A battle of possible and probable to settle pressing rugby questions

Mitch Evans Roar Guru

By , Mitch Evans is a Roar Guru

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    What a whirlwind year! I feel I haven’t had a week without rugby since February and it has often been hard to compose my thoughts into something coherent and intelligible.

    This has been due to the sheer mass of news, results, speculations and scandals that have been abundant in rugby, at all levels, in 2017.

    Even as I type this the Wallabies are preparing to do battle with the Welsh, much the same time as England and Argentina, France and New Zealand, Scotland and Samoa and Ireland and South Africa lock horns (among other internationals).

    Then throw in the final of the NRC between Canberra Vikings and Queensland Country and it’s hard to believe an avid rugby fan like myself has time to do anything other than record early morning games and spend all of Sunday catching up on the weekend’s action.

    I digress though. The topic that has my immediate attention is the merit of matches such as the two most recent Barbarians matches against the Wallabies and All Blacks over consecutive weekends.

    I really enjoy the open nature of these matches, even though they don’t hold Test credentials, they’re still usually enthralling displays of some of the world’s best talent going up against international teams. The point I want to raise is not a negative one; I like these matches, but I also feel they could be tweaked or distinguished to further benefit everyone involved.

    The two matches on the weekend, by Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika’s own admission, served as a style of “possible versus probable” trial more akin to schoolboy rugby. I am a huge advocate for this approach. Not to replace the Barbarians, but to be played in tandem as separate fixtures to let coaches see first-hand what their charges are willing to do for a seat on the plane to Japan.

    As the year comes to a close, most teams are dealing with injuries to some of their regular starters and often use the Spring Tour to blood some younger or less experienced talent. It becomes a great exhibition for the fringe players trying to prove they deserve a spot in the 23 and an even bigger chance for largely unknown players to vie for a spot in the overarching squad.

    Perhaps just as pressing, nearly, is the current state of the spectator, which now comes with the fully-fledged job of being an armchair selector, and disagreeing with any position they see on the Internet that doesn’t suit their own narrative. Frankly, I don’t have an issue with that – the more discussion the better, and even bad press is still press.

    So many pundits are pining for a clash so they can finally settle a number of issues with their mates and other fans of the game. This includes a number of pressing matters, such as whether Jermaine Ainsley or Tetera Faulkner was more imposing in the scrum or whether the livewire nature of a Tom Banks or Andrew Kellaway-type is more fitting for a Wallabies berth than the barnstorming Taqele Naiyaravoro or Eto Nabuli mold.

    The idea carries forth more merit due to the close nature of the two encounters from the last fortnight. The Wallabies climbed back to edge out a slight 31-28 lead against a predominately Australian Barbarians contingent just one week before a more New Zealand-looking Barbarians side squared off against the All Blacks to push them to a second-half comeback where the world number ones held off for a 31-22 triumph.

    With less than two years until the kickoff of the Rugby World Cup, it’s even more imperative that the Wallabies, All Blacks and every other nation for that matter, start to finalise the squads that they’re taking to Japan.

    When there’s still so many squad players that have yet to take the field, why not set up intentional, televised, possible versus probable games? This would let us determine if Quade Cooper or Duncan Paia’aua should be a backup flyhalf to the incumbent Bernard Foley or whether Jordan Uelese, Tolu Latu or Andrew Ready should take the reins from Tatafu Polota-Nau should he not make it through until the next showcase event.

    So, Roarers, what are your thoughts? Would you like to see more matches designed toward testing players within the same nation? Which players would you like to see go head-to-head as the Wallabies approach the World Cup and the final few players get a chance to show their hand?