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Super Rugby: It’s time to unshackle our Tens

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    The Western Force smashed the Reds to open up the Australian Super Rugby conference

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    The Roar has been rather blessed with its additions to the Expert stable in recent weeks, with some quality opinions and insights coming in on a number of sports now from current players, former greats, and respected writers from around the world.

    One of those recent additions, who I’ve been really excited to share space on the rugby tab with, is London-based writer, and Fairfax Press’ RugbyHeaven contributor, Paul Cully, who many of you will know from last year’s Rugby World Cup musings.

    It was on RugbyHeaven last Friday, that Paul put up an observation that completely changed the way I would watch the past weekend’s Super Rugby action.

    Writing about how the Waratahs could do Robbie Deans a massive favour by forcing the Rebels to switch James O’Connor to flyhalf, should Danny Cipriani fail to fire, Paul described the current crop of Australian conference flyhalves as thus:

    “An experienced tactical operator unlikely to make the next step up, a promising youngster still finding his feet under a new coach and game plan, a converted halfback, a Kiwi seeking work opportunities after being unwanted by Pat Lam in Auckland, and the lone Test representative of the five – an exiled Englishman.”

    It was as accurate a description as it was crushingly gloomy.

    With Paul’s descriptions still fresh, I was determined to watch ‘our’ no.10s more closely. In fact, it went further than that; without even realising it, I had watched the whole Chiefs-Blues game having intently focused of their ‘first fives’ almost exclusively as well.

    And frankly, it was depressing.

    How is it that these young punk fly-halves in New Zealand, running around in their formative seasons of Super Rugby, can turn in performances with a skill-level and degree of calmness and maturity that the current crop of Australian tens could only dream of?

    Why are the young no.10s in both the other conferences able to play with freedom to attack as required (and with the nous to know when to), when ‘play what’s in front of you’ remains an object of ironic mockery in Australia?

    Now yes, Quade Cooper and Berrick Barnes are out of action, obviously, and their presence would change the observations about the current group.

    Cooper has a couple of coaches now that wouldn’t dare shackle him, and aren’t likely to anytime soon. But he’s pretty much on his own in this department.

    Barnes is probably the smartest, most tactically aware no.10 in Australia, and when he’s at the top of his game – as he was during the RWC and on the Spring Tour – he runs and kicks effectively with a vision that’s unrivalled in Australia.

    But why isn’t this the case when he plays fly-half for New South Wales? Why does a Waratahs jersey bring with it a kick-first-think-later game plan? Barnes has proved time and again for club and country that he knows when to and not to kick, so why don’t the ‘Tahs just let him play?

    It’s probably even worse for young Matt Toomua at the Brumbies.

    Toomua came to the Brumbies straight out of school as a super-talented, destined-for-further-honours running fly-half, but I can’t honestly think of the last time it was obvious that running was his first thought for the Brumbies. Instead, what we see is this confusing and not at all well-executed medley of fluffed midfield bombs.

    Mike Harris is doing well for the Reds currently by not trying to be Cooper. His is a simple game plan: straighten the attack, feed the centres with width, inside ball to Digby Ioane whenever he wants it. Black-dotting every kick he lines up is helping, too.

    Daniel Halangahu, the “experienced tactical operator unlikely to make the next step up”, is probably the model example of why Australia needs another layer of rugby between the club and Super versions.

    Clearly a class above when playing for Sydney University, Halangahu has never really looked totally comfortable steering his state team around. It will be interesting to see what happens when Barnes returns, and with former sevens star Bernard Foley also hitting his straps.

    Speaking of former sevens stars, I actually feel sorry for James Stannard at the Western Force.

    The Force obviously heeded the criticisms from week one, and ditched the one-off runners from Stannard in midfield, preferring a game of width and using their numbers against the Reds.

    Which would’ve been a great idea had they also added depth to their backline when set. Instead, by the time the ball reached new hands, those hands were already heading sideways. And no-one’s going to run around Queensland at the moment. What works in sevens doesn’t always convert to ‘fifteens’.

    I think the Rebels are falling into the same trap with Cipriani and O’Connor. O’Connor is giving Cipriani plenty of room, and generally will find his way to where the gap is or might be, but against the Waratahs, they were both guilty of running their outside supports out of room by playing too laterally.

    O’Connor not being the most naturally straight runner might cause this, but Cipriani could also straighten himself up and drag the line with him.

    When you watch the likes of Cruden, Hobbs, Bleyendaal, and Barrett over the ditch, and even Jantjies and Lambie over in the Republic, you firstly wonder where our own young punks are, but secondly you can’t help but wonder why the tens we do have don’t seem to have the same freedom to run.

    Having watched a fair chunk of the Six Nations this year, I’ve had similar thoughts watching Sexton, Priestland, and Farrell. When an English flyhalf runs more than Australians appear to, you know all is not well.

    So what’s holding our no.10s back?

    Is it simply a lack of talent, as our Kiwi cousins have been all-too-happy to point out? Or are the coaches in Australia just not game to unshackle their talented playmakers and backs, as has been suggested in numerous articles since the start of the season, for fear of career-stunting failure?

