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.