Right, so first test vs Wales tomorrow. Really looking forward to seeing the green and gold out on the paddock again, however I’ve got a mixture of interest and worry about the experimentation still happening with the side – especially in the backs.
Some key thoughts about this test:
1 – This welsh side is not crap
The five-eighth James Hook (pictured) was probably the best in the six nations this year. They’ve even been able to leave class players like Michael Owen on the bench. All the media hype about this being a crap welsh team is not good for the wallabies who have proven to believe their own hype far too easily. Also great ammo for welsh psych-up.
2 – Aussie back line pick-n-mix
So let’s now look at our back-line for this test. Instead of the Gregan–Larkham connection that pulled the Brumbies‘ arses out of the fire at the end of last season, we’ve got:
- at 9 – the Giteau half back experiment. One good game there, hasn’t played the spot since tour last year. Jury still out.
- at 10 – Sam “Brain-fart” Norton-Knight. Had a lot of time for the guy last year, this year disappeared in the S14 until the very end, kind of. Some big questions
- at 12 – “smash-n-grab” Ashley Cooper. Like the look of him, but starting out of position in his first run-on test? A self confessed bosh merchant like Stirlo – where’s the finesse?
- no Dark Shark (Tuqiri). I can see he could do with some speed work, but I think we underestimate how much the Wallabies and Waratahs rely on him to make hard yards, draw defenders and ‘do something special’
This line-up is not only made of guys out of position, but no two of them have played in combination together. Ever. What is it about Connolly (and Jones before him) that he believes playing people out of position is not just a good experiment, but that it is actually the preferred way to go with your top talent, week in week out. Even though this is contrary to what the rest of the world (except the poms) do?
In a world cup year, tell me what is wrong with
- Gregan at 9 (ok, not perfect but looked good again in S14) with the exciting Josh Holmes as understudy. Give up on Cordingly, he’s broken.
- Bernie at 10 (of course) with Brain-fart (Knight), Berrick Barnes or even Giteau as back-up (‘cos Larkham will get injured, he’s held together with sticky tape)
- Giteau at 12 with Brain-fart and/or Staniforth (solid, underrated) as back up
The rest of the world must be looking at this Giteau half-back experiment, scratching their heads and thinking ‘thank christ for that’. In a world bereft of 12’s, he’s a legend, has played with Gregan, Larkham and Mortlock with the Brumbies and is a perfect foil to Mortlocks biff approach. I just don’t get it.
3 – The good news; no Al Baxter (I think)
You gotta feel for (not so) Big Al Baxter. I’ve never seen fear on the face of a prop about to pack down like that on Als mug the day we got dicked all round Twickenham by the poms a couple of years back. I’m not sure you can psychologically recover from that.
He’s almost single-handedly carried the can for that day but is this why he keeps turning up as auto-selection for the test front row? It’s not like he’s had a turn-around performance and even at S14 level he’s still shaky. Al must do the best scrummaging machine work at training or something because I just can’t see how he’s the automatic choice.
Summary & prediction
Unfortunately, all in all I think we need to be prepared for a disappointing test. Our guys will go in having forgotten how crap they were on tour and believing the bullshit out there about the quality of the Welsh side.
The forwards should do OK, but the Welsh could out-mongrel us and who knows what the front row will do.
The dicked around back line wont click – dropped passes etc – and except for Mortlock will get bogged down on the advantage line. Even worse Norton-Knight might start a kicking duel which Hook will kick our arses in. That boy can really kick.
Luckily the taffs (Welsh) will clag in the last 20 minutes from end of season tour-itis and we’ll get away with it by maybe 10-15 points.
Please prove me wrong