Wallabies' big selection plan for France series
SPOTLIGHT: The Wallabies are making everyday count with coaches awarding votes they plan to use toward selection for next month’s France Test series.
With a number of players saying they’ve never trained harder, clocking 12-hour days at their Gold Coast base, attack coach Scott Wisemantel revealed they were being judged on each day’s efforts in camp.
“At the end of every training day we pick a gold, silver and bronze, as far as our best three on the ground,” Wisemantel said on Tuesday.
“So, whilst we have a blue-print of roughly what we think might be the 23, nothing is set in stone so the competition is fierce.”
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Wisemantel said the “medal positions” had value at the selection table.
“When you have selection meeting and someone says a player is a shoo-in, but we have a person who has been on the podium every day, it’s hang on, are we rewarding mediocrity or efforts on the training pitch.”
With the first Test at the SCG on July 7, Wisemantel talked up the French squad, which is missing a number of stars including halfbacks Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont.
He said that a number of their young players were likely to be in their World Cup side in 2023, which will be played in France.
Wisemantel went through his likely starting team including “dynamic” flank Cameron Woki and Jonathan Danty, who he likened to Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami.
“I’ve gone through all the hypotheticals and have picked my team but as you know with the French in general, sometimes you don’t know what’s going to roll up, but they can be so dangerous, they’re a bloody good team,” he said.
Veteran lock Sitaleki Timani spent the last eight years playing in France, following his last Test in 2013, before linking with the Western Force this year.
The 34-year-old said that some of the new faces in the French squad were teenagers at his clubs – Montpellier and then ASM Clermont – when he started there.
But he expected the French to be a force.
“I think they’re looking to build a team for the next World Cup,” Timani said.
“But players like [lock Romain] Taofifenua, he’s 130 kilos plus so they’re looking to have a heavy pack and we’re expecting still a good side.”
In the Wallabies backline, Wisemantel said that they had been testing different centre combinations, including Paisami, veteran Matt Toomua and Brumbies newcomer Len Ikitau.
“Matt is a seasoned veteran and, and I thought his last game of Super he was back to Matty of old, being a running threat first and then a playmaker as opposed to the other way around.
“Lenny would beat you in a phone box, he’s fantastic and he’s a really good foil with Hunter.”
While playmaker James O’Connor is being managed following his neck injury, Wisemantel said that utility back Reece Hodge was a full-tilt after missing Super Rugby Trans-Tasman with a knee injury.