June Tests: Possible Wallabies starting XV

by Sam Phillips

With the June Tests against Ireland kicking off in exactly one month, it's time for the first look at a potential Wallabies starting XV.

Based on form and with some weight given to incumbency, here's who's shaping up as potential starters in Michael Cheika's side.

1. Scott Sio

Sio has long been Cheika's primary option at loosehead and while his Brumbies form hasn't been scintillating, he always kicks things up a notch in the Test arena.

James Slipper is the obvious choice as Sio's deputy but he is yet to return from a collarbone injury and has had issues with his back all season, too.

Tetera Faulkner is a likely candidate to deputise as well, given his regular involvement with the squad last year.

2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa

Brandon Paenga-Amosa could be a Wallabies bolter. Photo: Getty ImagesWith Tatafu Polota-Nau plying his trade in England and Jordan Uelese under an injury cloud of his own, the top hooker job is up for grabs.

Paenga-Amosa is in the midst of a breakout year as an integral part of a young Reds pack and is as good a choice as any, if his play this season is anything to go by.

His scrummaging is strong, lineout throwing on the up and he churns through plenty of work around the park.

Anaru Rangi is another potential candidate having kept Uelese on the pine since being handed his first start and Damien Fitzpatrick has had a solid season for the Waratahs, too.

3. Sekope Kepu

Kepu and Taniela Tupou will be near certainties to be one and two in the pecking order, though who will earn first crack at starting remains to be seen.

Tupou has established himself as a star at Super Rugby level but with 91 Test caps to his name, Kepu is the likely choice.

Alan Alaalatoa will fancy his chances of claiming a bench spot, too.

4. Izack Rodda

Izack Rodda has starred for the Reds this season. Photo: Getty ImagesBefore shoulder surgery in the week leading up to the Brisbane Bledisloe win, Rodda had locked in his spot as Adam Coleman's partner in the second row.

Rodda's lineout game has gone to a new level with the Reds this season and he is always a damaging option as a ball carrier.

He will be challenged by Matt Philip, Rob Simmons and Lukhan Tui when he returns from injury but the 21-year-old is a particularly exciting prospect.

5. Adam Coleman

Coleman is one of the first picked each week and as long as he's fit, he'll be lining up against Ireland.

6. Caleb Timu

With Jack Dempsey and Tui both sidelined, Timu may be thrown straight into the furnace as reward for a breakout year with the Reds.

He has been a force with ball in hand and is now Queensland's primary source of go forward, a role he looks up to filling at Test level.

Ned Hanigan is another likely candidate, though Dempsey shapes as the man for the job once he makes his return from a brutal hamstring injury.

7. Michael Hooper

Cheika's captain, Hooper has been a standout among another rollercoaster Waratahs season and will be the man for the job in June.

8. David Pocock

David Pocock has returned to Super Rugby in fine form. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyPocock has returned from a year long sabbatical in fantastic form, dominating the breakdown in typical fashion.

The "Pooper" combination would be a perfect assault on the Irish attack and without Sean McMahon and Ben McCalman, the workload will fall on their shoulders.

9. Will Genia

There were sighs of relief heard around the nation when the verdict on Genia's knee injury was better than first expected.

He will be racing the clock to be fit for the June 9 opener and if there are any setbacks, the race for the starting halfback job will be wide open.

Nick Phipps is a long term member of the 23 but his Waratahs teammate Jake Gordon has been the form Australian nine through the first three months of the Super Rugby season.

10. Bernard Foley

Foley's form can be patchy through the Super Rugby season but he is a certain starter at flyhalf.

With Quade Cooper out of the equation there would be an enormous hole if Foley was to find himself either injured or suspended.

Kurtley Beale or Reece Hodge would likely shift to flyhalf, triggering a backline shuffle.

11. Reece Hodge

Reece Hodge is a likely starter for the clash with Ireland. Photo: Getty ImagesHodge cemented his spot in the starting XV with a string of stellar performances when handed a chance on the wing last year and he deserves first crack this year, too.

Sefa Naivalu, Izaia Perese, Dane Haylett-Petty and Henry Speight will be his competition, with Marika Koroibete the incumbent on the right wing.

12. Kurtley Beale

Beale has formed a brilliant one-two punch with Bernard Foley which Cheika is unlikely to break up, though the form of Samu Kerevi may change that thought process.

13. Samu Kerevi

Kerevi started the year at outside centre before shifting to inside as part of Reds coach Brad Thorn's bully ball approach and it has paid dividends.

He is nearing must pick territory though his defence is somewhat of a concern, an area in which Tevita Kuridrani thrives.

14. Marika Koroibete

Koroibete's pinpoint defence and superb finishing ability saw him secure a regular spot on the wing through the back half of last year's Tests and with no standout candidates to replace him, he should get first crack come June.

15. Israel Folau

Whether Folau features on the wing or at fullback remains to be seen but he is a lock to start somewhere.

While off field drama has drawn all the headlines, Folau has quietly been in scintillating form for the Waratahs.