Ewen McKenzie facing welcome headaches as Wallabies team far from settled

I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face as the well-orchestrated press conference took place on Thursday for the announcement of the Wallabies squad for the French Tests.

I smiled because of how contrasting the naming of the team was to when I was running around. We literally waited for Sports Tonight to put up the graphic with the team names, still with a sense of anticipation.

Some of the Queensland boys even used to ring Qantas to see if they had a booking to Sydney.

As a player there is that special moment when your name is read out. It could be multiple times like has happened to Stephen Moore, or it could be for the first time like for Nathan Charles and locks Sam Carter, Luke Jones and Will Skelton, all rewarded for some great play throughout the Super Rugby season.

Whether they actually make the final line-up has to be seen but to have the chance to represent your country is the ultimate.

The make-up of the team provides some reason for debate with the selection of some of the players and the categories or positions they are under.

The forwards have some questions. Who will be Stephen Moore’s backup rake? Does an uncapped Nathan Charles get the nod over the experienced Tatafu Polota-Nau?

What about the second-rowers? I am all for a debutant to be included in the starting line-up so long as they are surrounded by experience. That's the basis for selecting Will Skelton.

The question is with whom do you partner him? For experience's sake, I don’t think you could look past former Test captain James Horwill.

Perception is that with the Reds struggling this season, along with that, so are the individuals. That’s not necessarily the case and Skelton would benefit under the guise of having a leader in the pack. I think it could even invigorate Horwill as well.

Two incumbents from the spring tour retain their positions in the back row. Scott Fardy and Michael Hooper have been playing well for their states and warrant the selection albeit Fardy has been playing mostly in the second row. His impact will still be strong on the blindside.

That duo will hold down the flanker positions, while the man who will make up the trio and has been playing outstanding rugby for the Rebels is Scott Higginbotham.

Dynamic, explosive and destructive, he possess the skill at the back of the pack to dominate opposite defences. He wins a recall after a hiatus from the international scene and well deserved.

Perhaps the most important and debated position will be that of five-eighth. There was speculation about Quade Cooper retaining his 10 shirt, as events have it Cooper will miss rugby for some time through injury.

Whispers were that Matt Toomua would take over the pivot role anyhow through his good form.

However with the announcement on Thursday, Toomua was bracketed in the centres with Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale at 10.

The simple scenario is pick and stick. Make the right decision for the French Tests and compliment the players around him.

Toomua does play quite deep in attack when he starts at five-eighth and that could be a potential reason McKenzie sees him as a 12.

The coach has a specialist 10 in Foley and also a player who has held that pivot role prior, in Beale, vying for the crucial role.

Beale made the unselfish role this season of playing out of position at the Tahs. I now think he puts up his hand and lays claim to the 12 jumper as he has benefited from having Foley in the decision-making role.

Do you really want players playing out of position leading into a Test series?

We saw that experiment last year in the Lions series and that failed.

There is still the ability to interchange, but playing one wider gives a player more time and space, and takes away the responsibility of running the team that can sometimes be a burden.

What you don’t want to suffer from is the jack of all trades, specialist of none scenario. What has succeeded this year at the Waratahs is Foley's direction and Beale’s instinctiveness. Keep it the same I say.

Oh but don’t forget Pat McCabe as inside centre, but he is now bracketed in the back three. Is this the strongest indication that McCabe is now thought of as a winger because of the competition from Toomua and Beale?

So how do we read into this scenario of this Wallabies squad? Seems like the coaching staff have picked on form. Their biggest role now is to create stability, to lead them not only through this year of rugby but plan for RWC2015.

The story Ewen McKenzie facing welcome headaches as Wallabies team far from settled first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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