Crusaders coaches and players say the debate around their team’s name should wait until emotions have cooled following the Christchurch terror attack.
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Digby Ioane, the hard-shouldered and dashing Western Force winger, gets his first test jersey on Saturday against Wales. This is a well-deserved honour as he carried the Western Force attack virtually by himself last year, and was rewarded by John Mitchell by losing his place in the starting lineup this season. Bad hands was Mitchell’s call on why Ioane frequently didn’t make the cut. Ioane’s response, rightly in my opinion, has been to go back to the Queensland Reds next season.
It is a remarkable fact that Ioane is the first player with a Samoan background to play for the Wallabies. He won’t be the last. It’s always dangerous to make generalisations about ethnic groups but they can be valid if they are understood as generalisations. The New Zealand experience with players with a Samoan background is that they have an aptitude for collision rugby that is admirable. There is a warrior element in the Samoan culture that comes out when Samoans and players with a Samoan background play rugby. The national side, after all, is called Manu (Warrior) Samoa.
Ioane definitely has this fearless warrior aspect to his game. He has fast feet and quick reflexes and tackles with courage and effectiveness. Samoans, too, believe that Samoa is the centre of the universe. They are proud and, in the best sense, arrogant about their place in the world. Generally this self-confidence means that they play well on big occasions. During the 1991 Rugby World Cup, Samoa defeated Wales at Cardiff, an achievement that England, Ireland, Scotland and France struggled to match during the 1980s. Ioane is unlikely to be over-awed in his first test at Brisbane.
In 1987 I wrote an article called ‘The Browning Of The All Blacks’ in which I predicted that by the Year 2000 Polynesian players would dominate the selections in the New Zealand national side. The All Blacks run-on side against France on Saturday has 9 players with a Polynesian background, 6 backs and 3 forwards. The Wallaby side against Wales has four players with a Polynesian background. By the time of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the fearless prediction can be made that the Wallabies will be dominated by players of Polynesian background, as the All Blacks are now. Digby Ioane’s selection, therefore, represents a decisive moment in the Browning of the Wallabies.
Go you good thing!