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Deans's Third XV faces a monumental battle but with a live chance to triumph against the odds


Spiro Zavos

Backs to the wall … Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.

Backs to the wall … Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.

HOW about this line-up for a Wallabies side to play the Pumas at Rosario?

Adam Ashley-Cooper, Drew Mitchell, Rob Horne, James O'Connor, Lachie Turner, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia; Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman, Dan Vickerman, James Horwill, David Pocock, Salesi Ma'afu, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kefu. You can choose the reserves from Christian Lealiifano, Dan Palmer, Joe Tomane, Rod Davies, Cooper Vuna, Ben Lucas, Bernard Foley, Matt Hodgson, Jake Schatz, Nic White and Matt Toomua. And if he condescends to pull on the "yellow" jersey, you can include Quade Cooper in this group as well. This collection of crocks would comfortably defeat the team of battered warriors that Robbie Deans has fielded to play a confident Pumas side.

Despite this, former Wallabies captain Andrew Slack recently gave ARU chief executive John O'Neill a dressing down for daring to make the claim that injuries have affected the Wallabies' win-loss ratio this season. But O'Neill's point is a valid one. It is not an excuse. It is more an explanation. The best Wallabies side is not on the field. Adding to the impact of the injury toll on the Wallabies is that Rosario is to Argentinians what Loftus Versfeld is to South Africans. The city has a revolutionary passion for rugby, as befits the birthplace of rugby tragic Che Guevara.

The Pumas drew 16-16 with the Springboks in their first home Test in the Rugby Championship. Last weekend the Pumas conceded seven tries to the All Blacks at La Plata. They won the approval of the rugby community, though, by trying to match the All Blacks in what may be described, using a tennis term, as an all-court attacking game.

The Wallabies, on the other hand, conceded five tries to the Springboks and were condemned. Throughout the Test, Wallabies went down like nine-pins in a bowling tournament. There were times when the Springboks' attacks were countered by a dozen Wallabies. In the circumstances, the Wallabies showed old-fashioned guts to hold the score to 31-8.

At the end of the season there needs to be a review of the injury toll. I offer these contrarian thoughts for consideration. The accepted wisdom is that the number of matches players contest should be cut. But throughout their careers, from schoolboys to first class, New Zealanders play more rugby than their Australian counterparts. Should Australia follow this model? Should the emphasis in Australia shift from the gym to more actual game time for players, at all levels? Is there too much building up of muscled contours and not enough aerobic work in the gym work?

Compare and contrast the body types and playing styles of David Pocock and Richie McCaw. New Zealand teams place a much higher emphasis on aerobic fitness than is applied in Australia. This shows up on the field and possibly in the injury lists. I was told before the June Tests by an insider (admittedly not a member of the coaching staff) that there was great concern in the Wallabies' camp about the lack of fitness of the Super Rugby players, especially those coming from the Waratahs. Are the franchises too accepting of the scientific and bio-mechanic theories and advice they are getting, when results and injuries suggests that the theories need to be challenged and perhaps adjusted?

Perhaps the most positive thing that can be said about the run of injuries is that what does not kill you makes you stronger. With 38 players used in 10 Tests, the injury toll has opened up chances for fringe players. Sitaleki Timani and Michael Hooper, for instance, should now be regulars in the Wallabies' pack for some years. Nic Phipps has shown that there is life after Will Genia. Kurtley Beale has the chance to entrench himself as the long-term playmaker in the back line.

For the Wallabies, nothing strengthens resolve and character quite like overcoming difficult times. In this context, a win tonight against the Pumas at Rosario will be one of the great triumphs of Australian rugby.

18 comments so far

  • How many NSW players in that team listed above???.....seems to be some truth...

    Captain & Tennille
    Date and time
    October 06, 2012, 10:00AM
    • Spiro I think you are spot on with the idea about injuries being caused by a lack of match play. The "science" must be questioned as we have so many players getting injuries that indicate a lack of match fitness. Lets' hope the Wallabies can win in Argentina but if they don't then it must be time to look for a new coach and management team...

      Date and time
      October 06, 2012, 10:16AM
      • If the Waratah players were not fit, why did the selectors continue to pick them in the first XV? Give the form players the chance. Who outside NZ had heard of Aaron Smith before the Rugby Championship? Unfit Weepu (big name) was put on hold.

        kuala lumpur
        Date and time
        October 06, 2012, 10:58AM
        • "Tell him he's dreaming".
          Spiro, the wallabies were thrashed last weekend, and were lucky that the Springboks missed a number of real opportunities in conversions & tries.
          Comparing Timani to 'Big Kev', and Phipps as a ready replacement for Ginea is delusionary. Phipps was pedantic in his passing, which was evident when Sheens came on, and was not around when a quick ruck needed his presence. As for how many breaks he made.....
          I want the Wallabies to win, but I doubt they will.

          Date and time
          October 06, 2012, 11:11AM
          • Absolutely agree with you about too much gym time and not enough time on the field playing the game. Problem is, how do you get this through to those who can make the changes. We desperately need a strong national competition equivalent to the Currie Cup. Union exposure in WA hopeless and we struggle to get a team up in my son's school. The future of Union in WA is bleak despite the support for the Force. Unless we increase the number of youngsters who want to play, the talented player depth for our national team will remain woeful.

            Date and time
            October 06, 2012, 11:54AM
            • Good place to start an enquiry into injuries would be to ask those who suggested the November Tour in 2011 to explain their reasoning. Then go and ask the NRL clubs how they manage to keep most of their players fit and healthy for most of the season including State of Origin.

              Date and time
              October 06, 2012, 2:05PM
              • Not having access to fox TV I have started to watch NRL. Injuries not common at all. 2 referees helpful for the behind the play obstructions, late tackling almost non existent. Handling skills superb. Contact more controlled and rigorously policed. Suspect union could benefit from league.
                Current Wallaby injury toll is Royal Commission stuff!

                Date and time
                October 06, 2012, 3:48PM
              • That's a no brainer Bill! they don't play the amount of footy the rugby kids do and they don't trip around overseas week in and week out, and the Mungo game is only half a rugby game anyway!

                Date and time
                October 06, 2012, 5:35PM
              • or the all blacks

                Date and time
                October 06, 2012, 5:38PM
            • Anyone notice the final of schoolboys game on fox 3????? NZ V OZ?? No?? What a surprise that is .......not
              I only spotted it while seeking out what ITM game was being telecast today!
              The (so called) marketing dept are the ones who should be shot. Last week I bought "The Australian" and there was not even a single column of many other sports I will not detail them and some very "marginal"
              All week it is the ITM and Currie cup + French super 14. This is the real and BOG question not Deans or the turnstile cooper.........where is our middle competition and where is the marketing of rugby in this country.........or should we get a bigger deal from the punter sponsors?
              AS to Phipps........please, he is no replacement for Genia and Genia himself has been nullified by top teams. Timani is S15 standard no more.
              Wobblies main issues are 80% due to forward pack (other than Pocock and Sharpe putting in 100%) being an international joke......and that does include the injured beef.were they available
              Tonight the Aussies pride will be no greater than the Pumas BUT they will be massively "outpassioned" . After my first trip to Rosario a few weeks ago I was stunned by their "involvement". Being at a tahtahs game or wobblies test is similar to the funeral of a family favourite in comparison (actually make that Oz as a whole........very quiet village)

              headed off
              Guatavita, Colombia
              Date and time
              October 06, 2012, 3:16PM

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