Wallabies discover backrow riches
WALLABIES skipper Michael Hooper said the Australian backrow options have gone from light to lengthy in Melbourne after two assured debuts and the expected return of Ned Hanigan.
The return of Hanigan to the Australian squad shapes as the only likely change ahead of the second Test but Ireland are tipped to make as many eight, with pivot Jonny Sexton leading a cavalry charge of stars back into the run-on team.
Hanigan only needed to survive contact training this week to complete his comeback from a four-week knee injury, and the Waratahs No.6 is a strong chance to start for the Wallabies in the second Test given the need to solidify the lineout.
New boys Caleb Timu and Pete Samu both did well in their first Tests, and with David Pocock outstanding and Lukhan Tui strong off the bench in Brisbane, suddenly there are tough choices to make.
Only last week it felt like there was a lack of depth, said Hooper.
"You have two guys who just debuted there on the weekend, and both did a good job. And some guys who are away with injury at the moment," he said.
"So it has a strong feel. Going into this series, it was a bit oh we are a bit light on there, only having five. Then you have Pete (Samu) coming in, Caleb coming in and now Ned is coming back, it is starting to look strong and competition for spots is healthy. Which is great."
Hooper said he was impressed by Samu, who is returning to his hometown of Melbourne this week.
"He is quality. He doesn't say much, he is just getting a feel around the group at the moment but the times I have talked with him he has a good feel for the little things of the game," Hooper said. "He has been all class."
Sexton is expected to headline a host of Six Nations winners brought back into the starting team by Schmidt. Dan Leavy, Tadgh Furlong, Garry Ringrose and Cian Healy are all tipped to return.
"Sexton is world class," Wallabies halfback Will Genia said.
"He is one of the best players in the world, and he will bring a sense of calm and control to their side, which is one of their strengths. And he is a very attacking player as well. He likes to get those run-around loops and things as well. So we will definitely have to be on our game in terms of our 'D'."
Sexton said the Irish would have to deal with the physical defence and aggression of the Wallabies, which he knew was coming from a team coached by his former Leinster mentor.
"We expected it. Any team that plays under Michael Cheika will bring that," Sexton said.
"We spoke about that and we know that better anyone really. So we knew it was coming.
"We probably didn't deal with it as good as we could have in terms of allowing them to come out of the line and hit us like they did. But we will learn from it.
"I am sure they will bring the same intensity this week. Michael is a pretty relentless character and he will demand the same of them this week."
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