It’s a World Cup year and the Wallabies have everything to prove.
They have slumped again to a dire world ranking of No.6 as they face the Rugby World Cup in ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’ come September.
Despite the public calling for Michael Cheika’s head, the maligned Rugby Australia organisation are sticking with him in the hope of delivering them the Web Ellis Cup on the November 2.
The Australian public lacks belief but we must collectively shift to hope.
This one word needs to be the starting point for the Wallabies to rebuild momentum to once again be great.
We need to hope that the Wallabies can finally get their set pieces right.
We need to hope that Folau can burst through a gap in the All Blacks’ backline to score under the posts in the World Cup final.
Each fan needs to hold on to the hope that Michael Cheika can pull off a miracle and lead Australia back to rugby royalty.
With this hope, we can avenge the pain, loss, blood, sweat and tears of the last few years.
The Wallabies are coming off a horror 2018 season, winning just four from 13 Tests.
There is intense competition for all 31 spots in the squad and each jersey is crying out for someone to put their name on it.
A well picked side is the crucial ingredient to bring back hope to the Wallabies.
The Wallabies require experience if they are going to bring home the Web Ellis Cup.
It all starts with the front row. A good set piece front row that consistently puts their bodies on the line in both offence and defence.
Scott Sio’s 53-Test cap career and 91 per cent tackle success rate in 2018 demonstrates this unequivocally. He is the man for the tight-head prop and No.1 jersey.
Tatafu Polota-Nau is on the back end of his career at 33 and has a deep history of injuries. He still has more in the tank. He, along with Sekope Kepu, bring much needed experience in the side with over 180 Test caps between them.
They are both up front in offence and will help mentor and develop the younger front-rowers on the reserve bench.
They are both calm and collected at set piece which allows the explosive backs to make match-winning plays off the back of their success at the line-outs and scrums.
Taniela Tupou, Allan Alaalatoa and Folau Fainga’a will be good fresh legs to come on and finish off the match and will thrive off the experience of the starters.
The men taking up the two positions in the second row are quite obvious: Izack Rodda and Adam Coleman.
They have both proved themselves to be reliable targets for Polota-Nau in the line-out and their size will aid a big shove in the scrum. Both are good ball-carriers doing their best to get across the advantage line and good up front in defence.
Rob Simmons slots in to the bench to take over from one of the two towards the end of the match.
The back row has the ability to prove that they are the world’s best by a country mile.
David Pocock and Michael Hooper are certainties in the back row, but the third member is questionable.
Pocock needs to start at open-side flanker. He is the best player in the world at the breakdown and is quite possibly the hardest-running player too.
He constantly puts his body on the line and off the scrum the opposition is going to have a hard time trying to get him out of the ruck.
Hooper pushes to blind-side flanker and young Isi Naisarani is the Wallabies best choice at No.8.
Jack Dempsey is the next best option, who will be explosive coming on late in the matches either in the back row or at No.8.
Although Naisarani is not eligible for selection until April, his performances in Super Rugby should interest coach Cheika into selecting him. Standing at 195 centimetres he will be a much needed third option in the line-out for Polota-Nau.
Will Genia will all but certainly get the nod for the No.9 jersey from Cheika. He is on another level compared to other halfbacks in Australia.
The next best person for the job is young Jake Gordon, who has done an extremely good job at the Waratahs, and edges out Nick Phipps.
Here is the real controversy. Going against the opinion of almost every rugby fan in the world, Quade Cooper should be the Wallabies’ No.10 for the World Cup, purely on hope and belief.
The Wallabies need change and Bernard Foley is better off the bench to come on and finish off the match.
My crystal ball sees Cooper having a stellar Super Rugby season and proving everyone wrong.
A year in exile playing in Brisbane club rugby has finally given him the kick up the arse that he has needed his whole career.
His chemistry with Will Genia has been proven for years and will only develop more throughout the season with the Rebels.
I hear the doubters getting loud at this point and sure, he can make some really dumb decisions on the field at times.
His X-factor to ignite a match winning play from nowhere though is what fuels my hope.
If in form, he can provide the much needed direction and play-making creativity the Rebels and Wallabies so desperately need.
Matt Toomua and Samu Kerevi form the centres pairing.
Toomua at No.12 means there is a second first receiver on the field at all times. If needed, he can move to No.10 and direct the forwards around the field.
This allows Cooper to drift out the back looking to swing it wide to Folau looking for line breaks. Toomua will help straighten up the attack and he has proved himself in defence.
Kerevi will run the ball hard and straight looking to penetrate the opposition’s defence. He is a good option at the set piece for a hard-running crash ball, allowing Cooper to look to swing wide off the next play.
On the wing, Cheika should select Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete.
Koroibete will provide the blistering pace out wide for Folau to link with near the touch line.
Reece Hodge is a must have. Not naturally a winger although he has played there before, he consistently puts his body on the line in offence and defence.
His kicking game is exceptional and will give Captain Pocock an option for the posts from over 50 metres out.
No doubt at all about selecting Israel Folau at fullback. Safest hands under the high ball in world rugby and possibly the best attacking player in the world.
It will be exciting to watch Folau and Cooper link together to ignite special plays that will certainly see the Wallabies get themselves on the board.
Kurtley Beale gets my selection in the No.23 jersey, hopefully igniting some attacking flair late in the game to get some points on the board in the dying stages.
An experienced side with everything to prove come September in Japan.
Both strong in offence and defence, this side can definitely bring home the Web Ellis Cup to Australia in my opinion.
This side has the potential for greatness.
The hope of watching David Pocock lift the Rugby World Cup on November 2 is what makes me believe in the Wallabies.
They can do it.
Wallabies match-day squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup
1. Scott Sio
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Izack Rodda
5. Adam Coleman
6. Michael Hooper
7. David Pocock (captain)
8. Isi Naisarani
9. Will Genia
10. Quade Cooper
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Matt Toomua
13. Samu Kerevi
14. Reece Hodge
15. Israel Folau
16. Folau Fainga’a
17. Taniela Tupou
18. Allan Alaalatoa
19. Rob Simmons
20. Jack Dempsey
21. Jake Gordon
22. Bernard Foley
23. Kurtley Beale