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Australia vs England Test series, David Campese column


The Wallabies coaches will announce the squad to play England on Sunday and it will be interesting to see what sort of team the selection panel will choose.

Will it only be for the England Tests or are they looking forward to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France?

It’s only one year out from a World Cup and the more the team play together, understand each other, have the combinations, the better we will be in 15 months’ time.

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As a winger I’m not great at picking the forwards because I’ve got no idea what a prop or hooker does… as long as they give the ball to the backs that’s all that matters!

But combinations are very important in the forwards.

For me, what’s vital for a team to win a World Cup, is the relationship between the 8, 9 and 10, the flankers and No.8 to work together, and very importantly a No.8 that can catch and pass.

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Then you obviously need 9 and 10 to have a great relationship and if the rumours are true that Quade Cooper is coming back, it might be very difficult to have a relationship with somebody who he hasn’t played with for nearly 12 months – with Nic White and Tate McDermott.

I noticed it last year when Beauden Barrett came back from Japan and played in the Tests, came on with 20 to go.

He looked lost because he hadn’t played with those players for six months.

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So you can see, if he’s the best No.10 in the world who struggles, it just shows that we need to have those combinations and we need our Super Rugby teams to have all our players playing in the World Cup next season.

I’d like to see Dave Rennie pick what he thinks his best Rugby World Cup team will be against England and go from there – so if he’s thinking about bolters, pick them now.

Here are my thoughts on some of the key backline positions as we look towards a big three-Test home series.

SCRUMHALF: Tate McDermott

It was a worry to see Tate McDermott knocked out cold in Christchurch.

But the early reports are he will be OK for the Test season. I think we need him badly, he’s a good player. He plays a style of rugby that people want to see, he’s always keeping the opposition busy so I’d go with McDermott at No.9.

Nic White will also be in the squad and is a bloody good player. But I’m a bit concerned about his aggression. He’s getting very pushy and getting in trouble with the referees. Sometimes it’s not necessary and puts a lot of pressure on the team. I wish he’d put that energy into harassing the opposition more.

It’s great to have someone who is feisty but Tate is feisty without being overly aggressive. I’d also like to see White kick a bit less, that’s when he’s at his best.

I’d like to see him back his running game a bit more but I’m not sure that’s the style that the coach wants him to play.

FLY HALF: James O’Connor

You’d have to go with O’Connor because he’s the incumbent – as long as he is fit after an injury-plagued season.

Behind him, the talk is all about Quade Cooper but I like young Ben Donaldson from NSW because he’s a traditional No.10. He has also had injury problems this year but he is the best young 10 running around. Unfortunately he’s been playing at 15 since coming back into the Waratahs team.

It’s great to have players who are utilities but I think sometimes coaches overthink it. I think that’s where we’ve got in trouble in the past, trying to get all the best players in Australia on the field at once, instead of just picking the best player in that position.

A great example is Reece Hodge at the Rebels, he can play five positions but which one is he best at? I know our recent record against England is poor but let’s not forget they came fifth in the Six Nations. Why not put a young guy like Donaldson in there and see how he goes? He’d be an unknown proposition for England as well.

Another question I have is why do we not have 10s in Australia that can kick with their left foot? Is it too hard?

Aaron Smith kicks with his left foot now because those world class players are always trying to get better.

CENTRES: Matt To’omua, Samu Kerevi

Centre is a big problem in my opinion as most of the contenders seem to just put the ball under the arm and punch it up. No.12 has now become a hit up, advantage line position but I think Australia plays better with a second playmaker.

That’s why I’d go with To’omua who is a very good player and a good kicker. He has a lot of maturity, has been around a while and is a good leader. He can be a good role model for some of the younger guys.

At 13 I would have Kerevi’s damaging running game although I don’t love picking players from overseas. They haven’t had the combinations, haven’t played together for six months. They go into camp which is great but it’s not the same as playing. I think that’s where we’ve fallen down in the last couple of years, bringing guys in and out.

So maybe for the first Test, pick a team you think is going to be in the World Cup and let them know. Obviously it then depends on win, lose or draw but they’ve got to think about it now. There’s only 15 months to go but I think that’s where the All Blacks might get in trouble because they’ve been playing guys out of position like Jordie Barrett.

WINGERS: Marika Koroibete, Tom Wright

He is also playing in Japan but Koroibete is close to an automatic pick.

Combinations are not quite as important when you are a winger and I know Rennie loves his work-rate. But who to pick on the other wing?

At this stage it would have to be Wright. You’ve got to have smart wingers and Wright is one of the best going around at the moment. He’s actually prepared to try things, like faking to kick and beating defenders with good feet. I know the game has changed but we still need some players who are unpredictable.

My only question mark is around his work-rate is like off the ball.

I also like Filipo Daugunu’s speed but he doesn’t pass or kick particularly well.

Andrew Kellaway scored nine tries for the Wallabies last year but why have they played him at 13 at the Rebels? He doesn’t get the ball and when he does he tries to do something but he’s isolated. I wouldn’t pick Jordan Petaia or Mark Nawaqanitawase. I’m not sold on their kicking games or work-rates.

FULLBACK: Jock Campbell

I’d go with Campbell here. He’s an unpredictable player with vision and a lot of potential. He just needs a bit of help around the field because he gets isolated sometimes.

He’s got the confidence but I think he needs to know when to back himself and when to pass. He’s still got a long way to go but he is one of those attacking runners that you want to see. He just needs the players around him to support him.

Tom Banks is quick and the incumbent but can’t pass as well as I’d like and is moving to Japan soon anyway. He just tried too hard to overplay his game this year.

So with the World Cup only a year away, it’s time to find out whether Campbell can make the step up to international rugby. He can kick and pass and is willing to have a go. That puts pressure on the opposition to kick well because he can return the ball with interest.

I’d love to hear what people think of my selections so let me know on my Instagram and Facebook pages.

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