Front Row1. Nick Stiles (Reds) *
Note Bill Young (Brumbies) was in the side but is now sidelined for 8 weeks with something broken in his knee.
2. Jeremy Paul (Brumbies)
Bench: Michael Foley (Reds)
3. Ben Darwin (Brumbies)*
Bench: Glenn Panoho (Reds)
Squad: Rod Moore (Waratahs)*
The Front row is a bit of a furphy. Once Noriega proves his worth you should see the following combination: Panaho, Foley and Noriega. With Paul and Stiles on the bench. Expect this front row probably in the second game against the Lions.
The selectors have stated that Paul has the run on spot with Foley being his deputy for a change. But in its current state the front row is currently the weakest link in the Wallaby side. However, the inclusion of Noriega the front row should be reorganised into the one listed above to stabilise it. Darwin and Stiles are players of the future but both could use another year in the Super 12 to refine their skills. Paul would be a far better player off the bench than Foley and Foleyís scrummaging abilities are better than Paul. Paul does have a far more complete game though.
LocksJohn Eales (Reds) & David Giffin (Brumbies)
Bench: Mark Connors (Reds)
Squad: Justin Harrison (Brumbies)*, Nathan Sharpe (Reds) *
Mr Perfect and Giffin - could you ask for more? Conners will get the bench spot as he can cover 4,5 & 6. Harrison is unlucky after a dynamic year for the Brumbies, but Conners gives the kiwiís nightmares. Just ask them about the last Beldisloe match. However, if Giffin or Eales is injured before a match Harrison will slot into the role and Conners will start on the bench.
BreakawaysOwen Finegan (Brumbies), George Smith (Brumbies) & Toutai Kefu (Reds)
Bench: Phil Waugh (Waratahs)
Squad: Matt Cockbain (Reds), David Lyons (Waratahs)
Cockbain will be in number 6 when the Wallabies trounce the Maoris. But after that I wouldnít have him in the squad as Fineganís combination with Gregan will get him into the number 6. Conners would then be the reserve for Finegan as he offers far more than Cockbain and can cover more positions in the squad. Also the Wallabies cannot afford to replace one penalty magnet for another.
This would also allow Waugh into the squad to cover 7, 8 (& 6 in an emergency only cause he isnít tall enough for the lineouts). Waugh is going to be the next Brett Robinson of Australian rugby as Smith is going to be the Wallaby captain after Australia retains the next World Cup. Smith is going to be the backbone of the Wallabies for years to come just like David Wilson.
Toutai Kefu is currently unmatched for ability in the number 8 spot in Australia. Lyons is at least another year out in development. Kefuís ability to chime into the backs gives him another dimension. However, if Kefu was injured before a game then Lyons will get the run on spot with Waugh staying on the bench.
Inside Backs9. George Gregan (Brumbies)
Bench: Chris Whitaker (Waratahs)
Damn it, what the @#$%!! is Whitaker doing there. They should use Payne as itís "name like nature" for the opposition. When he has come on for NSW this year he has torn holes in the defence around the R&M. Payne could have also filled in at 5/8th, see the fantasy backline.
I donít like Whitless. The Wallabies are going to be in dire straits when Gregan retires as he is head and shoulders above his closest rival in Aus. If he could just learn not to abuse the ref he would be a great captain for 2002-3.
10. Stephen Larkham (Brumbies)
Bench: Elton Flatley (Reds)
Note: Kafer has not been selected. He really shouldnít slag off the head honchos like that. Since he and Payne arenít in the squad Flatley is forced onto the bench. This is a great shame as he would have made a huge impact at IC and if he was there the total backline could have been reorganised to great effect. My fantasy backline will be presented at the end.
Larkham is a freak. No more on his selection needs to be stated.
CentresNathan Grey (Waratahs), Daniel Herbert (Reds)
Bench: James Holbeck (Brumbies)*
Grey has been in scintillating form this year but he is a crash and bash player. Hard defence, hard running but his hands can let him down. When he is combined with Herbert we get the same sort of player but with better hands.
Wings & Full BackJoe Roff (Brumbies), Chris Latham (Reds) & Matthew Burke (Waratahs)
Bench: Andrew Walker (Brumbies)
Squad: Graeme Bond (Brumbies)*, Ben Tune (Reds)
Damn it Walker gets shunted to the bench to cover wing and fullback as Burke has been selected for his kicking. Tune has played little rugby this year. However, he was awesome at the start of the season but I think Walker combination with Roff will get him onto the bench first.
The Geeves Wallaby SelectionNow I will put in the proper Wallaby backline
Halves: Gregan and Larkham (no argument)
Centres: IC = Flatley (takes over the kicking duties), OC = Herbert
Back three: Roff, Latham and Walker
This combination still retains the hard running and line breaking skills of Herbert and Roff but you now have Walkers combination with Roff and his ability to read the play. Walker offers so much more than Burke especially in his general kicking ability. His grubber kicking and ability to find spaces was magical against the Sharks.
Latham is Latham and he is either totally brilliant or a liability but he doesnít stop trying unlike Burke who can drop his bundle (NSW vs. Hurricanes). Burke is a confidence player and at the start of the Super 12 he was superb but by the end he was a shattered and shaken individual. In the Reds game he was sold two dummies by God (aka Mr Perfect) and Junior Palesasa on their way to the try line.
Flatley provides the necessary diversion and alternative playmaker (the role that Kafer has played for the Brumbies all season) that if used correctly would only enhance Bernie. Flatley also brings in his combination with Herbert and Latham to fully utilise their skills.
The kicking duties can now be done by Flatley; or Walker (who wasnít too shabby against the Sharks); or Mr Perfect. What a backline. Quick, dynamic and oh so lethal.
With this backline the Wallabies now have 2 major playmakers starting which immediately takes the pressure and targeting off Bernie. Can you envisage it Gregan dummies to Bernie; passes to Flatley running towards the blind, Latham hits the ball at speed; Latham passes to Walker cutting back inside; Herbert links and is over.
Second time they use this play they could dummy to Flatley and Latham. Then have both Walker and Roff chiming in. The back three could be given a licence to roam and they would provide the individual brilliance and attacking flair that has sometimes been missing in the past.
The bench would then consist of Payne, Grey, Burke or Tune. What strike power! With a tired defence Grey shatters the first line offloads to Tune screaming in on the angle. Or Payne exploits the gap near the ruck, onto Smith and itís all over.
Go the Wallabies. Lets keep the silverware and Iíll be able to slag off on Kiwiís and SAís for another year.