Tuesday’s Rugby News establishes Pocock as the lead No 7, Cheika prepares for the World Cup, the retirement of a former Wallaby prop and the Springboks look to a win at all costs against the Wallabies.
Pocock shakes off Hooper as the chosen (00)7
The Australian Super Rugby player’s choice team of the year has seen David Pocock overshadow his Wallaby captain, Michael Hooper as the country’s elite openside flanker.
The team was organised in conjunction with the players association and had players vote for the stand out players from the Australian Super Rugby teams regardless of their international availability or nationality.
One of the main takeaways from the poll was that Pocock was the preferred option over Michael Hooper, who missed out on the team as there were no options for the dual opensides to be voted on, currently a staple of the make up of Wallabies side this year.
Openside flanker Hooper was one of nine incumbent Test starters who didn’t get into the side chosen by players from the four Australian Super Rugby franchises, with the majority of the side either unavailable or selected on the bench for last Saturday’s loss against the All Blacks.
The selection of new Rebels pairing blindside Angus Cottrell and Isi Naisarani is a positive sign for their future Wallaby selections, with the latter becoming eligible for the Wallabies in March, just in time to push his case for the 2019 World Cup.
It was fascinating to see how many players in the side were either injured or not available to be selected for the last Bledisloe match.
Naisarani joins Kuridrani, Folau, Tupou (injured) along with Taqele Naiyaravoro (taking the $$$ in England) as being unavailable for selection for last Saturday’s clash against the All Blacks.
This is quite damaging and provides an interesting perspective for the struggles that the Wallabies have faced, it’s very difficult to take on what I believe to be World Sport’s greatest international team when a third of our ‘form’ team unable to be chosen.
The side is as followed: Israel Folau, Jack Maddocks, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, David Pocock, Angus Cottrell, Rob Simmons, Rory Arnold, Taniela Tupou, Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio
Cheika sets World Cup plans in motion
Michael Chieka is hoping that the consecutive losses to the All Blacks can be the ‘watershed’ moment that helps the side bounce back for the rest of the Rugby Championship and put the side in the best position for next year’s World Cup.
“Sometimes you have to use these times, the harder times, as watershed moments, to make some changes in a certain direction, because they were hard games to lose. But we’ve been here before, we’ve bounced back, and we will again.” Cheika said.
Chieka is already putting preparations in place for next year’s event, with Cheika planning to meet with Rugby Australia officials to outline his plans for the next 12 months.
Despite constant pressure surrounding his tenure as coach, this meeting will not discuss his future in the role, rather look at how the Wallabies and Super Rugby sides can manage their resources and work together for the future.
These discussions will essentially focus on the workload management of players expected to be selected for the World Cup squad, hoping that early planning can avoid the calamities that arose when he asked the Brumbies to stand down Pocock, Sio and Alaalatoa ahead of the Ireland test series on short notice.
Cheika will look to introduce a similar system to what New Zealand and Ireland have put in place, providing himself and high-performance boss Ben Whitaker with the ability to rest players when they deem necessary in the attempts to deliver a fitter and fresher Wallabies side.
This comes as New Zealand Rugby Union reached an agreement earlier in the year that would see Super Rugby sides forced to rest players two weeks before the June Test series, whilst the Ireland Rugby Football Union infamously made fly half Joey Carbery leave Leinster to get out of the shadow of Johnny Sexton to gain valuable experience ahead of the World Cup.
Considering the success that both these sides have had over us this year’s, especially apparent with the comparative higher fitness levels of the All Blacks, we would be crazy not to implement a similar system before such a huge tournament.
Big Ben calls it a day
Bulging prop Ben Alexander has annouced his retirement from the sport at age 33.
The 72-Test Wallaby and most-capped player in Brumbies history made a low-key retirement announcement on Monday, fitting to his down to earth character and the type of player he was.
Alexander played an incredible 154 games for the Brumbies, passing the records set by Australian rugby greats George Gregan and George Smith to be at the top of the list with the prop happy to earn just one cap after his career was derailed at the beginning by a broken leg and blood clots.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be good enough to play a game for the Brumbies or Wallabies,” Alexander said.
“I just kept playing every weekend because I enjoyed the game so much. So I guess what I’ve taken most out of this whole journey is to just give what you love doing your best shot, even if you don’t think you’re good enough … you might just surprise yourself.”
Alexander made his debut for the Brumbies against the Reds in 2008, with Alexander making his debut for the Wallabies in the same year against France in Sydney (Fun fact, I was one of the ball boys for that match).
His debut coach Laurie Fisher, was full of praise for the prop, who is one of two players (himself and Christian Lealiifano) to still be at the Brumbies from when Fisher was the coach.
“Through the whole time, I’ve really admired Benny because he’s a great club man,” Fisher said. “His desire for the Brumbies to do well, his desire to win a Super Rugby championship here … he had no ambition to go anywhere else. All he wanted was for this team to be successful. He has always been selfless with the way he’s managed himself around the Brumbies environment.”
Alexander has been a stalwart for the Brumbies and the Wallabies for the past decade, and his contribution to Australian rugby should not be undervalued.
Springboks fired up for Wallaby clash
With the Bledisloe series finished up for the time being, its now time to look ahead to our next clash against the Springbok. If their coach’s words are anything to go by, the Wallabies are set for a fiery clash against a side prepared to ‘win at all costs’.
The Springboks were embarrassed by a clinical Argentinian side, falling 32-19 in Mendoza last Sudnay after their seemingly comfortable win in the first match in Durban.
This loss has prompted any plans for experiments with their lineup from coach Rassie Erasmus ahead of the two sides clash in Brisbane in under two weeks, with Erasmus lambasting his side for their performance on the weekend.
“We had certain plans that we wanted to try against Australia, but that’s out the window now,” Erasmus told reporters. “We have to get back to winning ways again, it’s win at all costs now.”
“This puts us back quite a bit. We wanted to win this game and give a few other guys a chance against Australia but we can’t do that now.”
The Springboks were blown out of the game early in the clash, trailing by as much as 20 at halftime, with a dominant second half partially restoring the dignity of the side which was hampered by a mountain of errors.
“I’m not going to look for positives after a performance like that. We have no excuses, we knew exactly what to expect, we prepared for it but we just didn’t handle it,” Erasmus said “We played like a team that’s playing club rugby,” he told broadcaster SuperSport.
“I must point the finger at myself. When you play like this, the coach did something badly wrong during the week.”
The Wallabies must be wary of a hungry side looking to bounce back from this performance, this clash should provide us with a better barometer about how we currently stand within World Rugby and hopefully we’re up for the challenge.