It’s truly the world in union for the Wallabies – the nation's XV now comes together from all points across the globe.
Michael Cheika’s side for the first Bledisloe Cup Test points to what will be a permanent feature of future Wallaby teams. Veterans Matt Giteau (pictured), Will Genia and Adam Ashley-Cooper, all plying their trade in France’s lucrative Top 14, return to familiar spots in the line-up.
Considering the controversy generated a few years ago about players committing to country over club, this is an issue that’s been quickly dispelled. Few would dispute that Giteau, Genia and Ashley-Cooper all merit their place, particularly after they all missed the three-Test whitewash at the hands of England in June. As Australian rugby travels through yet another tough on-field stretch, anything to shake up the narrative will be welcome. Getting the veteran presence back in there for the first time since the World Cup final last October certainly helps.
In time, however, assembling the Wallabies is going to become positively Socceroos-like. David Pocock and Bernard Foley, who will also run out to face the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday, will soon embark on foreign adventures. In the latest edition of Inside Sport, we found the amount of Aussie rugby talent playing outside of Australia to be ample enough that you could pick an entire side, with reserves.
With the exception of the front row (and let’s face it, the first team has problems there), it was a line-up that looked about as good as the current Wallaby team. The back line in particular was class: Genia and Giteau in the halves, Ashley-Cooper and Matt Toomua in the centres, Drew Mitchell, Joe Tomane and Kurtley Beale in the back three. And that was before you had to start considering the likes of Nic White, James O’Connor and Digby Ioane.
It’s the new reality of an integrating rugby world. The demand for Australian players reflects their evident quality. Wallaby planners better get comfortable with time zones and flight schedules.