Beaten 2-1 by England last month, the Wallabies open their rugby championship away to Argentina at Mendoza in front of a hostile crowd.
South Americans are also buoyant after a run of wins over Scotland, a 2-1 triumph ended in dramatic fashion after the final siren, giving manager Michael Cheika a winning start in his latest major role.
Meanwhile, Australia continues to be rocked by injuries. After a failed run with multiple soft tissue concussions and concussions leading up to and throughout the England series, the Wallabies were now also seen to see Samu Kerevi and Dave Poreki sidelined.
However, the Wallabies will want to win at least one of their two Tests in Argentina with a much bigger test against the Springboks and later the All Blacks.
Here are some of the key topics for discussion ahead of this weekend’s tests in Mendoza.
CAN QUADE GO WITHOUT KEREVI WITH HIM?
Quaid Cooper’s sensational Test-level reincarnation may be Australian rugby history in 2021. After three years in the international wilderness, Cooper asked Wallabies coach Dave Rennie for a chance to practice with the team and then found himself back in first place again. 10 jersey.
With Cooper at the helm, the Wallabies won five Tests in a row before an unfortunate Giteau Law fiasco cut communication between all key parties, and the seasoned playmaker, along with Kerevy and Sean McMahon, played no part in the UK leg of the spring tour. as a result.
But once that was decided, Cooper and Kerevi were ready for the first Test against England in Perth. That was until Cooper got injured in a warm-up, and he didn’t play on the show after that.
Fast forward a month and Cooper is in good shape, but Kerevi is now out for the season after tearing his cruciate ligament while on sevens duty at the Commonwealth Games. Although Kerevi was not supposed to play any role against Puma, he was supposed to return for the Trials against the Springboks.
So now Cooper has to prepare for the whole rugby championship so that his main ball carrier doesn’t go off his left and right hip.
“He trained really well,” Rennie said of Cooper after he named his team on Friday morning. [AEST]. “His experience, the quality of his skill set is really evident when we train and the young guys outside of him also really enjoyed the week.
“We have a clear plan for how we want to play and for now Hunter [Paisami] and Lenny [Ikitau] less experienced than someone like Samu, they have been together for a long time and have played together quite a lot. They are no longer newbies and that is the expectation of them. We expect them to do well and they are good players who have prepared well.”
While Cooper played a much more underrated role in four straight wins over the Springboks and the Cougars last year than at the start of his career, there was evidence in the Wallabies’ victory over Japan, of which Kerevi was not a part. that he was at risk of falling back into old habits.
When Cooper got in trouble during the rugby championship, he simply passed the ball to Kerevi and any potential problem was averted. Without such a dominant ballplayer, the spinning, spinning, sliding Cooper was back in action in Asia.
However, Rennie believes Cooper has the maturity to succeed and has a game plan against the Pumas.
“Quaid was impressive last year because we had a game plan and he executed it very well,” the Wallabies coach said. “We have a clear plan this time too.
“Maybe in his youth it was important for him to play well and dominate the game, but now he does it differently.”
It has long been known that Australia’s biggest problem ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup is defenders.
The impending departure of Tom Banks to Japan only further muddied the situation; the same happened to his injury and that of Andrew Kellaway in the first Test against England, followed by a concussion for Jordie Petaia in Brisbane and then an inconclusive effort by Rhys Hodge in Sydney.
So Tom Wright has been given the opportunity this weekend in Mendoza to be four full-backs in four Tests – the question of who can solve problems in Australia’s defense remains as unanswered as ever.
“Like we’ve said in the past, all three of our defensemen should be defensemen,” Rennie said when asked about Wright’s pick this week. “He has a great skill set, Tom. I think he’s outstanding, possibly the best Test he’s played. [in Brisbane]at quarterback a couple of weeks ago.
“He’s a great communicator, a really good organizer of the people around him, and was just in really good shape. Look at our bench and we’re going to use Geordie to play on the flank and cover midfield. anyway, Tom was excellent, deserves a crack.”
While the injury has certainly added to the headache, one has to wonder if Rennie and his fellow Wallabies really know what they need as a quarterback.
