Cheika opts for veterans
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
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.