What gives with Wycliff Palu?
Australia's Ben Alexander, front, grapples with Wycliff Palu during a team training session in London, Tuesday Nov. 3, 2009. Australia will face England for an international rugby union test match at Twickenham Saturday Nov. 7, 2009. AP Photo/Tom Hevezi
Here we go again: injury-riddled Wycliff Palu missed yesterday’s training session “as a precaution”. When is coach Robbie Deans going to take the precaution earlier and not pick him?
But it’s easy to see why Deans keeps taking a punt on the big bloke. Palu can be devastatingly destructive on his day.
One problem: he has to be on the paddock. And there’s the perennial question.
I’d rather have Brumby Peter Kimlin at 8, knowing he’ll be there 100% of the time to give 100%. And the way Kimlin played against the Lions, as the stand-in captain and man-of-the-match, he’s the better bet over Palu anyway.
The question mark over Palu apart, the Wallabies are ready to make their presence felt at Suncorp tonight, their fortress.
The men-in-gold have won 14 of their last 16 internationals at one of the very best rugby grounds to play on, and view, in the world.
The perfect place for the W’s to start the three-Test series with a W.
This clash promises to be a cracker. Everywhere you look on both sides there’s quality.
And especially among the Wallabies, where Ben Mowen, Israel Folau, and Christian Lealiifano make their debuts.
And deservedly so, all three have been dominant in Super Rugby.
Mowen has captained the Brumbies with distinction since the start of last season, having moved away from the then negative elements of the Waratahs – with the emphasis in “the then”, not the now.
Mowen has been the driving force behind the Brumbies qualifying for their first Super Rugby finals series in a decade.
Lealiifano can take the same accolades in the Brumbies back division with his general play – and just as importantly his goal-kicking. It will be interesting to see how he slots in between James O’Connor and the very much in-form Adam Ashley-Cooper.
The success of those three will directly affect how Folau fires in his first up appearance on the wing. He made his presence felt in 15 games for the Waratahs on rugby season debut as a fullback, and now has been dramatically moved by Deans.
Hopefully it’s a Deans masterstroke. But it is a huge gamble whichever way the cards fall.
Looking at the Lions, there’s plenty to roar about with the men-in-red. That’s the inbuilt aura about this combined side that has stood the test of time since 1888.
They are big, fast, experienced, and desperate for a Test, and series, win.
Desperation can be a handy tool if used properly, and coach Warren Gatland is an old hand at calling on all the pluses he can muster.
Like Deans with favourite Palu, Gatland has chosen two favourites in skipper Sam Warburton and winger Alex Cuthbert, both out-of-form – a mighty risk in what looms as a razor-edged 80 minutes.
And for the man who will dictate the outcome, Kiwi referee Chris Pollock, this will be the game of his life and a huge honour to control the first Test in the series.
It’s the general consensus the winner tonight will win the series, so it’s vital Pollock lets it happen rather than make it happen.
In short, be 31 on the paddock, and not top dog.
So bring it on gold and red, the rugby world awaits with anticipation.