Andy Robinson was mortified by England's 50-point capitulation against the Wallabies in Brisbane last June, not least because he had considered George Gregan's side to be one of the least threatening Australian Test teams of recent times and confidently expected to win the game.
Andy Robinson was mortified by England's 50-point capitulation against the Wallabies in Brisbane last June, not least because he had considered George Gregan's side to be one of the least threatening Australian Test teams of recent times and confidently expected to win the game. As Robinson still believes he was correct - continents shift faster than the acting head coach's opinions - the Wallabies' decision to pick their strongest available squad for the forthcoming trip to Europe gives him a perfect opportunity to justify his initial assessment.
The tourists, coached by Eddie Jones, will play four Test matches and a second-string fixture in November, ending with a Cook Cup contest against England at Twickenham on the last Saturday of the month. Thirteen of the starting line-up responsible for the comprehensive victory three months ago have been named in a 28-man party. The only exceptions are the full-back Joe Roff, whose Test career is at an end, and the Queensland lock Nathan Sharpe, who will be resting a ravaged shoulder joint.
Balanced against those absentees are the attacking runner from New South Wales, Mat Rogers - in hot water with the Australian authorities for publicly describing club rugby as "a waste of time" - and the goal-kicking centre from Queensland, Elton Flatley, who came so close to denying England in the World Cup final last November. Both have recovered from long-term injuries. In addition, two newcomers have been promoted to Wallaby status: the 20-year-old back Drew Mitchell, who plays alongside Flatley for the Queensland Reds, and the NSW Waratahs forward Stephen Hoiles, who is virtually unknown outside Australia and was taken aback by his sudden rise to prominence.
"I'd be lying if I said I was expecting a call from Eddie," he said. "To be picked in a Wallaby squad is just amazing." For his part, Jones had no reservations. "Both Stephen and Drew have shown recently in club football that they are ready to step up, and they will now develop further," said the super-confident bête noire of Robinson's predecessor, Sir Clive Woodward, who would immediately have suspected Jones of pulling a fast one.
Seven further players, including the new Harlequins scrum-half Matt Henjak, have been named for the A-match against the French Barbarians in Paris on 16 November. This may well result in him missing the London club's Friday-night Premiership derby with Saracens at The Stoop, scheduled for 12 November.
Newcastle have lost their former All Black centre Mark Mayerhofler for at least six weeks. Mayerhofler, as much of a midfield linchpin as Jonny Wilkinson, left the field in the early stages of the Premiership leaders' victory over Quins last Sunday with a fractured fibula. He will miss the Heineken Cup fixtures against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on 23 October and the home match with Perpignan eight days later.
Another Newcastle player, the No 8 Phil Dowson, and the Bath second-row forward Steve Borthwick were attending separate disciplinary hearings in Coventry last night in respect of their alleged roles in the same mass brawl. Downson was sent off by Steve Lander, the experienced international referee, for punching; Borthwick, who escaped immediate sanction, was cited by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary official who viewed video footage of the Premiership game between the two clubs at the Recreation Ground a week and a half ago.
Newcastle had insisted Dowson was a victim of mistaken identity, before suspending the 22-year-old for a week after a club hearing. Borthwick, a current member of the England pack, was being defended by senior members of the Bath management at the RFU tribunal.Reuse content