Cheika opts for vet­er­ans

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - IAIN PAYTEN

THE Wal­la­bies will field their most ex­pe­ri­enced side in history against the Spring­boks on Satur­day night af­ter Michael Cheika put a band of old­school Test stars back to­gether for the Rugby Cham­pi­onship opener in Bris­bane.

History shows grey­beards are cru­cial to win­ning World Cups, and with the 2015 tour­na­ment only 69 days away, Cheika showed he’s an avid stu­dent of the past by stack­ing his Wal­la­bies side with ex­pe­ri­enced vet­er­ans and seven play­ers 30 or older.

Start­ing at No. 12, Matt Giteau was named to play his first Test since 2011, Drew Mitchell and David Po­cock will play their first games in gold since 2012 off the bench, and ever­green re­serve prop Greg Holmes will wear a Wal­laby jersey for the first time since Septem­ber, 2007.

With Will Ge­nia and Quade Cooper named as start­ing halves and Stephen Moore skip­per­ing the side from hooker, the Wal­la­bies’ 23 will be brim­ming with a stag­ger­ing 1023 com­bined Test ex­pe­ri­ence if all play­ers take the field.

Even if they don’t, the Cheika- led side will com­fort­ably smash the old Wal­la­bies’ record of 898 caps, set against the All Blacks in 2007.

There are 11 play­ers with 50 caps or more.

Ac­cord­ing to Fox Sports Lab, the Wal­la­bies’ 1023 tally will be 12 caps shy of the All Blacks’ world record of 1035, how­ever – set against Ar­gentina in the 2011 World Cup.

I think that com­bi­na­tion of play­ers will best rep­re­sent Aus­tralia

MICHAEL CHEIKA

Cheika yesterday tried to hose down sug­ges­tions of his team be­ing ex­per­i­men­tal and while the bones of an A- team for the World Cup is clear, there is also no deny­ing some tri­alling will be held at Sun­corp Sta­dium.

Ge­nia and Cooper were pre­ferred to NSW pair Nick Phipps and Bernard Fo­ley and will start their first Test to­gether since Novem­ber 2013. Cooper has played just five games this sea­son for the strug­gling Reds due to a shoul­der in­jury.

“For the job we need to do this week­end, I think that com­bi­na­tion of play­ers will best rep­re­sent Aus­tralia on Satur­day – I don’t think it is a case of lets have a look at them and see how they go,” Cheika said.

What­ever changes are to come, the age and ex­pe­ri­ence pro­file of Cheika’s Wal­la­bies is markedly dif­fer­ent to Rob­bie Deans’ squad at the 2011 World Cup.

Deans opted for a youth pol­icy and with just three play­ers over 30, the Wal­la­bies were one of the youngest at the tour­na­ment.

They had 667 Test caps in their semi- fi­nal loss.

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