Wallabies version 2010 has all the right components but how will the machine work when it's turned on?

MATT BURKE June 4, 2010

This game should evolve fairly predictably: a win for Australia over Fiji to kick-off the Test campaign.

Yet the beauty of these games is that they often throw up curve balls. For the Wallabies it's all about starting again - letting go of the past 14 weeks of Super rugby and getting the right combinations that will best suit the style of the game the national team wants to play.

And what is that style? Well, like many, I am awaiting the answers from the personnel chosen for the first game of the year. Chosen on form, and a little on reputation, this team oozes size and speed, unpredictability and structure.

You have to get the combinations right to become a successful team, and to remain a successful team, you need to keep those combinations together for a long time. This comes down to the selectors making the right choices from the off and the players delivering consistent performances week in, week out.

Let's take a look at some of the players that will face Fiji tomorrow night in Canberra. Perhaps the most influential positions in any team are the halves. Through the Super 14 season, the Reds' pair appeared destined to get the nod. But with Will Genia injured, an opening has developed for Luke Burgess to impress in front of the selectors in a game where the basics will be the key to victory.

I say basics because when you play sides like Fiji, who have unbelievable individual flair but sometimes lack the discipline required for the 15-man game, the match can turn into basketball. And this is what you don't want.

Yes, they are entertaining for fans, and the players get a laugh too, but such games lack the hard-match experience needed to get players and structures ready for the intense Test rugby ahead against England, Ireland and eventually the Tri-Nations.

And these games often come down to which side has the best individual players and the most flair. We all remember Rupeni Caucaunibuca from Super rugby, and how he can turn a game on its head. Discipline in the Wallabies' ranks will have to be paramount. Not discipline in the sense of not giving away penalties but more the way they, as a team, play the game.

Quade Cooper, the Australian Super 14 player of the year, has had a remarkable time of it in the past four months. His confidence is high and, in a good way, he has a degree of arrogance when he takes the field.

His style is to take the ball to the line and commit the defence, then throw the pass. He has had a lot of success at the Reds with this tactic.

The difference now is he will be working with men who need to adjust to his style of play. Australia's centres both come from different states and they get the ball in their hands a little earlier from their respective No.10s.

An old hand in Matt Giteau will control the game well at inside-centre. The left foot/right foot combination of the 10 and 12 will work well for the Wallabies in the kicking department and you won't lose out if either one of these players steps up to be first receiver.

As for Rob Horne, this, his first Test, will be a special occasion. My only advice for him is to get an early touch and get the confidence working early.

The back three also represent different states and will have to find their feet and do it fast. All are incredible runners with the ball in hand and will no doubt attack at every chance, but again it comes down to decision-making.

Putting it simply, ball going forward - run; ball going backwards - look to return it off the boots and get it in front of the forwards. They will appreciate it.

The forwards are the ones who, technically, have to spend more time together, as they cover more facets of the game. The lineout, the scrum, kick-off receipts - all are parts of the game that need precision and timing to deliver perfect ball.

It's great to see some new faces in the pack, too. Just reward for an impressive season.

I hope the natural game of Huia Edmonds, a ball running No.2, doesn't change and get tighter by going to the next level. Hopefully, Ben Alexander will continue where he left off with the Brumbies. He is an impressive scrummager but has the ability to offer himself as a passing option for the backs.

The second-rowers, Dean Mumm and Nathan Sharpe, are two strong options at lineout time. Both are smart in attack and, more importantly, in defence. Watch Sharpe orchestrate the calls to baffle the Fijians in attack and poach some lineout ball in defence.

Richard Brown, David Pocock and Rocky Elsom are all top-class scavengers when it comes to getting the ball. The idea of defence is not to stop the man, but to get the ball back, and these men do a great job. The Wallabies are looking not only for a good opening hit-out but are also mindful of the bigger picture - they must chase down the lead group at the moment, and without doubt that benchmark is set by South Africa.