Wilko’s omission is weird, baffling, bizarre
Those are just three of the words featured in various rugby media and used to describe Martin Johnson’s decision to keep Jonny Wilkinson on the bench for the second Test on Saturday.
It was widely thought that, after the English backs failed to perform in Perth, Jonno would move Flood to 12 and play Wilko at 10 for several reasons:
(a) Wilko’s been running the line well at Toulon
(b) he has a crisp pass, inside and out
(c) would leave Youngs to handle Genia while he crowded Cooper
(d) would kick extra high for his inside backs to chase
(e) would kick extra long for territory
(f) would add to his record haul of successful penalty kicks.
But by leaving him on the bench, and persisting with Flood at 10 and Hape at 11, Jonno seems determined to prove that his Perth selections were the right ones and that, this time, things will be different.
He’s getting a lot of argument from rugby scribes in England, but not from his loyal, faithful and enormous squad in Sydney.
The question is, is Jonno a utopian rather than a realist?
An informal poll this week – conducted by me and a bunch of Brit and Aussie mates – among English fans in various London pubs produced some kind of consensus re: Jonno’s game plan.
Naturally, it’s thought to be based on devastating the Wallaby frontrow again.
His plan, so the tragics reckon, is to kick deep into Australian territory, get down there, contain, contain, contain, wait for a White-feed scrum, and this time go for a pushover try.
And keep doing that.
When they do decide to run the ball, in the Red Zone, Flood cuts-out to Tindall who uses his new-found strength and aggression to make some yards then pops one to Foden flying through on the angle.
Equally puzzling to the assorted Brits and Kiwis, and not a few Aussies, is why Dingo is persisting with an out-of-their-depth frontrow that surely will have no role in the RWC.
The London Aussies all want to see Baxter and Dunning propping on Saturday to give some assurance of own-ball backline play.
As for those Aussie backs, one guy in a Quins jersey, quaffing a Sierra Nevada in the Drayton Arms, said something illuminating: “Our forwards will murder your lot, no question. What troubles me is that your backs are already terrific, and with Genia and Giteau playing, they just got better.”
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