Messers Hickey and McKenzie have done their part, the teams are named. Now it is time for the real analysis. So let’s have a look through the teams, on a head-to-head basis and see who will come out on top on Saturday night.
Fullback: Sosene Anesi v Peter Hynes - Let’s face it. Anesi is an All Black cast off. And a one match All Black cast off at that. Injury prone, to put it mildly, the fact he has now played three games in a row means he WILL BE injured this game. It’s just a matter of what stage of the match. Tah fans should be hoping it happens earlier rather than later. Hynes just oozes class and has taken to fullback play like a duck to water, which was never in doubt considering his immense skills. A real danger player for the Tahs.
Wing: Lachie Turner v Digby Ioane - Ioane is now acclaimed as one of the most dangerous back line players in the world and had a remarkable 2009 Super season. Lachie Turner is still getting by because he once scored a decent try against the Crusaders. Hasn’t done a thing since.
Outside Centre: Tom Carter v Morgan Turinui - Who was the real hero of that Lachie Turner try against the Cru? It was one Morgan Turinui who laid on a delicious pass giving Turner the space he needed to do nothing more than run down the field. Morgs has perhaps the smartest rugby brain in Australian rugby. Combine this with his wealth of experience (a former Wallaby vice-captain) and his deceptive speed and he should be the man to replace Stirling Mortlock in the wallaby team. Carter? Well, there’s nothing deceptive about his pace. He doesn’t have any. Has replaced Kevin Hardwick as the most average footballer in Australia. So much so that all players must be rated on the Carter scale. Tom Carter being equal to one Carter. Morgan Turinui being equal to 5 Carters. Rory Sidey being equal to negative 1.5 Carters.
Inside Centre: Kurtley Beale v Anthony Faingaa - Beale was told last year to work on his physicality on the field. He has been. Just ask his cousin. Meanwhile Anthony Faingaa is showing everyone why he had such acclaim as a schoolboy player. Sure Beale had some acclaim too, but only by the maniacal Sydney press who have been looking for the next Ella ever since they realised that he was the last decent 10 the Tahs have produced. In reality Beale is a flakey ponce with a predilection for the chip and chase and wrestling for the ball in a tackle rather than actually trying to make a tackle. What he needs is to closely watch a great technical tackler, able to pull off the big hit when needed with minimal effort. Fortunately he will have that chance on Saturday night when he faces up to Faingaa!
Wing: Drew Mitchell v Rodney Davies - ok. In reality what we have here is a very fast winger, who came through the QLD Rugby system as a promising fullback, before opting to abandon a sinking ship for ‘greener pastures’ who has significant defensive weaknesses. Opposing him will be Rodney Davies. A very fast winger, who honed his skills by playing fullback in his younger years, providing an additional kicking option, with a defensive game hardened by a couple of years at the Broncos and who can light up the field at the drop of a hat. Mitchell is in for a very tough night. I hope he remembers to pack his comb.
Flyhalf: Berrick Barnes v Quade Cooper - There has been much talk about where Berrick would play for the Tahs, and whether he would be the man who would FINALLY fill the whole in the toilet blue number ten jersey. They’ve picked him there, which is kinda surprising. I mean, they paid so much to get him down there so they had to pick him somewhere. But is he up to it? I mean even the Reds opted to pick Cooper at 10, shuffling Berrick out to 12. Two reasons. (1) Barnes can’t play a game plan and will prefer to opt for the kick as much as possible; and (2) you don’t want your most important back line position being filled by someone who struggles to string two matches together. Quade has proved to everyone that he is the most dangerous inside back in Australia and superstar Matt Giteau only played well when he could rely on Quade to create him some space.
Scrumhalf: Luke Burgess v Will Genia - Pfft. Does this even need discussing? Whilst Genia is the new George Gregan, Burgess is the new Anthony Ekert. I look forward to seeing how Barnes copes with passes around the bootlaces or over his head. He’s been spoilt in his time with Genia at the Reds. Look, it’s not just me. Deans picked Genia above Burgess despite Will’s limited game time last year. In fact Deans also picked another Reds scrummie, in Richard Kingi, with bugger all game time, purely because he knows he can no longer afford to carry Burgo.
Number 8: Wycliff Palu v Scott Higginbottham - The Tahs are already talking about having to hide Palu on the side of the scrum at certain stages of the match. They know his handling at the back of the scrum is circumspect and his body height often sees him pushed back behind the advantage line. With a rugged defender in the shape of Higginbottham up against him, its in the Tahs interests to hide Cliffy. Save him up for the softer forward packs, like the Fiji Warriros and the Western Force. Higgers has this year been shifted to number 8 and I have some scary news for the Tahs. He is Mark Loane reincarnate…if Loane was actually dead and you believed in reincarnation.
Openside Flanker: Phil Waugh v Daniel Braid - Finally, Waugh gets his chance to be a Wallaby again. Don’t let the fact that it will take the retirement of George Smith to do it. And let’s be honest. Robbie Deans and his fellow coaches will be looking EVERYWHERE to find a back row alternative to Waugh. I mean, hell, they picked Matt Hodgson last year. Daniel Braid brings a hard nosed edge to Australian rugby. A hard nosed edged he learnt from working closely with All Black team mate Richie McCaw. Waugh was never able to get one over McCaw. He’ll struggle to do the same over Braids as well.
