Lions Post #4: Wallaby Opensides

Newsflash (from a few weeks ago): David Pocock is out of the Lions series. Result! Sure weren’t the Wallabies clueless when he pulled out of the World Cup pool game with Ireland? Yes, they were, but that time they brought in blindside Ben McCalman who played in a backrow so unbalanced it made Deccie blush.

This time out, they have serious depth at openside – such that Pocock’s place was, if not quite under pressure, then at least ably backed up by Michael Hooper and Liam Gill.

Hooper is a classic pilfering groundhog in the Heinrich Brussow mould – squat and tough to dislodge, while Gill, as a taller man, is a great linker as well as a ruck-disruptor. Both have looked at home in the Wallaby shirt, and the competition with one another (and previously Pocock) looks to be driving them to high performance levels.

In the wild card corner, there’s George Smith, newly-returned from Japan and playing fantastically well – it would be a great story if he were to play a part, and he’d become the first man to play in 2 series against the Lions. Dingo has ruled it out though… for now. Colby Faingaa – brother of the useless hooker/centre twins (and Irish qualified) is the ‘youthful promise’ option.

The concensus Dahn Undah was that Dingo was going to start Pocock with Hooper on the bench to bring in as a second openside to create havoc as the Lions tired – there would be a lock on the bench to cover blindside, with the underrated Scott Higginbotham able to cover 8 [Aside: don’t worry Deccie, using the bench tactically is unlikley to catch on]. That plan still holds, but with Hooper and Gill as the names – unlike in RWC11, Australia will be able to cope without Pocock.

The knock-on effect is that Gatland’s assertion that his team will need a specialist openside to beat Australia still holds, and spells good news for the rejuvenated Sam Warburton, and in particular the exceptional Justin Tipuric, whose game looks tailor made for the hard ‘Strine grounds. The hugely admirable Chris Robshaw might just miss out on the test jersey.

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32 Comments

  1. Roy

     /  March 28, 2013

    Warburton, Tipuric and, maybe, Dan Cole. A Titan at the breakdown. Also, of course, Mr O’Driscoll.

  2. UlsterRaven

     /  March 28, 2013

    Any chance we will ever get a piece from ye again where ye dont bash Kidney its getting tiring. We all want to forget the last 2 years!

  3. Swiwi

     /  March 28, 2013

    It’s Justin not Jason and I object to rugby players being labelled as useless. I enjoy your excellent blog but while I agree the Fainga twins are not great players if you label them as useless you’re labelling a lot if Irish players as similarly useless.
    Australia definitely has depth and I would go with George Smithon current form.

  4. The Lions series is a huge celebration of rugby in my opinion, so for you to see the terrible injury David Pocock has suffered as a “result” is a disgrace. I normally enjoy your blog so this is a disappointing approach.
    I did watch Jake White tonight on Rugby HQ over here in Oz and he said he is going to ask Suntory if they can extend George Smiths contract in the hope the Brumbies make the play-offs. This could all work towards Smith making the Wallabies squad for the Lions.

    • Tongue firmly in cheek for that one, as I’d have hoped the rest of the paragraph made clear. Suffice to say, we do not celebrate injuries to players and I think we tweeted at the time the news broke that it was a huge shame Pocock is missing the series. Anyway, for clarity: we wish he were playing and hope to see him back on the field of play as soon as possible.

      • Sorry don’t buy it at all WOC! Also agree with the above comment about calling a player useless. Who do you think you are? Those lads won a Super 15 title with the Reds, that’s not to be sniffed at. I’m not here to pick your blog apart as I said I do enjoy it but let’s be a little more respectful.

      • Stevo

         /  March 28, 2013

        Take that stick out of your arse, ozexile, it was obviously a bloody joke.

    • Joe

       /  March 28, 2013

      Ah, grow up. It was obviously a joke.

  5. Buccaneer

     /  March 28, 2013

    sense of humor anyone?

    • swiwi

       /  March 28, 2013

      Let’s start calling a few Irish players useless, and see how long the joviality lasts…(and I’m not Australian by the way)

      • Call away, we’ve been slating a few of them ourselves. You can start with our new (cough) improved (cough) Kapitan, move on to the sundry Munster wastes of space, climax with the Achilles’ heels (or throwing arms) of the ulster contingent, and finish by pointing out how Connacht players can’t push past the no-marks in front of them. Share the love round!

