent two pretty clear messages to Julian Savea during and after the Eden Park win last weekend: your performance didn’t warrant finishing the game last weekend, and now it doesn’t warrant starting in Wellington.

    Israel Dagg has been recalled, and he has been in sparkling from since returning from injuries for the Crusaders earlier this season. Ben Smith probably is the most complete fullback in the game currently, yet moving him to the wing to accommodate Dagg at fullback actually makes the All Blacks stronger!

    Savea wasn’t quite providing enough spark, but there will be no shortage of that now from Smith and Dagg. Diggercane might’ve been right on the tipping panel yesterday; this one could really hurt Wales.

    How will the Boks bounce?
    There’s two ways the Springboks can go this weekend at Ellis Park, as they stare down the barrel of a historic home series loss to Ireland.

    They can show that last week was just a bit of rust and really deliver for their new coach, or they can play exactly the same – or worse – and justify all the concern that has flowed from the Republic since last Saturday evening.

    With a group of in-form Lions through their midst, the Springboks certainly now have the ability to play the way the Ellis Park crowd have come to enjoy. If Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies can complement each other, rather than Jantjies trying to do something every play as he’s sometimes prone to, there is plenty of space and pace out wide to use.

    But like the Wallabies, it’s all going to come back to the Boks pack. They were outgunned by an Irish army minus one last week at Newlands, and this has to be the week Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen deliver. The front row has plenty of work to do too, however.

    Two weeks on deck and the pressure is sky-high already for Allister Coetzee. So what tricks does he have up his sleeve for this match?

    Foley move could force Reds’ hand
    If there’s one organisation that didn’t need yesterday’s news that Michael Foley’s time with the Western Force was up, it may well be the Queensland Reds.

    In the middle of their own process to name a head coach for 2017 – we presume, there have been no real updates – the Queensland Rugby Union may now find themselves having to conclude their process sooner just to be sure they get the coach they really want.

    A really interesting situation now exists, in which the ARU desperately need to find the best possible coach available to take over in Perth. It means they could, in effect, be competing with the Queensland Rugby Union for candidates.

    Current co-interim head coaches Nick Stiles and Matt O’Connor could well be enticed to apply for the Force job, either as a fall-back position or even to force the Queensland Rugby Union’s hand. Stiles was an assistant at the Force before returning to Ballymore in 2014.

    And wouldn’t it cause a stir if the Reds’ preferred candidate knocked them back because the ARU tabled a better offer to coach the Force? Cue the conspiracy theorists!

    Enjoy your weekend of Test rugby.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (158)

    • Roar Guru

      June 17th 2016 @ 6:17am
      Harry Jones said | June 17th 2016 @ 6:17am | ! Report

      Good one, Brett.

      By the by, Kootchie Koo Coetzee has instituted a cash fine system for players getting penalised and carded

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2016 @ 6:20am
        Harry Jones said | June 17th 2016 @ 6:20am | ! Report

        So we’re trying to be the nice boys of world rugby; new name will be the Gandhis. He lived in SA.

      • June 17th 2016 @ 1:01pm
        Dat Mavis said | June 17th 2016 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

        Truly!?!!

        That can only be disastrous for morale in my mind.

    • Roar Guru

      June 17th 2016 @ 6:18am
      Derm McCrum said | June 17th 2016 @ 6:18am | ! Report

      Yep – should be s good weekend.

      Coetzee said Ireland didn’t play any rugby last weekend. He’s probably right. Ireland were very poor, managing to get one player sent off and another binned.

      They had to rely on penalty kicks to win the match, gave away an interception pass for a try in their 22, and kicked away possession in the last minute that nearly allowed South Africa to score and win.

      Their scrum was at sixes and sevens for the first half and a better kicker would have punished them more.

      But like South Africa, Ireland were a bit rusty since they hadn’t played together for over 3 months, and they had a lot of enforced replacements due to injury.

