It’s not often G&GR agrees with Richie McCaw – but when the Uber-cheat said the loser of this game was finished for the year’s Tri-nations, it was hard to disagree. Both sides have been below their best thus far and for the team that comes second on Saturday night there is no salvation.
What McCaw did not say however was that if the loser was the Wallabies they would also kiss good-bye any chance winning the Bledisloe Cup. Perhaps out of fondness for his former coach, Robbie Deans, McCaw also failed to mention that Deans faces the sternest test of his International coaching career.
Deans has had a honeymoon unparalleled in Wallaby coaching terms from the Australian press but there were signs this week that even they have taken off their rose-coloured glasses and are starting to ask if Deans really has what it takes.
For the Wallabies the return of Rocky Elsom is a massive boost for a forward pack that has been bullied out of both contests this year but this news is tempered with the fact the Morty is missing from what already was starting to look like an under-powered backline. Cliffy Palu has been binned in favour of Dick Brown as the Wallabies look to sure up a line-out that left South Efrica with its tail well and truly between its legs.
So far this year the Tri-nation has been a bomb-fest of Luftwaffe proportions and the selections of Dan Carter at fly half and Luke McAlister at inside centre for the AB’s point to this trend continuing. The Great-Redeemer has also kept faith with his pair of burners on each wing so there is the threat should the Wallabies look to kick their way out of trouble, the ball will be run back at them with intent rather than kicked.
All too often the key for the Wallabies has been to start well, but given their starts are no longer the problem, the key is for the Wallabies is to play the middle stages of the game with purpose and keep accumulating points. It is beyond question the Wallabies have the ability to score points but they have been exposed as not being a team that can grind out a result.
Make no mistake, the Wallabies not only need to win this game, but they also need to do so with a four try bonus point if they are to be any chance of challenging the Jappies for the Tri-nations title.
This game represents the last chance some of the current first XV have of proving their worth before Deans performs major surgery and renders some careers over. Apart from talking about meeting the physical challenge posed by their opponents, the Wallabies must show in this game they are not only prepared to meet this challenge, but to overcome it.
The Wallabies simply have too much to play for to think anything other than a victory will be the result. If the Wallabies don’t win this match then they will become the England of the Southern Hemisphere, capable of beating any team in the world, but more comfortable hiding behind the veil of mediocrity.
Cote says – Wallabies by 9