Deans faces tough call with Smith

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    Coach Robbie Deans admits he faces an immensely tough decision whether to recall the experience and nous of Wallabies great George Smith to improve Australia’s breakdown fortunes on Saturday night.

    The British and Irish Lions surprisingly gained the upper hand in a rugged breakdown battle in the second Test and young incumbent Michael Hooper is no certainty to start at No.7 in the ANZ Stadium decider.

    After a week of full training in Melbourne, Smith is considered fit and prepared enough to be unleashed against the Lions.

    But the 32-year-old still has not played for six weeks due to a knee injury and that would concern Deans ahead of such a big game.

    The coach conceded on Tuesday that he could choose any one of his three openside flankers – Hooper, Smith and replacement Liam Gill – to start in the third Test.

    All have been stand-outs in Super Rugby this season, while 110-Test veteran Smith has turned the clock back 12 years when he was highly influential in Australia’s maiden series win over the Lions.

    The Brumbies flanker last played for Australia in 2009 but Deans showed how highly he rates him by rushing Smith back from injury last week.

    Asked if he faced a difficult call at No.7, he said: “Absolutely, which is great.”

    Although the Wallabies ultimately prevailed 16-15, Deans might be forced to consider a back-row change after Lions captain Sam Warburton was far more influential than Hooper at the ruck contest.

    It was a reversal of fortunes from the first Test when Australia dominated the breakdown, before and after Hooper moved into the centres just after the break.

    “As happens, the Lions responded to our performance in the first Test and they really targeted it, particularly in the wide breakdowns, and they put us under a lot of pressure,” Deans said.

    “We’ve got to be better.”

    Lions coach Warren Gatland has a headache of his own at No.7 with Warburton (hamstring) ruled out.

    Irishman Sean O’Brien was on the bench in Melbourne and is highly regarded by the Wallabies but Gatland would be tempted to pick Welsh openside Justin Tipuric, who starred in March’s Six Nations triumph over England.

    “They’ve got some quality options there,” said Deans, who played down Warburton’s loss.

    “In fact, I think (the media) were suggesting at the front end (of the tour) that they maybe should have been there in the first instance.”

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    The Crowd Says (70)

    • Roar Guru

      July 3rd 2013 @ 3:23am
      Simon Levingston said | July 3rd 2013 @ 3:23am | ! Report

      Jim, you are right it is a very tough call whether to select George Smith. If you have your eye on the next World Cup in two years time, you would be obliged to leave him out. If you are selecting player on pure form and history, George Smith is one of the greatest No.7s who has ever represented Australia.

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 3:34am
        Dan R said | July 3rd 2013 @ 3:34am | ! Report

        I don’t think it’s tough really. You pick the best player for now. Who knows who will be playing in 2 years at the World Cup, and I doubt this 1 game will have an influence on what happens then.

        For me, I would be starting smith with gill on the bench. Hooper is a fantastic player, but I’m not convinced he is a fantastic open side. More a brilliant blind side with an open sides build.

        The only risk with smith really is if he is underdone. Only the training staff can make that call.

    • July 3rd 2013 @ 3:57am
      bluerose (Rotuma Island). said | July 3rd 2013 @ 3:57am | ! Report

      a brave coach would select Hooper/Smith (7/6) with Mowen at #8 and Gill on the bench, nothing against Palu, he has done wonders to the Wallabies in the first 2tests but we need an influential figure in the breakdown, we will sacrifice alot of muscle in the breakdown but we can compensate that with a fetcher and a scavenger.

    • July 3rd 2013 @ 5:02am
      mania said | July 3rd 2013 @ 5:02am | ! Report

      who said deans doesnt learn? deans was quick to drop stGeorge for pocock @ the beginning of his tenure, and now he rushes him back into the squad.
      as much as i admire gill and hooper, this is a job for super smith.

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 9:57am
        jameswm said | July 3rd 2013 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        Yeah I’d start Smith. The guy is a dead set champion player, and this cannot be underestimated. He just gets the job done and knows his way round a rugby field. You can’t buy that sort of experience. He’s shown this season that he’s up for it. He’ll pilfer, step, pass, tackle, do whatever is needed.

        Then have Hooper or Gill on the bench, for cover. I’m not fussed which, they’re different types of players and hard to compare. If it’s likely to be an arm wrestle, I’d go for Gill this time.

