Well lets be frank! No Sorry its really Geeves. Sorry poor start but that really does reflect my opinion of the squad. There are some telling poor choices and I think I am starting to get an insight into Chucky and I donít like it. Letís be brutally honest, here for a change the games leading up to the Bledisole and world cup donít really matter. As the final result of who actually won those two cups does matter for Australian rugby.
With this in mind I canít for the life of me understand why Chucky is attempting to remove his options out of spite or has he just completely lost it. Probably the latter as he has shown this consistency in the Argentina and Europe tour at the end of last year. While in the ĎAí side they have gone in the other way of selecting on promise but still missed a couple of real prospects.
This Wallaby Ďsquadí for lack of a better term is not going to be the same squad that you are going to see come Tri-Nations or RWC time. At least I hope so. I am assuming that the team is a furphy to make everyone dismiss the wallabies before the defence of the ĎBillí starts.
Chucky has also strongly indicated that winning the game is all that matters so it looks as though the notion of attacking rugby is out of the window and it will be grind it up and then take the kick at goal. If they do adopt this style of game they are going to get blown away by the ABs especially if the ABs can harness the Blues/Hurricanes attacking style combined with a Crusaders/Blues defense.
The Wantabee Squad v Ireland
Players expected to start are in bold. While * denotes uncapped
Front row: Bill Young Jeremy Paul Patricio Noriega
Glenn Panoho/Ben Darwin Brendan Cannon
The only reason I can fathom that Panaho has been selected is that Chucky is scared that Young is going to be penalised out of the game (with his in and up technique being spotted by a large number of refs this year). And so he wants two props that can play on either side of the scrum available (the other multiskilled prop is Noriega).
I think after the ĎAí side (team list below) gets back from its tour that McIssacís is going to be a bolter for the World Cup squad. As Paul is year after year found out in the scums when it comes to the crunch. I think Cannon should get the run on spot but the old ACT bias will see Paul selected first.
Second row: Nathan Sharpe David Giffin/ Daniel Vickerman
The only question here is who will actually partner Sharpe? Will it be Giffin or Vickerman? I think Giffin will get the nod based on experience but Vickerman will be subbing Giffin or whoever is playing in 6, with at least 20 minutes to go.
Sharpe has the potential to really take this RWC by the horns and will then take over the QLD captaincy, and perhaps the Wallaby captaincy next year.
Loosies: David Lyons Toutai Kefu [vc] George Smith
Phil Waugh Scott Fava *
The loosies are the one area that scares me. For the last 2 years Lyons should have been playing in no.6 but didnít get selected there game after game. While after a very good year for Qld, Cockbain didnít even get a look in. I would have thought that a specialist no 6/ lock should have been on the bench and he could have filled in nicely or alternatively Heenan should have got the spot. Yet Cockbain gets the captaincy of the ĎAí side and Heenan will also be touring in Japan.
The story is that Chucky has spat the dummy over Heenan and has stated that because he wasnít playing a full game for Qld every week therefore he wonít be match fit. (For those that can remember, Slack told Jones ages ago that his choices in the Super 12 will not be driven by Jonesís suggestions as Heenan was still getting back from injury.)
Yet in the same breath, Chucky states that Giteau and Morltock will be in the Wallabies as soon as they can lace up a pair of boots. You work that one out? One could suggest that some players are from ACT (always need a good anti-QLD conspiracy theory floating around for QLD justification of hating all things south of the border) or that an ego has been bruised and a player becomes the victim.
Fava still could get a shot at 6 or Waugh might even be shifted to 6. But in my opinion there is not a recognised jumper in the loosies and this is not acceptable. This then puts a mountain of pressure of the lineout jumpers and the hooker to actually make sure that he gets the throw right. This is why I think McIssacís will be a Wallaby bolter as Cannon still has inconsistency in his lineouts.
The other problem is the consistency in performance of both NSW players Waugh and Lyons as they have either been brilliant or none existent, which pretty much sums up NSWís season.
Halfback: George Gregan [c]
Well seeing though he has a [c] next to his name I reckon Gregan will get the starting spot. Howís that for deductive genes? Iím still not happy over the fact that he is captain and I think T.Kefu should have got it as Greganís relationship with the officials can be rather icy at times. And the number of times he spits the dummy at the ref just reminds me of Skinstad.
I think Australia has another real world-class player developing in Valentine who was one of the best players for QLD every week. He was named vc for the ĎAí side so I reckon he is a real chance of being Greganís deputy at RWC time. Valentine put paid to some big names and really got over some of his more fancied rivals. Whitaker was one of them while he ended up playing all over Kelleher, despite Kelleher getting the early advantage. Valentine did some of the best fends in this years Super 12 while he has a good kicking game and runs the ball up very well. Both the things that Gregan hasnít been doing to well lately.
