Whats’ wrong with the Wallabies? They’re playing like ten kilos of crap in a five kilo bag and they stink.
Not trying be heroes running the ball out of their own 22 all the time would help, and if they hold onto the ball on contact it would be better still.
It’s a team game and how they play together will mean more than how they perform as individuals, but here are four face-offs that will go a long way to making the Wallabies smell like roses if they can get the upper hand in them.
New Guy v. Fairly New Guy—Nic White v. Tomás Cubelli
This should be a great matchup, and in a key position.
Scrumhalf Nic White is running on for the first time, but this Puma mob can play some good rugby and he has to make a difference on debut.
White will have no control of how good the ball will be, and the Argies will slow down Aus ball all night. He just has to get the pill off the ground to the receiver even if his feet are in the wrong position, and even if the ball he delivers doesn’t have lipstick and makeup on it. Just get it out quick son.
When that’s settled down he can think of the other stuff and he’s good at that: he’s quick off the mark on the run, and can boot the ball a mile—half a mile on the box kick.
If White is inexperienced, the Pumas’ scrumhalf, Cubelli, is not far ahead of him. He doesn’t have White’s experience of playing in Super Rugby or anything similar either: just at home and in the Vodacom Cup.
He will be wanting to make his mark because this is only his second big run-on test match—the other starts have been against minor nations.
I’ve got my money on the bloke from the Hunter Valley.
Young Dog v. Old Fox—Christian Leali’ifano v. Felipe Contepomi
Old stager Contepomi is back in the starting side as inside centre. Although he won’t have his old compadre Bosch playing outside him he will bear watching because he’ll try more tricks than a working girl at Kings Cross.
The old fellow won’t be crash-balling or go on too many long runs but he’ll be using his sleight of hand to off-load, and sleight of foot to land the ball on grass, or to hoist it high to attack.
Leali’ifano is a similar player to a younger Contepomi when he used to run more, and he is a thinker also. Like the Argie he is equally at home in the 10 or 12 shirt and can steer a team around the park when he has to.
A tip to Christian: get in the face of the old bloke all night to cut down his time with the ball.
Good Story v. Legend—Scott Fardy v. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe
Fardy, the Wallabies’ blindside flanker, is a good Aussie rugby story. He played for my local team, The Rats, and we wondered why no Super team picked him up; then when the Force signed him, he couldn’t get on the park.
After a detour in Japan he came back to Oz to play under Jake White, and everybody got on the Fardy bandwagon. We Rats’ fans were already there.
Fardy is slightly younger version of the Pumas’ captain who has played 50-odd more tests than his three, but they play a similar game. Fardy is abrasive, skilful, cantankerous, athletic, sly and is a risk-taker—so is JMFL; he’s just done it for longer on the big stage.
Is a shame that Fardy shaved off the beard – he’d be a dead-ringer for the Pumas’ skipper.
Would a bit of biff between the two be too much to hope for? Whatever – although common sense says the veteran will be influential I’m backing the younger bloke to have a blinder himself.
Soft Shoe v. Boot—James Slipper v. Juan Figallo
Slipper may have played more test matches than Figallo has but he’d better get some mates to meet the Pumas’ bus when it arrives at the stadium, to knee-cap him with cricket bats as he steps off.
This will even out the scrumming contest on the Wallabies’ loosehead side, because last week Figallo gave ‘Myth’ Woodcock all kinds of trouble in Hamilton. Figallo, who plays his club rugby for Montpellier, is one of the best props in the Top 14. He’ll be a Puma legend by the time he has finished.
Slipper is a good lad and is better than Figallo around the park on his best day, but his worth to the Wallabies will be defined by his ability to scrummage. If he can’t put on a credible performance McKenzie may have to give Sio a starting shot, or even bring back Fat Cat.
To be fair: the new scrum procedure has rewarded dominant scrums more than in the corrupt era of the power hit with all it’s horrid baggage. This was foretold by good judges.
The Aussie scrum can no longer hide and it’s hard to blame individuals, who can’t do a lot by themselves.
Will Slipper be able to hold his own in a scrum of eight individuals against a pack of scrummagers shoving together?
I doubt it, but it will be worth a watch.