In a week of silly statements emanating from the Wallabies camp, at least there was a brief return to the real world when coach Michael Cheika dropped three players for the Dunedin Bledisloe Cup match. But more should have been axed.
Two were justified, as winger Curtis Rona and centre Samu Kerevi were appalling in Sydney, while Rory Arnold was unlucky, especially as he is being replaced by Rob Simmons, an often-under-performing lock who is a master of disappearing in big matches.
Cheika was still far too kind because he could easily have dumped four more – namely hooker Stephen Moore, tighthead prop Allan Ala’alatoa, blindside flanker Ned Hanigan and No. 8 Sean McMahon.
The Wallabies were nothing more than dysfunctional robots during the horror Bledisloe Cup loss to the All Blacks, and pressure is mounting on all aspects of Australian rugby — Greg Growden writes.
Top rugby referee Nigel Owens has got a few miles under the belt ahead of Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash between the All Blacks and Wallabies after officiating an under-15 schoolboy match in Auckland.
The All Blacks played scintillating rugby for 50 minutes in Sydney but after conceding 28 points in the second half the will be desperate to atone in Bledisloe II. Things could get even uglier for the Wallabies in Dunedin, Craig Dowd writes.
Then again, you always knew the Australian managerial staff were going to be conciliatory, following several days of bizarre comments when you almost began to wonder whether the Wallabies were unlucky to lose in Sydney rather than being outright smacked. Endless bile about there being so many positives in the Australian game made you wonder whether the coaching staff had blindfolds on last Saturday night. One certainly knows that successful Australia coaches, such as Bob Dwyer and Alan Jones, would not have been so forgiving in the days after such a lamentable loss.
The inclusion of Dane Haylett-Petty for Rona is understandable. Rona should never have been picked in the first place. He is only a rugby rookie, and it showed in the Bledisloe Cup opener. He was completely out of his depth.
Tevita Kuridrani should have been in the team in Sydney ahead of Kerevi, especially with the Wallabies’ management going on about the Queensland captain being short of preparation.
Rona and Kerevi were both dumb selections last week.
Simmons, who not that long ago didn’t seem to be wanted by anyone, should go out and buy lottery tickets because Cheika has offered him an unexpected reprieve. In his 73rd Test appearance, Simmons really needs to aim up.
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So, too, Hanigan and McMahon because the Wallabies are really falling down in their backrow play; it is limp, whereas the All Blacks’ backrow work is leopard-like.
McMahon does have an excuse because he is so short of football. But Hanigan really needs to prove that he is of Test calibre; his Wallabies promotion comes after a pretty average Super Rugby season. He is one of those players who is seen. But when you really sit down and analyse what he does, it’s not that much; Hanigan lacks impact.
Obviously Cheika believes his surprise element is off the bench.
Why the more dynamic Tatafu Polota-Nau is not starting ahead of Moore is beyond me — especially after the former Wallabies captain only went through the motions before being replaced in Sydney.
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As ridiculous as that selection is the decision made to spend the week in Christchurch, rather than Dunedin. At a time when the Wallabies need every friend they can get, the decision to train away from the Test host city will have alienated Dunedin-ites, who would have gladly provided the right facilities and been willing hosts, while also adding unnecessary travel time onto a trip.
Getting to Dunedin is tricky and long — relying on connecting flights and then a long bus ride from the airport to the city, as Dunedin Airport is out in the boondocks.
All this travel should have been done early in the week, rather than in the 48 hours before kick-off, and the decision is yet another example of how the Wallabies’ management have become the masters of dumbing down.
The All Blacks, especially with class hooker Dane Coles back, to win by at least 30 points.
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY