In the Tri-Nations, the Springboks sent their B-team to the Antipodes. The All Blacks responded by sending their B-team to South Africa. These somewhat cynical ploys, which trivialised a great tournament, also decided its outcome.
Having not won any silverware for a decade, the Wallabies, by contrast, did not hesitate to put their best side on the park in every game. After such a long drought, it was important for them to win something – anything.
At Eden Park, the All Blacks blew the Wallabies off the park with a first half of total intensity and intimidation. The game was over by half time. In Brisbane, the Wallabies used the same tactic, from the kick-off throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at the ABs. Adam Ashley-Cooper stated afterwards that at half time of the Brisbane test, he had never been as tired in all his life. No wonder that the opposing team in both games outscored the hosts in the 2nd half.
In the end the Tri-Nations was effectively decided by one man. With the Wallabies clearly spent, Will Genia yet again produced an inspirational run that led to the match-winning try. Genia reminds this blogger of George Gregan at his peak. Gregan had the ability to dictate a game and lift the side. But Genia may turn out to be even better than Gregan. As Farr-Jones predicted, he could be the best Australian half-back since Catchpole.
Speaking of comparisons with past greats, it was surprising to read comments in the press that James O’Connor may have trouble re-claiming his spot in the side. There is a touch of Campese about this boy, and the Wallabies cannot afford to leave him out.
So to the World Cup. Can the Wallies win it? With excitement machines like O'Connor, Beale, and Quade Cooper, anything is possible. Sekope Kepu has been the front row find of the season, and with the return of James Slipper there is some hope that the team’s perpetual achilles heal-- the scrum – might hold its own.
Despite his age, Radike Samo is the best Wallabies number 8 since Totai Kefu. With Elsom, Higginbotham, and Pocock, Australia has an imposing set of loose forwards, while Horwill and Vickerman are a fine pair of locks.
But to win the WC, a team needs to have a reliable goal kicker; a nerveless character like Matt Burke, Elton Flatley, Jonny Wilkinson or Dan Carter.
The Wallabies don’t have such a player.