THE BLOG

Respect the Wallabies

24/04/2013 14:48 BST | Updated 24/04/2013 14:48 BST
AP

With the announcement of the 2013 Lions squad less than a week away, a lot of the focus is on the potential make-up of the touring party with British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland saying that two-thirds of the squad had already been selected after the Six Nations and that he knows who his choice of captain is.

Understandably there has not been as much focus on the make-up of Robbie Deans' Australian team for the test series.

Last year the Australians were hit by a particularly long injury list forcing them to stretch their resources almost to breaking point especially during an often brutal Rugby Championship campaign (I thought Crocodile Dundee was going to get a look in at one point).

Despite that, they still managed a tight series victory over 2012 Six Nations champions Wales (and a last minute win in Cardiff) and battling win over Argentina and South Africa, England and Italy.

What was never in doubt throughout that period was their fighting spirit. Even during their immensely physical away defeat to South Africa at Loftus Versfeld that saw them end the match with such an injury list that the medical room probably resembled a scene from MASH.

Their battling qualities (something the Welsh became all too familiar with by the end of 2012) meant that even when at half strength they still looked capable of seeing out matches against all but the very best.

What has always made the Australians so dangerous is not the power of their forward pack, the skills and pace of their backline but their intelligence. The great Wallaby sides have always had dangerous attacking players out wide and bite and dog up front but more importantly they have often been two steps ahead of their opponents in how they want to play the game.

That is not to say that they have not enjoyed and utilised a bit of magic but even the mercurial talents of Campese and Horan were tempered by the intelligence of a Lynagh or a Larkham.

A number of new players emerged last year with the standout being the dynamic openside flanker Michael Hooper whose eye catching performances in a struggling Australian side showed that even without David Pocock, the Green and Gold would not be lacking for quality at the breakdown.

With Pocock out for the test series against the Lions, the Wallabies have a ready-made replacement to take on the visitors.

While Hooper might not be quite as strong at the breakdown as the Brumbies flanker (though that might have something to with Pocock's Ayer's Rock-sized biceps) he does offer more of a threat with ball in hand and Chris Robshaw probably still wakes up in a cold sweat thinking about coming second best to the Waratahs openside last November.

And don't forget about George Smith (the ghost of breakdowns past) whose form this year has been hard to ignore and Deans has made it clear that he would like to get him in the Wallabies squad for the Lions series.

Robbie Deans will also welcome the return of the Queensland Reds second rower James Horwill from injury. With the talismanic Nathan Sharpe's retirement last year, the Australian's lost a second rower of world class quality and Deans will be delighted to have a lock forward that can match the best in the world.

The powerful ball carrier and smart lineout operator will bring a real edge to the forward pack and as a former captain, his leadership will be key in what will be a tight series.

Of course the Lions and their fans should not just worry about the established names. There is always space for a bolter in a Lions series and they don't come much faster than the ACT Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg. He is fast. I mean really fast.

All the focus has been on the arrival of rugby league and Aussie Rules convert Israel Folau but Mogg was instrumental in the Brumbies strong start to the Super XV season and he is a player to fear.

Along with natural speed he has an instinctive eye for the gap, fast feet and a strong kicking game. The 23 year old has been invited to the Wallaby training camp by Deans showing that he is highly rated by the Australian coaching staff.

The Wallabies should be feared by the British & Irish Lions. They showed last year that a wounded Wallaby is a dangerous Wallaby and make no bones about it; these Wallabies will have been hurt by the criticism sent their way last year.

For many this will be their only chance to face the Lions and it is also a chance to make history. They won't let that go lightly.

Wallabies April Training Squad:

BACKS: Jesse Mogg (Brumbies), Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds), Joe Tomane (Brumbies), Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds), Pat McCabe (Brumbies), Christian Leali'ifano (Brumbies), Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs), James O'Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Nic White (Brumbies), Will Genia (Queensland Reds),

FORWARDS: Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs), Fotu Auelua (Brumbies), Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs), Liam Gill (Queensland Reds), Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs), Scott Higginbotham (Melbourne Rebels), Ben Mowen (Brumbies), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs), Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs), Dan Palmer (Brumbies), James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Scott Sio (Brumbies), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs).