World Cup-winning former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer has come up with a radical proposal to remedy Australia's form slump - dropping captain James Horwill and playmaker Quade Cooper to the bench.
Dwyer, in his weekly column for the Green and Gold rugby website, says the return of key players from injury, most especially Berrick Barnes and James Slipper, has opened the door for a range of selection changes.
Specifically, Dwyer believes that Horwill, who claimed the All Blacks' scalp in his first outing as captain last month but then also led the Wallabies to the 6-15 loss to Ireland at Eden Park, should be dropped to the reserves and stripped of the captaincy.
"[Will] Genia as captain ... I actually saw some leadership on Friday night," said Dwyer, referring to Genia's makeshift promotion to skipper against the US while Horwill had the match off to rest a shoulder injury.
Dwyer also has recommended Nathan Sharpe, who is poised to win his 98th cap against Russia in Nelson tomorrow night, be brought into the second row to partner Dan Vickerman in the expected quarter-final showdown against the Springboks.
"Sharpe and Vickerman, in my opinion, provide a better balance between the Nos 2 and 4 jumpers, and between the tighter right-side lock role and the ball-carrying left-sider," Dwyer wrote. "I have not been impressed with Horwill. He gives much the same as Vickerman, but not as well."
There is no question Sharpe is pressing for a starting spot in the knockout stage of the tournament, but the widespread expectation is that it is Vickerman's berth he is threatening, not the captain's.
Similarly, the growing belief is Barnes will be brought into the starting backline for the Russia game and later but as an adjunct to Cooper, not in place of him.
"Cooper needs to get his head right, dare I say 'again'," Dwyer wrote. "We don't need the all-or-nothing plays, all of the time. Barnes looks our best kicker, both for goal and out-of-hand."By NZ Herald staff