Bledisloe Cup 2016: Who will play 12 for the Wallabies?

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

No Matt Giteau, no Matt Toomua and no Rob Horne. So who can play 12 for the Wallabies in the second Bledisloe Test?

1. Israel Folau

‘Iz’ the Folau centre switch on? The Waratahs superstar shone at 13 for NSW, but could be in line to move even further inside in the second Bledisloe Test. Michael Cheika has been adamant he prefers Folau to start at fullback but with his three top inside centre options out of this weekend at the very least, the Wallabies mentor may be hamstrung in his decision. Folau still floats between the midfield and the fullback spot during games, but has been struggling to make a consistent impact against the All Blacks in the 15 position.  

2. Samu Kerevi

Kerevi was unlucky at the June series selection table, showing promise in the Tests he played but Cheika’s choice to play two ball carriers backfired, pushing the Reds centre that lost out. Would be unlikely to start if Tevita Kuridrani does as well, leaving Cheika with an intriguing selection dilemma. Plenty of pundits would be keen to see a Kerevi-Folau centre pairing, but there would still be a question over the Wallabies’ defensive capabilities if that were to be deployed in Wellington. As an attacking threat, there is no question over his potency, after his standout Super Rugby year, though he couldn’t quite replicate that against England. Will only improve with more opportunities in a different structure.

3. Reece Hodge

He’s the jack of all trades in the backline, having proven himself in his debut Super Rugby season for the Rebels. Would be  the ultimate of fiery baptisms to throw him straight into a Bledisloe Test in New Zealand but he’s met every challenge set for him so far this season, at club and national level. He has played wing, inside centre, fullback and flyhalf for Melbourne this season and was the Rebels’ leading try-scorer in 2016 as well. More likely to start on the bench as injury cover for the back line, you’d think.

4. Quade Cooper

There’s no denying Quade’s got X-Factor, even Michael Cheika admits that, it’s just about drawing it out of him under all situations. The former Reds playmaker would fit into that dual playmaker structure that Cheika has employed for the Wallabies and he has played inside centre before. He tends to function best at flyhalf, though, where he has more control over the play. A bit of a long bow to draw too much parallel with Kurtley Beale, though both possess the ability to create attacking opportunities. Cooper is not as versatile as Beale, who has begun his stint with Wasps amid recovery from a knee injury.

5. Adam Ashley-Cooper

Another player with utility potential, the former NSW and Brumbies back has played in most positions at Test level, including fullback. He would bring the defensive strength of a Rob Horne to the attack but not the attacking threat that Matt Giteau or Matt Toomua bring with their playmaking experience. The 115-Test veteran has started in 76 of the Wallabies’ last 82 Tests, with 33 of those at centre, but all of those have been in 13.