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Playing selector: Aus still thin up front

Australia’s front row stock have been threadbare for many years now, with only the occasional world class performance.

In this, the first in our series of previews on the Wallaby candidates, we look at the front row.

This year looks to be no different, with now new ‘superstars’ putting their hands up just under a month out from the Wallabies opening Test of the year – against Scotland in Newcastle on June 5.

The silver lining around this dark cloud that is the wretched Aussie scrum is the return to form of Waratahs loosehead Benn Robinson.

He did not feature at all last year, the result of a training ground mishap in the build-up to their opening Test of the year – a knee injury that ruled him out for the rest of the year.

Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and Sekope Kepu were the starting front row throughout the Tri-Nations and mostly in the World Cup. James Slipper started three times at loosehead prop in the World Cup and Tatafu Polota-Nau started three times in the World Cup at hooker.

Pekahou Cowan and Salesi Ma’afu played off the bench on a few occasions, while Saia Fainga’a started at hooker in only one of Australia’s 13 Tests last year.

Based on the first three months of Super Rugby action you won’t look past those players to make up the Wallaby front row for their mid-year Tests – which will also see them play Wales three times (June 9 in Brisbane, June 16 in Melbourne and June 23 in Sydney).

Robinson is likely to replace Alexander as the starting loosehead prop, while Moore and Kepu should feature as well.

The bench is a bit more tricky. Alexander and Polota-Nau may well be the front runners.

The Wallaby starting front row:

1 Benn Robinson:
Without doubt Australia’s premier prop. A true technician at the scrum, Robinson also has fantastic ball skills and he continues to add to his attacking game.

2 Stephen Moore:
Without doubt the premier No.2s in Australia. The burly front row forward has forged a highly-regarded reputation on the strength of his set piece, ability to cross the gain line and tight defence.

3 Sekope Kepu:
He has become a permanent fixture in the Waratahs and Wallabies front row with his ability to play on either side of the scrum one of his major strengths.

Bench:

16 Tatafu Polota-Nau:
Devastating with ball-in-hand and a demon with his defence.

17 Ben Alexander:
Ben Alexander is the Brumbies first-choice loosehead prop and last year the starting tighthead prop for the Wallabies. However, his versatility will most likely see him play off the bench.

By Jan de Koning

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