Obviously, after last week’s test, both Robbie Deans and Nick Mallet came to a gentlemen’s agreement that both would field their second XV’s for this week’s tests.
The Italians have made plenty of changes to their team which makes them even harder to comment on, such is the unknown nature of the players. The only real interest will be if Gowie can make a better fist of his second start after a less than convincing performance in Canberra.
For the Wallabies, the changes made to the team provoke plenty of interest. Key among them will be Ben Alexander’s continuing education at tight-head prop, the make-up of the back-row, and the new centre pairing.
Alexander takes over from le Fuse in a move that suggests Deans is still looking for someone who can make a reasonable job of playing both sides of the scrum. This would provide some hope to the fit again Matt Dunning, who did a more than reasonable job at tight-head for the Woods last week against Sydney Uni.
Speaking to G&GR after last weeks test, Deans perhaps hinted at the fact Bouncer mightn’t be too far away from a return to the fold.
“There’ll be another squad named for the Tri-nations, we’ll get footage of all our players playing (club rugby), I saw some footage on TV of Matt Dunning back out there creating a bit of grief, which was good.”
The selection of Noodles Kimlin at number six, effectively swapping with Dean Mumm, also points to the fact that Deans isn’t too sure of who the next best option at blind-side is behind the injured Rocky Elsom and Matt Hodgson. It seems incredibly wasteful that reasonable options, Ben Mowen and the impressive Mitchell Chapman, languish unused in club rugby.
George Smith taking over from the subdued Richard Brown and the inclusion of both David Pocock and Phil Waugh is another surprise. Given that Deans was concerned about the lack of impact the Wallabies had at the tackle contest last week, maybe the new ruck laws have inspired some lateral thinking from the Wallaby camp, and we may well see three open-sides on the field at the same time?
The centres is where things get really interesting, Quade and Ryan X come in for Barnes, who moves to no.10, and Morty, who gets the week off.
Mortlock and Cross are very different players with Cross preferring to try and run around people, rather than Morty’s penchant for running over them. How the Wallabies adjust to this difference will perhaps point to whether Deans has a plan for the team other than the direct crash-balling of Mortlock.
Cross’s cause will be helped by the inclusion of Quade at inside centre. Quade is without doubt a talented passer, but it is this erratic talent that will need to be harnessed to deliver passes that allow Cross to get on the outside of his man, that will determine whether this experiment is a success or not.
Quade is clearly not everyone’s cup of tea, well, almost everyone’s that is! You would think that his performance in this test will go along way to determining if he is part of the squad for the Tri-nations squad, or if Deans opts for returning under 20 talents like Kurtley Beale and Rob Horne.
The Wallabies will win this test by a similar margin to last week’s, but it is what will be revealed in the performance of the second string players where the real interest will lie.
Cote says – Wallabies by 25
James O’Connor, Lachie Turner, Ryan Cross, Quade Cooper, Peter Hynes, Berrick Barnes, Luke Burgess, George Smith (capt), David Pocock, Peter Kimlin, Dean Mumm, James Horwill, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson, Nathan Sharpe, Phil Waugh, Josh Valentine, Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Luke McLean; Giulio Rubini, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Alberto Sgarbi; Craig Gower, Tito Tebaldi; Sergio Parisse (captain), Simone Favaro, Jean-Francois Montauriol; Marco Bortolami, Tommaso Reato; Fabio Staibano, Franco Sbaraglini, Matias Aguero. Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Salvatore Perugini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Alessandro Zanni, Giulio Toniolatti, Kris Burton, Roberto Quartaroli.