Of course Wright will add a lot more offensive threat than Hodge, the Brumbies are once again one of the fastest players in the Wallaby squad, and a guy who can open broken defenses with his sharp footwork.
But he can also be prone to weird eccentric moments where he may be thinking one step ahead of those around him.
However, this is a great opportunity for Wright to prove that he can be the Wallaby’s quarterback in France next year. Hodge was dropped after one game, the Petaya experiment is on hold, Kellaway is still injured and Kurtley Beal has yet to join the wider Wallaby roster, so Wright could be set for the rest of 2022 with at least a low-key performance in Mendoza.
THE SEAGULL EFFECT IS WELL KNOWN AND HE KNOWS THE KEY WALLABIES
Michael Cheika is a coach known for his reputation for making a quick impact on any team he coaches.
So it was with Leinster in Ireland, then with the Warats in Super Rugby, and finally with the Wallabies, whom he turned from losers to World Cup finalists in 12 months.
There is a school of thought that Cheika’s “us vs. them” mentality resonates well in the new environment before it becomes all-consuming and players stop responding to his methods.
A 2-1 series win, albeit against 7th-place Scotland, shows that he has already had success at the Cougars and is also intimately familiar with the team, having worked as a consultant under former manager Mario Ledesma .
And then there’s the fact that Cheika has an incredible understanding of much of the Wallabies’ senior playing group, from skipper Michael Hooper, scrimmage linebacker Nick White and props James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou.
Interestingly, Cheika also seems to have brought in his Attack at All Costs virtual game plan, which led to the Wallabies losing at the 2019 World Cup, and the Pumas.
“He’s trained a few of the guys in our group and they understand a bit about how he works,” Rennie said of Cheick. “They have been the least kicked of the first tier teams in the recent test series and so we think it will continue, they will play a lot, so there is a bit of risk and reward here.
“Some of their attacks were excellent and they scored some incredible tries. Our job is to try and fix some of the bugs. I think they will want to play, and our players understand this.
“I think they are better than last year. They were great to be back home. They spent a couple of years traveling and it was a real challenge. It’s not easy being in quarantine and in situations where you may still be exercising but you’re pretty much locked up in your hotel.
“I think they were amazing in 2020, beat the All Blacks and drew us twice. Maybe not as sharp last year, but I think that after playing three home tests already, you can see an increase in confidence and quality.”
FROM RURAL JUNIOR RUGBY TO BIG TIME TOGETHER
Jed Holloway is one of the best Australian rugby stories this year. The veteran forward is a true story of redemption, a player who came to the conclusion that he never had the right attitude and work ethic to match his potential and therefore was always at arm’s length from higher honors.
But having returned to the Waratahs with some dose of promise and grown even more under the tutelage of Darren Coleman, he will now make his Test debut this weekend at the ripe old age of 29.
And, even better, will do so with the player he grew up with on the far north coast of New South Wales, Rebels mainstay Matt Gibbon.
Gibbon’s story is perhaps even more remarkable given his personal journey, but in a game often stigmatized in Australia for showing no love for its grassroots, the fact that he and Holloway will run out together for their Test debuts is one of Rugby Australia. nailing it to the mast.
“I grew up as a very close friend of the Gibbons,” Holloway explained. “Me and Alex [Matt’s brother] playing rugby all over our country together, playing against each other since we were 10 or 11 years old, Matt was a couple of years behind him, but I’ve known Matt for the same amount of time.
“I am so excited to share this opportunity with him and as excited as I am for this opportunity, I am so inspired by this guy, everything he has overcome and what they have been through throughout their lives, the resilience that he showed I’m so proud of him… he had a lot of knowledge to get into the game and so did I since I was injured for that long period of time and then came back in these last two weeks so we as if they changed their plans for the game. from each other, so we helped each other learn.
“I know he’s excited, I know Alex is very excited, and so is his family, and all the people on the far north coast are texting both of us all day, as well as everyone in the South Counties.”
ON TIME, IT’S NOT ALL BLACK FIRST