The SportingJournal

Wallabies squad full of fresh faces

The Australian Wallabies squad that will take on the British Lions in their coming tour was announced this week – TSJ’s Elias Clure walks us through each selection with a comprehensive analysis of the team.

The omission of Quade Cooper from the Wallabies squad is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for a test team that needs revitalisation.

James O’Connor has been consistent as No. 10 and plays a no fuss game the Wallabies desperately need in Fly-Half.

Cooper will undoubtedly feel hard done by – it was only a year ago that he was considered amongst the best players in the Wallabies side, if not the most talented.

His lack of consistency seemed to go unnoticed and the Queenslander was continually a regular starter courtesy of some flashes of brilliance.

In crunch games for the Wallabies however, Cooper has been mediocre.

He has scored only one try at Bledisloe Cup level, three years ago against the All-Blacks in a lackluster dead-rubber in Hong Kong.

The pressure cooker environment of the Lions tour would definitely not suit Cooper and thankfully the Wallabies have seen past his flashy facade.

It’s seemingly a brave move from the Wallabies but O’Connor has been one of only a few shining lights for the Melbourne Rebels this season.

Since the decline of Matt Giteau the Wallabies have been in search of a quality ball handler and kicker in the No. 10.

Although O’Connor may lack Giteau’s technical kicking brilliance, he has proven in performances for the Wallabies that he can create dangerous offensive plays that will be important against a strong defensive Lions outfit.

As Johnny Wilkinson proved for the British and Lions tour of 2001 and through out his career the Fly-Half position needs to find a balance of composure, consistency and brilliance.

O’Connor has shown he can produce all three. With the Irish Johnny Sexton and England’s Owen Farrel to choose from, The Lions will probably have the advantage in this area.

Farrel has been in brilliant form while Sexton has consistently proven himself at the elite level.

However, Robbie Deans has shown confidence in O’Connor and that is a critical step in the right direction if the Wallabies are to be competitive against the Lions in June.

The remainder of Dean’s squad looks impressive also, Australian rugby pundits have been crying out for more daring selections, to counterpoint Dean’s dour coaching style.

While Israel Folau could prove to be a critical component of the squad Deans has looked to the future with the selections of up and comers No. 7 Liam Gill and exciting winger Nick Cummins.

Here is how the squad looks for the Lions tour, which starts on June 22 at Suncorp Stadium.

 

Front Row:

Ben Alexander: No surprise that Alexander will most likely make his 50th appearance in Wallabies Gold during the Lions tour. Another solid season for the Brumbies will see the 189cm Prop a definite starter.

Sekope Kepu: Suffered a knee injury last year but the Warratah’s loosehead is a crucial component to the Wallabies scrum. Has been solid without being exceptional for New South Wales this year, but his power in the forward pack is critical if the Wallabies are to hold their own against a heavy Lions scrum.

Benn Robinson: Unlucky to miss the 2011 World Cup with an ACL this will be the biggest stage of the 28 year old props career. Although Wallabies fans have been skeptical, Robinson has proven himself as a versatile front rower and will definitely start on the front row of the scrum.

James Slipper: Another outstanding for the Reds in prop has seen Slipper get a Wallabies call up. Unlikely to start Slipper is a good player to have on the pine for the Wallabies as he has proven his ability to impact games in the Super 15s.

Stephen Moore: A veteran wallaby who still has a lot to offer. Moore can be susceptible to quality line-outs  but has shown that he can match it with the best hookers in the world.

Saia Fainga’a: The jury is still out on Fainga’a as a Wallabies representative. Deans seems more than content to use him as the No2 but the Reds hooker still makes critical errors either from the line out or giving away pointless penalties.

 

Second Rowers:

 

James Horwill: The Wallabies captain’s season has been far from consistent with the Reds but Horwill is crucial to the stability of the Wallabies pack. With the Lions naming Welsh superstar Sam Warburton as captain, it’s critical Horwill puts in good performances for team morale.

Rob Simmons: A justified call but the selection of Simmons typifies the adavantage the Lions will have in the second row. Although Simmons has proven himself as a solid lock he has England’s Joe Launchberry to Contend with who at 21 is arguably the best Lock in the world and has developed excellent line-out chemistry with countryman Geoff Parrling.

