Bledisloe1Well the time is nigh; the first game of Bledisloe 2018 is upon us. There’s much gnawing of knuckles over the possibility that Australia can pull this one clearly out of their collective arses and get a 1-0 lead in the series. I watched the Amazon series about the Lions tour and the 2017 season and you have to agree, the All Blacks were lacking something. What was it? That general malaise and inconsistency was endemic in the Highlanders and the Hurricanes, with the Chiefs stepping up over and above given their injury carnage and the Blues just sucking as usual. The crusaders showed the way with nary a blemish on an amazing season built on some up-front dominance. I think Steve Hanson was sending his boys a message when he said the Wallabies are favourites. If you look at the momentum heading into the Wallabies last win over the AB’s, you’d have to agree that they are looking better and the AB’s looked horrid. Obviously, the French whitewash and the Irish debacle occurred in between with the Wallabies again underperforming and the AB’s just getting it done. The ref was a big influencer in those games as he was last in last year’s series, so we can all hope that this game is not marred with controversy. We all want a game out of it!!!

 

Wallabies All Blacks Head to Head
Israel Folau Ben Smith In the aerial battle, there’s no contest, but Smith has Rugby smarts. Smtih by a smidge.
 Dane Haylett-Petty  Waisake Naholo Haylett_Petty blows hot and cold. Naholo can be quiet on the wing, he doesn’t go looking for work sometimes. For sheer Power Naholo is hard to beat.
 Reece Hodge  Jack Goodhue Hodge has the experience, but he’s a one horse pony, a little like Wallaby 13’s of the past decade. They need some Little’s and Horan’s that make space.
 Kurtley Beale  Ryan Crotty Beale is a game changer, but has confidence issues. Doesn’t play well with others. Crotty solid and dependable
 Marika Koroibete  Rieko Ioane Koroibete has not shown me that he’s at this level. Ioane has shown the opposite. Koroibete is fast but is a League bash bash bam bam guy. Can he bring finesse?
 Bernard Foley  Beauden Barrett Foley is good if his pack performs. Barret is at another level. He needs to step into this game. Foley could do with some of Barrett’s tackling and work ethic.
 Will Genia  Aaron Smith This is a great contest. Two Generals going at it. Smith has the wood on Genia, but this is well worth watching.
 David Pocock  Kieran Read (c) Read is getting back to his best. Plays a totally different game to Pocock. Pocock lacks in dimensions. In an AB team he would never be on the field with Hooper (injuries and cards excepted)
 Michael Hooper (c)  Sam Cane Cane the work horse and semi enforcer. Can fetch and carry. This is another one of those great battles that can go either way. Both rarely have shit games
 Lukhan Tui  Liam Squire Squire will probably own this contest. Tui’s OK, but this level is something he’s not shone at yet.
 Adam Coleman  Sam Whitelock Coleman can do OK here, but he gets precious easily and distracted. The old warhorse (at 29 lol) will school him
Izack Rodda  Brodie Retallick Retallick will have this contest. Rodda is another journeyman in this role. Who else to pick?? Yuk…
 Sekope Kepu  Owen Franks Two thugs of the game, thugging it out. Should be interesting. Barrett should watch his head, Kepu loves cheap shotting #10’s
 Tatafu Polota-Nau  Codie Taylor Taylor has been on the rise since the demise of Coles. Polota-Nau is an old warhorse, but he may be shown up a little back in a contest more frenetic than any Northern dirge.
 Tom Robertson  Joe Moody Moody, another AB thug. Robertson will keep up I think, but experience may tell
     
Tolu Latu Nathan Harris Even stevens
 Allan Alaalatoa  Karl Tu’inukuafe Karl might add some edge here
 Taniela Tupou  Tim Perry Well well, Tim Perry. Tupou is new too. It’s who messes up less I guess
 Rob Simmons  Scott Barrett Barrett is on fire. Rob Simmons is a journeyman at best.
 Pete Samu  Ardie Savea I like how Samu’s been playing this year. Two different styles.
 Nick Phipps  TJ Perenara Perenara makes Phipps look ordinary. He’s too yappy, but he’s a good impact player usually
 Matt Toomua  Damian McKenzie Two more different players you couldn’t find. Can Matt bring it? This’ll be interesting
 Jack Maddocks  Anton Lienert-Brown Brash Maddocks vs. the wily and experience ALB. This is a good match to follow if it occurs.

 

The papers and online news still has the AB’s as firm favourites and in Diatribe #2 I also picked them. Nothing I am seeing has me quaking in my boots but I firmly believe that the Wallabies are closer than they’ve been for a while.

 

What do they need? (The Wallabies… keep up!!)

Belief is something they may still be short on. Talking them up is not going to do it (as was pointed out in a column this morning). Confidence and actions are different things. If they can get a good fast start and then maintain it, they might be in with a chance.  Beale needs to range in behind Foley and keep the defence guessing. Genia needs to run more, with the AB’s always seemingly vulnerable around the rucks in recent years. Folau needs to go looking for work. Too often he’s not where he needs to be. He’s scoring tries now and then but getting handed a ball with a clear line in front is hardly genius. Good supporting lines and winning the collisions.

The number one thing to do is avoid any yellows or red cards. Both teams. It’s getting dull watching games turn on these instances of stupidity. For constantly infringing at your goal line, then a yellow card is appropriate, but this head high stuff needs a good look at. There’s more concussion than ever now with people tackling lower and putting their heads and shoulders at risk. Arrrgh!! It’s frustrating!

Mick Byrne is talking up his charges. “They’re as skilful as the AB’s.” – time will tell.

Who worries me in the All Blacks?

Damian McKenzie. I’m still not convinced, but there’s been some results. Hard to get my head around, but the AB’s like changing the Rugby landscape. The Yarpies did it with Brendon Paulse ….. Wales with Shane Williams. In the era of monsters……

A few of them need to pick up their games a bit, but the AB’s environment seems to bring the best out of most players stepping in there. It must be the water or the Gatorade. B Barrett is under some intense scrutiny, but with the air cover and belief coming from Hansen and Co., I am sure he’s going to nail it.

With Morgan still looking for his microphone, Andrew Blowers stuck in Traffic and Ben missing Djuro’s technical nouse (“What’s this button for??”) we await the next edition post Bledisloe one. None of the predictions would have changed based on the teams being named I think.

 

That’s enough for now…..