So the Centenary test team in leeague has been picked. I don't know about most of those viewing our blog (HI MUM!) but I don't care to an extraordinary degree. The tests in Rugby league are not the pinnacle of the game, and it is inferior to the Union regardless. What I will say is that the front row is disgraceful. Sure, the Kangaroos will win by 50, so there will be no need to worry about it too much but Webb and Kite?? Wow. Watching the Roast on Sunday morning, Phil Gould cam up with the quote of the ages (in terms of sounding like a spoiled wanker) 'Gallen and Bird wouldn't be even talked about as Kangaroo's if they weren't coached by Ricky Stuart.' Have these former sweethearts fallen out so badly??
A couple of weeks ago, former Wallabies Coach "Knuckles" Connolly discussed a wallabies team for the upcoming tri-nations. The most interesting thing about this was his candid thoughts that, the team that he picked was right on the money and that incoming Coach Robbie 'save us' Deans would have very little to do... Ladies and gentlemen, your first Knuckles apologist is: [drum roll]: KNUCKLES!!
Really, where does one start ringing the changes??? Knuckles real only change to the side that he picked was the front row. Which he tinkered with on a weekly basis. Week one: Dunning and Baxter... week two: lets try Blake and Shephardson... all the while, poor scrummagers like Sharpe and Chisholm sat behind these guys. First thought: If you are changing your front rowers on a weekly basis, and nothing is getting better, you have two possible causes:
a) The front rowers are all terrible scrumagers.
b) The seconds are not providing enough in the scrumaging.
Watching the super 14, an interesting pattern has emerged. The scrums are not getting screwed over. Not nearly as badly as the Wallaby scrum. Except the Brumbies... losers of an inordinate amount of their scrum ball. With a Wallaby Front row (at one stage or another) - Henderson and Shephardson and a wallaby lock - Chisholm. The Waratahs, with the much maligned Matt Dunning on the field have been Australia's best tight five in the Super 14. Dan Vickerman has been instrumental in this. When he has been on the field, Sekope Kepu has been a revelation also. The Reds and Force have been somewhere in the middle of the pack.
My tight five for the first test would be a front row including Kepu, Dunning, Blake? and Freier. For your locks, you could do far worse than some combination of Vickerman, Horwill and Hockings.
As an open memo to Deans, let me offer one piece of advice: If the scrum is going badly after a game, don't change your front three after one effort. Maybe look to the locks. This was not a feature of the Knuckles regime. The development of the Australian front row has suffered accordingly.
A more in depth look at a possible Wallabies team to follow.
As always, enjoy your rugby.