Rugby: Tough calls for Oz coach

By Darren Walton

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, middle, opted for Sam Carter to partner lineout chief Rob Simmons in the second row. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, middle, opted for Sam Carter to partner lineout chief Rob Simmons in the second row. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Telling James Horwill there was no room for him in the Wallabies squad for Saturday's Rugby Championship opener at ANZ Stadium was about as pleasant for coach Ewen McKenzie as telling Bernard Foley he'd been relegated too.

McKenzie, though, knows making the tough calls is the only way to break New Zealand's 12-year hold of the Bledisloe Cup.

And he says he's made no more difficult decisions in his coaching career than overlooking Horwill, his captain of the champion Queensland Reds Super Rugby outfit in 2011 and Australia's last World Cup skipper to boot.

"I know him pretty well so they're not easy conversations to have," McKenzie said after opting for Sam Carter to partner lineout chief Rob Simmons in the second row, with giant lock Will Skelton to come off the bench in an impact role.

"We know what James Horwill can do and he's a very experienced campaigner so there'd be every reason to include him.

"We looked at all the combinations - six-two benches (of forwards to backs) and all sorts of combinations how we might do it.

"In the end, we've come up with the best for this game," McKenzie said.

Foley, the Wallabies' incumbent, had been favoured to retain the No 10 jumper after booting NSW to an historic Super Rugby final victory over the Crusaders, but McKenzie picked his Waratahs teammate Kurtley Beale instead.

"Bernard's not out of the team because he's out of form - at all. It's just that we've got more players than we can squeeze in there."

Omitting Tevita Kuridrani after 11 appearances at outside centre was another case in point, with Adam Ashley-Cooper's career-best form for the Waratahs this season too compelling to ignore.

- AAP

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