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Greg Growden

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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.

Rugby Championship
Wallabies line-up for Bledisloe Cup a mixed bag
Greg Growden
August 12, 2014
Ewen McKenzie tells ESPNscrum about the Wallabies' preparations for the 2014 Bledisloe Cup series

Hallelujah! At last Adam Ashley-Cooper is back in his rightful Test No. 13 spot, and Rob Horne gets a deserved chance on the wing against the All Blacks.

As for Bernard Foley missing out, it was a tough call, but one can understand the reasoning behind Ewen McKenzie opting for Kurtley Beale as chief playmaker, as the coach is correct in saying that he "brings additional x-factor to our game".

And the Wallabies certainly need x-factor if they are to end the All Blacks decade-long Bledisloe Cup domination.

Kurtley Beale will wear the Wallabies' No.10 jumper
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It is also a timely cuddle from the coach, and could easily convince Beale to stay in the Australian rugby ranks, rather than heading overseas or being lured to the NRL. And undoubtedly Horne, who has enjoyed a revival by excelling on the wing for the New South Wales Waratahs this season, and Pat McCabe will be the midfield foils for Beale when the Wallabies have to defend.

What McKenzie came up with appears decidedly better than what the national and provincial newspapers were saying all week was going to be the Test line-up. Their predicted backline looked dud. Most crucially Ashley-Cooper is where he should be. The form No. 13 of the Super Rugby tournament should be the Test No. 13, and not perched on the wing, especially when Tevita Kuridrani has only occasionally made an impact at Test level.

Adam Ashley-Cooper's shift to No. 13 is in the best interest of the Wallabies, according to Greg Growden © Getty Images
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But where the chief concern remains within this Wallabies line-up is in the pack. If only Jacques Potgieter was Aussie Jack and eligible for the Wallabies. If only Tatafu Polota-Nau was fit. If only Benn Robinson was in the Wallabies squad.

Where they are missing most is not having a game-changing forward in Potgieter who, after being lured from South Africa by Michael Cheika, succeeded in transforming the Waratahs this season with his fearless play. Oppositions were genuinely concerned about Potgieter's physical impact on games. His lock partnership with Kane Douglas, plus tag-team combination off the bench with Will Skelton, worked a treat. It turned into a stampede, and the Waratahs backs relished all the advantages of quick, front-foot ball. That was at the core of why the Waratahs at last won a Super Rugby title.

In contrast, the Wallabies second-row combination of Rob Simmons and Sam Carter is fine and dandy but hardly frightening. Once again the Wallabies appear short of the mark as they do not possess in the starting line-up someone of the presence of a Brad Thorn-like figure, or dare I say it one more time, a Potgieter, to persistently annoy and distract their Test opponents. Hopefully Skelton gets ample time off the bench to at least provide some much-required muscle to the Australian forward game.

Polota-Nau is an enormous loss, as is Stephen Moore. Australia's No. 3 ranked hooker Nathan Charles will hold up well in his first serious international. He is a good technician, is fearless and has excellent mobility. But Charles's lack of experience could easily be a factor against an All Blacks pack, which even without Tony Woodcock, is of the highest order. In such circumstances, with the hooking reserves now seriously stretched and a distinct lack of top-rate props in Australia, one would assume that Robinson would have to be at least on the bench, especially as he excelled in the final weeks of the Waratahs' Super Rugby campaign, and just over a week ago tussled with a Crusaders pack that oozed All Blacks representatives.

Australia's Benn Robinson offloads, Argentina v Australia, Rugby Championship, Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario, October 5, 2013
Benn Robinson omission has left the Wallabies pack short of thrust, says Greg Growden © Getty Images
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That Robinson is not even in the squad defies belief. One factor is certain. The Wallabies boast an excellent defensive combination, particularly out wide, are generally a well disciplined side, and the All Blacks will have to be resourceful to push ahead on the scoreboard. But do the Wallabies have the required thrust up front so that they can regularly threaten the opposition all over the field?

I have my doubts.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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