· Climb ivory tower;
· Put on rose coloured classes;
· Put on eye patch;
· Look out glass windows; and
· Start throwing stones
Those useless bloody T’ahs…. Sorry, sorry! Wrong eye patch! Replace Qld one for the Wallaby one now back to the article.
Lets have a serious look at the strengths and weakness of those pussycats and how the Wantabees will either exploit or overcome them. So in other words prepare of a fountain of $$!@. Firstly we will examine the benefits of impartial refering.
The Ref for the First Game is Mr Watson
After the ACT, Otago game I was worried that the Wallabies were going to have a problem with Mr Watson in the opening game of the Lions Tour with both Gregan and Watson trying to ref the game at the same time. But I’m not worried now. The quality and consistency by the Aussie refs has been a debacle, as they have resembled US air-farce in the Gulf War where they introduced the term ‘friendly fire’. The pictures of the tabby hierarchy coming out of the refs room before the NSW game reminded me of that shamefully incident by Matt Williams armed with a lap top, highlighting Josh Kronfeld’s activities on the park, moments before the kick off. (Damn eye patch turned Red again where’s that gold one?) Talk about trying to influence refering opinions?
The breakdown is going to provide endless kicking ammunition for the Wallabies as so far the Lions forward pack have shown one thing. They go down at the breakdown faster than a Qld polly making a brown paper bag disappear. They have been diving in to seal off the ball (leaving their feet), playing the ball with their paws while on the ground and generally breaking all those new laws that were introduced in the Super 12 this year.
If the tabbies also keep doing their best to kill the ball at the breakdown then will get pinged constantly by Mr Watson. I’m sure that after the Wallabies have a satisfactory lead they will then drive the ball down the line and go for the tries.
This is where the Wallabies get a second major advantage as someone forgot to mention to the feline @**#knuckles that it you are not spost to grab someone’s head nor drag them down in the line out. The work by Druggio on Harisson and Bowan during the Aussie ‘A’ side reminded me of someone announcing that drinks are free at the bar for 1 minute only.
As long as we put a muzzle on Gregan the refering stylings of Mr Watson will advantage the Wallabies. Just look at what happened when Paul Honnis took the Aussie ‘A’ side and the felines for a walk in the park. Now lets look at the tactics.
The pussycats are operating like a league team. Strangely enough this works in the Wallabies favour. Ahem who is the World Cup holder of both codes? (Ok I concede World Cup holder in rugby and no one else really plays league) Since they have displayed their tactics (kicking for corner and basic offensive and defensive lines) how difficult will it be for Rod Macqueen to stick his neck over the fence and ask a couple of questions? Hell if that doesn’t work he could always just ask the converts that are flooding in.
I am above the law (Steady Eddie Jones) showed how to knock off the second string side with his little coaching effort against the cubs. These same techniques were then used very well by Dwyer to highlight the weakness in the backline and that if the forwards don’t muscle up the game is over (please see the last section in regards to going the mongrel).
The major tactics are:
1. The pommy pussycats are using fast ball distribution to one side of the field and then switch to the other with plenty of illegal tactics at the breakdowns to keep the ball moving quickly in order to keep the oppositions backline on the back foot. This is being done so that the opposition either get pinged for offside or that the defensive line gets stretched so that once someone misses a tackle they charge through for a try. However, this is not going to work with Andre Watson working for the Wallabies as the breakdown tactics are going to be penalised.
2. If the have a lineout 5-10 meters out, they go for the rolling maul in order to score a try. However, Qld was up to dealing with those tactics and that takes one of their major weapons away as half of the forwards will be Qld’ers.
3. When all else fails they kick and against Qld this was lethal. Once again in the defence of Qld they had lost 5 of their back three either due to injury or to disciplinary action (after partying too hard). Yes I am still a bitter little man after the Qld back three played like the England cricket team: oops I dropped it, where did it go? However, these tactics will not work against the Wallabies as Roff, Walker and Latham will be cleaning up the ball all night long and they will turn defence into attack. Once again watch for the league style kick into the corner for the winger but this time it will be defused.
4. Fitness. Graham Henry has his tabbies fit. Normally I would say things like in the last 20-30 minutes the Wallabies will run away with the game but not for this series. This was evident in the Aussie ‘A’ game where the feral felines finished the better of both sides. Note, since Graham Henry departed the Blues they have sucked, especially this year. Sorry but I just could let that chance slip by.
5. The use of reserves. This is going to be an interesting clash of wiles between the 2 coaches. However, I think the Wallabies have the advantage with who they have at their disposal. (This will be expanded on in the next sections)
General game Play
As any forward knows the real game is lost or won up front so lets start in the engine room and leave the frills for last.
After sifting through all tour matches to-date, the Chinese takeout ingredients have been solid but not unbeatable. The Wallaby scrum is the point of concern but not panic. Stiles has improved in leaps and bounds and he offers far better punching accuracy than Blades (sorry couldn’t help myself). However, Cam has been outstanding in the 2 games that he played and could get a call up for the second or third test.
