Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie insists the door is not shut on a Test recall for discards like Benn Robinson and Liam Gill
Ewen McKenzie says he hasn’t closed the door on Benn Robinson, offering the veteran loosehead every chance to become the most-capped Wallabies prop in history – if he’s good enough.
Robinson’s omission from McKenzie’s 32-man squad for next month’s three-match series against France leaves the 29-year-old two Tests shy of equalling Al Baxter’s all-time record for most appearances as a Wallabies prop.
McKenzie says Robinson remains in the picture, just as the 67-Test mainstay was last year after being overlooked for the first-year Wallabies coach’s inaugural squad before bouncing back for a recall.
“Loosehead prop is very competitive position. There’s a number of options,” McKenzie said.
“There’s a number of guys who missed out who probably had legitimate claims. He’s probably one – an experienced player who everybody knows pretty well.
“I had a good chat to him. He’s been out before but responded. I’m confident he’ll bounce back.”
McKenzie preferred the Western Force’s Pek Cowan – a 27-year-old young veteran who gained all five of his caps in 2009 under Robbie Deans.
“It’s not to say that people are going badly, but you’ve also got to reward guys who are going well,” McKenzie said.
“Pek Cowan, for instance, has been going very well. People are not focused on him but he’s been a very consistent performer.
“If you look at him in different capacities, he makes a big difference.
“You’ve got to ask why the Force are going consistently well (in Super Rugby).
“You’ve got to look across and look at those positional things and sometimes when it does get to 50-50, it doesn’t go your way.
“But we haven’t closed the door on Benn Robinson or Liam Gill.”
Considered a rising star, Gill has made way for Cowan’s inspirational Force captain Matt Hodgson, who, in leading the unfancied Perth outfit into Super Rugby finals contention, has also reignited his international career at age 32.
“Matt Hodgson has done really well, had a good season and has led well from the front,” McKenzie said.
“His maturity and his form will be valuable to us in a tough series.”
Along with Robinson, Gill and Waratahs captain Dave Dennis are the most glaring omissions from the season-opening squad.
Gill has been injured for much of the Queensland Reds’ disappointing Super Rugby campaign and McKenzie said 21-year-old’s time would come.
Not finding a place in his 32-man squad for Dennis after the Tahs skipper was asked to parade around Sydney Harbour in a gold jumper for a Wallabies promotion last month was one of McKenzie’s toughest decisions.
“It’s tough. I don’t take any joy in telling guys they’ve just missed out. He’s one,” McKenzie said.
“He’s got attributes, points of different that are important. I know he’s doing the job for the Waratahs.
“It’s disappointing. I can’t give everyone good news, but these people aren’t out of the picture.
“The good news is they’ve got (two) games to play. We’re still going to watch Super Rugby.
“They’ve got a vehicle to push their claims.”