Michael Cheika invoked Giteau’s Law to select five European-based players with 60 caps over seven years for his 2016 Rugby Championship squad.
Among these, choosing 33-year-old Will Genia ahead of Nick Frisby has raised eyebrows. Is it a move of desperation?
After the Wallabies’ historic 3-0 series defeat by the touring England side and the dismal showing of Australian sides in the Super 18, where only the Brumbies made the play-offs, Cheika obviously needs to rebuild confidence.
Reinstalling seasoned test performers Matt Giteau (33), Drew Mitchell (32), Quade Cooper (28), Adam Ashley-Cooper (32) and Will Genia (33) will certainly add some consistency and strategy to the Wallabies’ play, which was sorely lacking during the England series.
However, if you look at the ages of these players, one wonders what Cheika’s long-term strategy is with the Wallaby squad. By 2019 in Japan, four out of five players will be over 35. Does Cheika really think that they will be able to compete with the dynamic young backline stars like Rieko Ioane or Elton Jantjies being groomed by the All Blacks and Springboks?
The selection of these players has more than a whiff of desperation from a coach desperate to gain at least respect if not victories in the Rugby Championship. It also must be frustrating for local Super 18 players such as Frisby (halfback) and Luke Morahan (wing) to lose their places to players who might be considered in the evening shade of their careers.
Cheika has selected a few new caps or young bloods for the squad. Reece Hodge and Dane Haylett-Petty had impressive individual Super 18 campaigns in largely unimpressive teams. However, in the influential playmaking roles of 9, 10 and 12, Cheika’s conservatism in opting for experience over youth may be damaging to the long-term development of the Wallabies team.
The success of the Lions Super 18 team has stemmed from the fearless play of their young playmaking stars like Jantjies (26), Faf de Klerk (24) and Rohan Janse van Rensburg (22). The other team in the Super 18 final has been commandeered by Beauden Barrett (25) and TJ Perenara (24). Cheika should take time out of the Wallaby training preparations on Saturday and watch the Super 18 final. If so, he may yet reconsider his investment in experience over youth.
Wallabies squad for the 2016 Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup:
Allan Alaalatoa (0 Tests), Adam Ashley-Cooper (114 Tests), Adam Coleman (1 Test), Quade Cooper (58 Tests),Kane Douglas (23 Tests), Scott Fardy (33 Tests), Israel Folau (41 Tests), Bernard Foley (30 Tests), Will Genia (66 Tests), Matt Giteau (102 Tests), James Hanson (10 Tests), Dane Haylett-Petty (3 Tests), Reece Hodge (0 Tests), Michael Hooper (54 Tests), Rob Horne (32 Tests), Sekope Kepu (66 Tests), Samu Kerevi (2 Tests), Tevita Kuridrani (34 Tests), Ben McCalman (48 Tests), Sean McMahon (9 Tests), Drew Mitchell (70 Tests), Stephen Moore (c) (105 Tests), Dean Mumm (46 Tests), Nick Phipps (42 Tests), David Pocock (56 Tests),Tatafu Polota-Nau (64 Tests),Tom Robertson (0 Tests), Rob Simmons (62 Tests), Scott Sio (18 Tests), Will Skelton (15 Tests), James Slipper (77 Tests), Lopeti Timani (0 Tests), Matt Toomua (32 Tests)
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena