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Greg Growden
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After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Australian rugby
Will Genia should be Wallabies captain
Greg Growden
May 15, 2013

Will Genia should lead the Wallabies against the Lions in charge of a squad which sees Joe Tomane win the final wing spot, Israel Folau at fullback, George Smith rightfully returning to the Test back row and Berrick Barnes the trusty backup.

The Wallabies selectors will on Sunday announce a 25-man squad for the series, and are bound to be cautious, relying on those who have performed at Test level before. Then again they have an enormous Wallabies base to choose from, as each of the five Australian provinces is overflowing with successful or failed Test players.

Wallabies training squads, under the Robbie Deans reign, have been far from a closed shop. But if we had our way, numerous important changes would be made. The most crucial is who leads the Australian team out.

There is little doubt that James Horwill will be named Wallabies captain. However, concern remains about Horwill's injuries of recent times, which has seen him sidelined for extensive periods. You also have to have to consider: what player do the Lions really respect, admire for his pugnacious front-foot attitude, and an ability to transform a game? Who will they be targeting?

It's Will Genia, who is probably the only Australian player who can claim he is at the moment the best in the world in his position. Genia is a feisty character, understands leadership, is accustomed to it, doesn't stand for too much nonsense from his teammates, fears no one, and is adaptable. He has a certain aura. The aura of leadership.

And to argue that elevating Genia above Horwill is a tough call on his loyal Reds teammate - just remember if David Pocock was available who would be Wallabies captain, Pocock or Horwill? All the smart money would be on Pocock.

For the Australian selectors, picking a 25-man squad is tougher than it looks. Even though the talent pool in Australian rugby is far from being flooded, some good players will miss out.

The most difficult area will be the back row. As Scott Higginbotham has in the past month been a No.8 standout, Wycliff Palu is under serious threat of missing out. Then who out of Ben Mowen and Dave Dennis? Dennis's experience at Test level will work in his favour, and Mowen could easily remain Australian rugby's unluckiest player. And if there is only one back-up openside flanker spot behind George Smith, either Michael Hooper or Liam Gill will miss out. For most of the Super Rugby season, Gill has been the better of the two, but in the past few weeks, Hooper has regained his form at exactly the right time.

The prop contingent has its flaws, due to inconsistencies. Dan Palmer was pushing strongly for a tight head prop spot but has fallen away in recent weeks, while Paddy Ryan could easily be the squad bolter.

In the lock department, the Reds pairing of Horwill and Rob Simmons appear certainties, with the backup spot expected to be out of Sitaleki Timani, Kane Douglas and Hugh Pyle. Timani may not be the best lineout jumper going around, but he does give the Wallabies a tough, aggressive edge, which they will require against the Lions, who are bound to be physical. That's also why Hugh McMeniman must be included, which will see him rejoining the Wallabies after a five-year absence.

In the backline, Kurtley Beale's enforced lay-off makes it easy for Folau to slide in at fullback, while Tomane appears the best of the wingers to back up Digby Ioane and James O'Connor. And don't be surprised if Barnes makes the squad. When Deans has been under pressure before, Barnes has performed for him. Barnes can also cover numerous backline spots, thus making him an excellent reserves bench selection.

No matter what, the outcome of Saturday night's Waratahs-Brumbies match will be crucial in determining whether several fringe candidates make the Test squad.

Greg Growden's Wallabies squad:
Fullback/wings: Israel Folau, Digby Ioane, Joe Tomane, James O'Connor.
Midfield: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe.
Flyhalf: Quade Cooper, Berrick Barnes.
Scrumhalf: Will Genia (captain), Nic White.
Back row: Scott Higginbotham, Dave Dennis, George Smith, Michael Hooper, Hugh McMeniman.
Second row: James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Sitaleki Timani.
Props: Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Ben Alexander, James Slipper.
Hookers: Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau.

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