As the Australian rugby union team head into their upcoming internationals against Fiji, Scotland and Italy, there has been plenty of debate as to the make-up of the Wallabies, and the long-term goals of how to challenge and beat the likes of England and New Zealand on a consistent basis, as well as building a strong squad of players for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
So, I have decided to try and pick a team, based on the players selected for these three internationals coming up over the next three Saturdays in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane respectively.
Here was the squad named a week ago by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, and placed into their positional groups.
Allan Ala’alatoa (Brumbies), Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Tom Robertson (Waratahs), Scott Sio (Brumbies), Toby Smith (Rebels).
Tolu Latu (Waratahs), Stephen Moore (C) (Reds), Tatafu Polota-Nau (Force).
Rory Arnold (Brumbies), Sam Carter (Brumbies), Adam Coleman (Force), Lukhan Tui (Reds).
Jack Dempsey (Waratahs), Ned Hanigan (Waratahs), Richard Hardwick (Force), Scott Higginbotham (Reds), Michael Hooper (Waratahs), Lopeti Timani (Rebels).
Will Genia (Stade Français), Nick Phipps (Waratahs) (injured), Joe Powell (Brumbies), Jake Gordon (Waratahs).
Quade Cooper (Reds), Bernard Foley (Waratahs).
Kyle Godwin (Brumbies), Reece Hodge (Rebels), Samu Kerevi (Reds) (injured), Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies), Rob Horne (Waratahs).
Israel Folau (Waratahs), Dane Haylett-Petty (Force), Karmichael Hunt (Reds), Marika Koroibete (Rebels), Eto Nabuli (Reds), Sefa Naivalu (Rebels), Henry Speight (Brumbies).
As you might notice, both Nick Phipps and Samu Kerevi have been ruled out of the upcoming internationals due to injury, and have been replaced in the squad by Jake Gordon and Rob Horne respectively.
The absence of Kerevi is a massive blow for Australia, considering the form he has been in for the Reds, having a total of 22 clean breaks in Super Rugby so far in 2017, the best out of any Australian player, and would have been a certain starter if he was fully fit in my opinion.
However, I have selected a starting 15, and a bench in the absence of Phipps and Kerevi that I believe can take Australian rugby towards a successful future.
Here is my strongest Wallabies team.
My best Wallabies line-up
1. Scott Sio (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (C) (Reds)
3. Allan Ala’alatoa (Brumbies)
4. Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
5. Sam Carter (Brumbies)
6. Ned Hanigan (Waratahs)
7. Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds)
9. Will Genia (Stade Français)
10. Bernard Foley (Waratahs)
11. Eto Nabuli (Reds)
12. Reece Hodge (Rebels)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies)
14. Henry Speight (Brumbies)
15. Israel Folau (Waratahs)
16. Tolu Latu (Waratahs)
17. Tom Robertson (Waratahs)
18. Sekope Kepu (Waratahs)
19. Adam Coleman (Force)
20. Lopeti Timani (Rebels)
21. Joe Powell (Brumbies)
22. Quade Cooper (Reds)
23. Kyle Godwin (Brumbies)
In selecting the forwards for the Australian team, I was looking to put together a unit that know each other intimately on a week-by-week basis, as well as a forward unit that was strong at the scrum, line-out, and also at the breakdown.
The starting tight five pick themselves, while Michael Hooper and Scott Higginbotham were certain selections at openside flanker and at number eight respectively.
This left the tough decision as to who to select at blindside flanker, and I have decided to go with uncapped Ned Hanigan, who has been in strong form for the Waratahs, and will compliment Hooper well at the breakdown.
In selecting the backs, I was looking for strong attacking threats who can deliver off a strong platform.
In terms of scrum-half, and fly-half, both Will Genia and Bernard Foley are automatic selections, as is Reece Hodge at inside centre.
At outside centre, I would have selected Samu Kerevi, but in his absence, I have selected Tevita Kuridrani, but if Kerevi was available, Kuridrani would be on the bench.
In terms of the back three, Israel Folau is the best and hardest working back-line player in Australia, scoring eight tries in Super Rugby so far in 2017, and has the ability at fullback to break a game wide-open, while Eto Nabuli and Henry Speight are the two best wingers in Australia, and deserve to be selected in the Wallabies team.
In terms of the replacements, I have selected the entire Waratahs front-row, and although it is a 50/50 call as to select either Tatafu Polota-Nau, or Tolu Latu, I feel that Latu was in slightly better form to earn a spot on the bench ahead of Polota-Nau.
Adam Coleman and Lopeti Timani are solid back-ups in the locking and back-row positions, and although Nick Phipps is out, Joe Powell will be a solid back-up to Will Genia in the scrum-half role, while I have selected Quade Cooper and Kyle Godwin as the final two replacements in the side, although the likes of Karmichael Hunt and Dane Haylett-Petty will come under serious consideration for a bench spot at least.
This is my best Wallabies 23 at this moment in time. What do you think?