Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has revealed Rob Simmons was dropped from the team for Saturday’s second Test against England – not ruled out through injury.
Simmons sustained a lower back strain during the 39-28 defeat to England last weekend, and it was presumed that was the reason he was not selected for the AAMI Park clash, with Brumbies lock Sam Carter chosen instead.
That was until Cheika casually dropped the bombshell on Test eve.
“He was available this week,” Cheika said.
“Any player that’s left out is not happy, obviously.
“But that’s the challenge for him, to improve and get his spot back like all players who are left out of the team.
“That’s the nature of rugby, has been forever. Some guys get picked, some guys don’t and it’s how you react accordingly.”
It is the first sign of a selection smokescreen from Cheika this series.
At no stage was Simmons ever officially ruled out – unlike David Pocock, who it was made explicitly clear wouldn’t be playing because of injury in the press release that accompanied the Australian team announcement on Wednesday.
Simmons, who trained with the team during Friday’s captain’s run, is one of the team’s most experienced players and was the Wallaby line-out caller – but that role will also be taken over by Carter, who will play alongside his provincial teammate Rory Arnold in the second row in Melbourne.
Asked if it was proof there was no such thing as a selection guarantee in his team, Cheika said: “I’ve never heard of the phrase ‘selection guarantee’.”
“The minute someone feels like he’s guaranteed selection, he’s never going to perform.
“You’ve only got a limited amount of opportunities in the Test jersey, so you’ve got to take every one.”
Veteran James Horwill has also been omitted, leaving the more versatile and mobile Dean Mumm as the only second-row back-up on the Wallaby bench.