Experienced prop Benn Robinson was overlooked when new Australia coach Ewen McKenzie named eight uncapped players yesterday in his inaugural 30-man Wallabies squad for this month’s Rugby Championship.
Robinson, who played in the recent losing series against the British and Irish Lions and is a veteran of 59 Tests, was the major omission after being a mainstay of the Wallabies’ tight five.
“He’s very disappointed. I was actually pleased about that. If he wasn’t disappointed, I’d be disappointed,” McKenzie said of Robinson, one of Australia’s most-capped frontrowers.
“Obviously for a player of his experience, it’s a bit of a blow, but everyone needs to understand you’ve got to be delivering,” McKenzie said. “He knows what he needs to do. We’ll keep him close and he’s got every chance of pushing his way back in.”
Rising ACT Brumbies prop Scott Sio, 21, is now in line for his first Test cap in Robinson’s absence. Sio is one of eight uncapped names in the final squad.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be proactive and get on with it if you think you’ve got a guy that’s got some real ability,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie retained newcomers Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley from his preliminary squad as playmaking options, along with Quade Cooper for the flyhalf spot, for the opening Test against New Zealand in Sydney on Saturday next week.
“They’re all there so you’re going to have to keep speculating about it … we don’t need to make a decision publicly about the play-making role until one hour before the game,” McKenzie said, keen to keep the All Blacks guessing.
The other uncapped players in the squad were backrowers Scott Fardy and Jake Schatz, hooker Albert Anae, center Tevita Kuridrani and scrumhalf Nic White.
‧ Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Quade Cooper, Nick Cummins, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Jesse Mogg, James O’Connor, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White.
‧ Forwards: Albert Anae, Ben Alexander, Kane Douglas, Saia Faingaa, Scott Fardy, Liam Gill, Michael Hooper, James Horwill (captain), Sekope Kepu, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, Jake Schatz, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper.
“The reality is not one player in the current squad has lifted up the Bledisloe Cup before, but if they are good enough over seven days and two matches, then this will change,” McKenzie said.
“It’s unfortunate that a number of good players missed out, although this isn’t necessarily a case of poor performance, but rather a reflection of some of the quality we have coming through in Australian rugby right now,” he added. “For the moment, though, we’ve narrowed our way down to a group of players we believe are capable of getting the job done against the All Blacks in just over a week.”
This will be former Queensland Reds coach McKenzie’s first Test in charge since replacing Robbie Deans in the fallout to last month’s 2-1 series loss to the Lions.
The squad, which are to be captained by lock James Horwill, has a combined total of 575 Test appearances and includes players from all five Super Rugby provinces — ACT Brumbies (11), Queensland Reds (9), NSW Waratahs (6), Western Force (3) and the Melbourne Rebels (1).
They have an average age of just under 25.