No sure selections in McKenzie's Wallabies
July 23, 2013
New Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie is making no promises to incumbants © Getty Images
Nothing can be taken for granted as Ewen McKenzie is running a fine-toothed comb over every Wallabies position in plotting for Australia's first Bledisloe Cup success in 11 years.
Contrary to public perception, which is expecting a heavily Reds-tinged team, McKenzie has indicated his first Test outfit will have a healthy balance of form players across all five Super Rugby provinces.
And "healthy" is the operative word, with the new Test coach stressing he won't rely on established players who aren't 100 per cent fit.
McKenzie hinted on Monday that some regular Wallabies may be best served by missing next month's back-to-back Bledisloe Tests against the All Blacks to overcome long-term injuries, creating opportunities for the previously overlooked.
The timing of his appointment, two years before the 2015 World Cup, is also encouraging McKenzie to introduce new players.
"Some players have been carrying injuries for a long time," McKenzie said. "The mind is always willing and the heart is willing, but the body has to be co-operating. We need to be mindful of that and we don't want to get into the situation where 'this bloke 70 per cent fit is better than this other bloke'."
"You have to pick players who are fit and raring to go," McKenzie added. "By doing that you create depth, you create competition, you create trust and all those things can add up."
Incumbent No.8 Wycliff Palu (knee) appears to be one Wallaby in need of extended rehabilitation while others may require surgery following an intense start to 2013, capped by the taxing series loss to the British and Irish Lions.
Captain James Horwill (calf) and vice-captain Will Genia (knee) were among the carnage and below their best in the Reds' qualifying final loss to the Crusaders but McKenzie indicated they could freshen up before the first Bledisloe fixture on August 17.
The outgoing Queensland coach is tying up the loose ends of his four-year Reds' tenure this week, while at the same time locking in a plan heading into the ANZ Stadium clash, which also kicks off The Rugby Championship.
The appointments of fellow selectors, assistant coaches and other staff are expected to be finalised this week, while his initial Test squad will be unveiled in less than a fortnight.
Australia last held the Bledisloe Cup in 2002 and the Wallabies' record of just three wins in 18 trans-Tasman matches under Robbie Deans was a major reason for the Kiwi's demise.
There are concerns about the lack of firepower in the Wallabies pack due to long-term injuries to the likes David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sitaleki Timani.
But McKenzie felt there was the depth, as well as the requisite skill and smarts, to upset New Zealand. He said the 2-1 Lions series loss made it appropriate to review all Wallabies positions.
"We're coming off a loss basically so we have to sit back and have a look," McKenzie said. "With respect to everyone out there it's good we review each position and the candidates."