Wallabies: Four more games to make impression on Dave Rennie

If Dave Rennie was picking a Wallabies starting XV tomorrow, how many positions could he sort with one swift swipe of the pen?

One, two ... three at best? Sio; Hooper; Koroibete; there are plenty of people who would make the case that loosehead prop, openside and the left wing warrant further discussion, too.

As Super Rugby AU prepares to start the second phase of its season, it is clear that this is the most open Wallabies race in years.

It's a situation borne out of a number of factors.

Clearly, there was a significant exodus of players after last year's World Cup with no less than eight of the starting Wallabies XV that was thumped 40-16 by England having either retired or moved offshore.

Without any further changes to the Giteau Law, there is only a smattering of overseas-based players who would be eligible and given the only rugby being played right now is in Australia and New Zealand, it would be a huge gamble for Rennie to pluck anyone from outside Super Rugby AU.

And then there is the fact the coach is new himself.

Rennie will at last be able to start his Wallabies reign proper now that he has cleared a third stint in quarantine, in Sydney, and he can finally meet up with assistants Matt Taylor and Scott Wisemantel face to face in Queensland.

The trio has been meeting via video since the start of the year, coming together at various stages to pick a Players of National Interest Squad and then weekly squads based on Super Rugby and then Super Rugby AU form.

And it's that ongoing assessment of current form that will have been welcomed by a number of players who were on Wallabies fringes under former coach Michael Cheika.

Those players who just missed the World Cup squad, the experienced campaigners who did hang around after Japan and the litany of talented youngsters who have all at one stage or another demonstrated their enormous potential, all now have four games to really ram home their Wallabies case.

If you start with the front-row, it is hard to go past the all-Brumbies trio of Scott Sio, Folau Fainga'a and Alan Alaalatoa. But then James Slipper has also started a number of games for the Brumbies while Taniela Tupou is having his best season at the Reds, and Brandon Paenga-Amosa has established himself as the team's first-choice rake ahead of Alex Mafi.

Trailing behind at this stage would be props Tom Robertson, Harry Johnson-Holmes and the Reds' Dane Zander.

A Wallabies tourist in Japan, Jordan Uelese is at last stringing consecutive games together at hooker after a testing run with injury in recent years.

Much has been made of the dearth of depth at lock, particularly after Izack Rodda and Harry Hockings decided to walk out on the Reds and Rob Simmons last week announced he was off to London Irish at the conclusion of Super Rugby AU.

Does the Waratahs skipper warrant selection for a run of Bledisloe Cup Tests before he departs? Or should Rennie back a combination that could comprise any of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Blyth, Nick Frost, Darcy Swain, Matt Philip, Trevor Hosea and Murray Douglas?

The back-row has some of the most in-form players in Australian rugby.

There is little doubt Harry Wilson will wear a gold jersey later this year, but in what capacity? Rennie appears short of genuine line-benders at lock, so could Harry Wilson and Isi Naisarani combine in a beefed-up back-row trio at No. 6 and 8, or vice-versa?

Certainly Rob Valetini and Pete Samu continue to perform for the Brumbies while Reds skipper Liam Wright has also spent time at No. 6 to accommodate rising star Fraser McReight, who learned a harsh lesson as a replacement last week in Canberra.

Jack Dempsey could use a big game for the Waratahs while the words "aggression" and "mongrel" come to mind when you think of Lachie Swinton. Tevin Ferris' profile, meanwhile, has risen with a number of strong performances for the Force.

Where does Hooper sit? Will Rennie make him captain? Is Wright doing enough to dislodge the incumbent Test skipper from the No. 7 jersey? You could honestly sit down and come up with half-a-dozen back-row combinations in a matter of minutes and be intrigued of how they might go against the All Blacks.

The same goes for the halves. Ryan Louwrens season-ending injury is a blow to scrum-half stocks but Tate McDermott and Joe Powell are each enjoying consistent years; though the former has been benched for the second straight week by Reds coach Brad Thorn. Nic White, meanwhile, is back training with the Brumbies.

Who would you pair McDermott, Powell or White with? Rennie discussed James O'Connor in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald this week, admitting he probably didn't see him as a 10 earlier in the year but, on the strength of his efforts with the Reds, that had since changed.

Matt To'omua has shifted to 12 this week for the Rebels' clash with the Brumbies. Is that his best position? Arguably the best defender in Australian rugby, could he be used outside Will Harrison or the injured Noah Lolesio? Will Rennie be prepared to throw one of his young playmakers into the hot seat from the outset?

If not To'omua at 12 then what about Irae Simone? The Brumbies midfielder is enjoying his best season yet after shifting south from the Waratahs at the start of last year. Virtually unheard of before Jordan Petaia was injured, would Hunter Paisami look out of place as a hard-running Test 12 or 13?

And how good was it to see Petaia back last week? Firstly, to see him come through 50 minutes unscathed, but also that he was charging onto the ball, shredding tackles and offloading, which brought about a try for Harry Wilson.

Tevita Kuridrani is a proven Test performer who would bring valuable experience if Rennie opted for a youthful halves combination.

What is Reece Hodge's best position? Does anyone honestly know? He starts at fullback for the Rebels this week as Dane Haylett-Petty remains injured. Tom Banks might have the upper hand for the No. 15 jersey but Jack Maddocks and Jock Campbell have each had their moments in 2020, too.

Australia's reigning John Eales Medalist, Koroibete has only had a handful of opportunities to produce the kind of play that made him the Wallabies' most dangerous player in Japan, but his match-sealer against the Waratahs showed he is a winger who is in no way content with just staying put on the touchline.

Tom Wright has otherwise been brilliant for the Brumbies, while Filipe Daugunu gets better with every game at the Reds. The Force's Byron Ralston has proven himself a quality finisher, why shouldn't he be in the mix?

They may not be not conversations of the scale of Mo'unga vs. Barrett, or Jordan vs. Barrett vs. Barrett. vs. McKenzie, or Taylor vs. Coles, but they are conversations that warrant vigorous discussion nonetheless.

And they also prove that there is a whole lot more to play for than what might be the only ever Super Rugby AU title.

Players have four more games to mount a case for Test selection and should be buoyed by the fact that, for the first time in a long time, on-field form far outweighs any existing reputation.

Kurtley Beale got that message and swiftly packed his bags for France. The 92 players lacing the boots up across Friday and Saturday, and those Force players putting their feet up, would be wise to remind themselves of that before kick-off, too.

ESPN's Wallabies line-up: Banks, Wright, Petaia, To'omua, Koroibete, O'Connor, McDermott; Naisarani, Hooper, Wilson, Salakai-Loto, Blyth, Tupou, Fainga'a, Sio.