Super Rugby Selection want to be more All Blacks than Baabaas

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Take 23 players from across Australia and turn them into the All Blacks in two days.

That might not quite be the equation Australia’s Super Rugby Selection faces this week but coach John Manenti wants to get as close to the World champions as possible.

Manenti has brought in a mix of players from Super Rugby and clubs across the country for the team to give the Wallabies a Bledisloe tuneup at Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.

This is no Barbarians team, though, and there'll be no carnival attitude.

This selection will be aiming to push the Wallabies all the way with a fortnight until the opening Bledisloe.

“This is not a light-hearted game of touch sort of thing,” Manenti said.

“This is going to be full-on and physical and it's what Cheik wants to prepare the Wallabies for the next month of footy.

“We've got a real responsibility here as much as putting these guys on the map for their own careers, it's actually doing a job for the Wallabies which is probably first and foremost here.

“The best way we can do that is really rip and tear and be physical and aggressive and try and present some of the shapes and attacks that the All Blacks did through the June window, which we've been looking at and trying to replicate.”

Manenti and Aussie men’s Sevens coach Tim Walsh have been studying the Kiwis’ patterns in the lead-up to the trial, hoping to give the Wallabies a taste of Bledisloe rugby.

The practice is an extension of a usual week's preparation for the Wallabies, where reserves will emulate upcoming opponents and shapes for their starters.

So committed are they to the cause that Walsh looked into finding black jerseys for the side to wear.

“I think we've been trying to replicate All Blacks rugby for a fairly long time here in Australia without too much success so I don't think we can do it in two days but we'll just try and very much play some of the structures and patterns that they play and hopefully that will present the Wallabies with a chance to defend against those sorts of things,” Manenti said.

They may be Aussie sevens mentors but Manenti, in particular, is no stranger to fifteens coaching.

He led Eastwood to several Shute Shield titles and also coached the Greater Sydney Rams in the NRC.

Like the NRC, Manenti hopes the clash could double as a chance for some players to put their hand up for Super Rugby contracts down the track.

His no. 8 Patrick Sio is one who will be keenly watched.

Sio is set to play with the Rays in the NRC but has never been signed with a Super Rugby club having opted to head to France earlier in his career.

“We're looking at guys that are largely on the pathway and I suppose been earmarked by the Wallabies for potential selection,” he said.

“I would think in most cases these boys are all in the mix for the next 2-3 years for Wallaby jerseys if they continue on the path they're on and hopefully some of them might put their hand up earlier with a good performance on the weekend.”

Rebels lock Matt Philip is one of those looking to put his hand up for a Wallabies return after an up-and-down season in Super Rugby.

Philip played for the Barbarians against a Wallaby XV last year and the next day he was joining the Test side on the end-of-year Spring Tour.

“We'll be definitely trying to flog them, try and put some good hits on and stuff like that,” he said.

“It’s really exciting but it'll all be in good spirits but no, we're not going to take it half-hearted, it's going to be a good strong match I think.”

The Wallabies take on the Australian Super Rugby Selection at Leichhardt Oval on Friday August 3, kicking off at 6:45pm AEST. FREE Entry for all spectators and a LIVE STREAM on