Robbie Deans has this morning confirmed that the team for the first test against the British and Irish Lions will be:
Starting XV: Barnes, Folau, Ashley-Cooper, Leali'ifano, Ioane, O'Connor, Genia, Palu, Hooper, Mowen, Horwill, Douglas, Alexander, Moore, Robinson Reserves: Fainga'a, Slipper, Kepu, Simmons, Gill, Phipps, McCabe, Beale
First some credit where it is due: Christian Leali'ifano and Ben Mowen have been the form players in their positions all season and wholeheartedly deserve their selections to debut in Brisbane.
That is where my credit to the coach ends I am afraid. I am on the record elsewhere in this blog about the selection of Folau. Nothing has changed there: simply on form alone I do not believe he warrants selection. Add to the history of his joinder to rugby and the likelihood of him leaving rugby at the end of the year and my view is complete.
My other major objection to the selection of this team is its obvious lack of “battle” readiness. One would have expected that with the Super Rugby season nearly complete that the players selected for the Wallabies would be in such a state of readiness but it is clear from the amount of playing time they have had that they simply could not be. Take the following examples:
- Berrick Barnes: 5 games for the Waratahs mainly off the bench. Has played in 152 minutes of top class rugby this season.
- Kurtley Beale: 4 games for the Rebels but 3 of those were the first three games of the season and since then he has played 32 minutes of Super Rugby and two club games.
- Wycliff Paul: 9 games for the Waratahs this season averaging 55 minutes per game.
- Pat McCabe: 7 games for the Brumbies including 5 from the bench for an average of 30 minutes per game (that number is skewed by him having started in the Brumbies Round 17 clash against the Rebels when all of the other Wallabies players were excluded from playing).
More to the point, the Wallabies squad has not played a minute of rugby “in anger” since the end of May (Round 16 of Super Rugby). That means that by the time the team runs out on Saturday night it will be have been 21 days, at least, between competitive rugby games for the Wallabies players. In that time the British and Irish Lions squad has been tested with 5 games of rugby. Simply put: if readiness is what the Wallabies need they do not have it.
Finally, the slavish devotion that Robbie Deans has to not selecting Quade Cooper in this team obviously has lead to the decision to play Berrick Barnes at full back, a position that he has not started at for his franchise all season and has only played in 4 times in a Wallabies jumper. This team would have looked much better balanced with Cooper at fly half and O'Connor at the back for mine. Then again, to select the team that way, or even this way to be honest, is to ignore the standout claims of Jesse Mogg to the number 15 jumper. To select a player with limited playing time this year in a position he doesn't play instead of one of the rising stars of the game beggars belief.
Obviously, I want Australia to win. I want Australia to win every time an Australian team graces a court, pitch or ground. I have a real fear though that this Australian team has very little chance of doing so being as underdone as it is.