OPINION: Quade Cooper's absence from the Wallabies will have made the All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup analysts' job that bit easier.
Berrick Barnes was confirmed yesterday as coach Robbie Deans' choice to wear the No 10 jersey in Sydney on Saturday night.
It's not a shock, with Barnes widely tipped to carry on after his success during the 3-0 series win over Wales in June.
But in leaving Cooper out altogether, Deans has left himself with a back division that has limited scope for unlocking the All Blacks' defence.
Barnes is a sound tactician and brave defender, but hardly a devastating runner. He will play inside a hard-running, but predictable midfield of Anthony Faingaa and Rob Horne. They will be charged with both containing and running at the likely All Black midfield of Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu.
And Australia's physical mindset extends to a bench that contains five forwards and only two backs.
It fits with Deans' recent comments that "substance" must replace "X-factor" in the Wallabies' attack.
Good luck with that. Ask Ireland's 10-12 pairing of Johnny Sexton and Paddy Wallace how they fared in Hamilton, where gaps in the All Blacks' defensive line closed with devastating ferocity.
With Richie McCaw off the scrum and Dan Carter and Williams at 10 and 12, the All Blacks have one of the best defensive trios in the game.
And, though Conrad Smith will be missing, it has been years since Nonu, his likely replacement at centre, fluffed any lines on defence.
Deans reasons Cooper is still underdone with just five Super Rugby matches for the Reds and a couple of club outings since returning from the knee injury suffered at the Rugby World Cup. That's odd considering fullback Kurtley Beale is in, despite a lack of game time, and wing Drew Mitchell, on the back of just three games for the Waratahs.
Some might balk at the suggestion that Cooper, a man derided by Kiwis after his World Cup semifinal meltdown, should be handed the reins again.
On that occasion he was exposed by the All Blacks, who targeted his placement in the back field on defence and slammed shut his penchant for turning the ball inside.
But it should be noted Cooper and his Reds partner in crime, Will Genia, have beaten the All Blacks twice in five tries as a pairing in the halves, successful in Brisbane and Hong Kong and within one point during a 23-22 loss in Sydney in 2010.
They bring confidence and an air of unpredictability.
Either way, the Wallabies are no writeoffs. In Genia they have one of the world's best players and his combination with No 8 Scott Higginbotham will pose a challenge.
In the forwards, Tatafu Polota Nau, Sekope Kepu, blindside Dave Dennis and lock Sitaleki Timani all have a physical edge to their play.
Openside David Pocock is superb and Michael Hooper and Stephen Moore part of a mobile bench.
But trying to batter the All Blacks' door down is a big ask. One wonders if asking Cooper to reach into his bag of tricks for a key might have been a better approach.
AT A GLANCE
Australia: Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Anthony Faingaa, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, David Pocock (captain), Dave Dennis, Nathan Sharpe, Sitaleki Timani, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Radike Samo, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps, Drew Mitchell
- © Fairfax NZ News