Turinui: Cheika up for Bodyline challenge

by Morgan Turinui

The guessing games are over and the first Wallabies 23 of 2016 has been divulged by Michael Cheika and his lieutenants.

The Brumbies are deservedly well represented in the forwards thanks to the consistent high quality work of their pack throughout the Super Rugby season and the RWC 2015 ‘stamped and approved’ 6-10 jersey wearers are all present.

However, it is when an eye is cast over the thoroughbreds in 11-15, that we might glean some information about how this Wallabies team will play.

The 'bash brothers' Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani are paired in the midfield. It's just reward for the former, continued and deserved confidence in the latter.

This is a physically imposing Wallabies backline, designed to get the Wallabies over the advantage line and on the front foot in attack and entrusted defensively with being able to nullify this English team's numerous attacking threats.

Tevita Kuridrani has been rewarded for his consistency. Photo: Getty ImagesAt first glance this might seem a strange move away from Cheika’s commitment to playing two ball players. If we call this edict, Golden Rule Number 2, it is worth mentioning Golden Rule 1: Gain Line is King.

Cheika-coached teams in Australia have consistently been about ball carriers getting the attack over the advantage line, followed by ball players playing at it.

Previously, the hallmark of this has been tight five players who are strong ball carriers.

This Saturday night Australia will face the stern set-piece contest the Red Rose always presents and the Wallabies coach has seen fit to ensure his scrum and lineout are as well-armed as possible, while keeping Pocock and Hooper in the run-on side.

The 'Pooper' combination is just one scary element of the Wallabies backrow. Photo; Getty ImagesThus, the two big centres, supplemented by the abrasive profile of Rob Horne and complemented by the quite complete skill set of debutant Dane Haylett-Petty, when examined as part of the whole 15 actually provide a quite balanced team.

Choosing this Wallabies starting lineup may have been as simple a case as Rule 1 trumping Rule 2, Cheika believing one ball player playing at the gain line has a better chance of winning this Test than two playing behind it. 

And that, as always, is the crucial word…….. Test.

This is a Test match against a Northern Hemisphere nation, not Super Rugby. And even more importantly part of a three Test series. And they are to be, first and foremost, won. Against the 6 Nations Champions.

Yes, battle worn after a gruelling season but also battle hardened. Led by a genius motivator, accomplished Rugby educator and unparalleled taskmaster. A worthy and dangerous foe that if given or allowed opportunity and circumstance has the smarts and the skills to do much more than compete.

Set Piece, Breakdown and Go Forward are the absolute non-negotiables of imposing both your play and your will upon the opposition at Test level. This Wallaby team seems built for just that.

If we want to see the sheer ‘elan’ that is Israel Folau in space it must be.

Edide Jones is an inspirational coach. Photo: Getty ImagesThe bench it’s worth mentioning must be close to the most experienced Wallaby bench of all time, even allowing for the presence of a prospective debutant.

The salivatingly exciting, perhaps unlikely, and it must be said, somewhat risky prospective of seeing Hooper, Mcmahon and Pocock unleashed as a trio at some stage and a chance to see where Kepu and Horwill will fit into the Wallabies 2016 story will be possible highlights of the last half hour.

Eddie Jones has indicated that England are bringing Bodyline back to these shores.

In announcing this first Wallaby selection of 2016, Michael Cheika has shown that Australia will be meeting that challenge, and playing it, from the very first minute, on the front foot.