    • July 3rd 2013 @ 5:23am
      Billy Bob said | July 3rd 2013 @ 5:23am | ! Report

      Mania and Dan, I tend to agree.
      I think that the Smith and Gill combo would maintain a similar game plan, assuming smith got the first 60.
      This scenario would be a tough pill for Hooper who has done little wrong other than not beat Warburton a few times.
      The counterpoint to this is that I would love to see Hooper come on as a super sub running at tired legs.
      Again who could be more of a super sub than Gill? His steal last game may have been the difference.
      It is a very tough call to make.
      Breaking it down Gill is a fetcher and a proven lineout option.
      Hooper is a running 7 above all and less of the above two.
      Smith is a fetcher less pace as a runner but a great link player who could play 12 even in attack as Hooper was forced to in the first game. Also not a jumper but a great scavenger at back of lineout. Plus possibly the most experienced 7 in the world.
      I’m tempted to put smith on the bench with Hooper.
      Let Gill have the first 60 at least and use hooper and smith to cover the whole backrow.
      Which leaves us short of pure 6/8 cover.?
      I get back to giving hooper a rest. Training paddock fitness may decide it.

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 5:28am
        mania said | July 3rd 2013 @ 5:28am | ! Report

        billyBob – i much prefer a hooper, stGeorge and mowen trio. palu will be missed with his occassional power runs but imo isnt doing enough often enough. palu would be awesome as an impact player.
        theres more of a contrast between hooper and stGeorge. i prefer my players to complement each other by their diversity, gill i put on the bench.

        • Roar Guru

          July 3rd 2013 @ 8:59am
          jeznez said | July 3rd 2013 @ 8:59am | ! Report

          I think Palu was great for his breakdown presence in the first test but focussed instead on ball carrying in the second – seems at the moment he cannot deliver both. I vastly prefer his first game to his second but performing both functions would be better.

          I’m leaning to a Smith, Mowen, Palu backrow with Kimlin and Hooper on the bench for Simmons and Gill. Kimlin is just a more robust player than Simmons while still offering a lineout option. I think Gill is a more classical 7 but Hoopers pace late in a game with tired legs around could provide some great impact.

          • July 3rd 2013 @ 9:56am
            kingplaymaker said | July 3rd 2013 @ 9:56am | ! Report

            jeznez it’s strange that when Palu did run wider, the bullocking runs of old seemed to return. Perhaps he could alternate slightly wider running with close in work elsewhere, and leave the close hit-ups to someone else (though who?).

            • Roar Guru

              July 3rd 2013 @ 12:21pm
              jeznez said | July 3rd 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

              Just a question of him finding balance in his game. I liked the breakdown game he played in game one. Many people are saying we need running from him though and he provided that in game two. In my mind a balance would be best and hope we get that in game three.

              I can see mania’s point about using him for impact and it is a reasonable point but using the Brumbies backrow of Smith, Kimlin and Mowen could be argued for as well

              • July 3rd 2013 @ 12:44pm
                Selector said | July 3rd 2013 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

                The Lions kicked off straight to Palu almost every kick off. This is either to wear him out, or because they see him as a weak link?

                This is a loose and bold statement for such an important game, but I would love to see

                Robinson
                Moore
                Alexander
                Horwill
                Kimlin
                McMeniman
                Smith
                Mowen

                Slipper
                Sio
                FIangaa
                Palu
                Gill

        • July 3rd 2013 @ 10:05am
          jameswm said | July 3rd 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

          Small back row mania

          • July 3rd 2013 @ 10:33am
            mania said | July 3rd 2013 @ 10:33am | ! Report

            jameswm – its not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
            to me hooper plays like a 6. he shouldnt be expected to be a fetcher because thats not his strength.
            palu imo is getting long in the tooth so moves to the bench where an impact role would better suit him. mowen can hold his own against any opposition and is a line out option.
            stGeorge, well i cant say enough about him but his offense and defence abilities are needed.
            lions arent the boks. theyve shown that even tho they try a forward orientated game they dont have the personel to outmuscle wb’s. hence why u dont need a big loose trio.

            and they maybe be small but mowen and stGeorge are smart. hooper isnt a stratego’s but he’s smart enough to play to his strengths.

    • July 3rd 2013 @ 5:38am
      ScrumJunkie said | July 3rd 2013 @ 5:38am | ! Report

      Deans is crazy if doesn’t start George. We need him at the breakdown. Smith will know this is his last game for Australia, he’d rather die than take a backward step.

      Hooper to come on with his pace late in the game. Sucks Gill should miss out, but he never has to buy a beer for the rest of his life after that steal at the death.

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 6:39am
        bmwwilliams said | July 3rd 2013 @ 6:39am | ! Report

        I don’t disagree with starting George SJ, but I think either Smith or Gill has to be the bench man.
        Shouldn’t need to have a reserve openside at all – so if you have one he should at least be able to cover other positions in the back row.