        😀

      • Leinsterlion

         /  March 28, 2013

        Bit sensitive there mate. This isnt a modern primary school, not every player “is a winner”. There are good and bad journeymen allied to international class players in every squad. They are also men, a bit of a slagging wont do them any harm. Although in this modern PC climate im sure WOC will be up on charges of bullying and harming self esteem of Australian rugby players and their fans soon enough.

  6. contraflow

     /  March 28, 2013

    More people in a huff here than an episode of Neighbours.

    On a serious note, can we change the name Lions to Losers, as that’s all they ever do? Let’s all get ready for the next big embarrassing failure.

    It’s just a money making exercise and another example of how the northern hemisphere queues up to have it’s ass handed to it by the southern hemisphere. I wish the Lions would just go away. It should have died with amateurism.

  7. RDS Curva Nord

     /  March 28, 2013

    Re sanctimonious posters, guys, it’s a blog site, if you wanted bland facts steer clear and open a paper, any paper
    Not many people picking SOB in their backrow, he’ll come good (I hope!) and people will remember the 18-month lull that Warburton went through for club & country before last 2 games of 6N.

    • Not Michael bent

       /  March 28, 2013

      Except the Examiner (if you want fact)- Conor George doesn’t believe in them

  8. My my, we’re all very serious today. We’ll keep things bland and platutudinous in future, and I’m sure the pieces will be fascinating. Ozexile, you’ll just have to take our word for it that we don’t watch Super XV matches with voodoo dolls of Australia’s best players, trying to break their legs through telepathy. Deary me…

  9. solidalarry

     /  March 28, 2013

    If the fellas were to be completely precise and discuss the players who feature on these pages in actual terms – ie. varying amounts of high talent and excellence separated by small degrees – it would be unreadable. “Anthony Fainga’a is amazing, but Adam Ashley-Cooper moreso, and this absolute-terms miniscule difference, which would be just about unnoticeable were any of us to play against them, should translate to huge gains in the context of a Lio…”. *asleep*.

    The context should be clear, and using all adjectives from sugar to shite allows for greater expressiveness and more concise writing. Humour is also allowed.

    Egg and Palla – you know when people start getting persnickety that the WoC enterprise is going well (though I’m sure you’ve noticed anyway).

    However, I’d say Hooper is less of a pilferer than any of Pocock, Gill or Smith. I’ve only seen him play a few times but he seems a throwback to something a bit more Magne/Cabannes (which gets two thumbs up from me, a flanker as a rapier in attack can be just about the best sight in rugby). All fantastic options, mind.

  10. Swiwi

     /  March 28, 2013

    I signed up to WOC because they did proper analysis rather than the bland stuff you find in the Irish papers. However, if WOC wants to follow Twitter’s lead and reduce their assessment of players to “useless”, “shite” etc, then they lose the one thing that made their blog worth reading, namely indepth review.

  11. Swiwi! How tiresome…

    • swiwi

       /  March 28, 2013

      So tiresome, you took the time to post a reply…clearly, a fair number of you enjoy the “so-and-so is crap” style of writing, and fair enough, but I hope WOC’s coverage of the Lions can be a bit more sophisticated, while retaining a genuine humorous style.

  12. Rory'Okane_Raz_

     /  March 28, 2013

    Where does it say Colby Faaing’a is Irish qualified? Would be an interesting signing for one of the provinces if he is.

  13. Willie Joe

     /  March 28, 2013

    As a longtime lurker on GAGR and observer of Aussie rugby in general I feel some clarification re: the Fainga’a twins would be useful.

    Saia is competent around the field and at lineout time but is so goddamn awful in the scrum I genuinely think he would struggle to hold one up in club rugby, never mind at Super or International level. He is also easily bullied by more physical opponents and has a hairstyle unbecoming of a front row forward. He isn’t pro rugby standard as a hooker and that fact that he has 19 caps for the Wallabies in the position is frankly a bit of a joke.

