McKenzie backs Wallaby rookies

Wed, 21 Aug 2013 07:53
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Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie looks set to resist the temptation to dump his rookies after one bad performance.

Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie looks set to resist the temptation to dump his rookies after one bad performance.

There has been a clamour for McKenzie to make changes - with fullback Jesse Mogg and Matt Toomua the two players most in the firing line of the Australian critics.

However, McKenzie backed his incumbents and defended his selections.

"They are all up to it," the Wallaby coach said as his team arrived in Wellington on Wednesday, ahead of their Round Two Rugby Championship showdown with the All Blacks in the New Zealand capital on Saturday.

"I don't really pick people or get rid of people on one game," McKenzie added.

The Wallaby mentor found support in the form of retired Wallaby fullback Chris Latham, who suggested McKenzie will be well rewarded by keeping the faith in under-fire novice Jesse Mogg for Saturday's return Bledisloe Cup battle.

As exciting as the prospect of Israel Folau being shifted to No.15 is, Latham says Mogg has the ability to develop into a long-term Test fullback, and expects him to show his true colours against the All Blacks in Wellington.

The Brumbies custodian endured a forgettable run-on Test debut in last weekend's 29-47 loss in Sydney.

It resulted in calls for McKenzie to move Folau from the right wing to the fullback following the latter's quiet display in Sydney.

But the Wallabies coach has indicated he'll keep his backline intact, and make just one change to his starting 15, with Brumbies lock Scott Fardy set to replace injured Hugh McMeniman (shoulder) at blindside flank when he names his team on Thursday.

That would be applauded by 78-Test veteran Latham, who took a long time to settle in the No.15 jersey after a rocky five-year apprenticeship.

"I rate Jesse Mogg quite highly," Latham told the Australian Press Association on Wednesday.

"He's got a lot of potential there.

"You need the backing and the confidence of the coach [to perform].

"His first Test, if anything, he was just probably guilty of trying too hard.

"In that position of fullback, and I've been there myself, if you make mistakes they are generally exposed and seen a lot more.

"I think it would be a bit harsh to not pick him this week."

While Latham dismissed the option of switching James O'Connor from the left wing, he did admit Folau's X-factor provided a luring alternative at the back.

But he also felt there was an element of risk in handing the code-hopper the No.15 jersey as he's yet to still mastering the defensive and positional aspects of the position.

The All Blacks, even with a fourth-choice flyhalf, are experts at exposing minor weaknesses and there's concerns Folau could be "found out" due to his lack of experience.

"It's a tough choice," said Latham, a member of the last Australian team to beat the All Blacks on NZ soil, way back in 2002 in Dunedin.

"You'd be a silly man to question his ability to catch a high ball and kick. My hat goes off to him with his talent and what he's shown thus far with the limited experience he has."

Source: AAP