WALLABIES’ CONTENDERS AND WHO AAP SAYS SHOULD START AGAINST SOUTH AFRICA IN THE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP OPENER IN BRISBANE ON SATURDAY
FULLBACK: Israel Folau
WINGERS (contenders): Drew Mitchell, Rob Horne, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Joe Tomane, Kurtley Beale.
Comment: Drew Mitchell’s outstanding left-foot kick gives him the edge for one wing spot while Joe Tomane deserves a crack after an outstanding season for the Brumbies, but Adam Ashley-Cooper is tipped to be selected with Mitchell.
CENTRES: (inside) Matt Giteau, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale; (outside) Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Comment: The Brumbies combination of Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani is hard to go past. The solid Toomua and explosive Kuridrani complement each other but selectors are expected to go with Matt Giteau at No.12 and Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre.
FIVE-EIGHTH: Matt Giteau, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley.
Comment: Matt Giteau is the man to lead this Wallabies’ backline. What better way to find out where he is at than by throwing him in against the Boks, but he is expected to be picked in the centres with Quade Cooper the tip to start at No.10.
HALFBACK: Will Genia, Nick Phipps
Comment: Will Genia played some good rugby in a poor team at the back end of the Super Rugby season and has a vastly superior passing game to Nick Phipps.
NO.8: Scott Higginbotham, Ben McCalman.
Comment: Scott Higginbotham is the pick of these two. More abrasive, a good ball player and capable of bending the line in attack, he is also a solid lineout option.
FLANKERS: (Blindside) Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham; (Openside) David Pocock, Michael Hooper.
Comment: Scott Fardy should be the No.6. A great worker who gives Stephen Moore another genuine lineout target which the Wallabies will need if they go with Will Skelton at lock. At openside, David Pocock has the edge in strength and ability at the breakdown, but the tip is Michael Hooper will get the starting gig.
LOCKS: Will Skelton, Rob Simmons, James Horwill, Rory Arnold
Comment: Rob Simmons is a must for his lineout work, while Will Skelton adds plenty of firepower around the park for the Wallabies and a big body to bolster the scrum.
HOOKER: Stephen Moore (capt)
PROPS: Sekope Kepu, Greg Holmes, Scott Sio, James Slipper
Comment: Sekope Kepu should first crack at tighthead ahead of Greg Holmes who will get his chance in the series, while James Slipper has been terrific at loosehead for the hapless Queensland Reds this season.
MICHAEL CHEIKA’S LIKELY TEAM (15-1): Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Rob Horne, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Will Skelton, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.