Rugby Championship
Tough selections good for Australia: Ewen McKenzie
August 13, 2014
Queensland Reds captain James Horwill missed the match-day 23 © Getty Images

Ewen McKenzie did not enjoy telling James Horwill there was no room for the former captain in the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship-opening Test against New Zealand at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.

McKenzie says he's made no more difficult decisions in his coaching career than overlooking Horwill, his captain of the 2011 Super Rugby-winning Queensland Reds and Australia's 2011 Rugby World Cup skipper. But the coach accepts he has to make tough calls if the Wallabies are to break New Zealand's 12-year hold of the Bledisloe Cup.

"I know him pretty well so they're not easy conversations to have," McKenzie said after opting for Sam Carter to partner lineout chief Rob Simmons in the second row, with Will Skelton to come off the bench in an impact role.

"We know what James Horwill can do and he's a very experienced campaigner, so there'd be every reason to include him. We looked at all the combinations - six-two benches [of forwards to backs] and all sorts of combinations how we might do it. In the end, we've come up with the best for this game."

Wallabies select Kurtley Beale at No.10

McKenzie also reflected on his decision to bench incumbent fly-half Bernard Foley for New South Wales Waratahs team-mate Kurtley Beale; Foley certainly had been favoured to retain the No.10 jumper after booting the Waratahs to their historic Super Rugby final victory over the Crusaders.

"Bernard's not out of the team because he's out of form - at all," McKenzie said. "It's just that we've got more players than we can squeeze in there."

The decision to omit Tevita Kuridrani after 11 appearances at outside centre since debuting in 2013 was another case in point, with Adam Ashley-Cooper's career-best form for the Waratahs this season too compelling to ignore.

"One of the worst parts of the job is delivering selection news," McKenzie said. "It's easy telling guys they're in, but telling guys they're out ... and blind Freddie knew that we wouldn't be able to fit everyone into the team.

"That's a good job for Australian rugby, but it's not such a good job for the coach in terms of delivering the messages. But you don't expect them to be liking that situation. They understand it and you explain it, but Bernard's still got a role to play. Effectively, we've reversed the roles. Kurtley was finishing the games against France, he was starting. Just reverse the roles."

Ewen McKenzie explains the 'Australian way'

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