Benn Robinson still in the picture: McKenzie
August 10, 2013
Veteran prop Benn Robinson is the first big casualty under Ewen McKenzie's reign © Getty Images
Robinson was the shock omission from the final 30-man squad for next week's series opener against the All Blacks in Sydney.
Despite playing in all three of the Tests against the British and Irish Lions earlier this year, the 29-year-old was considered surplus to requirements as McKenzie has switched his focus to a more youthful squad.
With only one player - hooker Stephen Moore - over the age of 30 in the final squad, it would appear Robinson's chances of adding to his 59 caps are slim. But McKenzie is adamant the Waratah prop can still be a factor for the Wallabies later this year and beyond.
"He (Robinson) knows what's required and he's certainly not out of the thinking at all," McKenzie said. "There's a bunch of guys around the fringes we value. At this point in time we've made a decision but we'll keep him close and he's got every chance of forcing his way back in."
Asked how Robinson took the news of his axing, McKenzie said: "He's very disappointed. I was actually pleased about that. If he wasn't disappointed, I'd be disappointed. I want people to be emotionally connected to the Wallabies, I want it to matter whether they are in or out."
"Obviously for a player of his experience, it's a bit of a blow. But everyone needs to understand you've got to be delivering ... it's a week-by-week contract," McKenzie added. "He knows what he needs to do. I know he's capable of giving us what we need."
Robinson wasn't the only player from the Lions series to be overlooked, with back-rower Dave Dennis and back-up half Nick Phipps also missing out.
Brumbies prop Scott Sio, who had a breakout Super Rugby season, is pushing hard for a debut start against the All Blacks and McKenzie admits he has been impressed by the 21-year-old's progression.
"I've watched him perform over last few weeks against some tough competitors and in tough environments and he looks pretty good," McKenzie said. "Sometimes you've got to be proactive and get on with it if you think you've got a guy that's got some real ability (you have) got to keep investing in that space."
"There's always unknown quantities but he's one guy we want to invest in and see where he gets too. When do you actually start giving guys an opportunity? Well I think some of these guys have earned a go. I'm not going to worry about it (playing debutants in the Bledisloe Cup opener) too much. Where is an easy place to start your Test career?"
McKenzie said he was excited about the challenge of trying to beat the All Blacks and is prepared for anything they will throw at his side.
"They've got great individual players, lot of threats there but they've got some things they do that are a matter of habit," McKenzie said. "We think we understand them but that doesn't mean they aren't working like we are to try new things. We expect there to be a few surprises on the night and it's how you deal with that."
McKenzie said he was yet to decide on which playmaker would start in the number 10 jersey, with Quade Cooper, Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley all in the squad and a chance for selection.
"I was really impressed with how each individual responded to the competitiveness of the opening week of camp, and I'm pleased to say that the player's attitude and uptake of our program was at a very high level," McKenzie said.
The Wallabies have injected some fresh blood into their latest squad
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