Rugby Championship
Wallabies changes make sense for Pumas
Greg Growden
September 9, 2014
The Waratahs' Tatafu Polota-Nau walks out for the Super Rugby Grand Final Captain's Run, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, August 1, 2014
Tatafu Polota-Nau will help counter Argentina's powerful forward pack © Getty Images

You have to feel pleased when Wallabies selectors again start picking specialists especially on the wing, industrious hard-working forwards like Ben McCalman are included and top-shelf front-rowers like Tatafu Polota-Nau at last return.

Still Rob Simmons is very, very lucky to be in the Australian starting XV, and if he doesn't pick up his act, especially in the discipline department, it is not beyond Argentina on the Gold Coast to at last enjoy their first Rugby Championship victory.

The most rousing news for Australia is that Polota-Nau is back, and his timing could not be better, because the Pumas have already shown they possess the most effective pack of the four major southern hemisphere countries. Polota-Nau will provide some necessary backbone to an Australian scrum, which has often held up, but occasionally withered in the opening three rounds of the tournament.

Without Polota-Nau, the Wallabies could have easily been spending the night being embarrassingly ploughed back behind their own line by the Argentinean eight. And with it being his 50th Test appearance, he is bound to be at his Kamikaze best. Pumas being chopped off at the ankles are inevitable.

Ben McCalaman came close to scoring a five-pointer for against France © Getty Images

While I am a Scott Higginbotham fan, I can comprehend why Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie will start with McCalman at No. 8 this weekend. If it was a choice between Wycliff Palu and Higginbotham for No. 8, I would go with the Rebels skipper, because I believe that Palu has in recent Tests been clearly showing the effects of a long Super Rugby campaign. Palu's impact has diminished.

But with Palu sidelined, the use of McCalman as a starter is justified. He was the standout No. 8 of the Super Rugby season, instrumental in numerous Western Force victories, and his efficiency and high work-rate will be important during the first half. McCalman is perfect for the early part of an Argentinean Test, as it will revolve around a forward stoush.

Yet what is as necessary is that Higginbotham gets ample game time off the bench. He needs to be on by the 55th minute mark. McKenzie looks upon Higginbotham as a "finisher", but he also needs plenty of minutes to make his mark when other forwards are starting to tire.

The pack is still not perfect and Simmons, after constantly being penalised last week, really needs to show some footballing nous at the tackle and at the lineout. He gave the referee and the Springboks an easy leg-up in Perth with unnecessary indiscretions. What probably saved Simmons was that James Horwill still appears a little off the pace. Horwill did not do enough when he came on in Perth to warrant an elevation from the bench.

Peter Betham adds some much-needed pace to the Wallabies back three © Getty Images

While Peter Betham provides some much-required speed in the back three, the retention of Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua in the midfield is warranted. There were flawed moments, and some indecision last weekend, but this 9/10/12 trio needs time to get this combination working. There were enough encouraging plays in Perth to indicate that they are worth pursuing with.

But Beale, who could have easily been included at No 12, should not be a spectator until the final moments. Like Higginbotham, Beale needs at least 20 minutes of game play so that he can properly finish off a game.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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