I believe Australia’s first choice back row is the most classically ‘balanced’ in world rugby. You have the ultimate scavenging of Smith, defence, line-out and pace of Rocky mixed in with the unstoppable force that is Palu. On top of this, at least two of these players – Smith and Elsom – are arguably best globally in position, full stop.
Which is probably why I get my nose out of joint when this balance gets dicked around with.
As we all know, Rocky and Palu are probably out with injury until the Tri-Nations at best, so Dingo does have to do something different. My gut reaction would be to try and re-create this balance – for example bringing in a Mowen to pick up the line-out and impact running.
Instead, Robbie has stuck to the line of picking opensides. It’s very possible that in the test on the weekend we could see Smith, Pocock and Waugh, all excellent 7’s, playing together on the paddock at once.
Now while every fabric in my being screams “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING – EDDIE JONES TRIED THIS AND LOOK WHERE IT GOT US”, I can see the method in his madness. The latest set of IRB rules we’re playing to revert to the first man on the ball having continuous rights to the ball, even after the ruck has been formed (as pointe out by Disco in the G&GR forum).
No more stranded players getting rescued just because someone else has lobbed up at the breakdown. Depending on Ref interpretation, this could seriously advantage our crop of fast scavangers. On top of this Italy lay all over our ball last weekend and Robbie would seem to think that getting there first, or faster should help alleviate the problem.
So while I’m still concerned over where the go forward lacking last week is coming from, I can see the merit of giving this a run and seeing what the results are.
In a related matter – below are some highlights from George Smith’s game last weekend. As you can see he makes some trademark killer steals, but pushed passes (who would have thought that an over the shoulder, no look pass from a double tackle would be low %?) and sloppy entry clouded his performance somewhat. Has he still got it?