Blind side Flanker: Dean Mumm v James Horwill - I don’t understand why selectors continue to think the selection of talentless and lumbering locks on the side of the scrum is a good idea? And yet here we see it again with Mumm. The Tahs need to take a leaf out of the Reds book and, if they do want a bit of size and muscle on the side of the scrum, then pick someone like big Kev. Someone who actually makes an impact on the field. Someone who likes to run with the ball INTO the opposition, not away from them. Someone who actually knows about these things called “tackle”, “ruck” and “maul”. Mumm missed so much action last year he should consider joining the priesthood.
Lock: Cam Jowitt v Adam Byrnes - Auckland didn’t want him. Leinster didn’t want him. Northlands didn’t want him. Why would the Tahs? Oh, that’s right. A complete lack of locking depth. Whereas Byrnes, one of their own, they were happy to see the back of. Meanwhile he produced a cracking 09 season and will be looking to do some more cracking on the weekend. I hope he starts with the kiwi.
Lock: Will Caldwell v Van Humphries - Caldwell’s listed as 114kg. But he was about 20 kgs lighter a few months ago due to some ailment. He hasn’t played footy for ages and has been eating junk food to get back to his playing weight. If you can call what he does ‘playing’. He couldn’t be more underdone if he was a RSL cooked lamb roast. Humphries, on the other hand, is the form lock in Australian rugby and has been for two years. The only thing keeping him out of the Wallabies is that he is quite possibly older than the coach.
Prop: Al Baxter v Laurie Weekes - 2009 was a big year for Weekes. A tremendous year of rugby saw him named the Australian Rookie of the Super 14 season. It was a big year for Baxter too. It was the year everyone realised how crap he is and he was dropped from the Wallabies. The Waratahs still have to pick him though because, despite all their self-professed propping depth, their alternatives are either too green (Palmer) or just another converted back rower (Kepu).
Hooker: Tatafu Polota-Nau v Sean Hardman - I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. As long as the Tahs continue to focus on playing these airy fairy wannabe flankers in the front row that won’t win anything. TPN. Freier. Fitzpatrick. Now, put them up against Sean Hardman and they could all learn a valuable lesson on what it takes to play hooker. None of this prancing around in the backs. Hook the damn ball. Throw the damn ball and hit the prick in front of you.
Prop: Benn Robinson v Ben Daley - Australia is oh so fortunate to have two such talented loose head props coming through the system. Both are excellent scrummagers, Robinson with the benefit of a few more years of experience, and both have exceptional work rates. Unfortunately for Fat Cat, his work rate seems to be focusing on getting Burgess out of the way at the back of the ruck so he can pick and drive (AGAIN) or go the highlight reel seaking cut out pass option. Daley? He’s a head down, do the hard work, uncompromising style of prop this country was built on. Robinson will be very nervous as he watches young Daley come through this year. In saying that, it’s great to have depth and if Robinson can get some game time at tight head prop he will prove a valuable component of the Wallaby bench come the World Cup next year.
Reserve Hooker: Damien Fitzpatrick v Saia Faingaa - Will never come into contact with each other on the field as Fitzpatrick will be copying his namesake and hiding out on the wing whilst Saia will be in amongst it where the real men are.
Reserve Prop: Sekope Kepu v James Slipper- Kepu has scored some great tries. He has some skills, for a prop. Unfortunately scrummaging aint one of them. Slipper is an actual prop. Not a converted back rower still playing like a back rower. Slipper is tough, aggressive, HUGE and, unlike, Kepu actually likes to play in tight.
Reserve Lock: Kane Douglas v Ezra Taylor - So poor are the Tahs doing here that they can’t even pick a contracted player, having to revert to an Academy player to fill out the bench. Taylor, on the other hand, is a match-hardened forward who learned his trade in the NZL NPC. As tough as they come.
Reserve Back Rower: Ben Mowen v Andrew Shaw- Oops, that’s right. We really should have signed a back up open side flanker. Well its too late now Waratahs! Ben Mowen. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree does it. Ben Mowen’s dad was an adequate club player up here in Brisbane. Andrew Shaw’s dad was one of our greatest ever Wallabies. Mowen has followed in his father’s footsteps and Shaw is set to do the same.
Reserve Scrumhalf: Josh Holmes v Richard Kingi - What the hell are the Tahs doing picking and inside centre to be their reserve scrumhalf? Well, at least there’s continuity there. Holmes’s pass is just as crap as Burgo’s. Kingi, has the nickname Pepsi – cause he’s the taste of a new generation.
Reserve Inside Back: Daniel Halangahu v Tim Walsh- Let’s be fair dinkum here. Both of these lads are here solely because they are their team’s back up goal kickers. The difference being Walsh has more to his all round game than Halangahu. Why else would the Tahs chase Barnes if they didn’t think Hangers was such a dud?
Reverse Outside Back: Rory Sidey v Will Chambers- Nice name Rorey. Your name is apt. Cause that’s where you should be all season. On the Sidey. Clearly he’s been picked because there is no one else left in the squad. Meanwhile the Reds have the depth to be able to pick former rugby league super star Chambers on the bench.
So there you have it. Careful analysis leads everyone here at Green & Gold Rugby to agree that the Reds are clearly the better team and should pump the Tahs this weekend but at least 30. Their dominance across the park is unquestionable.