Who Are These Wallabies? - A Users Guide

The Rolling Maul has been accused by some of not taking its Rugby seriously enough. Well that's because there's so much to make fun of. But nonetheless, point noted. So in an attempt to rectify the balance, and for the benefit of any Lions supporters who are wondering who this bunch of golden wannabees are, The Maul has decided to pick apart the Wallabies atom by atom and drill down deep within their psyche to find out just what they are made of.

Here is the Wallabies team, as recently named by Robbie Deans, to take on the Lions this weekend. Depending on when you are reading this, these are either insights, predictions or eerie visions of a past time of hope and expectation:

15. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
Barnes has played all of about 30 minutes of Rugby this season, yet somehow finds himself picked in a position he hasn't appeared in at all during his short stints from the bench. Admittedly, those short stints conjured up two victories for the Waratahs, but Barnes won't have the same impact from fullback. If you're looking for an indication as to the Wallabies game plan this is it. Field position, defuse a bomb, field position, defuse a bomb, field position (Barnes is the best kicker in the team though Folau is better under the high ball), then late in the game open up and capitalise when Kurtley Beale comes off the bench. It's a safe and sensible option.

14. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)
Has more talent in his left foot than most players have in their entire body, and has used it to great effect for the Tahs but playing from Fullback. The Maul has great misgivings about Folau playing from the wing. He appeared there once for the Tahs this season, made no impact and a week late Michael Cheika had him back at fullback. Sure, he played wing in his League days but that's as irrelevant as the fact he played in front of big State of Origin crowds as to how he'll handle tens of thousands of Lions fans baying for his blood. Probably should start on the bench and come on late at fullback as an impact player, if needed.

13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
Finally, someone playing in his best position, who's in form, and has experience to burn and the best fend in the business.

12. Christian Leali’ifano (Brumbies)
A well deserved reward for steady improvement mixed with flashes of brilliance. Leali’ifano's presence in midfield provides a solidity that has been core to the Brumbies success, and credit to Robbie Deans for recognising this. He'll be the ying to James O'Connor's yang and could take a mortgage on this position for years to come.

11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
A no-brainer (being selected that is) but doubts remain over Ioane's fitness. He's got the pace and guile (on the field at least) to handle George North and his defence is OK too. But given his interreupted season to date, it's doubtful Digby can last 80 minutes. A good 60 will be worth it though, even if he then misses the last two tests. Curiously, his most likely replacement is playing at five-eighth.

10. James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels)
O’Connor's selection at five-eighth shouldn't be as controversial as it has been. Quade Cooper's high-risk strategy might be fun to watch but it's coach killer material at this level. He'll get his chance again once Ewen McKenzie is coach but then he knows how to build a team around Cooper to cover for his questionable defence and occasional misfires. O'Connor is the Cooper you have when you don't have a Cooper. lower risk but still equally capable, can take on the line just as well and defends with great gusto, especially for a man of his size. Like Berrick Barnes, hasn't played a lot of Rugby, and will be replaced by Barnes or Beale when the going gets tight in the last 20. The state of the game will determine which one replaces him.

9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
If Genia has a good game, the Wallabies will win. Yes, it's that simple.

8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
The Maul is surprised Palu even made the squad. let alone the starting line up. Type "palu injury" into Google and you get nearly 1.5 million results. OK, so that's not really a fair indication of his playing status, but you can't deny the fact that he's on a first name basis with the MRI and CT operators at St Vincent's hospital. Sure, Palu is a devastating runner and defender when fit, and that was about three games for the Waratahs this season. There are more reliable options in the Wallabies squad (Dave Dennis, Peter Kimlin) and even outside it (Fotu Auelua). Scott Higginbotham's injury will be keenly felt.

7. Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
Injuries to George Smith and Dave Pocock mean that Hooper gets his chance to cement his legend. Curiously, Hooper is a different type of player to both those other breakaways. He's a good scavenger, not in their class, but where he adds value is his ball running. He sprints like a centre. Expect Robbie Deans to alter his gameplan accordingly. Short passes on the edge of the rucks once the holes appear for Hooper to run through with the backs to provide support rather than the other way round if Pocock or Smith were playing.

6. Ben Mowen (Brumbies)
About time. Leadership of the Brumbies has taken Mowen to another level. He's an old head on young shoulders and won't let the team down or suffer stage-fright. In particular, he'll be a reassuring sight for that other Brumbies debutant Christian Leali’ifano. Expect him to receive plenty of lineout ball and run himself into the ground tackling anything that moves.

5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain)
Extraordinary. Horwill hasn't played for the Wallabies since 2011 but it seems like he never left. Welcome back big fella. We missed you. We certainly missed your captaincy. That's no criticism of Will Genia who is an able deputy, but Horwill adds mongrel in his captaincy style and there's nothing like a captain charging headfirst into the opposition to inspire the troops.

4. Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs)
Interestingly, the injury suffered by fellow Waratah lock Sitaleki Timani opened up this chance for Kane Douglas but that's probably no bad thing. Douglas is having his best Super Rugby season and has added an attacking edge to his already impressive CV. More incremental improvements could be just what the doctor oredered.

3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
Some players take years to build up their reputations. Others cement their position through continual outstanding or solid performances. And then there's Ben Alexander. Burst onto the scene as potentially the best prop we've ever seen, produced good results week in and week out, and was even a try scoring machine (for a prop at least) for a while there. Yet somehow Alexander has never really captured the imagination the way Benn Robinson has or any of his illustrious forebears (McKenzie, Daly, a bunch of Kiwis and Argentinians). It's time to step up. Finally there's some good young props around. Alexander is on notice.

2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
It was always going to be hard to split Moore and Totafu Polata-Nau, and in the end Robbie Deans didn't have to after TPN got injured. Moore is the better lineout thrower though, and there's plenty of speed and power elsewhere in the Wallabies line up (if they stay fit) to counter Moore's lesser open-field speed or power with ball in hand.

1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
One of the few who could ink his name in for this series a year ago. Will most likely be the best prop in the game, irrespective of the result.


16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
TPN's injury sees Fainga'a onto the bench. Not a spectacular player but solid enough should Moore get injured. Otherwise he's unlikely to get more than 5 minutes.

17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
Unlucky not to start in front of Ben Alexander. Will get plenty of chances to correct that for the second test.

18. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
The modern game means all your props get rotated ad nauseum. Kepu has been chosen on the bench but will have to fight hard to keep it given Scott Sio's blossoming reputation.

19. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
Was a toss up whether he or Kane Douglas would get the nod. Whatever happens, Deans will be keen to test him out, so can expect plenty of game time.

20. Liam Gill (Queensland Reds)
A fetcher in the Pocock mould. In the end it was only the game plan that kept him out but Gill is the future of Australian Rugby.

21. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
Nick White's injury made picking Phipps an easy choice for Robbie Deans. His preference was probably for Luke Burgess in any case, but given Burgess has just returned to the country, and has played just part of one game for the Rebels, that would've been too controversial. If Genia gets injured it would make things interesting though.

22. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
Solid. Can tackle. 'Nuff said.

23. Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)
If it goes pear shaped, it's all up to Kurtley. Either way, when he does come on to the field he'll have nothing to lose. It will be fun to watch whatever happens.