Only 'fit' Wallabies to get the nod

Mon, 22 Jul 2013 13:54
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New Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie may well leave a few of his 'overplayed' stars on the sideline when the Rugby Championship kicks off next month.

New Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie may well leave a few of his 'overplayed' stars on the sideline when the Rugby Championship kicks off next month.

The SANZAR Test season kicks off when Australia host New Zealand in Sydney on August 17 and apart from points on the Rugby Championship table, there is the added incentive of the Bledisloe Cup.

However, McKenzie - who ended his tenure as Reds coach with a demoralising 9-38 loss to the Crusaders at the weekend - suggested that 'player welfare' will his priority when he names his first Wallaby team next month.

McKenzie hinted on Monday that some regular Wallabies may be best served by missing next month's back-to-back Bledisloe Tests against the All Blacks to overcome long-term injuries, creating opportunities for the previously overlooked.

"Some players have been carrying injuries for a long time," the new Australian mentor told the media.

"The mind is always willing and the heart is willing, but the body has to be co-operating.

"We need to be mindful of that and we don't want to get into the situation where `this bloke 70 per cent fit is better than this other bloke'.

"You have to pick players who are fit and raring to go.

"By doing that you create depth, you create competition, you create trust and all those things can add up."

Incumbent No.8 Wycliff Palu (knee) appears to be one Wallaby in need of extended rehabilitation while others may require surgery following an intense start to 2013, capped by the taxing series loss to the British and Irish Lions.

Captain James Horwill (calf) and vice-captain Will Genia (knee) were among the carnage and below their best in the Reds' loss to the Crusaders, but McKenzie indicated they could freshen up before the first Bledisloe fixture on August 17.

The outgoing Queensland coach is tying up the loose ends of his four-year Reds' tenure this week, while at the same time locking in a plan heading into the Sydney clash.

He said the 1-2 B&I Lions series loss made it appropriate to review all Wallabies positions.

"We're coming off a loss basically so we have to sit back and have a look," he said.

"With respect to everyone out there it's good we review each position and the candidates."

Australia last held the Bledisloe Cup in 2002 and the Wallabies' record of just three wins in 18 trans-Tasman matches under Robbie Deans was a major reason for the Kiwi's demise.

There are concerns about the lack of firepower in the Wallabies pack due to long-term injuries to the likes David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sitaleki Timani.

But McKenzie felt there was the depth, as well as the requisite skill and smarts, to upset New Zealand.

The appointments of fellow selectors, assistant coaches and other staff are expected to be finalised this week, while his initial Test squad will be unveiled in less than a fortnight.

Source: AAP

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