Some of Michael Cheika’s Bledisloe Cup selections don’t make any sense

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    The biggest question mark in the Wallabies Bledisloe Cup squad is Michel Hooper.

    How can he be fit enough to take on the All Blacks when he hasn’t played a game of any description for seven weeks since he trudged off in the third Test against Ireland with a hamstring injury on June 23?

    Hooper’s obviously passed a fitness test, but he can’t possibly be match fit enough to take on the best team in the world.

    And the first of three Bledisloe Cup clashes is, without doubt, the most vital game of the series.

    So it looms as another Pooper experiment where the best No.7 in the country, David Pocock, has to play No.8 to allow the second best No.7, whose match fitness will be questionable, to hold down the position.

    That’s not the way to win the vital first-up encounter.

    Nor is dropping Rory Arnold and Caleb Timu from the original 36-man squad.

    Big Rory Arnold looking big.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    The towering 208cm, 120kg Arnold was the perfect locking partner for 204cm, 122kg Adam Coleman to give the All Blacks some lineout curry.

    And Timu’s 190cm, 112kg frame would have been very handy at the back of the scrum.

    But both have been punted, leaving huge key figure holes in the now 28-strong squad.

    Having said that, Michael Cheika must be praised for keeping the exciting Tom Banks and Jack Maddocks in the squad, with both capable of filling the fullback and wing positions.

    And both are genuinely quick from standing starts with safe hands, deceptive footwork, and outstanding defence.

    Before the cut, and keeping match fitness in mind, my 23-man squad for the first Bledisloe on Saturday would have looked like this:

    (1) – Scott Sio
    (2) – Tatafu Polota-Nau
    (3) – Sekope Kepu
    (4) – Rory Arnold
    (5) – Adam Coleman
    (6) – Ned Hanigan
    (7) – David Pocock (c)
    (8) – Caleb Timu
    (9) – Will Genia
    (10) – Bernard Foley
    (11) – Tom Banks
    (12) – Kurtley Beale
    (13) – Reece Hodge
    (14) – Dane Haylett-Petty
    (15) – Israel Folau

    (16) – Brandon Paenga-Amosa
    (17) – Allan Alaalatoa
    (18) – Rob Simmons
    (19) – Lukhan Tui
    (20) – Michael Hooper
    (21) – Nick Phipps
    (22) – Matt Toomua
    (23) – Jack Maddocks

    Kurtley Beale, David Pocock and Bernard Foley

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    With Arnold and Timu out of the picture, and Hooper firmly back in it, the pack and bench will have forced changes, but not the backs.

    (1) – Scott Sio
    (2) – Tatafu Polota-Nau
    (3) – Sekope Kepu
    (4) – Rob Simmons
    (5) – Adam Coleman
    (6) – Ned Hanigan
    (7) – Michael Hooper (c)
    (8) – David Pocock
    (9) – Will Genia
    (10) – Bernard Foley
    (11) – Tom Banks
    (12) – Kurtley Beale
    (13) – Reece Hodge
    (14) – Dane Haylett-Petty
    (15) – Israel Folau

    (16) – Brandon Paenga-Amosa
    (17) – Allan Alaalatoa
    (18) – Tom Robertson
    (19) – Izack Rodda
    (20) – Lukhan Tui
    (21) – Nick Phipps
    (22) – Matt Toomua
    (23) – Jack Maddocks

    The second line-up is not as strong or as well-balanced as the first, but that’s what happens when key players are punted.

    Hopefully the Wallabies get off to a cracking start to be on the front foot to end the Bledisloe drought since 2002.

    The talent is there, but will only show if they cut loose.

    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 (111)

    • August 13th 2018 @ 7:12am
      Jimbo81 said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      Phipps. Hannigan. Hooper. Foley. What’s the point? Same outcome.

    • August 13th 2018 @ 7:16am
      Fionn said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      You preferred Ned Hanigan not only to Tui, but also to Hooper?

      Hang on, why are Robertson and Alaalatoa in there, but not Thor?

      • August 13th 2018 @ 7:37am
        Bodger said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:37am | ! Report

        Balanced or not as strong, just words with no evidence or explanation. This is just a lazy poor article with no substance.

        • August 13th 2018 @ 7:44am
          Fionn said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:44am | ! Report

          I just cannot comprehend that any fan of the Wallabies would omit Thor. He’s probably already in our top 10 or so players, and is likely to be one of our best players in a couple of years.

          • Roar Guru

            August 13th 2018 @ 9:07am
            jeznez said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

            Well he has Simmons as reserve tight head in his first 23 which I think says everything about the depth of knowledge on display here. Embarrassing.

            • August 13th 2018 @ 9:35am
              Fionn said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

              I think he’s suggesting that Alaalatoa is there to backup both Sio and Kepu… Don’t think that works in 2018 when other teams bring on an entirely fresh front row.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 13th 2018 @ 9:54am
                Dave_S said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

                Heck no, even I know that!! 🙂

              • August 13th 2018 @ 10:40am
                jameswm said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

                Non-compliant team too. Must have subs on the bench for each of the 3 front row spots.

              • Roar Guru

                August 13th 2018 @ 1:25pm
                jeznez said | August 13th 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

                Spot on James.

