Five changes to the Wallaby starting team, four to the backline, is the notable news in today’s team announcement.
But its the ommission of George Smith, picked on the bench, that will cause most dicussion.
Is it a dropping? Is it a resting? Rotation? Reward? A sign of things to come? Robbie only knows.
The backrow of Palu, Elsom and Pocock does seem better balanced, but will need to up its work rate, along with the rest of the pack, to compete with an All Black team that blew them off the part at their last meeting.
Queensland flyers Peter Hynes and Digby Ioane have been named on the wings, with Adam Ashley-Cooper moving from outside centre to fullback. Incumbent fullback James O’Connor is now benched with Smith. Ryan Cross slips into the 13 jersey he last wore against South Africa in Subiaco.
Drew Mitchell is the only other starter from the last Wallaby team to be benched, while the prodigal (prodigious?) son Matt Dunning grabs the reserve prop spot from Pek Cowan. This will be Dunning’s first test since the Italy game on last year’s Spring tour and is a reward to his hard work and focus in his injury recovery.
The team is:
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies)
14. Peter Hynes (Queensland Reds)
13. Ryan Cross (Western Force)
12. Berrick Barnes (Queensland Reds)
11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
10. Matt Giteau (Western Force)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
7. David Pocock (Western Force)
6. Rocky Elsom (Brumbies, captain)
5. Mark Chisholm (Brumbies)
4. James Horwill (Queensland Reds)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
Run on reserves:
16. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
17. Matt Dunning (Western Force)
18. Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs)
19. George Smith (Brumbies)
20. Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs)
21. Drew Mitchell (Western Force)
22. James O’Connor (Western Force)