Rugby World Cup
Nic White only absentee hard done by: Growden
Greg Growden
August 21, 2015
Izzy excited by journey ahead

The Wallabies and the Australian Rugby Union clearly like toying with danger. Then again, it may just be another example of their ignorance towards recent history.

Four years ago, the ARU's announcement of the Rugby World Cup squad at one of the hangars at Sydney Airport degenerated into a massive public relations disaster.

First up, James O'Connor was a no-show; after a big night in a big city, he slept through the function. Then there were astounded looks when it was revealed at the function that Rocky Elsom was no longer the World Cup captain, with James Horwill taking over. Horwill was beaming as he led the team down the aeroplane stairs. Elsom, further down the line, looked extremely uncomfortable but to his credit handled the excruciating media pressure very well that day.

The 2011 World Cup announcement showed only that the Wallabies were a fragmented bunch and that head coach Robbie Deans had lost control of several of his players, as well as the support of many of the senior squad members because he was so soft on the precocious few in the team. That hangar was very, very cold on a strange, strange morning - providing early indicators to a stark World Cup campaign in New Zealand, where Australia soon lost their way and departed early.

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On Friday, everybody headed back to the same spot at Sydney Airport in the hope that the ARU and the Wallabies could put on a far better public look.

Again O'Connor was a no-show; but this time had a valid reason. He wasn't picked. Horwill also had a valid reason for not being there. Like O'Connor, he did not make the selection cut.

And this time around, the squad announcement wasn't anywhere near as controversial. ARU officials weren't scurrying around the hanger looking for lost souls, or having to explain why there was suddenly a new skipper.

It was instead a pretty tame chest-pumping affair.

Overall, the 31-man squad is fairly predictable, with Brumbies half-back Nic White the only player hard done by. Michael Cheika's decision to opt for two scrumhalves, rather than three, and use Matt Giteau as his backup forced out White.

This may appear extraordinary after White's excellent mop-up job in the second half of the Sydney Test win over the All Blacks. But stupid team selections for the return match in Auckland ruined White's aspirations for a World Cup berth ahead of Nic Phipps. Will Genia was always going to be among the first picked as long as he was presumed fit by the selectors. He is the experienced campaigner Australia desperately need at a World Cup.

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White had no proper back-up on the bench in Auckland, so Cheika had to play him for the full 80 minutes at Eden Park. The longer the game went on, the worse he got - in the final quarter becoming extremely flustered. If he were able to have been replaced earlier, White might have got away with it. But at Eden Park, he basically played himself out of the World Cup squad.

The same Test also ended any hope that Horwill had of making the cut. He was exposed once again as being off the pace, and with the Australian Rugby Union understood to have paid around $Aus300,000 to get Kane Douglas back from Ireland, it was inevitable that the 2011 World Cup captain would be cast aside.

Horwill's erratic form during a poor Super Rugby season with Queensland Reds also did not warrant his inclusion.

As for Scott Higginbotham missing out, it has been blatantly clear in recent weeks that the Wallabies selectors were deeply concerned about his commitment. In recent weeks, the Melbourne Rebels captain had fallen right out of favour with the Wallabies selectors, who were questioning his commitment. So that made it easier for the selectors to pick the ever-alert Ben McCalman and Wycliff Palu as the two specialist No 8s. McCalman is the most likely to take that spot, while Palu is fortunate that Higginbotham dropped off.

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The decision to take only two hookers is dangerous, especially as Tatafu Polota-Nau has his concussion problems, and it may have been wise to add a third in James Hanson - who on form this year with the Reds definitely deserved a berth.

So the Wallabies will head north soon with hardly the strongest Australian Rugby World Cup squad of all time. But it is still reasonable, and could threaten - as long as the Wallabies team management stop playing silly Eden Park-esque selection games.

Wallabies' Rugby World Cup Squad

Hookers

  • Stephen Moore - C (96 Tests)
  • Tatafu Polota-Nau (53 Tests)

Props

  • Greg Holmes (17 Tests)
  • Sekope Kepu (56 Tests)
  • Scott Sio (9 Tests)*
  • James Slipper (66 Tests)
  • Toby Smith (uncapped)*

Locks

  • Kane Douglas (15 Tests)*
  • Dean Mumm (36 Tests)
  • Rob Simmons (52 Tests)
  • Will Skelton (11 Tests)*

Back-row

  • Michael Hooper (Vice-Captain, 45 Tests)*
  • Ben McCalman (40 Tests)
  • Sean McMahon (3 Tests)*
  • Wycliff Palu (55 Tests)
  • David Pocock (50 Tests)
  • Scott Fardy (24 Tests)*

Half-backs

  • Will Genia (59 Tests)
  • Nick Phipps (31 Tests)

Fly-halfs

  • Quade Cooper (55 Tests)
  • Bernard Foley (17 Tests)*

Inside backs

  • Kurtley Beale (52 Tests)
  • Matt Giteau (95 Tests)
  • Matt Toomua (25 Tests)*

Outside backs

  • Adam Ashley-Cooper (Vice-Captain, 108 Tests)
  • Israel Folau (33 Tests)*
  • Rob Horne (26 Tests)
  • Drew Mitchell (65 Tests)
  • Henry Speight (3 Tests)*
  • Joe Tomane (15 Tests)*
  • Tevita Kuridrani (24 Tests)*

*denotes uncapped at a Rugby World Cup

Extended Wallabies squad to play USA Eagles Test at Soldier Field, Chicago, September 5: Sam Carter, David Dennis, Tetera Faulkner, James Hanson, Scott Higginbotham, James Horwill, Samu Kerevi, Christian Leali'ifano, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Nic White.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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