Rugby fans have taken issue with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika over two key positions and opted for uncapped emerging stars Sefanaia Naivalu and Jed Holloway in an Australian Super Rugby team of the year selected by the public.
Fijian-born Melbourne Rebels winger Naivalu and NSW Waratahs No.8 Holloway were the only two non-internationals in the team in a Rugby Union Players Association People’s Choice poll released on Tuesday,
Of the established stars, David Pocock was chosen ahead of Michael Hooper at openside flanker and Israel Folau instead of Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre.
Folau was listed at 13 for the Waratahs last ten Super Rugby games, but Cheika has repeatedly nominated fullback as his preferred position for the game-breaking back.
At last year’s World Cup, Hooper invariably started at openside with Pocock at No.8, but the poll only allowed for players to be chosen in one position.
Australia’s immense depth at openside was emphasised by the fact the other three candidates in the poll were also Test players in Sean McMahon, Liam Gill and Matt Hodgson.
At 195cm, 23-year-old Holloway potentially gives Cheika an option of a taller No.8 than either Pocock (183 cms) or McMahon (186 cms), who have occupied that spot in recent times.
Holloway, who made the People’s Choice team ahead of established Wallaby Ben McCalman, enjoyed a breakout Super Rugby season which included a hat-trick of tries off the bench against the Highlanders, until he suffered a competition-ending shoulder injury.
He could be back in time for part of the upcoming NRC and might be a bolter for the Wallabies spring tour, along with 24-year-old Naivalu, who will then be eligible to represent Australia.
RUPA’s 2015 Newcomer of the Year, Naivalu scored six tries in as many games in the second half of the Super season.
One of the most interesting selections was at right lock, where one-cap Wallaby Adam Coleman got the nod ahead of several other more experienced internationals.
Coleman, who made his debut of the bench in the final Test of the England series in June, polled more votes than 62-cap veteran Rob Simmons, Will Skelton (15 Tests) and Sam Carter (13 Tests).
Rugby Union Players Association People’s Choice Team:
Dane Haylett-Petty (Western Force), Sefanaia Naivalu (Melbourne Rebels), Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs), Matt Toomua (Brumbies), Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs), Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs), Nick Phipps (NSW Waratahs), Jed Holloway (NSW Waratahs), David Pocock (Brumbies), Scott Fardy (Brumbies), Adam Coleman (Western Force), Rory Arnold (Brumbies), Greg Holmes (Queensland Reds), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), James Slipper (Queensland Reds).