Rugby World Cup
Mike Catt questions Cheika's hooker decision
Tom Hamilton
August 22, 2015
Mike Catt has said the Australian squad is 'massively dangerous' but questions their decision to have only two hookers © Getty Images

England coach Mike Catt has described Australia's Rugby World Cup squad as a "massively dangerous side" after they unveiled their 31-man squad for the forthcoming tournament but was surprised at their decision to only name two hookers in the party.

Michael Cheika included the likes of Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell in the final cut but did not have a place for Harlequins-bound James Horwill, Christian Leali'ifano or Nic White, the man who guided the Wallabies to their win over New Zealand earlier in the month

And there was a sense of surprise within the England camp that Australia have named only two hookers in their Rugby World Cup squad. The general approach to the make up of the 31-man squad sees three hookers included alongside five props. But Australia have named only two specialist No.2s - Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau.

"It's very good, very, very good," Catt said of Australia's squad. "They have played exceptionally well and they are a massively dangerous side. I'm not sure how they've only picked two hookers but they've obviously got that fringe squad who will come into it as well.

Michael Cheik omitted Nic White and James Horwill from the 31-man squad

"But they are playing exceptionally well and they're going to get better. They're going to be a handful.

Of the ramifications for Australia's decision to name just two hookers, Catt said: "I don't know what the regulations are or the criteria of the actual tournament."

The decision means Australia run the risk of heading into a World Cup match with only one fit hooker if a late injury strikes. If, for example, Polota-Nau went over in the warm-up, Australia would have to field three props on the bench with one standing in as a hooker who would have to be "suitably trained and experienced", according to World Rugby regulations. None of the props named have played professionally at hooker.

Though World Rugby are not concerned by Australia's decision to name just two hookers, regulation 3.5 says: "If a Union or match organiser decides to have 23 players nominated for a team there must be sufficient front row players to play at hooker, tight-head prop and loose-head prop who are suitably trained and experienced to ensure that on the first occasion that a replacement is required in each front row position, the team can continue to play safely with contested scrums.

"If a team is only able to nominate two suitably trained front row players then only 22 players may be nominated for the match."

Catt expecting big impression from Burrell

The news will interest Stuart Lancaster. When Dylan Hartley was served his four-match suspension for his indiscretion in the Aviva Premiership semi-final - a ban that saw him ruled out of England's three World Cup warm up matches and their opener against Fiji - Lancaster said one of the reasons for leaving him out of the World Cup training squad was due to the logistics of not having him available for that opening game.

"We could potentially have someone like Kieran Brookes who could have done a job," Lancaster said back in May. "But can you imagine that scene? Twenty minutes into the Fiji game and your one fit hooker goes down and you bring on a prop at hooker and lose the opening game of the World Cup.

"It would have been an unbelievable risk and also contrary to the regulations in terms of entering the World Cup with a squad of players that can all cover all eventualities in the front row. We'd have clearly entered the World Cup with only two fit hookers with one guy sat in the stand and I couldn't do anything about it."

Michael Cheika has put his faith behind just Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau for the Wallabies World Cup campaign © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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