    Conservatism has its place in rugby; don’t get me wrong (the Bulls won championships, after all). But paranoid (and selfish) fear of failure does not. Wherever they’re watching from, people want to see well-executed skills and quality in attack.

    They don’t want shackles; they want to see instinctive players chancing their hands.

    These players already exist in Australia, so why aren’t we seeing what they can really do? Drop the shackles, coaches; the only thing worse than trying something and coming up short is not trying anything and getting the same result.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (97)

    • Roar Guru

      March 6th 2012 @ 4:02am
      Jiggles said | March 6th 2012 @ 4:02am | ! Report

      I think you’re being a little quick to judge on Toomua, Brett. In all honesty he hasn’t been given much chance to develop with the Brumbies despite being there for a few years now. This has a lot to do with Gits coming back and all the crap that was going on down there. I think we need to put an asterisk next to his name and come back and evaluate him towards the back end of the season.

      Also I am going to pull you up on Barnes. He played most of his rugby at 12 for the Wallabies this year, and if memory serves me correctly he only played the Wales RWC game at 10 after Cooper went off. He is a very good 12 with Cooper and is a good foil when he has the main decision making duties off his shoulders. He has rarely been a good 10 for Australia and he suffers the same problems as he does when he is 10 for the Tahs. I think he over thinks things when he knows he has to make the decisions, but when the pressure is off he lets instinct take over and as a result plays better rugby.

      • March 6th 2012 @ 4:31am
        ManSter said | March 6th 2012 @ 4:31am | ! Report

        JUG-LESS, Toomua has indeed had a few years now and unless he is going to average 82% kicks at goal (Never) plus 12-15 tackles (Never) let alone pass a quality ball consistently, sadly he is barely club quality in most countries. Barnes is a classic 1st 5 but sadly (& medically) you need to start planning a succession immediately that does not involve error prone fives such as Cooper & Harris. Wake Up!!!!!

      • March 6th 2012 @ 7:22am
        ilikedahoodoogurusingha said | March 6th 2012 @ 7:22am | ! Report

        I’m with you Jiggles on the To’omua issue. The year Gits returned he did a lot more running and looked consistently dangerous to the defence. My guess (with a little inside information) is that he suffered a crisis of confidence last year which was not helped by all the machinations going on within the club. I believe that given the opportunity, and backing of the coach and staff, he will be able to regain his mojo. Unfortunately it may take the rest of this season to do so.

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2012 @ 9:39am
        Brett McKay said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        G’day Jiggles (and everyone)..

        I don’t know that I have been quick to judge Toomua at all; he’s been there or thereabouts for well over three seasons now and would have to be pushing 30 games now even at just 22. Don’t get me wrong, he is a tremendous talent, and I have really high hopes for him, but he just looks lost.

        No question the goings-on last year set him back. He started the season with the backing of the coach, and two weeks in that counted for nothing. The triple-playmaker thing confused everyone, and I’ve no doubt we’re still seeing the linguring effects of that confidence-sapping now. I really hope – and I completely agree with Guru here – that White and Larkham can put him back on the right path, becuase it would be a horrible shame to see him fade away into obscurity, especially after being a Wallaby tourist only a few years ago..

        • March 6th 2012 @ 1:13pm
          Who Needs Melon said | March 6th 2012 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

          The best thing for Toomua and for ALL the Brumbies for that matter at this stage will be to rekindle their enjoyment of the game. Watching the Brumbies the last few seasons it’s pretty obvious the guys were not having any fun out on the field. They are cliches but I really hope the messages being given to the players is to back themselves, play their natural game, take some chances and not be afraid of failure.

          They are a young, fit bunch of guys and I feel the winning style for them will NOT be stoic, grinding rugby. They’ve had a good pre-season, shaky early win and now another week to analyse, practice combinations, freshen up, etc. and so I feel now is the time to cut loose a little. Of course this is probably all just wishful thinking on part.

        • Roar Guru

          March 6th 2012 @ 3:31pm
          Jiggles said | March 6th 2012 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

          Thanks for the reply Brett,

          If you look a little deeper at those 30 odd games and 3 seasons, you couldn’t conclude it was the best environment for a very talented young 10 to develop in. Even before last years shenanigans he was in and out of the match day squad like a yo-yo. ilikedahoodoogurusingha is very correct in pointing out his crisis of confidence and you touch on it by saying he looked lost. After he got dropped last year I watch a number of his games for Easts and he was not the same bloke I had been watching since school boy level. I had a bit of a chat to him and he had no idea what was going on at the Brumbies and where he stood. thats not a great environment for a young bloke trying to make his way in a pro sport.

          Who Needs Melon hits the nail on the head when he says the White needs to get those boys of yours enjoying their rugby. While I think White is a tad overrated as a coach, he is a no BS kind of guy and he is a strong enough personality to get the board and all the factions at the Brumbies to back off and give the players some space. To be honest the Brumbies squad to me looks a lot like the Reds did in 2009-10, the talent is their, they just need direction and enjoyment.

