Robbie Deans has named his first test team of the season as the Wallabies prepare to take on the Flying Fijians in Canberra on Saturday night.
Rocky Elsom will continue to skipper the side in what will be his 50th test cap whilst the test team will feature three test rookies in the starting side with a potential further two in the reserves. If the rookies on the bench get a run, then it will be the most test debutants in a single Wallaby test since the Wallabies played New Zealand in Christchurch in 1982.
On that day it was David Campese, Gary Ella, Peter Lucas, Andy McIntyre, Bruce Malouf and John Coolican who received their first test caps. I think Deans would be pretty satisfied if a Rob Horne could produce a Campo like career or for Salesi Ma’afu to become the power house scrummager that Andy McIntyre was. But who is the front runner to be the modern day Malouf – a one test wonder? If it wasn’t for the glut of hooking injuries, I’d be backing Edmonds.
The Wallaby Team is:
|6||Rocky Elsom [c]||Brumbies||49|
Look, in reality, Fiji shouldn’t trouble us and it is hard to determine whether this is what Robbie thinks is our best XV, or whether he is taken a few liberties to test some players. There are a few glaring selections in my eyes however. Firstly it is the lack of Drew Mitchell in the starting side. Now, I’ve been a critic of our Schmoo (in fairness, ever since he left the Reds), but I think he was close to the Australian Player of the Super 14. His form this season was superb – more consistently dangerous than both Diggers and the Earl (AAC). Perhaps he paid the price for the team already having Kurtley and Quade in there. We just couldn’t fit another defensive liability.
Kurtley? Played some great footy towards the end of the year and Robbie is a fan of his at fullback. But I a not convinced he is a better option than AAC, Hynes or James O’Connor as a test match 15 just yet, acknowledging that Hynes is currently injured.
Another question, is at Number 8 and Richard Brown. Ok, so I can understand Deans’s reluctance to move Rocky to 8 as cover for Cliffy Palu, but I can’t understand the continued selection of Brown. For mine he has hasn’t done the job for the Wallabies since his impressive debut off the bench against the All Blacks two years ago. Hodgson or even Hoiles would have been a much more justified selection, given their Super form.
Now the all Brumby front row. I’m ok with Ma’afu as the Tight Head option, although I think Laurie Weeks offers more. Injury curtailed his credentials somewhat. Benny Alexander picks himself, fair enough. But Huia Edmonds? I know we are short hookers, but if he is picked because of his ‘combination’ with Ma’afu and Alexander, than its laughable. As a replacement hooker, just how many scrums did they actually pack as a unit? Call me a conspiracist, but could the selection have anything to do with the location of this test? Perhaps the ARU are looking for some home town support to build numbers?
Now it’s picked, I can’t wait. The first test of the season is always a treat and I do love watching the new talent come into the Wallabies and seeing how they cope. Like I said, we shouldn’t have too many problems with Fiji but if the same team is picked against England? Then I’m not so sure.