Dilemma for Deans
Published 28/08/2011 | 09:22
Australia's five-point win over New Zealand in the Tri-Nations decider has left Robbie Deans with a number of selection dilemmas to sort through before the World Cup.
With less than a fortnight until the Wallabies begin their campaign with a pool match against Italy, the make-up of Australia's first-choice starting 15 remains unclear. The three promoted to start in the 25-20 victory - Anthony Faingaa, Radike Samo and Dan Vickerman - all had outstanding games and were vital to lifting the prestigious trophy for the first time since 2001.
And enigmatic fly-half Quade Cooper is now in doubt for the opening matches of the tournament, after he was summoned to face a SANZAR judicial hearing at 2pm on Sunday for making contact with Kiwi captain Richie McCaw's head with his knee.
Faingaa, who was elevated to start at inside centre to accommodate James O'Connor's one-match ban, slotted in to the backline seamlessly, and seemed to be reading from the All Blacks play book in defence.
Dan Vickerman threw himself at the breakdown with the vigorous, barely-controlled aggression that Deans had demanded and his lineout jumping was entirely satisfactory.
And 35-year-old number eight Radike Samo, starting his first Test since 2004, was the feel-good story of the night, defying his age with a rampant, physical performance, which will best be remembered for his sensational 60-metre solo effort in the first half.
"Things happen when Radike's involved. The blokes enjoy playing with him for that reason, because they know that and that tends to spread the excitement," said Deans. "He was a point of difference player for us tonight, in attack and defence.
"(Fainga'a) make a difference. His combination with Patty (McCabe) was great, and they didn't allow the All Blacks to get any flow. They're good (selection) problems to have."
For his part, Cooper, who was a solid performer despite having his creative flair dampened by conditions, looked to play down his running battle with McCaw and said the knee-to-head contact was merely an incidental part of playing contact sport.
"I can't remember any incident. But that's rugby, it's a contact sport. Our bodies are colliding left, right and centre, and there's a lot of niggle going on out there on the field," he said.