        I like Hooper but I’m sure he’s taken a backward step in his effectiveness at the breakdown this year. Perhaps not being under Laurie Fisher any more – Colby Faingaa has certainly been very combative in his appearances this season.

        Kimlin/MMM + Smith/Gill would be excellent back 5 cover.

        • July 3rd 2013 @ 6:55am
          ScrumJunkie said | July 3rd 2013 @ 6:55am | ! Report

          You make good points. However I think the Lions were tiring towards the end of the last game. A fresh Hooper could cause havoc.

          • July 3rd 2013 @ 7:51am
            formeropenside said | July 3rd 2013 @ 7:51am | ! Report

            well, Hooper has been largely inffective for the last two tests. Gill to start and Smith on at about 50 mins for Palu. Maybe even 30 mins if Palu is quiet.

            Hooper out of the 22.

            • July 3rd 2013 @ 8:01am
              kingplaymaker said | July 3rd 2013 @ 8:01am | ! Report

              Nor has Gill aside from that lineout steal.

              • July 3rd 2013 @ 8:39am
                formeropenside said | July 3rd 2013 @ 8:39am | ! Report

                you are right, Gill has not been ineffective when he finally makes it on

              • July 3rd 2013 @ 9:46am
                kingplaymaker said | July 3rd 2013 @ 9:46am | ! Report

                Fos you don’t really think Gill has been much good, and you also know that 33 minutes is plenty of time to make an impression. It’s nothing more than Reds bias.

            • July 3rd 2013 @ 9:52am
              Zero Gain said | July 3rd 2013 @ 9:52am | ! Report

              Agree, Hooper has been ineffective. Bring in Smith and drop Hooper.

    • July 3rd 2013 @ 7:46am
      John Philipson said | July 3rd 2013 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      No Smith – he has gone missing at Super Level and should not be thrown into the cauldron of the third deciding test after six weeks off.

      No way. Stick with Hooper and Gill, and get them to play better.

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 7:58am
        Crash Ball2 said | July 3rd 2013 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Gone missing at Super level. Is there gravity on your planet? I think what you meant to say was: seamlessly transitioned back into the fastest, most professional provincial rugby tournament in the world, making the kind of educated impact that had him picked by most pundits as a certainty for a Wallaby berth prior to injury. You’re welcome.

        • July 3rd 2013 @ 8:01am
          mania said | July 3rd 2013 @ 8:01am | ! Report

          Crash Ball2 – a truer paragraph probably has never been written.
          JP – when did smith go missing? when he was injured? cos every game i’ve seen him play since he came back has had him at the forefront fo the game contributing positively with every touch of the ball or just when stGeorge gets near the ball.
          i’m still puzzled how stGeorge wasnt needed for the 2nd test

        • July 3rd 2013 @ 10:07am
          jameswm said | July 3rd 2013 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          Agreed – I couldn’t believe how wel he stepped back in. It really blew me away. He was just everywhere, he has a knack of knowing where to be.

          • July 3rd 2013 @ 10:38am
            mania said | July 3rd 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

            brains beats brawn every day of the week (u listening KPM?) and twice on sunday. a small smart man will always beat a big dummy.
            only the truly great players can rival stGeorges rugby intelligence.
            stGeorge has the ability to decipher offenses on the fly and then maximise his effectiveness.
            i too was blown away at how he seamlessly slipped back into it. no player has returned from abroad with his kind of form. it was almost as if he’d never left.
            highest paid australian rugby player ever and he deserves that moniker.

        • July 3rd 2013 @ 8:36pm
          GWS said | July 3rd 2013 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

          🙂

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 8:53am
        BigBaller said | July 3rd 2013 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        Calm down eveyone clearly JP was joking. If not he is surely confused and meant to post on the selction of Smith in the up coming ashes series.

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 10:12am
        rl said | July 3rd 2013 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        wtf???

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 11:06am
        Nigel Imrie said | July 3rd 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        Gone missing you must be brain dead mate, George Smith should be an automatic selection now that he is fit, Hooper has a long way to go and I believe Gill is ahead of him at the moment. As far as being out for 6 weeks is concerned, the KB’s, JOC’s and Barnes were also under done but time away from playing for these gladiators only recharges them so drop your loyalty to Hooper bulls@#t Deans and select the form player for once in your stubborn career and give us all a break!!!!! It is blaringly obvious we are struggling at 7 just as we are struggling at 10, open your eyes mate it can be a lot easier!!!

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