With everything riding on the success or failure of the 2019 Australian Wallabies team results leading up to the Rugby World Cup, much of that depends on the opening South Africa Rugby Championship (TRC) fixture.
The old cliche is that ‘a team is only as good as its last outing’ means that the Australian Wallabies team must be hoping for better in 2019. A 37-18 loss to England back in November; the last International for Micheal Cheika’s side, is a result that must be improved on.
So as the squad selected for their South Africa tour flew out of the country, with the opening round of The Rugby Championship (TRC) a week away, fans will be wanting for better. Better results, better outcomes but also, a better direction in team selection in this all-important Rugby World Cup year.
With regular names mixed with several debutants and the inclusion of a once ‘maligned’ player in James O’Connor, the test match in Johannesburg will shed a light on how the Australian Wallabies team unifies.
While direction must come from the top, the leadership of Rugby Australia has had distractions that are far beyond the game. Coaches and management must be self-reliant and use positive motivation that is dependant on the current playing group – not players suspended or left at home.
BREAKING: Michael Cheika has confirmed his Qantas #Wallabies squad for the 2019 Mitsubishi Estate Rugby Championship!
Get your tickets for their first home game against Argentina in Brisbane, Saturday July 27!
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) July 4, 2019
Australian Wallabies team selected for South Africa TRC fixture
The group that will meet the Springboks in Jo’berg on July 20, a group filled with current, new, and former Wallabies players. Departing midweek, it is a strategy to be acclimatized and to bond as a full squad, before the match-day team is selected.
Allan Alaalatoa (32 Tests, Brumbies, 25)
Rory Arnold (19 Tests , Brumbies, 29)
Jack Dempsey (10 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 25)
Folau Fainga’a (7 Tests, Brumbies, 24)
Michael Hooper (c) (91 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 27)
Luke Jones (3 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 28)
Sekope Kepu (103 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 33)
Tolu Latu (12 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 26)
Isi Naisarani (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 24)
Tom Robertson (24 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 24)
Izack Rodda (17 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)
Rob Simmons (94 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 30)
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (11, Queensland Reds, 22)
Scott Sio (55 Tests, Brumbies, 27)
James Slipper (86 Tests, Brumbies, 30)
Taniela Tupou (11 Tests, Queensland Reds, 23)
Jordan Uelese (2 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 22)
Rob Valetini (uncapped, Brumbies, 20)
Liam Wright (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 21)
Adam Ashley-Cooper (117 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 35)
Tom Banks (3 Tests, Brumbies, 25)
Kurtley Beale (83 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 30)
Bernard Foley (68 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)
Will Genia (100 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 31)
Dane Haylett-Petty (31 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 30)
Reece Hodge (33 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 24)
Samu Kerevi (25 Tests, Queensland Reds, 25)
Marika Koroibete (20 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)
Tevita Kuridrani (58 Tests, Brumbies, 28)
Christian Lealiifano (19 Tests, Brumbies, 31)
Jack Maddocks (7 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 22)
Joe Powell (4 Tests, Brumbies, 25)
Matt Toomua (42 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 29)
Nic White (22 Tests, Exeter Chiefs, 29)
Note: James O’Connor added to TRC group.
The public will be eager for the Australian Wallabies side to turn around recent bad publicity. Cheika and his skipper Michael Hooper had a short period to bring the squad together, before departing for the Republic.
“Really excited to get away,” Hooper told reporters as the team departed from Sydney airport. “We’ve been doing some real hard yards up until this point”.
New names announced by Cheika are the uncapped Liam Wright, Isi Naisarani and Rob Valetini. All deserving of their call-up, along with past Wallabies Christian Leali’ifano, and recently added James O’Connor. The former being the inspirational ACT Brumbies center who has battled cancer and beaten the odds. The latter being the once ‘wildcard’ of Australian rugby, who has been given a lifeline – due to a desire to return to Rugby Australia, and a newly inked contract with the Queensland Reds.
— SARugbyChick (@SARugbyChick) July 9, 2019
That news has come as a form of redemption for O’Connor yet if this 2019 version of the Wallabies want to be successful, then O’Connor must adapt, form new relationships quickly. The individual as well as the player, must show that he is a new and better version worth investing in.
Uncapped players can benefit from the exposure to both the culture and offshore experience that traveling to South Africa will bring. There is no discounting the value of having men with the quality of Leali’ifano involved, and that choice gets a thumbs up from Wallabies supporters.
Brumbies captain Christian Leali'ifano has returned to a Wallabies squad for the first time in three years after recovering from leukaemia.
Not all heroes wear capes. pic.twitter.com/6Xm3l1knhB
— RugbyLAD (@RugbyLAD7) July 4, 2019
Can the Australian Wallabies perform in 2019?
That question can only be proven on the field. Coaches and players can ‘say the right thing’ but, the evidence must be found on the scoreboard. A win in South Africa would be the perfect reply to any doubters. Some might assume that the off-field court action will be a distraction too large to ignore. If anything, the group might become closer, ignoring the outside attention and focusing on performance.
Michael Cheika is known to be a fearsome competitor. His manner is brash, his attitude is gruff. He wants the best from himself and his players – provided the results come their way, this Australian Wallabies squad can focus on one day, one week and one game at a time.
Include long-established players like Will Genia (see main photo), add-in some new names, recall a revived Brumbies leader in Leali’ifano, a matured and highly skilled utility back in O’Connor, and the collective might prove the best-of-the-best. Success will breed confidence. And a confident Aussie team can be sure to play with their tails up. But, a wounded-Wallaby might be an easy target for fans and rugby media, to round on harshly.
Can they perform? Yes, but it will take a big effort from players, coaches and the all-important support-base of Rugby Australia.
South Africa v Australia – Saturday, July 20. Ellis Park, Johanesburg
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images