Panaho is the only real tighthead prop going around, Darwin needs another year and Noriega hasn’t been outstanding (although he hasn’t had that much time on the park. WA cannot count, as he didn’t have a platform to work with). If the scrum doesn’t work, expect Foley to get on to shore it up. Foley is just a better scrummager and he should be used like last year. After taking that initial 20-30 minutes of the game that edge is then out of the scrums. Then you use Paul for his ability to work like a lossie.
Lyons has been outstanding in his last couple of games. I didn’t think he was ready but he has proved me wrong. (You had better note this as a Qlder admitting they are wrong is a bit like hell freezing over) I believe that Kefu will have to play like a man possessed to keep him on the bench. They will be sharing the game. They also play differently, Lyons runs the ball up harder, while Kefu’s ability to chime in with the back line means that the Wallabies have a third centre.
Finegan and Smith will be the lossies. This has several advantages as Smith will take care of Back and stop those hands in the breakdown. Both Finegan and Smith have played with Gregan all year so he will be protected from the ‘funny knee joint in the KFC chicken’s’ halfback. Watch for the standard try combination of Gregan flick passing it to Finegan. Finegan also plays a harder game than Cockbain who has been disappointing all year and I don't know how he got onto the bench in front of Conners. Do expect Finegan to play the role that Conners’ had in the Maori game of taking the 'league first hit up'.
Eales and Giffin will do the job. However, do expect Cockbain to get a run and he will get into everything just like a kiwi at the sheep saleyards in order to make up for his uninspiring year to date. These three palyers will be responsible for shutting down the channel around the breakdown and getting the ball.
The Prima Donners
Good news for the Wallabies, Larkham can now see. I am sorry to say that this one piece of news is probably the nail in the coffin. How well he can now play is going to be exciting to watch. Wilkinson does not have that ability to create something out of nothing. Also he is the slowest kicker I have seen in ages, yes even slower that Bram Van Straaten and the way he stands and wrings his hands makes me thinks he need a good dose of fibre in the diet. Don’t be surprised to see the ref give him a hurry up.
Gregan is still the number one halfback in Aus and he will not take the crap like Cordingley did. I still recon that Payne should be the reserve as he was brilliant for NSW and for the ‘A’ side where he snipped so well. This got them over the advantage line on numerous occasions. He has done this for NSW all year and picked up a number of tries late in the game. He also has that certain agro spark that really niggles the opposition.
I noticed with interest that the choice of Flatley at IC caused a bit of a stir with some of the discussion board contributors. Flatley was being used like Kafer was in the Bumblebees during the Maori game. He was there to take the targeting off Larkham and his role is also to provide either the dummy runner or take the options if Larkham is under pressure. Grey has been selected ahead of Flatley for the Lions to provide his characteristic bone breaking defence and flat hard running. This is going to be interesting as it looks as though Macqueen wants to shut down the Lions backrow with both Grey and Herbert to smash into the runners all night until they stop running.
The Wallaby back three will be able to counter everything that is thrown at them however, they are going to have to stay awake as if the first line of defence gets broken then they will have to cover hard and fast to snuff out the move.
Now to deal with the issue of a rough and tough game.
Going the Mongrel
For those who believe the English press regarding the bullyboy tactics that the Australian teams are using against the defenceless neutered pussycats please stop reading and go insert toothpicks in your eyes to keep em open. Failing that staple your eyes open when you watch the game.
Time for me to readjust the eye patch nice and tight. The crap coming out of Austin Healey is nothing new as he and Dwyer have not been on talking terms since Dwyer benched him (or Luger?) and called him overrated during his coaching stint in the UK. So far they have sounded like a bunch of neutered toms in mating season wailing on the fence.
Let me put this in All Black terms. During the last world cup France stood up and intimidated the All Wacks off the playing field. This resulted in NZ going into national mourning and half the population needed phycologists. It also lead to that series of articles by Richard Loe calling the AB’s a bunch of gutless pansies.
When the World Cup winners met the Froggies in the Final they stood up and were counted. They were not going to take a backward stance and by not being intimidated they were victorious.
Most of the niggle has occurred at the breakdowns and lineouts which have been badly ref'ed. What has happened to date is that the pussycats have started these tactics (good eye patch) and each team has responded in a different fashion. Against QLD, both Foley and Stiles showed what can achieved after practicing with the old leather bags, as they were some of the cleanest hits that I have seen in ages even inside a boxing ring. This early sort out session is common in all games. Anyone see the AB’s v Argentina.
It was the ability of the ‘A’ side, NSW, and the Qld President’s XV (in the first half) to slam into the Lions players that had them searching for someone to run the ball up (watch Grey and Herbert). At this stage the Lions then go back into the forwards and try the rolling maul, which gets countered by using Qld tactics. I do not think that the Lions will be able to adjust their game play and this is what will cost them.
If the Lions keep getting penalised at the breakdown and are unable to adjust their tactics then the Wallabies are going to win. It will be the constant penalties that the Lions will receive that is going to piss them off and they will then suffer even more under the hands of Andre Watson.
Its going to be a change to barrack for the ref.