The Bledisloe cup and the International Rugby Championships are fast approaching, meaning Ewen McKenzie and the Wallabies selectors are starting to make tough considerations as to which locks will face Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.
With only one week to go it seems as if Brumbies lock and now Wallaby rookie Sam Carter is going to get the call up to start.
Carter was sidelined for five weeks after a grueling ankle injury that he played with for 70 minutes in his test rugby debut. This, and his physical grit on the pitch has easily established him as one of the toughest locks in test rugby.
However, in a recent interview it seems as if Carters physicality and toughness will not wear away when it truly matters. Carter recognised Whitelock and Retallick as the benchmark second rowers in World Rugby, calling them physical, hard working and pretty mobile.
The ‘One-test Wonder’ as quoted from the Sydney Morning Herald will most likely be called up to play with Rob Simmons for the first test next weekend at ANZ Stadium.
If he is picked he will take the place of former captain James Horwill. This will be a monumental step for the Wallabies, who may, for once honour form instead of sticking with players who are constantly in the line-up despite lower than par results.
Carter was one of three locks that were, in a sense, ‘trialed’ against France in the opening three tests. Carter’s was arguably the standout performance of the three, not just because of the high ankle sprain he played with for over 70 minutes, but because of his pure work rate.
The 24-year-old has a work rate like no other lock in the country, quickly folding around corners to make tackles, along with brilliant work in the scrum.
Carter will pair alongside Rob Simmons, who is a starter known almost purely for his work on the set piece.
Simmons called himself in almost every lineout against the French. This will most likely not be the case against the All Blacks due to their starting pair. However, Carter has apt jumping ability and will be a solid second option. The lineout will definitely not be as easy against the All Blacks as Les Blues so we may see Carter jump a lot more than his first test.
The next important decision Ewen McKenzie will face is which lock will come off the bench. It will most likely be James Horwill in the first test, but for the rest of the tournament we may see Will Skelton dress in the kit.
Skelton can sometimes be a liability in the sense that he really can only play out about 55 minutes on the pitch. He is also a liability as a jumping option so he may only be used against 12th seed Argentinian side in the Rugby Championships, purely to outmuscle them.
Although he may not always get the starting position, this does not matter, as coach Ewen McKenzie is just as big on who closes out the game as who starts it. With Skelton coming off the bench at around 60 minutes, it means he will have gas left to power through tired defenders is the games closing stages.
The only problem with options like Carter and Skelton is the pure experience the Wallabies will lack against teams like the All Blacks and Springbok. This problem may continue to grow even further at the hooker spot, with Nathan Charles facing Kevin Mealamu, who throws bullets in the lineout, is strong in the scrum and plays his running game almost as if he is a fourth loose forward.
At the end of the day, if all doesn’t go to plan, there are still exciting times ahead for the Wallabies. With the current form in the backline and some new stars rising in the forward pack it will be hard to predict what happens.