Luke Burgess (NSW): Nice timing. He’s just been benched by the Tahs. I don’t know if it’s intended to be a wake up call for him. Or he’s being rested. Or he’s bearing the brunt of backlash surrounding the backline not…ummm…b..b..b..being good?. From my perspective he, along with Lachie Turner, have been the only NSW backline players who have even threatened to create something of late. He’ll be back.
The likely candidates:
Brett Sheehan (NSW): Nice timing. He’s just been selected to run on for the Tahs in a key game against the Force. It can’t be through weight of performances because he hasn’t really performed. Perhaps he hasn’t had a chance? Regardless, he was a Wallaby tourist last year and will be there or there abouts (if other candidates don’t step up) this year.
Josh Valentine (WA): Nice timing! Gets to face up to two Wallaby candidates this weekend in Sheehan and Burgess. I reckon Josh has been fantastic this year and has shown probably the best pass out of all the Aussie 9s. He has a quality kicking game, and is an abrasive character. He has a real shot at establishing himself in a Wallaby jersey this year, even if it has ‘20’ on the back of it.
Josh Holmes (ACT): Was talked about pre-season as a Wallaby bolter, then started the first part of the season on the bench. Has received the call up to the starting team of late, with some glimpses of magic, but you can just sense Phibbs is about to take his spot again. Which I guess would make Phibbs a roughie as well. But I sure as hell wouldn’t pick him. Either of them.
Will Genia (QLD): Along with Valentine, and arguably above him, he has been the form Aussie scrumhalf this year. Unfortunately he can’t kick goals, otherwise he would have been starting all season ahead of Ben Lucas. Just back from suspension this weekend, so I hope he can regain his previous form pretty damn quick. Beautiful pass, wonderful organiser and likes a snipe, rarely overplaying his hand.
Ben Lucas (QLD): He’s only really a roughie on last year’s form and his potential. I still think he should have toured with the Wallabies last year. Regardless his 2009 form has been below what has been expected and he looks to be trying too hard to do too much. Perhaps in that Reds backline the more understated approach (ala Genia) is the way to go?
Matt Giteau (WA): Ok, even more of a roughie. And he’d have to be more of an outside chance than Phibbs I guess. But I am a fan of him at 9. Not saying he should be there instead of 10 or 12, just that I think that he could be a world class 9. Meh, probably shouldn’t say too much more here.
What is Deans looking for?
As Robbie was telling me last night, scrumhalf is the link between backs and forwards, but also the refer… Ok, just a reminder, this is just me guessing what Robbie would want. Or more to the point, what I would want if I was coach of the Wallabies. I rarely, if ever, speak to Robbie about his team selections. So, quickly, ball distributor first and foremost – someone to get the ball into the flyhalf’s hands ASAP. But someone who is also a danger from the ruck, someone with a running game to mix things up a bit. And an organiser and communicator, able to get his forwards doing what needs to be done. Seemingly Robbie (not me) also likes a box kicker. I mean that in the rugby meaning of the phrase, and nothing else.
Who is the answer?
Well I would have thought Burgo was the man. I know he cops criticism for an inconsistent pass but I don’t think it is as bad as it is made out to be. Perhaps I am biased, but I see Nick Farr-Jones II when I see Burgo play, and I love it. I would’ve said his form was on the rise, but apparently Hickey sees differently. Valentine and I would hope Genia are probably next in line…..or Gits….