Ewen McKenzie refuses to panic
August 22, 2013
Ewen McKenzie has picked the same team to face the All Blacks apart from one injury-enforced change © Getty Images
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview Bledisloe II%]
Pick and Stick: it's one of former Wallabies coach Alan Jones' favourite terms when explaining his closeness to numerous political and business allies.
Ewen McKenzie has adopted the same philosophy in the sporting arena when selecting his second Wallabies team. At a time when he could have been excused for making numerous changes, he instead opted for the "softly softly" approach. When the Wallabies are conclusively beaten by the All Blacks, as they were in Sydney, it usually leads to panic and widespread alterations from Australian national coaches. But McKenzie has opted not to follow that approach, instead believing his new-look team needs time to breathe and prove themselves.
And so there is only one starting XV change for the Wellington Test, forced through injury, with Scott Fardy moving into the back row for Hugh McMeniman. Even without injury, Fardy would have probably being promoted to the starting line-up, as McMeniman was surprisingly little more than a passenger in Sydney. Fardy is a good choice, as he was the form forward among the Australian contingent in the final month of the Super Rugby tournament, and his selection emphasises yet again that McKenzie will focus on what a player is actually doing on the field, rather than reputation.
Still some players are lucky to hold onto their spots, in particular fullback Jesse Mogg. For the second match in a row - Super Rugby final and then the Sydney Bledisloe Cup - Mogg appeared daunted by the moment. Given more of an open rein by McKenzie, Mogg at times appeared indecisive; this was not surprising given he got away with doing exactly the same thing every week for the Brumbies this season - just booting the ball downfield every time. His defence was also exposed, discovering that doing star-jumps in front of an All Blacks opponent just does not scare them. Wellington will either make or break Mogg.
Most importantly this week, all Wallabies fans are hoping the Australian team has put in the required work to get their defensive alignment right - because last week it was amateurish and shoddy. Allowing the All Blacks to score six tries was unforgivable. Also hopefully they have been working on moves that actually give Israel Folau the ball. That would help. Otherwise provide him with an enormous overcoat, as he will get pneumonia from the Wellington gale.
And if the Wallabies bomb again, then it will be time for McKenzie to get ruthless, because no player in this team would be able to complain they didn't get a fair go.
Follow live text commentary of the Bledisloe Cup Test between New Zealand and Australia on Saturday, August 24, from 5pm (AEST), 7pm (NZT), 7am (GMT)
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