      They should improve a lot this week and Schmidt’s decision to change up 5 of the squad points to a stronger intention to attack with ball in hand.

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2016 @ 6:56am
        Harry Jones said | June 17th 2016 @ 6:56am | ! Report

        Pot H

        I’ll be looking at the ratio of kicks.

        Last week, 34-14.

        • Roar Guru

          June 17th 2016 @ 8:41am
          Derm McCrum said | June 17th 2016 @ 8:41am | ! Report

          Yes Harry – is there anywhere you can check what the ratio of kicks was prior to Stander (and Henshaw) heading off?

          The kicking ratio in the Six Nations was massively reduced so don’t know if that was the intent from the outset of last week’s game or one forced by the circumstances.

          Big, beefy pack for this week.

          McGrath, Best and Furlong
          Toner and Roux
          Henderson, Ruddock and Heaslip

          907kg on their official website weights.

          Jackson will feel right at home with most of his Ulster backline around him bar Henshaw. Holding takes over from Marshall, and Ulster winger, Craig Gilroy starts instead of Earls.

          You get the sense that Schmidt is rolling the dice with this one. He’s at altitude, inevitable Boklash, needs to rest some players, give all the squad a run, and he’s got one eye on the PE test to really win the series.

          If Ireland can put in a decent showing, and stay within a few points of SA, win or lose, it sets it up nicely for next week. Pressure is off Schmidt.

          • Roar Guru

            June 17th 2016 @ 9:00am
            Harry Jones said | June 17th 2016 @ 9:00am | ! Report

            Pot Hale, Lambie only kicked twice; and was knocked out during the second. Faf kicked once prior to that moment. Willie none. So I think it was only 3.

            • June 17th 2016 @ 9:37am
              Lostintokyo said | June 17th 2016 @ 9:37am | ! Report

              Harry, do you think that recent Bok problems come from too much new blood and lack of experience? So many players overseas, the out of sight thing gives local talent a leg up, perhaps prematurely?

              • Roar Guru

                June 17th 2016 @ 10:22am
                Harry Jones said | June 17th 2016 @ 10:22am | ! Report

                I am in the minority, but yes. I read a good peer-reviewed study about the massive value of 4-5 year combos within team sport. NZ demonstrates this year after year.

              • Roar Guru

                June 17th 2016 @ 11:47am
                Carlos the Argie said | June 17th 2016 @ 11:47am | ! Report

                Peer reviewed study? Send it to me, please.

              • Roar Guru

                June 17th 2016 @ 11:03pm
                Harry Jones said | June 17th 2016 @ 11:03pm | ! Report

                Yessir

      • June 17th 2016 @ 10:17am
        Rugby Tragic said | June 17th 2016 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        Pot Hale … Ireland didn’t need to play a lot of rugby last weekend, but the bit they did play, they played well …

      • June 17th 2016 @ 11:30pm
        wardad said | June 17th 2016 @ 11:30pm | ! Report

        Pot Hale is it true that all the tickets for the Lansdowne road test against the ABs have been sold to Irish clubs or supporters ?

        • Roar Guru

          June 18th 2016 @ 7:26am
          Derm McCrum said | June 18th 2016 @ 7:26am | ! Report

          yes game is sold out. There are package tickets available as part of the November series for all three tests against NZ, Aus and Canada – €170 all in I think.

          • June 18th 2016 @ 9:49am
            wardad said | June 18th 2016 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            Cheers mate ,was going to be in the UK at the end of the year ,looks like maybe scalpers then ,much as I despise them .

    • June 17th 2016 @ 6:23am
      Rebel said | June 17th 2016 @ 6:23am | ! Report

      Cheeky last paragraph Brett, you know the Roar contributors well.

