All Blacks Come Again, And We Might Win, But Probably Not
And so the fabled All Blacks of New Zealand come again to Australia to challenge our Men with their pre-match dance of death and tongues and scary-faces. The haka remains one of the best things in sport, and it’s grouse that it’s part of the Culture. But my, they overdo it some. The Kiwi basketballers – the excellently-named Tall Blacks – did it to the Dream Team in ’92, and everyone in the entire country has been ripping it off since, for any reason. Pick up a mate from the airport? Haka. Thank a mate for a move? Haka. It’s become the carton of beer, and in danger of becoming their Oi Oi Oi. So stop it once.
In betting news, you pit these two XXIIs against one another and you’d suggest the ABs would win 4 Tests in 5. Which should make them $1.20. As it is you’ll get $1.47, which looks to me Overs. The Wallabies have a 5.5 point head-start at The Line price of $1.90, a margin I would no sooner entertain with the most evil mug’s punt-money. The Wallabies might get within 10.5 points with a try at the death. But 5.5 is bigger Unders than the Undertaker underground in undies, a lazy, rubbish analogy, but there it is.
Australia, meanwhile, is $2.80 to win outright which assumes they’d win a Test against the ABs once every 2.8 times. And at home, that’s perhaps how it’s panned out. I don’t have the statistics with me and can’t be arsed looking them up. But it sounds right. We knock them off, occasionally, at home, once every few years.
But this squadron of Wallabies, while impressive and stoic in three tight Tests against the visiting Welsh, don’t appear to have enough “points” in them to beat the All Blacks of New Zealand. And in a game decided by who scores the most “points”, this could prove crucial.
The All Blacks, as usual, have shit-loads of Potential Points. As a Random Irishman told a Mozzie Bro, the ABs have a pack full of storm troopers, a backline full of ninjas. Have a go at them. Israel Dagg has the weirdest name since Englebert Humperdinck but runs like a Victorian-era thief of great athleticism. Hosea Gear is chunky and quick, Ma’a Nonu is the same, and Big SBW in the 12, well … he’s playing basketball in Test match rugby, no mean trick for a multi-trick pony.
Also no mean trick being picked for New Zealand given Sonny Bill’s “loyalty” is to Japan, boxing, the Sydney Roosters and, of course, Sonny Bill. No other centres in New Zealand? Is he that necessary? Is there fear they “need” SBW in order to beat Australia? You wouldn’t think so given Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw and a host of other maniacs good at rugby. But there you go. Always had a little inferiority complex, the Cuzzies, though you wouldn’t have thought about Rugby, a game they have dominated for 153 years.
And thinking about it (while posting them at $3.75 drifting to $4 to win myself) the Wallabies are not without appeal. Kurtley Beale at fullback is a ripper and if he can pull off some Magic with his funky feet, there are points in him. He can do things, Curly Bill, and in a game as defensively robust as Test match rugby, X-factor can be The Only Way.
I also like Digby Ioane and his low-running propulsion system. Cats like that are hard to tackle. That is important. Then there’s Adam Ashley-Cooper, a Versatile and fine centre or fullback playing on the wing. He’s good enough to do it but you’d still like him in the centres, I’d have thunk, and chuck Drew Mitchell on to start and Quade to the bench. And when I am picking Wallaby Test teams, so will it be…
For in the centres we have Anthony Fainga’a who can tackle like a whipper-snipper but whose attacking gifts are limited to the ball going through his hands, and to The Hit-up. Rob Horne is a taller version of the same though he can run a bit too, hopefully around Ma’a Nonu while he’s putting make-up on. But then if either of them chop down – or better still somehow maim – Sonny Bill then they’ve probably earned their time in the 12 and 13.
Berrick Barnes has earned his time in 10, and is the incumbent five-eighth and man-of-the-series against Wales. The hoo-ha about No Quade is a Story Because There Aren’t Others. These days they have 40-man squads and 40-match seasons, and the season runs all bar two months. Quade Cooper will play rugby for Australia again.
That said there’s a whisper Robbie Deans is off him. And on the Rugby Club last night when asked of it he said he’d been stuck in traffic and didn’t hear the preceding yapping with QC. So, I dunno. But if he is “off” Cooper – and types I’ve been yapping to would seem to know – it’s because he’s “on” Berrick Barnes who’s been in very good nick opposed to Cooper’s injured run in Super rugby and flat out fucking appalling form in the Rugby World Cup. Don’t see him as overly sentimental, Dingo.
Genia picks himself as does Pocock. The rest are duking it out with Others, though I like Dave Dennis in 6 and Scott Higginbotham in 8, almost more than Cliffy Palu whose time may be up, at least outside of Japan. Those two should bash over the top of Pocock as he scavenges, and that is no bad thing. Radike off the bench could win the Test match.
But of course we need to win the “ball” and that will largely come down to the tight-five, particularly locks Nathan Sharpe and Sitaleki Timani in the line-out, what Mark Loane once described as the “slow poison” of rugby. Win lineout ball, go a long way to winning the game. Massive acid test for these two, one Very Old, one Huge But Not Much A Jumper. Hard to like ‘em given they’ve come from struggling provinces. But let’s judge them Monday like good Monday Quarterbacks do.
Pigs in the front-row look solid. I don’t know what the fuck it is they do in there but they do seem quite solid. Benn Robinson breeds pigs, an exotic version called a Large Black, from England. How about that.
All Blacks by 10.
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