Perform or perish is the message after Ewen McKenzie picked his Wallabies team to play France on form not reputation with Will Genia completely overlooked.
Australia’s rugby players are on notice after Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie delivered on his promise form would be king when it came to team selections.
Will Genia and James Horwill, two of McKenzie’s generals during his tenure as Queensland Reds coach, were the big losers when the team to play France in Saturday’s first Test in Brisbane was named on Tuesday.
Nic White will replace Genia, who couldn’t even find a spot on the reserves bench, in a new-look halves pairing alongside Waratah Bernard Foley.
Former Wallabies skipper Horwill has also paid the price for the Reds’ poor Super Rugby campaign, demoted to the bench with 24-year-old bolter Sam Carter named at lock in what will be his debut Test.
“There’s lots of components that go into selection and each position has got its bits and pieces,” McKenzie said.
“In the end we looked for consistency. We’ve always flagged that it’s about performance over time.
“Fundamentally we’ve focused on guys we think are in form and have been playing consistently well.”
McKenzie said Genia was understandably disappointed with his axing, particularly after being left out of the squad altogether with Nick Phipps named as the replacement halfback.
He said the 55-Test scrumhalf was aware of what he would need to improve to regain his position.
“We saw a much better performance from him the other day,” McKenzie said in relation to Genia’s display in the Reds’ victory over the Highlanders last weekend.
“I’ve made it pretty clear about the bits and pieces in the game for all the players in the squad, about where we wanted to improve, sometimes it’s just little things but you’ve got to be at the peak of your powers.
“Players set a standard for themselves and obviously you reference it against that.”
White will be making his third Test start while Foley will be starting a Test for the first time after four appearances off the bench last year.
The Waratahs five-eighth won the race for the vacant No.10 jersey following Quade Cooper’s shoulder injury, with Kurtley Beale on the bench.
McKenzie said he had no qualms in giving Foley the nod.
“It wasn’t a complicated exercise in thinking that one through,” he said.
“Even before Quade was injured, it wasn’t like Quade was in … he (Foley) was well and truly in the mix regardless of injury circumstances.”
After playing in a variety of roles throughout the backline in his short Wallabies career, Foley said he was excited about the added responsibility of the flyhalf position.
“I’ve got to repay the faith the coach has shown in me and don’t do anything different,” he said.
“I’ve just got to play the game I’ve been playing and that’s probably why I’ve been selected.”
Waratah Wycliff Palu has been given the nod in the No.8 jersey vacated by Europe-bound Ben Mowen.
McKenzie said Palu’s physicality had earned him the spot with Ben McCalman on the bench while Scott Higginbotham was overlooked altogether.
Carter will follow in the footsteps of his father David, who played for the Wallabies in the 1980s.
Palu and prop James Slipper will both be making their 50th Test appearance for Australia while captain Stephen Moore will partner Slipper and Sekope Kepu in the same front-row which finished last year’s European tour.