                Fionn, is a WR law around selection to have three front row on the bench capable of packing in all three positions. Isn’t just about having fresh replacements.

              • August 13th 2018 @ 1:34pm
                Fionn said | August 13th 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

                Ahk, cheers guys! I wasn’t aware of that rule, but definitely seems like a good one in terms of safety.

    • August 13th 2018 @ 7:33am
      Reverse Wheel said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      Another day, another David Lord anti-Hooper rant. Yawn. Move on.

    • August 13th 2018 @ 7:52am
      riddler said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      sorry to be a nit picker but 1st squad is missing a prop on the bench

    • Columnist

      August 13th 2018 @ 7:53am
      David Lord said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      RW, if any other Wallaby hadn’t played for seven weeks, and well short of match play to meet the All Blacks, you and so many others would probably be complaining they shouldn’t be picked.

      But because it’s Michael Hooper, he should play, despite being well underdone.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 10:41am
        jameswm said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        How do you know he’s well underdone?

        Hooper’s got about the biggest engine going around, if uninjured (with Phipps). He’ll be fine.

        • August 13th 2018 @ 11:19am
          Boggles the Mind said | August 13th 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

          Torn hamstring and he will be fine ? How does he keep fit if he cant run? That`ll do me..

          • August 13th 2018 @ 12:22pm
            jameswm said | August 13th 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

            I think there are a few guys who know more about hamstring recoveries than you.

            And yes, you most certainly CAN run when recovering from a hamstring injury. Start at 50-60% and build the intensity, as you keep getting MRIs to check on the recovery. For all we know he’s been running flat out in training for the last fortnight.

            • August 13th 2018 @ 4:37pm
              Ruckin Oaf said | August 13th 2018 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

              Hey James,

              Makes you wonder what the point of that practice match was the other day.

              I mean if guys don’t need to play to be match fit …………………

        • August 13th 2018 @ 12:15pm
          Baz said | August 13th 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          @jameswm I am hoping he is used off the bench. Bad hamstring tears can take months to repair. Forgetting for a moment the ‘Pooper’ experiment, I’d have some serious doubts based on my experience with torn hammies that he will be right.

    • August 13th 2018 @ 7:54am
      Jack said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      ReverseWheel, address his arguments then. Is Hooper the best 7? Is he match fit? There is strong belief amongst many supporters that the selection policy is when in doubt pick a Waratah. This team reinforces that belief. Simmons, Hannigan, Phipps and a player who has it played for 7 weeks will likely play 80. A fly-half who cannot kick us out of our own half is an automatic pick. The Bled will be gone again by Saturday night.

      • Roar Guru

        August 13th 2018 @ 9:08am
        taylorman said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        In terms of match fitness I’d say Hooper would be one of the least to be concerned about in terms of getting back up to speed with the fitness levels. I’d be more concerned about Toomua and the ABs. One trial and when was his previous big match?

        • August 13th 2018 @ 9:54am
          soapit said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

          id agree if it wasnt a hammy. cant be too easy to stay match fit when you cant run.

          • Roar Guru

            August 13th 2018 @ 10:03am
            taylorman said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

            True, good point. Nasty things hammys, they spring on you unexpectedly.

        • August 13th 2018 @ 10:42am
          jameswm said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          Agreed Tman, if there’s one thing about Hooper you don’t need to worry about, it’s his match fitness.

          • Roar Guru

            August 13th 2018 @ 1:28pm
            stillmissit said | August 13th 2018 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

            James you can’t be match fit without playing any matches, it is in the wording. He will be gym and training fit. How many times have we heard the Wallabies stating they trained the house down this week, only to come away with a 15 point loss to the AB ‘s.

            To win this match they all need match fitness and attitude, mind you I have never had a problem with Hooper’s attitude he just ain’t a captain in my book. Several of these selections are rubbish, Back row been done over several times and no changes, Simmonds and Phipps are the #2 players in their positions based on performance? No Arnold, No Thor, No real backup for Foley if his kicking is off.

            The main thrust is going to be trying to win on 30% ball, it’s been done before but this is not the best pack in Australia. Good packs take pressure off the 5/8 and inside centre.

            Cheika has no idea about dealing with young talent like Thor. Maddox was the best new back I have seen for a while, you’d have thought they would be grooming him for 5/8 as we need one desperately by 2019/20 but no sign of that…

            • August 13th 2018 @ 1:37pm
              jameswm said | August 13th 2018 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

              You can be match fit if you’ve been playing all season and miss one week. You can’t be match fit if you’ve been training during off season but haven’t played a match for 6 months.

              Hooper is somewhere i n between. But die to his consistent fitness levels over many years including most of this season, I’d back he wouldn’t have lost too much match fitness.

              No Thor? Has he been dropped from the 23? How has Cheika stuffed up his development – you know, sitting behind and learning from Kepu?

          • Roar Guru

            August 13th 2018 @ 2:56pm
            taylorman said | August 13th 2018 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

            What I meant was I wouldnt worry about him taking too long to get back there. Assuming, and thats a big assuming, his hammy is fine he could take half a match if hes been doing the right work.

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