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2016 @ 6:30am
        moaman said | June 17th 2016 @ 6:30am | ! Report

        Rebel; do you think he was having a go at Paddy (who probably has a beach walk booked in) or did you mean( the lines above that & ) that Reds’ fans will be coming out in droves? 😉

        • Columnist

          June 17th 2016 @ 9:55am
          Brett McKay said | June 17th 2016 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          As much as I’d love it to be the former, gents, it’s definitely the latter..

        • June 17th 2016 @ 5:44pm
          rebel said | June 17th 2016 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

          Definitely the tinfoil wearing banana benders Moa, which then riles up those with a phobia for foil and bananas.

    • Roar Guru

      June 17th 2016 @ 6:26am
      moaman said | June 17th 2016 @ 6:26am | ! Report

      Mornin’ Brett
      Your own ramblings on the Aussie bench issue probably encapsulate what Cheika and co are going through; However it’s not a good look for them to release the team early and incomplete.It looks like muddled thinking underscored by panic.
      Perhaps he told the troops “show me why i shouldn’t leave you out” at training, and is hedging his bets?

      I said yesterday whilst I believe the AB reshuffle at the back makes them stronger in all facets–it’s the reintroduction of one Samuel Whitelock that has me most reassured.The amount of work he and Retallick get through is phenomenal and iwonder if the latter was trying too hard last week to compensate for the former’s absence.The big fella was surprising inaccurate for such a class act.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 17th 2016 @ 6:47am
        Paulo said | June 17th 2016 @ 6:47am | ! Report

        Bench thing could be to keep Eddie guessing?

        • June 17th 2016 @ 9:15am
          Lostintokyo said | June 17th 2016 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Also to keep the final training runs at full intensity.

        • June 17th 2016 @ 10:19am
          Antoni said | June 17th 2016 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          Exactly, but Moaman will put the worst possible interpretation on it he can think of ‘Muddled thinking underscored by panic’. Really? From Cheika. I think McMahon is a poor selection but I see no sign of muddled thinking or panic. McMahon’s selections consistent with Cheika’s game plan (whether it works or not) and the bench is clearly a tactic. Eddie won’t know who is in until the last possible time.
          There is far too much ‘brilliance’ being allocated to Eddie, and now we have a chorus (of the usual suspects) trying to claim Cheika doesn’t know what he is doing. Quite often the best team wins. Many are pretending these games are decided by the coaches.

          • Roar Guru

            June 17th 2016 @ 1:21pm
            moaman said | June 17th 2016 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

            Antoni I don’t expect a response from you because you strike me as a hit and run merchant–but here goes anyway.
            “it’s not a good look for them to release the team early and incomplete.It looks like muddled thinking underscored by panic.
            Perhaps he told the troops “show me why i shouldn’t leave you out” at training, and is hedging his bets? ”
            Hope that makes it easier for you. I was speculating.I don’t have any knowledge apart from what I read.I don’t know.It looks muddled to me but it may be because he wants the subs to lift their games and show him at training how much they want the places open.

          • June 17th 2016 @ 1:44pm
            Old Bugger said | June 17th 2016 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

            Antoni

            Just a comment from EJ that he’s not interested whatsoever, in Cheika’s selections. He’s only worried about his lot and what they can do.

            We get similar rhetoric from Hansen – he was asked about Wales effort this weekend and he said the same – he’s not interested in what Gats and his lot will do, just what his own team has to do.

            Its a misnomor to think that not finalising your selections will create some uncertainty, within your opponent’s considerations. No, it isn’t really.

            If your team plays to a chosen game plan and loses, then the only thing you’ve succeeded with, is that plan won’t work again against this opponent and, you think of another plan then, move on to the next match. If your team wins with the chosen game plan, then you win the series and give yourself, a pat-on-the-back.

            Then, you think of another game-plan and, move on to the next match.

      • June 17th 2016 @ 12:51pm
        Akari said | June 17th 2016 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

        Funny that as I did say that Romano was the weak link in the forward pack. I think that Patrick was correctly placed on the bench absence and made an impact when he came on. IMO, Dominic Bird would have been a better starting option in Sam W’s absence thru injury.

