Robbie Deans has decided to stick with James O’Connor at number 10 for the Wallabies‘ second test against the British and Irish Lions tomorrow, despite his shortcomings last week.
It seems that when Deans has a plan he decides to stick with it, no matter what the outcome. It’s not as if he didn’t have plenty of other options.
The BBC reported the changes to the Australian line up
Lions 2013: Australia retain O’Connor at 10, Beale at full-back
Australia have retained James O’Connor at fly-half for Saturday’s second Test against the British and Irish Lions in Melbourne.
O’Connor struggled in the 23-21 first Test defeat but remains at 10 with Kurtley Beale starting at full-back.
Beale, who missed a last-minute penalty that would have given the Wallabies victory in Brisbane, replaces the injured Berrick Barnes.
Joe Tomane takes over from the injured Digby Ioane on the left wing.
Centres Christian Leali’ifano, who was knocked out in the first minute of the series opener, and Adam Ashley-Cooper, who suffered a shoulder problem, have both been declared fit to start at the Etihad Stadium.
Leali’ifano has undergone extensive post-concussion tests required by International Rugby Board protocols. He will resume the goal-kicking duties he was due to assume last week, with O’Connor (two out of five) and Beale (two out of four) struggling in his absence.
With Beale promoted to the starting line-up and Pat McCabe suffering a neck injury in the first Test that will rule him out for the rest of the year, uncapped ACT Brumbies full-back Jesse Mogg and New South Wales Waratahs centre Rob Horne come onto the replacements’ bench.
Tomane, who was born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, wins just his second cap, after a string of injury setbacks since his debut against Scotland a year ago.
The 23-year-old returned to rugby union last year after four seasons in rugby league. He played for Melbourne Storm in 2008 alongside Israel Folau, who remains at right wing after two tries on his Test debut in Brisbane.
The Wallabies pack is unchanged, with tight-head Ben Alexander poised to win his 50th cap. The 28-year-old becomes only the fourth Wallabies prop to reach that milestone, after Al Baxter (69), current front-row partner Benn Robinson (57) and Ewen McKenzie (51).
O’Connor, who was pictured with Beale at a fast-food outlet at nearly 4am on Wednesday morning, said earlier he was preparing for “the biggest game of his life”.
“This game is do or die,” he added. “We will be up for it. This is our game.”
Australia team: Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels); Israel Folau (NSW), Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW), Christian Leali’ifano (ACT Brumbies), Joe Tomane (Brumbies); James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Will Genia (Reds); Benn Robinson (NSW), Stephen Moore (ACT), Ben Alexander (ACT), James Horwill (Reds – capt), Kane Douglas (NSW), Ben Mowen (ACT), Michael Hooper (NSW), Wycliff Palu (NSW).
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a (Reds), James Slipper (Reds), Sekope Kepu (NSW), Rob Simmons (Reds), Liam Gill (Reds) Nick Phipps (Rebels), Rob Horne (NSW), Jesse Mogg (Brumbies).
The Lions have made five changes to their run on side, with Englishman Ben Youngs coming in at scrum half. Dan Lydiate replaces Tom Croft at Blind Side Flanker. Mako Vunipolo comes in at Prop to replace Alex Corbisero, who has an injured calf. Irishman Tommy Bowe returns on the wing, which is unfortunate for first test try scorer Alex Cuthbert, and Geoff Parling replaces Paul O’Connell, who has a broken arm.
Lions: Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jonathan Davies, George North, Jonathan Sexton, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (c), Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Ryan Grant, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Sean O’Brien, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Alex Cuthbert.
Kiwi Australia coach Robbie Deans’ decision to stick with James O’Connor will be seen as counter productive by many critics. Several commentators pointed out that O’Connor is more of a play breaker than a play maker, always looking first to see what he can do, before thinking about set up plays for his fellow backs.
Deans’ options were plentiful, Kurtley Beale has played more Rugby at Fly Half than O’Connor, but has been selected at Full back and he could have simply swapped those positions. Joe Tomane has been brought in on the wing and Jesse Mogg has been added to the bench. Another logical swap, for many, would have been to move O’Connor to the Wing, where he has played many of his tests, play Beale at Fly half and bring in Mogg at Full Back.
This is of course all limited by Deans’ unwillingness to select black sheep Quade Copper, almost certainly the best fly half in Australia. It seems his comments about the Wallabies set up have confined him to the backwoods for the foreseeable future.
Despite those selection choices, I would expect Australia to pull back this one to even the score, assuming there are not the plague of injuries and poor goal kicking during the game that they experienced last week.