Murrayfield selections show way to World Cup
November 22, 2013
Christian Leali'ifano has an opportunity to claim a positional lifeline © Getty Images
Booze ban a defining moment, Greg Growden tells Russell Barwick%]
For the second time in an eventful week, Ewen McKenzie has made the right call.
In spite of the hypocritical cry of some who one day were complaining about the lack of discipline within the Wallabies ranks, and the next were screaming "over-reaction" when McKenzie exposed half the touring squad for being silly-billys on the drink in Dublin, the coach's decision to suspend six players for the Scotland Test was the correct move.
With the carpeting of key players coinciding with major injuries and suspensions, McKenzie could have then called on the likes of James O'Connor, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell and Matt Giteau to fill the gaps for the Murrayfield Test. But, no, McKenzie has again used his brain by deciding the touring squad got themselves into this fine mess so it would be the touring squad that would get themselves out of this fine mess.
So McKenzie has selected the Test team from those players left standing, and in the end has come up with a reasonable line-up that should overwhelm Scotland. The only real proof that McKenzie was in some cases down to his last option is seen in the backline back-up on the bench - with two scrum-halves and a situation where Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley will have to cover a multitude of positions. But they still should get by.
In the end, the biggest regret about the team that will run out on Murrayfield is not that it will be missing those who stayed out too late in Ireland but that injury has marred a great opportunity for a fascinating midfield combination to get more "quality time" together.
What has been most enjoyable about the end-of-season tour has been the sight of Quade Cooper and Matt Toomua so relaxed playing with each other, and how they have complemented each other at No.10 and inside centre. We have waited a long time to see two competent playmakers standing side by side in the Australian attack, but sadly Toomua has been forced to return home prematurely due to a hamstring strain. Cooper and Toomua excelled as a combination against Italy and Ireland, and two more Tests together against Scotland and Wales would have been perfect. We will now have to wait until 2014 for the next development.
Nonetheless, Mike Harris is more than a handy replacement for Toomua at No.12; and while Christian Leali'ifano lacks experience at outside centre, here's the chance to show whether he is up to the most difficult defensive position in the backline. Leali'ifano's selection at No.13 could also give him a positional lifeline for future Test appearances.
I will stress again that McKenzie's reaction to the Dublin drinkfest - even if it has antagonised numerous tour squad members - is a defining moment for Australian Rugby; it will reap rewards.
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