        • June 17th 2016 @ 1:35pm
          Old Bugger said | June 17th 2016 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          Akari

          If Birdy didn’t have his foot injury at the start of SR, then I’d suggest he would’ve been in the mix somewhere, for Hansen to have a look-see…..unfortunately the injury IMO, still has him at a game short of test fitness but, he’s improving to the extent that a continued showing of improvement in the run to the SR finals, could see him generate some form of interest, from Shag & Co. Fingers x-ed aye….because IMO, his side-stepping run to score against Wales, is proof that his fitness levels are getting better??

          • Roar Guru

            June 17th 2016 @ 1:40pm
            moaman said | June 17th 2016 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

            Akari/Old Bugger
            Personally i didn’t have any problem with Romano getting the gig;I just think Whitelock and Retallick compliment each other so superbly the sum is even better than the parts.
            Bird isn’t high in the pecking order imo—If one of the current four fell over I would rather see one of the new crop of locks get an opportunity.
            But it looks like Tuipolotu & Romano are #3 and 4 atm.

            • June 17th 2016 @ 3:54pm
              Akari said | June 17th 2016 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

              Fair enough moaman. I haven’t been a Birdy fan until his playing for the Chiefs over the past month or so. He looks and seems to play differently than when he was with the Saders and with more grunt. His ball playing is an addition to his arsenal too.

              • Roar Guru

                June 18th 2016 @ 11:32am
                moaman said | June 18th 2016 @ 11:32am | ! Report

                Akari
                I should clarify–I think Bird has impressed with the Chiefs too–but he needs to keep impressing over a longer period to show he has that little bit extra to make it back to the ABs.
                Enjoy the game tonight mate. 😉

    • Columnist

      June 17th 2016 @ 7:06am
      Geoff Parkes said | June 17th 2016 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Hi Brett

      Cheika is on stage at 1.40pm at today’s Weary Dunlop lunch. I’m sure the bench will come up for discussion – will update with a summary of his comments later.

      • June 17th 2016 @ 8:12am
        Browny said | June 17th 2016 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        Looking forward to reading it, Geoff.

      • Roar Guru

        June 17th 2016 @ 9:01am
        Harry Jones said | June 17th 2016 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        Geoff, thus Parkes.

      • Columnist

        June 17th 2016 @ 9:57am
        Brett McKay said | June 17th 2016 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        Ah, nice one Geoff, look forward to the update.

        Long lunch, eh? Sounds like a great idea..

        • Columnist

          June 17th 2016 @ 11:05am
          Geoff Parkes said | June 17th 2016 @ 11:05am | ! Report

          And thanks too to the Melbourne Rebels for the invitation – on behalf of The Roar

      • June 17th 2016 @ 10:19am
        Rugby Tragic said | June 17th 2016 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        look forward to it…

    • Roar Guru

      June 17th 2016 @ 7:55am
      Red Kev said | June 17th 2016 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      I must admit Brett when I read your final talking point I assumed you meant that the Reds wanted to hire Foley, not that the ARU (Force) wanted to hire one of the Reds’ co-interim-head-coaches. I guess it is a good indication of the faith I have in the Reds management doing anything sensible.

      • Columnist

        June 17th 2016 @ 10:36am
        Brett McKay said | June 17th 2016 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        I suppose if you expect the worst, Kev, you’ve got a reasonable chance of being surprised..

      • June 17th 2016 @ 12:02pm
        kingplaymaker said | June 17th 2016 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

        Red Kev come on and post some more like the old days. It’s too sedate without you.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 17th 2016 @ 12:11pm
          Don said | June 17th 2016 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

          Red Kev was always pretty insightful I thought.

          It was RedderthanKevin that used to really cast out the lures…

          • June 17th 2016 @ 12:22pm
            kingplaymaker said | June 17th 2016 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

            Indeed Don, and he also had a variety of different points on many subjects.

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