Rugby Championship
Wallabies pack must show some mongrel
Greg Growden
July 16, 2015
Rugby Championship Preview: Australia v South Africa
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First up, a fair effort by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika in selecting his first Test team in a crucial career-defining Rugby World Cup year.

The only quibble is Rob Simmons securing a lock spot, after a very pedestrian, nondescript season with Queensland Reds, but still an understandable choice as his experience is required because the less international savvy Will Skelton accompanies him. Now it is up to Simmons to show that he can actually get out of second gear and show the required leadership, but more importantly a touch of mongrel, to convince opposing teams that the Australia pack has a bit of backbone.

At the moment, opposing sides look upon the Wallabies pack as little more than pampered powder puffs, and it is up to the eight forwards, in particular Simmons, to show that this is a misconception. Already the All Blacks are somewhat concerned with Skelton's possible impact - particularly as he turned into a breakdown menace during the second half of the Super Rugby season - and they will be focusing on nullifying his presence. Skelton will be a target all year. So Simmons has to match Skelton in being physical and dominant.

Australia's Rob Simmons breaks away to score a try, France v Australia, Stade de France, Paris, November 15, 2014
Rob Simmons needs to deliver after a poor Super season © Getty Images
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Scott Higginbotham has the ideal chance to make the Test No.8 spot his. He was the standout Australian No.8 during the Super Rugby season, but due to his looseness at times, has often failed to be as prominent as he has been for some time with the Melbourne Rebels when he puts on the green and gold.

The ever-present shadow of Ben McCalman should put the required pressure on Higginbotham to produce his best against the Springboks. And yes, Higginbotham does deserve this opportunity, because over the past few seasons he has transformed the Rebels into something special.

Cheika also got it right in selecting Will Genia at half-back, as Nick Phipps' form dropped right off in the latter stages of the Super Rugby competition. Also Genia was easily Queensland Reds' most consistent player, endlessly trying to bring back some logic and leadership to a rabble. While his teammates often lost the plot, Genia played with commitment and purpose. He will also raise a level playing alongside Quade Cooper, especially as they respect each other so much. The most interesting aspect of this Test will be watching Cooper and Matt Giteau working together. If this No 10-12 combination works against the Springboks, don't be surprised if it is the partnership that is constantly used during the World Cup.

Giteau left Australian rugby several years ago a demoralised figure - becoming deeply disenchanted during the Robbie Deans era. They did not get on. Giteau will be far more relaxed under Cheika, and with the Wallabies coach showing immediate faith is bound to see him rise to the occasion.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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