Nitpicking Aussie Robbie

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.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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David Rubie
David Rubie
13 years ago

That’s not Aussie Robbie. This is Aussie Robbie. Only two more sleeps to Le Tour!

GJ
GJ
13 years ago

A reasonably perceptive post, Ken – although perhaps a bit rough on Berrick Barnes. To call someone a “plodder in rugby league” based on his having played only one season at the age of 18 is a bit tough!
I agree about Tahu – a wonderful footballer provided he stays injury free. However he should replace Mortlock – who is only there because of captaincy needs. Ashley-Cooper at fullback is a good change.
As for a half-back, I think we are still looking!

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
13 years ago

“Robbie Deans”

Apparently now known as “Dingo Deans” in NZ, for some reason.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

I agree Ken’s being a bit rough on Barnes, although he is right that Tahu deserves a shot. I would much rather have Gerrard at full-back. He was best on ground three or four times in super 14 and is our best kick (he kicked more accurately than Giteau in s14 IIRC, and kicked eight straight against Japan).

But AAC is preferable to Shepherd (as is Mitchell, as well).

And Burgess appears to be our best shot for now – he is certainly a better all round player than either Sheehan or Cordingley. Shame Henjak ruled himself out.

Aidan
Aidan
13 years ago

Mortlock is Australia’s world class player. Dan Vickerman is possibly another.

The ABs have Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.

South Africa? Matfield, Habana (not a fave of mine, but he seems to get the job done).

My point? Mortlock would have to be decapitated to be replaced by Timana Tahu.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

Dan Vickerman is possibly another

Hell yes. He is awesome. Giteau is passably awesome too, but maybe not in that league yet.

GJ
GJ
13 years ago

To re-phrase Aidan from an otherwise astute post
“Mortlock would have to be ‘de-capped’ to be replaced by Tahu”

Aidan
Aidan
13 years ago

GJ: heh.

Maybe the years and the injuries have finally caught up to Mortlock and he won’t be the force he once was. We’ll have to wait and see.

If not, he is an automatic pick. He is the complete package. Power, pace, lovely running lines and he has superb distribution.

A while back the vapid-commentariat were all plumping Lote for outside centre. Not sure of the reasoning, something along the lines of “Lote is now a shit wing, maybe we should sack our best player and make Lote a shit outside centre instead?”

If you have to arsehole someone it should be Lote. Waste. of. space. If Tahu was that compelling at outside centre then Mortlock could move to inside. He has done it before and he has skills.

He should stop those bloody swan dive try scoring moves though. Those shoulders are just too easy to stuff these days.

Aidan
Aidan
13 years ago

Ahem .. what was that I was saying about Stirling … legend.

Bakkies Botha is currently the dirtiest player in World Rugby, by some margin.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

Mind you your comments about Lote were not exactly spot-on!

Aidan
Aidan
13 years ago

Lote? One good “league” tackle and he managed to score a try when they exploited an overlap. Fine. He did ok. But compare with Peter Hynes on the other wing who was really involved.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

If he hadn’t slipped in a soggy mid-field he would have scored the try of the year!

And your comments were more than ‘he did ok’!

GJ
GJ
13 years ago

Fate? Destiny? Whatever, Mortlock out Tahu in – at least on the bench! An injury caused by a ‘grub’ of a player – I don’t know why they botha with him. (Sorry!) Mortlock is a significant loss to Australia in the big games – particularly at this stage of Tahu’s development.
I hope Ken was watching the SA game. Barnes had a good one – wonderful defence (maybe he learnt that while he was “plodding” at the Broncos?) excellent ball control, a nice finishing touch with a field goal.
The only remaining backline problem is Burgess. On the other hand, doesn’t time fix everything!