    Anthony is the better player of the two twins. On attack he is an unflashy type who runs straight and makes his passes but lacks top end pace. He is a high class operator defensively at Super level however, such that he is often considered the Reds’ primary defensive coordinator and it suffers notably when he is absent. He wasn’t and still isn’t Wallaby material either, but is admirable as a journeyman in his position who has made the best of his lot.

    Apparently the twins only ended up at the Reds in the first place because the Brumbies wanted to cut Saia from their squad and keep Anthony, but Anthony was unwilling to be separated from his twin and hence both left for the Reds.

    Posters on GAGR have stated that both would make better openside flankers than a hooker and centre respectively, which probably isn’t too far off the mark. Colby is said to be the most talented of the family and the only one playing in the correct position.

    • swiwi

       /  March 28, 2013

      The Lions are playing the Reds, IIRC, so WOC might just get a chance to see them in action v the lads from the North. I’d have to say I agree pretty much with your analysis. You could have saved yourself the trouble by just calling them useless 😉

      • Maybe the Reds can pin this piece to the dressing room door!

        On a serious note, what is the likelihood Dingo will let fringe Wallaby squad members play in tour games?

    • Thanks Willie Joe – very informative. We would certainly agree Anthony looks more useful – his role for the Reds is very much underrated in our opinion. Is he the Brad Barritt of the Reds?

      We would also agree Saia does not impress us – his performance in one tour game which I cannot quite put my finger on (was there a play made about it, or was that a different game) was the first we saw him, and he hasn’t managed to turn around that initial poor first impression.

      Colby has received rave reviews from Egg’s brother, who has seen him in person.

      • Swiwi

         /  March 28, 2013

        I damn well hope Deans lets fringe Wallabies play for their franchises v the Lions, otherwise

        a) What’s the point of a Lions tour?
        b) There will be a few pastings, because Australian rugby doesn’t have that much depth as we all know

        I’d rather that the leading Wallabies were also available for their provinces, but I doubt that will happen.

        The Wallaby selection will be very interesting – the old chestnut of tried & true (ie largely Reds & Waratahs players) vs form (ie Brumbies). I guess there are some similarities with Wales where the provinces such as the Waratahs generally perform poorly in the SXV, but still produce some good test players.

      • Perhaps I was a little harsh earlier WOC and I should have taken you at your word. After all these forums work best when conducted with respect and honesty. I do appreciate that a personal and non-journo approach is why it works so well. At least it got some people going anyway!
        Getting back to the topic at hand, I’m worried that Dingo isn’t going to make too many risky plays against the Lions. He said he doesn’t want to blood any young players in the Lions series. This could make it a really boring affair with no excitement of form players playing there way onto the team. Jesse Mogg , Kyle Goodwin and Christian Lealiifano are all playing exciting rugby this year and they may not be ready for 80 minutes at international level but coming on for 20 – 30 minutes when the game opens up could lead to some great rugby.

  14. zdm

     /  March 29, 2013

    The Australian opensides worry me tremendously.

    The Lions (on paper at least) should be a galacticos of 4 rugby playing nations, with genuine class in all positions and a large amount of depth all round. Their obvious weakness is that the team is composed of players more used to tearing each other apart who are now asked to play as a cohesive unit after only a few weeks of prep.

    If I were coaching against the Lions (it’s good for a man to dream), I’d be looking for a way to make the team hesitate – if they hesitate, they have to think about what the coach told them, what the guy next to them is probably thinking, what the game plan is and then the mistakes and the turn-overs come. Pocock needs no introduction at this stage and was a huge worry for the Lions – the Lions have at max 2-3 guys who could compete with him at the breakdown and maybe 1 back row who I would back to nullify his threat.
    Unfortunately for the Lions, Australia have found two more immovable objects at the breakdown and both look like they could fill the “good arsehole” role that I was going on about before quite admirably.

    All in all, slow ball and hesitation at the 9-10 axis will make the job much harder for the Lions.

  15. Anonymous

     /  March 31, 2013

    Think they’ll be dropping the ‘and Irish’ from the name. Only Irish player looking like a lion at the moment is Trimble

    • zdm

       /  March 31, 2013

      Best looked the part for Ulster again last night – theme of the season for Irish players – world beaters for their provinces/club sides, clueless with the national team.

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