Scott Fardy is the biggest casualty of Michael Cheika’s axe for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand in Sydney. Fardy makes way for a back row of Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper and David Pocock. The Wallabies will be looking to return to winning ways having lost their last four matches. Three of which were a humiliating June Test Series whitewash to England and the other the Rugby World Cup Final against the All Blacks.
Scott Fardy Benched for Opening Bledisloe Match
Focus on the Back Row
Australia’s successful World Cup campaign and the preceding Rugby Championship was built upon its back row. The ‘Po-oper’ combination of Pocock and Hooper dominated the headlines and highlighted why the Wallabies were able to dominate sides at the breakdown. Scott Fardy was at times a forgotten man when all the superlatives were being thrown around about that back row combination. Yet many would argue he did the grunt work off the ball that gave Hooper and Pocock the opportunities to thrive. Fardy generated his own cult following who love the hard man image of a player who constantly appears to be bleeding from some part of his head.
McCalman Forces his Way into the Starting XV
Ben McCalman has managed to impress Cheika sufficiently in the preceding weeks to force his way into the Number Six jersey. The Western Force man has impressed throughout the Super Rugby season. His performance in this match will come under intense scrutiny due to his replacement of Fardy. Whether or not he has the big game mentality will be one question asked of him as he faces the All Blacks. Intriguingly his promotion also means that Sean McMahon who was one of few Wallabies to come out the June Series with positives, misses out on the squad altogether.
Half Back Combo Needs to Fire
Scott Fardy will, as he has here will make the headlines, but what is all the more important is Cheika’s selection in the halves. Will Genia returns from Europe to take back the scrum half position whilst Bernard Foley continues at fly half. On his day Foley can create magic from thin air. On his off days, however, as seen throughout the England Series he can struggle to make as big of an impact. He is almost certainly a front foot style of playmaker and will need Genia to marshal his forward pack and get them moving forward if they are to have any hope.
The June Series and that defeat to England will be something that most Australian players and fans will want to forget. Yet, they need to remember it and learn from it. The Wallabies on field leadership were criticised during those matches for not making the right decisions. Australia continually made the wrong decisions in all three matches and failed to counteract the English game plan. A key figure back in the starting line-up is Will Genia who will bear much of the responsibility for the game management. He should be able to take some of the pressure of captain Stephen Moore. Test level rugby requires players to be able to adapt on the field with regards to kicking tactics and game plans.
Referee Jaco Peyper will undoubtedly be a man at the centre of attention as always. Big occasions like Bledisloe Tests often come down to small margins. The man with the whistle can expect to be scrutinised from all angles. It is the Wallabies relationship with referees that has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. In particularly the way that Australian players and leaders interact with the referee. In a game of small margins being on the right side of the referee can have a huge impact on the outcome.
Michael Cheika and Steve Hansen have now both revealed the cards in their hands for this first Bledisloe of 2016. These matches rarely fail to deliver and two nations await and expect. The Rugby Championship is here once again with both teams raring to go. The All Blacks looking for continued dominance and the Wallabies for redemption.
Qantas Wallabies squad to play New Zealand in The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup opener at ANZ Stadium
1. Scott Sio (18 Tests)
2. Stephen Moore – C (105 Tests)
3. Sekope Kepu (66 Tests)
4. Kane Douglas (23 Tests)
5. Rob Simmons (62 Tests)
6. Ben McCalman (48 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (54 Tests)
8. David Pocock (56 Tests)
9. Will Genia (66 Tests)
10. Bernard Foley (30 Tests)
11. Dane Haylett-Petty (3 Tests)
12. Matt Giteau (102 Tests)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (34 Tests)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (114 Tests)
15. Israel Folau (41 Tests)
16. Tatafu Polota-Nau (64 Tests)
17. James Slipper (77 Tests)
18. Allan Ala’alatoa* (0 Tests)
19. Dean Mumm (46 Tests)
20. Scott Fardy (33 Tests)
21. Nick Phipps (42 Tests)
22. Matt Toomua (32 Tests)
23. Rob Horne (32 Tests)