The New Heinrich Brussow?

Back in 2009, when Ugo Monye and Andy Powell were Lions, and Ian McGeechan’s tears filled Lions training sessions and not Sky studios, the tourists opened with two pretty easy wins, against a “Royal XV” and the (Transvaal/Golden) Lions. Their third game was against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, and was a hell of a close-run thing – the Lions went 20 points ahead early on, but the Cheetahs got closer and closer and the Lions eventually scraped home by two points.

The game was dominated by one Heinrich Brussow – the limpet-like openside owned the breakdown and the Lions got no decent ball for the last hour of the game. Brussow had been left out of the initial Springbok squad named by Crazy Piet de Villiers, and was somewhat of a cause celebre in the Republic (although not, amusingly, by that great exponent of openside flank play, George Hook – who hadn’t heard of him when questioned by Egg in advance of the game).

Brussow’s display was so good, he was drafted into the larger squad and ended up being one of the most influential players of the series – he started the first and third tests and came on in the second when the Boks were 11 points down.

Back to today, and, for the third game of this tour,  against the Queensland Reds, the hosts have named a team with their own cause celebre – Australia’s most naturally gifted footballer, Ed O’Donohue Quade Cooper. If Cooper shines against the Lions, and essentially forces Dingo Deans to call him up, just like Brussow did, it will spell bad news for the tourists. James O’Connor is currently being pencilled in as starting Wallaby outside-half, but it’s Cooper who is the better ten, a really dangerous one and a potential match-winner.

All the more reason to treat Saturday’s game as deadly serious – it might just directly affect the test series.  However, those of a parochial mindset should note that only one Irishman is in the starting line-up.  Time to start gtting enthusaistic about Matt Stevens and Owen Farrell.

Lions: Stuart Hogg (Scotland); Alex Cuthbert (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ireland); Owen Farrell (England), B Youngs (England); Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Tom Youngs (England), Matt Stevens (England), Richie Gray (Scotland), Geoff Parling (England), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sam Warburton (Wales, capt), Toby Faletau Wales). Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Wales), Mako Vunipola (England), Adam Jones (Wales), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Conor Murray (Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), George North (Wales).

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11 Comments

  1. Bob

     /  June 6, 2013

    Cooper can be both a match-winner and a match-loser. It’s my view both the Brumbies & Wallabies have missed a trick by not playing Christian Lealiifano at 10, but mayebe he’ll get the 12 jersey for Australia, although Aussie fans seem to think Horne or McCabe will get that spot.

  2. Yossarian

     /  June 6, 2013

    I would feel that backrow lacks a decent ball carrier, I lot asked of Faletau to take on the responsibility.Still can’t decide if this is a strong touring side with a lot of depth or if this is just an equally average group.Though this is the third lineup named and i feel all have been strong teams.

    • Warbs is no slouch with ball in hand, and I feel he’s going to need a big game to dislodge Tipuric/SOB from people’s minds.

      • I realise that this is bordering on sacrilege, but didn’t SOB get badly done for one of the Force tries the other day (and, yes, Sexton didn’t cover himself in glory for the second, but unlike SOB there are no workable alternatives in his position) ?

  3. Pwhite

     /  June 6, 2013

    A bit off the point but did the Lions not struggle horribly in the first tour game in 2009?

    Anyway, Cooper seems to be paying for his bad relationship with Deans. It is incredible to me that O’Connor might start at 10.

  4. abitofshoepie

     /  June 6, 2013

    Why did you have to end the article on such a downer by reminding us that the rotund, slow, skill-less and charmless South African version of Cian Healy is amongst the best the B&I Lions can muster for prime time sports viewing?

  5. Cooper was horrendous in the first half against the Rebels on Saturday and is about half the player he was before his knee injury in 2011. That year he was a match-winner and a liability. Now he’s just a liability. O’Connor or Beale will be at 10, and my bet would be on Deans trying to accommodate both of them plus Folau by playing O’Connor on the wing and Beale at 10.

  6. I hope Cooper does make the Wallabies team. Think it would make them a better team and just generally for the entertainment factor. Still, I think Deans is less likely to be influenced by one game, even if Cooper plays magnificently, than de Villiers was by Brussow’s showing against the Lions. Also, O’Connor is class out wider and it would be a shame to see less of his running ability. I know you need balance between attacking flair and defensive solidity but how good would a backline of Genia, Cooper, Ioane, Leali’ifano, AAC, Folau and Beale have been to watch? Fantasy stuff I know, but the romantic in me says that’d be their best backline!

  7. pete (buachaill on eirne)

     /  June 6, 2013

    I would definitely be ok without Cooper playing for the Wallabies. I believe that flair and individual skill is what could win them the series, Cooper has that in bags, so IMO him not being there is a plus.

    Lions team for Saturday looks odd. Not many ball carriers really which is odd for Gatty.

    Also I think Gatland is going to find it really hard getting guys from the midweek team into the weekend team and vice vearse, it (due to the shortness of the tour) is critical that he gets this right. Especially if he wants most of his first team getting a run out against the Tahs next Saturday as a warm up for Test1. Would love to know your stance on this WoC.

  8. Stevo

     /  June 6, 2013

    The obvious difference in the situations is that Brussow’s ability had yet to be recognised by Crazy Piet, whereas everyone and his grandmother knows what Quade Cooper can do in a Wallabies shirt. He could be outstanding on Saturday and that mightn’t have any bearing on Dingo’s reasoning for leaving him out.

  9. zdm

     /  June 7, 2013

    Given the size and aggression that the Lions are likely to deploy from back row to centre, I can’t imagine that Australia have much to gain from Cooper running the ball straight down the 10/12 channel.
    They’d be much better off deploying a distributing 10 to bring their wide men in to open spaces.

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