Cheika shows his hand early and comes up trumps

Henry Speight will debut against the Barbarians. Photo: Roar

Henry Speight will debut against the Barbarians. Photo: Roar

New Wallaby coach Michael Cheika dealt Australian rugby a royal flush with his first cards on the table to meet the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday.

Four selections stand out.

Naming the tireless Matt Hodgson as skipper for the opener is a masterstroke, recognising the huge season he had leading the Force.

The selection of the flying Fijian-born winger Henry Speight to make his debut in gold, and at the home of rugby, will reap rich rewards in both the short and long term.

The return of halfback Will Genia is vital. The quicker the crack Queenslander gets back into international mode the better for Australian rugby.

He will team up again with Quade Cooper, a tried and tested Wallaby combination that has been on hold with both on the injured list.

Cheika provided a fourth masterstroke by naming just three of his Waratahs in the starting line-up, and just three on the bench.

Benn Robinson, is the only Waratah up front, with Rob Horne and Israel Folau in the backs. Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, and Bernard Foley are on the nine-man bench, with one to be omitted.

The shrewdest move of the lot.

Cheika has named a very well-balanced side from his 33-man squad, and just as well, with 10 New Zealanders in the Barbarian starting line-up.

But the greater interest will be winger Nick Cummins, currently playing in Japan, who will make his debut for the Baa Baas, and play against his former Wallabyteammates for the first time, marking Speight.

That head-to-head could well be worth the price of admission alone.

The quote of the week so far is credited to Genia on his new coach: “He’s a straight shooter, and he’s made a big impression in a short time.”

That’s a lot more meaningful coming from within, and from a very senior player, than from anyone covering the tour.

So let’s sit back and enjoy the ride.

1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
2. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
3. Ben Alexander (ACT Brumbies)
4. Sam Carter (ACT Brumbies)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds)
6. Scott Higginbotham (Melbourne Rebels)
7. Matt Hodgson (c – Western Force)
8. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
11. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)
12. Matt Toomua (ACT Brumbies)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (ACT Brumbies)
14. Henry Speight (ACT Brumbies)
15. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)

James Hanson (Queensland Reds)
James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
Will Skelton (NSW Waratahs)
Sean McMahon (Melbourne Rebels)
Nic White (ACT Brumbies)
Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs)
Christian Leali’ifano (ACT Brumbies)
Joe Tomane (ACT Brumbies)

*One to be omitted

1. Matt Stevens
2. James Parsons
3. Angus Ta’avao
4. Dominic Bird
5. Alastair Kellock
6. Adam Thomson
7. Matt Todd
8. Steven Luatua
9. Tomas Cubelli
10. Colin Slade
11. Nick Cummins
12. Francis Sailli
13. Juan De Jongh
14. Frank Halai
15. Tim Nanai-Williams

  1. Mahonhri Schwalger
    17. Thomas du Toit
    18. Lourens Adriaanse
    19. Heinrich Brussow
    20. Matias Alemanno
    21. Sarel Pretorius
    22. Joaquin Tuculet
    23. Marnitz Boshoff

*             Roar

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Filed under Australia, Barbarians, Fijian players, November Tests, Tours, Wallabies

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