Sitaleki Timani: A lot of competition for the third lock selection. Many pundits say Timani was lucky to be selected after Hugh Pyle for the Rebels has shown good form in the Rebels line outs in the second half of the super 15’s season, but the work of Timani off  the bench for the Wallabies in the line-outs has been good. The Lions will heavily rely on this aspect of the game and Geoff Parrling (A man they call the professor of the Line-Out), was outstanding for England in the 6 nations will prove to be a difficult task to contain in the air.

 

Back Row: 

Scott Higginbottham: The only line where Wallabies  may out-do the Lions is in backs and Higginbotham is starring in every match for the lowly Melbourne Rebels and will likely start in the number 8.

Michael Hooper: The Injuries of George Smith and David Pocock, both Wallabies champions is what many fans say could cost the Wallabies the series however the selection of Hooper proves the depth Australian rugby has in the back-row. Sam Warburton has probably had nightmares about continually getting crunched in the ruck from Pocock and Smith and may have been relieved to see them both go down with injuries. However Hooper has been a revelation for the Warratahs this season starring in every game and scoring a crucial try against the brumbies on Saturday night. On his current performances probably would have challenged Smith for a starting position anyway.

Wycliff Palu: Some off-field issues with Palu seemed to be a thing of the past and the 195 cm No8 has been a strong contributor for the Warratahs this season. Good player to have on the bench.

Ben Mowen: Mowen’s second season at the Brumbies has been a fruitful one. Having now spent 6 seasons at super 15’s level  Mowen has had his best season in 2013 and deserved a Wallabies call up. However a strong back row means he will be lucky to gain any significant match time.

Dave Dennis: The Warratah’s no. 6 will likely start for the Wallabies given the absence of Pocock. His strong frame always gives him a chance of possession in the ruck. Although Warburton may have an edge over Dennis, the help he has around him in Englishman Tom Croft and Irishman Sean O’Brien are not up to the Wallabies back row standard.

Liam Gill: At only 20 years of  age Gill has shown he’s quality in the ruck. The Reds up and comer will have to rely on an injury to get game time however.

 

Half Backs:

 

Will Genia: Probably the first player picked in the squad. Genia, as the Wallabies major play maker has a huge role in front of him. The Reds superstar needs to organise a talented, but at times inconsistent back half and ensure he can hold together long periods of phases without error, otherwise the Lions will look to capitalise.

James O’Connor: Selected in front of Quade Cooper and for good reason. O’Connor has an outstanding kicking game and his aggression as a No10 will be important against a slower Lions Outfit. Although Genia will do most of the organising across the packs, O’Connor also needs to step up as leader in this series and organise the team when the Wallabies have possession

Berrick Barnes: The much-maligned fly-half has always been criticised for his kicking game and has openly admitted he needs to improve aspects of his game. Barnes will either start as an inside centre or on the bench, but will need to drastically improve his kicking under pressure if he is going to challenge O’Connor for the No10.

 

Centers:

 

Rob Horne: 14 Caps for the Wallabies and he has proven himself in every one of them, Horne is an important part of the Wallabies overcoming a strong Lions centre line.  15 points for the Wallabies means Horne is a capable try scorer and an important player a handy player to give it to close to the try line.

Digby Ioane: An exciting center/winger, Iaone is a versatile component to the Wallabies squad.  32 starts from 34 matches shows Deans has the utmost confidence in Ioane as a starting inside centre that can give help to the wingers.

Christian Leafliiffano:  Leafliiffano is definitely this year’s Wallabies bolter.  Until only recently the Kiwi born Brumbies star could was eligible for an All Blacks call up. He has been prolific for the Brumbies mainly at Fly-Half nearing 200 points from 52 caps.  With the blessing of George Gregan and depending on how he performs going forward with the Brumbies Leafliiffano could start with the No12.

Nick Cummins: Cummins describes himself as an animal in defence and he has certainly showed that doggedness in his performances for the Western Force. At 25 just being selected is an achievement for Cummins.

 

Wings and Full Backs

 

Joseph Tomane: Perhaps an even greater story than that of Folau, although Tomane will not start in the first match Deans will definitely look to start the former Melbourne Storm player as an impact player off the bench.

Nick Cummins: Cummins describes himself as an animal in defence and he has certainly showed that doggedness in his performances for the Western Force. At 25 just being selected is a big achievement for Cummins.

Israel Folau: Enough has been said about the Importance of Israel to the Wallabies. Although he is in only his first Rugby season he has shown for the Warratahs he is capable of winning matches on with his unbelievable catching ability. Israel should be a starter and deployed as an aerial player as O’Connor and Genia look to kick to the corners.

