New era for the Wallabies begins

SATURDAY marks a new era for Australian rugby with Ewen McKenzie's debut in the coaching box. 

Chris Latham.
Chris Latham. Alistair Brightman

I played with McKenzie early in my career when he was the elder statesman for the Wallabies. He immediately had leadership and presence, and such qualities will be essential after this year's Lions series.

Ewen impressed me this week with his press conferences.

He has taken the attitude that he has arrived, he belongs, and he won't be treated as any kind of punching bag for what has been. He speaks of the team as a group, placing himself and the rest of the management team firmly within that group.

The attitude looks to be that players will be picked on performance, there will be expectations, and responsibility will also be taken.

The All Blacks are the benchmark of world rugby and will be a strong outfit.

I don't think Dan Carter being ruled out is a major issue for them with Aaron Cruden coming in to fly-half position. Fresh from the Chiefs Super Rugby success, Cruden is a strong option with a solid boot.

The only real worry for the All Blacks would be if Cruden was ever injured at the same time as Carter, and finding another kicker of quality.

For the Wallabies, I'm extremely happy with McKenzie's show of coaching strength and selections this week.

Many expected Quade Cooper to return to fly-half, but Matt Toomua is a more structured option.

Toomua has played in big games for the Brumbies in recent weeks and effectively directs his side around the park.

McKenzie's tactics look to have taken into consideration what may happen on the night, and if we lose our direction or find ourselves in a particularly open affair we will see Quade's free-flowing play feature.

The other selection I am firmly in favour of is Jesse Mogg at fullback.

Mogg (pictured) had a few slip-ups in the second half of the Brumbies final clash with the Chiefs.

For mine, 15, 10 and seven are all crucial positions in the rugby team that have the potential to make or break a game.

Mogg tried a few things against the Chiefs which a fullback has to do, and he will have learnt plenty in the process. I rate Mogg very highly and believe he has the potential to be a great fullback for the Wallabies for many years to come.

I like the balance and direction the Wallabies team has taken. I am excited to watch this year's first Bledisloe Cup encounter tomorrow, and for perhaps the first time in a little while the head is tipping with the heart for a hard fought Wallabies victory - I'll leave it at three to four points.



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