What questions can we expect to be answered in the Spring Tour, and the Wallabies quest for a Grand Slam.
1. Can these Wallabies win the Grand Slam?
Michael Cheika is keen to keep his focus on the day-to-day but the prospect of breaking a 32-year wait for a Grand Slam sits at the end of the next five weeks. It’s been a mixed year but if they can re-create the momentum generated in their last long European stay, in the 2015 World Cup, then this trip could be one to remember. Australia has attempted the grand slam twice since 1984, most recently in 2013.
2. Will Koroibete make his Wallabies debut?
The Wallabies don’t want to give jerseys away for free, but Koroibete’s inclusion in the 32-man Wallabies squad, as opposed to being a development players, suggests he isn’t just along for the ride. The 24-year-old looks likely to get a run for Australia A against the French Barbarians - a match that wouldn’t be counted as a cap but would give the winger a chance to further his cause. If the Wallabies can beat Wales and Scotland in the opening two Tests, there would certainly be a temptation to change things up against France, the only Test that isn’t part of the Grand Slam, and it might not be entirely out of the question to see Koroibete line up in that. A debut would make him just the third player since 2002 to play a Test before his first Super Rugby outing, following Matt Giteau and Tatafu Polota-Nau as players to have done it in recent times.
3. What is the Wallabies’ best midfield combination?
His coach still believes fullback is his best spot, but Israel Folau will almost certainly feature more heavily in the midfield, given Samu Kerevi’s latest injury. Whether he will actually start there remains to be seen, but his shift in the final Bledisloe shows he’s well and truly in contention. There are plenty of options to move into the starting fullback role, with Dane Haylett-Petty the most obvious choice. The man playing at 12 is shrouded in almost as much mystery, after injuries and reshuffles have created options but not necessarily a concrete solution. Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge have been the most recent 12s but Kyle Godwin could also be a contender there in the tour.
4. What will be Australia's back row moving forward?
This weekend’s opener against Wales could give a glimpse of Australia’s next back row structure. With Dean Mumm suspended for this Test, the door will open for another of the next generation of backrowers to step up into the void and push their chances for a spot in 2017. This is David Pocock’s last tour before going on his sabbatical and with Sean McMahon and Lopeti TImani seemingly the next in line, a cameo at six could give Michael Cheika a chance to see them both in action.
5. Who will have the last laugh?
The England Series in June was an enthralling one - a 3-0 series defeat for the Wallabies but three generally gripping games and the unearthing of some gems. Michael Hooper spoke last week about the anticipation for that final Test at Twickenham, that could ultimately decide their Grand Slam fate, and it’s a sense reflected in the Wallabies fanbase. Whether the slam is still in the balance then or not, that final match will be a marker of the Wallabies’ 2016 progress, with the English bookmarking their season.
The Wallabies take on Wales this Sunday morning, 6 November from 1.30am AEDT on BeIn Sports Channel 513, as part of your FOXTEL subscription.