Adam Ashley-Cooper: Ashley-Cooper has been one of Australia’s most consistent performers of the past thre years and once again deserves his position in the side as the incumbent full-back. Another excellent season for the Warratahs means he is unlikely to be challenged for the No15 guernsey.

 

Cover image credit: Australian Wallabies/Twitter

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  • Yin Yang

    Consistent in the one game he has played for the wallabies at flyhalf? This is an extremely one sided article. Quade has his downfalls, but he is an effective distributor and has a passing game surpassed by no other 10 in world rugby. Before you go and bag his performances for the Wallabies, it is proven that with him at 10, they win more games and score more tries (this includes his horrific tenure at the world cup). To claim that he is inconsistent is ignorant of his performances and efforts this year and he has shown clear development as a player.

    O’Connor is not a flyhalf, he is a ball runner. His passing to the left is not fluent enough and his game management and ability to reset the line is not at test level yet. He is a brilliant footballer, but considering all Deans wants to concentrate on is defence in the front line, O’Connor has played too much football in the 15 jersey and we cannot be sure of his ability to take the big hits. He was monstered by Rene Ranger.

    I suggest you research the true issues with Quade’s game like his excessive turnovers and high offload rate. This article is just as bad as those who claim Quade is the best footballer on the planet. Provide some evidence to back up your claims, please.

    • Elias Clure

      When I say consistent I’m referring to his season with the Rebels this season!

  • Jack Myers

    This is such a poorly written article, you obviously haven’t paid much attention to Australian rugby. Lets start with the obvious…quade cooper is head and shoulders above the rest of the Australian fly halfs…nobody’s game is perfect, his imperfections get picked on more so than any other player in the world, but his perceptions far outway any imperfections. James oconnor is a winger, not a fly half, he has had one international game at fly half, and the rest as an outside back, so how has he ‘been consistent as number 10′. he fact that you don’t really know what you are talking about (I hope nobody paid you to write is article) is highlighted with some massive errors. Firstly Dave Dennis ‘the waratahs no 7. Well likely start for the wallabies in the absence of David pocock’. Dave Dennis isn’t a number 7, he plays blindside flanker (6), and he shouldn’t even be in that squad in the first place. You have nick cummins and digby ioane as centres…they are both wingers, and you praise Rob Horne, the most over rated player in Australian rugby. For some strange reason you think Adam Ashley-cooper is the incumbent fullback, and will play there against the lions??? You also back this up with the excellent season at the waratahs. If you have watched a NSW this year you will realise that Folau is the fullback and AAC is infant outside center (13, if you didn’t know the position). AAC is the wallabies only option at outside center and it is his best position and is the incumbent.

    • Jack Myers

      What gives you any right to weigh into the cooper/o’connor conversation when you have proven multiple times throughout this poorly written article that when it comes to Australian rugby, you really don’t know what you are talking about. And don’t even get me started on the plethora of spelling mistakes…

      • Jack Myers

        ‘As jonhny wilkinson proved for the British and lions tour of 2003’….was this tour some between the 2001 and 2005 tours, running at the same time as the World Cup?

        • Elias Clure

          btw you may also notice I say Dennis is a Number 6…

    • Elias Clure

      @ Jack Myers Thanks for your comment. Spelling mistakes were a apart of trying to get the story up quickly .Yes I mean’t the tour of 2001. To say I haven’t paid much attention to Australian Rugby is ludicrous,. How’s every super 15’s game this season. I would suggest you think a bit bit out of the square when it comes to Australian Rugby rather than become outraged at any sort of creative thinking. You answered you’re own question re cooper mate, his imperfections are picked apart more than any other player in the world. Why do you think this is…Maybe because his passing errors and lack of scoring ability at International level are poor. To say O’Connor isn’t experienced at the Number 10 is fair enough but in MY OPINION watch a Rebels game this season you might see that O’Connor has been consistent in the 10, he deserves the role. Maybe if you listened to Robbie Deans on Monday you would hear that he intends to play Dennis in the 6 or 7 Deans has showed in his coaching career especially with the crusaders that the back row is like a revolving door. I’ve seen all the warratahs games this season GO BACK AND LISTEN TO ROBBIE DEANS. He believes AA Cooper is his full back there is a chance foloau will start there but I have my money on cooper mate. Although he may end up there as the series goes on.

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