Australian director of rugby Scott Johnson insists form will eclipse experience when the Wallabies squad is finalised for the Rugby World Cup.
A month into his role as Rugby Australia (RA) director of rugby, Johnson says the depth of talent on show has given him cause for optimism.
He thinks the four Super Rugby teams have surpassed his expectations, stating that “not everything is dire” as he prepares for his first face-to-face Wallabies selection meeting next week.
While reluctant to mention individuals, Johnson wanted it made clear that no player could rest on his laurels before the 31-man squad to travel to Japan in September was named.
“Players pick players. What I mean by that is that if their form is good enough, they get picked,” he said.
“They usually determine their fate. There’s the odd choice where we have to split them but if a player’s form warrants selection, he’ll get selected.”
Johnson will take take his message into a first sit-down meeting with coach Michael Cheika and third selector Michael O’Connor.
The trio have traded notes from afar but their talks will intensify now Super Rugby is past the halfway mark.
They will also discuss the short-list of candidates identified to replace Stephen Larkham as Wallabies attack coach.
He believes all four teams boast enough quality to push for a Super Rugby top-eight finish.
“The depth is better than I thought from afar. Not everything’s good but certainly not everything’s dire either,” Johnson said.
“Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have any talent in this country. It’s impressive and I’m buoyed by it.”
Johnson pointed to two narrow wins in South Africa last week – for the Reds over the Sharks and Brumbies over the Stormers – as proof Australian teams are developing the mettle needed to win tight games.
Versatile veteran Beale impressed Johnson when starting at No.15 for the Waratahs in last weekend’s win over the Rebels.
“As a broken-field runner he’s fantastic. It’s good to see him get the ball with a bit of confidence,” he said.
“It’s nice to see him back free-wheeling. I thought he kicked out of hand really well too.”
Johnson was unconcerned by the lack of rugby for world-class flanker David Pocock, placing faith in the Brumbies’ medical staff to treat his calf injury in the best interests of the player.
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