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ESPN SCRUM / ESPNscrum Columnist
Greg Growden
Greg Growden | Columnist Index
After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Greg Growden writes ...
'Cat' is back, and not before time
Greg Growden
September 18, 2013
Eastwood's Benn Robinson takes the ball into contact, Eastwood v Southern Districts, Sydney Shute Shield, TG Millner Field, Sydney, August 24, 2013
Benn Robinson recently has pressed his claims for Eastwood in Sydney's Shute Shield club competition © www.seiserphotography.com
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It's nice that James Horwill has returned, but the most important re-jig of the Wallabies squad for their jaunt to South Africa and Argentina revolves around the revival of Benn Robinson. His revival shouldn't just end with him being part of the 28-man touring party; he should regain the Test loose-head prop spot for The Rugby Championship Test against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town. Robinson may recently have lost - and only this week regained - the respect of Wallabies selectors, but the Springboks certainly remain well aware of his skills, recalling how he relished one skirmish with South Africa at Newlands. The Australian problems were elsewhere that day.

Robinson is accustomed to being snubbed - having been dropped at both New South Wales Waratahs and Wallabies level - and he invariably returns with vengeance, vim and vigour. And recent Wallabies scrummaging debacles, in particular the flopperoo when encountering the Springboks in Brisbane and Argentina in Perth, emphasised it was time to return to those who have in the past provided a reliable anchor.

While Robinson's omission from the original Rugby Championship squad was extraordinary, as nonsensical has been the claims of some media mini-minds that he wasn't the required modern-day scrummager because he was hardly sighted in open play and his handling skills were a bit astray. Then they pushed the lazy line. What rubbish! Constructive runs from Robinson have marked countless Wallabies and Waratahs matches, while he boasts effective passing skills and a high work-rate. He has been blighted by the blind.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie was being kind when he said that his team had scrummed inconsistently during his four Tests as Australia coach. Diabolically would be a more apt description. But that should hopefully change now that their most experienced Test front-rower is back.

Ewen McKenzie strengthens his pack
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Meanwhile, the omission of Liam Gill is the biggest admission that the Wallabies want to now play a power "we eat meat" game; Michael Hooper is the only specialist openside flanker in the squad, and it is a long, long time since the Wallabies have gone anywhere without two honestly fast scavengers. Indeed the Wallabies are one of the few Test teams to repeatedly play two genuine No.7s - not surprising when they have been blessed with the likes of George Smith, Phil Waugh, David Pocock, Gill and Hooper.

McKenzie is pushing the "we've got to fight fire with fire" line, so he has opted for back-row bulk by including Dave Dennis, Scott Fardy, Ben Mowen and Ben McCalman. But if Hooper gets injured while away, the lack of a proper back-up could easily backfire. After all, the lack of a proper replacement for Pocock during Rugby World Cup 2011 turned into an enormous blunder. Gill should be on that flight heading for Johannesburg.

Robinson aside - the most rousing news of recent days is the reports that Scott Higginbotham is back in training and a chance to make the end-of-season Wallabies tour of Europe. Of all the sidelined players, the Wallabies have missed Higginbotham the most this season; without him, the Test pack has been cream-puffish rather than combative. When Higginbotham returns, the Rebels captain will immediately take over the No 8 spot despite Mowen's Test skipper status. And Mowen will return to his rightful position on the blindside of the scrum, and the Wallabies will at last get serious.

Wallabies Tour Squad

Forwards: James Slipper, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Saia Fainga'a, Albert Anae, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Ben McCalman, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen, Dave Dennis.

Backs: Nic White, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Matt Toomua, Bernard Foley, Christian Lealiifano, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Joe Tomane, Chris Feauai-Sautia, James O'Connor, Israel Folau.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Join the conversation with Greg on Twitter @GregGrowden

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