Link man: Scott Sio 'most significant selection'
July 26, 2013
Scott Sio is the Wallabies bright hope among the forwards © Getty Images
Considering the lack of depth of Australian rugby, and the never-ending list of injuries to top-line Test players, you would have had to be Blind Freddy to miss out on the 40-man Wallabies training squad. Nonetheless several notable names were overlooked for the big Wallabies love-in - including Ben Tapuai, Rob Horne and Luke Morahan - in an otherwise predictable first-up squad named by the new coach, Ewen McKenzie, on Friday.
The most encouraging aspect of the selections is not the recall of Quade Cooper, who is bound to take over from James O'Connor as the Wallabies' No 10, but that McKenzie has focused on providing positive front-row alternatives in a bid to improve the team's long-running sore of too often falling apart at scrum time.
The selection of Brumbies front-rower Scott Sio is important because he is the bright up-front hope for the future. Sio, 21, has presence and it would not surprise if he enjoys his Test initiation during The Rugby Championship. Similarly 24-year-old New South Wales Waratahs prop Paddy Ryan is improving steadily at scrum time; like Sio, he is not one to disappear repeatedly at the bottom of a heap of players, but is constantly sighted in open play.
Kyle Godwin would have been selected had he been fit © Getty Images
Still, the biggest relief is the fact that Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is at last back: Stephen Moore was probably Australia's most consistent player through the British & Irish Lions season, but he needs quality back-up; Polota-Nau's explosive nature and incredible kamikaze defence was sorely missed during the Lions series.
Considering the number of crucial injuries - with the Wallabies unable to select Kurtley Beale, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Digby Ioane, Pat McCabe and Scott Higginbotham for The Rugby Championship - it's no surprise that McKenzie named 10 uncapped players in the squad, the most unexpected being the flashy but unpredictable Waratahs winger Peter Betham. Uncapped Western Force centre Kyle Godwin and Waratahs winger Cam Crawford also would have made the squad had they not been injured.
With Beale undergoing shoulder that will sideline him for the rest of the season, the big question is who will be fullback: Jesse Mogg is a good chance, but McKenzie may go for O'Connor or Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper is another option. Interestingly, O'Connor was listed in the official media squad announcement as a "winger/fullback" - not a No.10, the flawed selection against the Lions that contributed to the demise of Robbie Deans as Wallabies coach.
Nonetheless we will only really know McKenzie's intentions on a number of crucial positions when he culls the squad back to 30 on August 9.
Ewen McKenzie has complete faith in Quade Cooper as a Test fly-half
© ESPN Australlia / New Zealand
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham