Ewen McKenzie sacked James Horwill as Wallabies captain and astonishingly made Quade Cooper vice-captain to play England but a choice on the wing troubled him more.
McKenzie has indicated his decision to recall Nick Cummins ahead of the in-form Joe Tomane for Saturday’s (Sunday AM AEDT) Cook Cup Test at Twickenham was the most awkward.
Australia’s coach revealed he sweated over a host of selection calls, following six meetings in the build up to the tour-opener, but none more than leaving out Tomane, voted the players’ player against Argentina in Rosario.
The Brumbies flyer scored a try and set up another in the 54-16 win but a hamstring injury forced him out of the last-start loss to New Zealand.
However, with Cummins (broken hand) overcoming an injury of his own to make the grand slam tour, the Western Force cult hero’s experience and toughness earned him a start on the left wing.
“To be honest, of all the decisions, that was quite a difficult decision because both had credentials,” McKenzie said.
“They both actually offer a lot of similar aspects to the game and the reality was they both displayed good form.
“So that was the most, one of the most, complicated decisions of the week because in the end one of them missed out completely.
“I found that quite difficult.”
McKenzie’s comments further highlight his strong belief that Horwill, who would have been benched if not for a knee injury to lock Rob Simmons, needs to get back to “peak form” to be a leader.
No.8 Ben Mowen, who only made his Test debut in June, has assumed the captaincy while Cooper has leap-frogged him and Will Genia to be the deputy.
A stunned Cooper, who was fined 12 months ago for labelling the Wallabies environment toxic, admitted he was speechless when told the news.
“For me it’s just a recognition of my off-field work and setting an example moving forward, to continue to work as hard as possible, on and off the field, to be a good team player,” the five-eighth said later.
McKenzie also made a tight call at inside centre with Matt Toomua preferred to Brumbies teammate Christian Lealiifano on the basis of his strong display outside Cooper in the 41-33 loss to the All Blacks.
There are three personnel changes to the starting line-up with Sitaleki Timani replacing Simmons, blindside flanker Scott Fardy returning from an eye injury and Cummins getting the chance to repeat his Twickenham heroics of 2012 when Australia won 20-14.