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Opinion

Possibles outmuscle the probables and show that they deserve more respect ahead of Wallabies selection

4th April, 2022
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4th April, 2022
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The vibe amongst the crowd at the Reds versus Brumbies game on Saturday night was one of the more bellicose that I had experienced at Suncorp Stadium.

It highlighted that this was a game against the Reds’ greatest Australian rivals, where they would seek to avenge the four-point loss in Canberra earlier in the season.

The Reds players undoubtedly felt the same way and would have had an extra point to prove, given that only eight of them had been selected for the Wallabies training squad this week, compared to fifteen of their opponents.

In the discussion about Wallabies selections on my Roar article last week, a couple of posters suggested that 2022 would be a good year for a probables versus possible match, as a way of helping the Wallabies selectors chose their squad.

The reality is that we just had it, because the two best Australian teams who should provide the bulk of the players for the Wallabies this year played in this match, with the Brumbies being the “Probables” and the underrepresented Reds being the “Possibles”.

The Reds’ win begs the question, have Wallabies selectors got the ratios of players selected between the two teams right? All of the selected Brumbies are good enough to be Wallabies, but surely having just been comprehensively beaten by the Reds, the balance should be a lot closer?

Much of this issue might have been avoided by not selecting ten Waratahs for the squad, when the only clearly justifiable inclusions from that team are Michael Hooper, Angus Bell, Izaia Perese and Dave Porecki.

However, whether the Brumbies are overrepresented in the training squad compared to the Reds, especially in the forwards, should also be bought into sharp relief by the result of this game.

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The entire Reds forward pack contributed to the humbling of the Brumbies, but two deserve a special mention.

The first is Harry Hoopert, a 23-year-old prop who at six foot three and 116kg is built more like a modern loose forward. Any concerns about this affecting Hoopert’s ability to scrummage were put to rest in this game, where he matched up well against Brumbies captain and Wallabies first pick tight head Allan Alaalatoa.

Hoopert only gave up one penalty against Alaalatoa, holding his side of the scrum stable for the remainder of the game, including when the Reds bulldozed the Brumbies on a couple of occasions. Hoopert is only going to get better and should be on the Wallabies’ selection radar.

 

The second Reds forward that had an outstanding game was lock Angus Blyth. Blyth played the 80 minutes and was typically busy powering the Reds pack with all the unseen work, but there were three moments that stood out. The first was when he caught Brumbies winger Tom Wright, lifted him by the jersey like a lioness lifts a cub by the scruff of the neck and rolled underneath him to hold him up to force a scrum.

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Blyth also held up a player and prevented a try from the feared Brumbies rolling maul, a critical play which I have never seen another player achieve.

To top it all off, he stole the Brumbies lineout, another notable weapon in their arsenal. Based on this performance and many others this season, it is hard to see how Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and Brumbies coach and Wallabies forwards coach Dan Mckeller, can justify leaving Blyth out of the training squad, with a number of other Reds forwards deserving consideration.

Matthew Faessler

(Photo by Dan Peled/Getty Images)

This is where respect comes in, the Reds and Brumbies have expressed respect for each other on numerous occasions over the last couple of seasons, but the possibility of a conflicted Wallabies forwards coach favouring his own players in recommending selections, could undo a lot of that goodwill.

That would be a shame because McKeller is a tremendous contributor to Australian rugby who will contribute far more – his players clearly respect him and he is a smart coach who is desperate to win, being is a bit “gangster” about how he is willing to do it. It is a quality needed in a country where gentlemanly sensibilities may have gotten in the way of success, against international opponents who don’t play by the same rules.

However, McKeller needs to recognise his responsibilities as Wallabies assistant coach and ask himself whether his desire to win and look after his Super Rugby team, might have gotten in the way of his judgement. Only he and Dave Rennie know how these selections were made, but if that is the case then perhaps McKeller needs to check his biases and prioritise keeping Australian rugby respectful, even if only for this season while he does both jobs.

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