Whitaker really won't be playing in 4 years time and now should be the time to get a new halfback ready for Greganís retirement.
5/8: Elton Flatley
According to the official Australian rugby media (retired opinionated hacks), both Grey and Roff are going to be back up 5/8 for Flatley. Now I am sorry but WTF. Okay so both Larkham and Giteau are injured but no specialist 5/8 for a back up is close to suicide. The question really becomes who is left in Aus that could possibly fill the spot. I would actually go down and grab Paul Warwick from Qld grade rugby.
As sure as shit they cannot use the voodoo doll and NSW donít really have a set 5/8 who performs consistently. If they have to use a make shift player at 5/8 then Latham should be running there as I have seen him play there at grade level and he certainly was impressive in his cameo role.
If I was a betting man I reckon that all visiting sides are going to attempt to take Flatley out ASAP and then exploit the huge advantage.
I have no idea who is going to do the kicking out of Flatley or Roff. I donít really want to delve any further into Chuckyís mind either.
Centres: Steve Kefu Morgan Turinui *
It is amazing what a couple of injuries can do and with the way they have selected the squad they have forced Tuqiri to be on the bench instead of giving him a go at OC. This I think is a wasted opportunity and yet again poor selection with limited insight into opportunities or player potential is getting even scary.
Tuqiri has apparently stated that he wants to play at OC next year and if NSW doesnít guarantee that he will be given a run there he is going home to QLD. After watching him at the Ballymore 7ís the bloke has all the skills and should be closer to the action.
If they had selected Gerrard they could have used him off the bench to play either wing or fullback.
Back 3: Joe Roff Chris Latham Wendell Sailor
Lote Tuqiri *
Roff and Latham shared the award for Australian Super 12 player of 2003 on Monday night and should be starting. After a lack lustre performance last year in his Ďcrossing overí (that title of the book does sound a bit like coming out of the closet) Sailor has proven to be a very powerful and attacking weapon. He hasnít got union down pat yet and is still guilty of making the odd poor decision however, his running gets the nod as he is close to unstoppable when he is near the line.
PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE DUE TO INJURY/REHABILITATION
Matthew Burke, Owen Finegan, Matt Giteau, Daniel Herbert, Stephen Larkham, Stirling Mortlock, Mat Rogers, Ben Tune, Andrew Walker.
I donít think Burke will make the RWC squad neither will Walker (discipline) or Finegan (the penalty magnet) and Tune isnít playing rugby until next year, if at all ever again. While Herbert will only make the team if they fail to develop either Tuqiri or Turinui into a world class OC.
While Giteau, Larkham, Mortlock and Rogers are a shoe in for the Wallaby squad.
VODAFONE AUSTRALIA A SQUAD
There are 15 forwards and 9 backs. This again highlights the fact that it is the forward pack that the Chucky is greatly worried about as well he should be. The other point that I must include is half of the squad are QLD while in the under 21 squad that was sent QLD had 10 reps out of 26 with Fairbanks and the third Kefu being selected.
What is really scary about the backs is there is not an established IC in the squad. I almost had to put the Voodoo Doll in at IC but I managed to avoid it. I think Fairbanks should have been pulled out of the U21 squad and given a go as it along with the 5/8 spot are lacking in the wallabies and we have got to find someone.
Alastair Baxter (NSW), Matt Cockbain (QLD - Captain) , David Croft (QLD), Matt Dunning (NSW), Fletcher Dyson (QLD), Adam Freier (NSW), Justin Harrison (ACT), Daniel Heenan (QLD), Matt Henjak (ACT), Tamaiti Horua (ACT) ,Tai McIssac (QLD), John Roe (QLD), Nick Stiles (QLD), Rudi Vedelago (QLD), and Jono West (NSW)
Probable starting side (1-8):
Stiles, McIsacs, Dyson, Cockbain, Harrison, Heenan, Croft, Roe
There is a buckload of talent in the forwards 6 players already capped for the Wallabies at one stage or another. I have chosen a QLD dominated starting pack.
Mark Bartholomeusz (ACT), Shaun Berne (NSW), Mark Gerrard (ACT), Voodoo Doll (QLD), Peter Hynes (QLD), Michael Tabrett (QLD), Milton Thaiday (NSW), Josh Valentine (QLD - Vice Captain) and Joel Wilson (ACT)
Probable starting side (9-15):
Valentine, Berne, Gerrard, Tabrett, Wilson, Hynes, Voodoo Doll