Dingo Deans, his choices strangled by injury problems, has selected a matchday squad that includes three hookers, three scrum-halves and a 35-year old No8 on the wing. This must be the ‘experimental’ fourth album …
With Wycliff Palu ruled out of the remainder of the World Cup [hamstring], luckless Rob Horne suffering from a depressed fracture of the cheekbone picked up against the US, Pat McCabe unavailable due to a dislocated shoulder, Digby Ioane recovering from the broken thumb he suffered against Italy and Anthony Faainga not considered for selection due to the huge knock he took at the end of the US game, Deans has found himself backed into a corner with regards to selection.
He seems to be stalling for time. The Wallabies don’t have much of it. They’ll find themselves in a quarter final after the weekend, and they have a treatment room full of injured Australians.
The starting XV looks pretty strong, and there’s an obvious focal point of interest in the selection of big Ridike Samo on the wing. The Reds No8 played some rugby there a decade ago, prior to his stint in Stade Francais [where he spent time in the second row] – but this selection is obviously a one-off. Even so, the Mole saw against Ireland that the Russians have genuine pace in their back three, and there’s a decent chance that the big Fijian could leak a try. The knives are out for the Dingo back in Australia, and an event like that would be pounced upon by his critics with no little glee.
Still, the Adam Ashley Cooper-Berrick Barnes centre partnership is the best midfield he has picked this tournament, and a Nathan Sharpe-James Horwill second row is a powerful engine room. Scott Higginbotham also gets the start, and Bam-Bam Pocock returns from injury on the openside flank. Ben McCalman returns to a position he can actually play a bit at No8, but the Mole has never really rated him, and I’d be surprised if he does enough to keep himself in the team.
It’s on the bench where the magic happens. Two hookers [Polota-Nau and Faainga] and two scrum-halves [Genia and Phipps] – Deans is just wheeling out whoever’s capable of standing, rather than swallowing his pride, making some hard calls and getting on the blower back to some players he left at home.
15. James O’Connor (Western Force)
14. Radike Samo (Queensland Reds)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies)
12. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
11. Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs)
10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
9. Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs)
8. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
7. David Pocock (Western Force)
6. Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds)
5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)
4. James Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain)
3. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
16. Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs)
17. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
18. Salesi Ma’afu (Brumbies)
19. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
20. Rocky Elsom (Brumbies)
21. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
22. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)