Robbie Deans’ tweaked team lineup for the upcoming second rugby test against France seems pretty sound to me. Neither speedster Lachie Turner for the injured Tuqiri nor Stephen Hoiles for Wycliff Palu will weaken the team, and Turner might even add desirable speed on the flank instead of Tuqiri’s power.
The unforced changes seem equally solid choices. Adam Ashley-Cooper will add some Latham-style power at fullback. Cameron Shepherd didn’t impress last week, although Ashley-Cooper’s past line-kicking performances have sometimes been just as ordinary as a couple of Shepherd’s efforts against France. Phil Waugh certainly deserves a place in the starting lineup with George Smith off the bench.
However I’d like to see a slightly more adventurous approach. Berrick Barnes was a plodder in rugby league and he’s not much better in union. It’s time he was dropped in favour of the exciting Timana Tahu, who by contrast was a champion in league and has been going great guns for Australia A since returning from injury. I predict Tahu will be our most successful league convert if they’d only give him a go in the top team. What a potent backline we’d have with Giteau at 5/8, the power of Mortlock and Tahu in the centres and speedsters Hynes and Turner on the wings!
But I’m seriously unconvinced that Luke Burgess is the answer to Australia’s halfback problems. He certainly made a couple of good runs last week, but his service to the backs was every bit as slow as Gregan in his waning years and inaccurate to boot. The problem is that neither of the obvious alternatives, Sam Cordingley or Brett Sheehan, inspires much confidence either. Both are ageing and fairly undistinguished journeymen, but I nevertheless think one of them should be considered if Burgess’s passing game doesn’t improve in the next test against France. Our inside backs will get massacred by either the All Blacks or Springboks with that sort of service.