          Keep faith with him Brett, As I said I have been watching him since a schoolboy and he was a far more talented and all rounded 10 than any of his peers such as Cooper and Lucas.

    • March 6th 2012 @ 4:31am
      kingplaymaker said | March 6th 2012 @ 4:31am | ! Report

      It’s curious how there is a hysterical desire in the Australian media for Cipriani to fail, presumably because he’s English. Greg Clark asked in savage mockery ‘how it it possible for an international to miss touch twice?’, oblivious to the fact that many internationals in fact do this.

      Cipriani in fact produced some excellent playmaking in that match, but his pack was being MONSTERED so what can be expected of him? Even more of a problem, his runners were inept and made little of some good positions, and that includes JOC. But why not blame a scapegoat if there is one to be had?

      I don’t think there is a shortage of Australian no 10s, it’s just that two (Cooper and Barnes) are injured, and two others, Beale and JOC, have been moved out of their natural position in order to get more high quality players into the Wallabies backline.

      In fact Cooper, Beale, JOC, Barnes, Toomua is a better list of 10s than any other country.

      As for how the Wallabies backlines use their 10s and their failure to make the most of their talent, this is undoubtedly true. New Zealand certainly develop what they have far more at 10, which is curious considering they dramatically fail to develop it in other positions (consider the squandering of Messam, Fruean, Vito, Maitland). In fact New Zealand’s inability to make the most of their players is striking.

      However, Australia is still much better than South Africa at developing backline talent. South Africa’s backs are a standing joke and appear to have no clue what they’re doing: just watch the Stormers/Sharks match!

      • March 6th 2012 @ 4:45am
        ManSter said | March 6th 2012 @ 4:45am | ! Report

        Queenplaymaker, Cipriani can not tackle this is a prerequisite of the modern professional first five, wake up and smell the coffee but in case you have no sense of smell be also reminded he is consistently chasing skirt and alcohol to this very minute. By your standards I would like to nominate my father and two brothers for the Rebels first five position as they can hold there drink better, tackle better, kick just as well andwould probably satisfy women better.

        Oh by the way what are you going to bleat about when Fruean becomes the All Black centre this year besides most of us think that the Kiwis make exceptional use of their talent so why not you……ha ha ha

        By the way South Africa are the kiwis greatest rivals in union so who cares what a converted Australian thinks.

        • March 6th 2012 @ 12:54pm
          Damo said | March 6th 2012 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

          You do realize your moniker leaves you wide open for a gender change as well?

      • March 6th 2012 @ 7:05am
        Moaman said | March 6th 2012 @ 7:05am | ! Report

        Don’t hold back,KPM! It’s possible to critical of every player,every team,every country..if that is your wont.Whether or not the respective talents of Messers Messam,Fruean,Vito & Maitland et al have been “squandered” or not is purely subjective (Fruean/Maitland have years ahead of them to develop further….Vito was in the last AB squad assembled so could be deemed to have achieved well,thus far. Messam is a highly-respected performer who hasn’t quite nailed his opportunities.Who is to say there won’t be more?
        I think Brett raises an important point; How to foster an individual’s talent and mold it into a team’s structure without stifling flair and initiative? Perhaps the atmospheres we create around our various sportspeople/teams reflect the psyche of our countries??

        • March 6th 2012 @ 9:23am
          kingplaymaker said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          Moaman the main problem New Zealand has is possessing TOO MUCH talent. This creates a system where players are left to fend for themselves too much, and given insufficent chances and backing, a kind of Darwinian system.

          Fruean should be a seasoned international by now, Vito a more solid one, Maitland an international of some description and Messam a success. I think given his talent the ABs and the system should have made more of Messam.

          The difference in other countries is that they would have to play these five, as they would have no one else, and they would have to make the best out of them. In New Zealand there is not this necessity because of the mass of alternatives, and so the system at the highest level at least doesn’t perfect what’s available.

          Also I feel that many ABs are sacred and untouchable cows who block younger talent.

          I’m not entirely sure the ‘ruthless’ culture of New Zealand rugby works or even does what it says. It is ruthless to young talent to a point that often prevents them flourishing, while hugely indulgent to sacred cows such as Conrad Smith.

          ‘Conservatism has its place in rugby; don’t get me wrong (the Bulls won championships, after all). But paranoid (and selfish) fear of failure does not. ‘ This is a charge that could well be levelled at New Zealand rugby.

          However, this is probably the case in Australian rugby too. The idea that in a country with few good forwards but some good backs a kicking game is the best strategy is absurd.

          In fact most rugby is too conservative and until there is some distance from the amateur era that will remain the case.

          But both Australia and New Zealand in different ways fail to make the most of what they have, and even to have as much as they should.

          • March 6th 2012 @ 9:43am
            thurl said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:43am | ! Report

            I guess that when Robbie Fruean offers more than Conrad Smith you’ll have a point…..

            • March 6th 2012 @ 9:51am
              kingplaymaker said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:51am | ! Report

              thurl he doesn’t offer more than the Conrad Smith of TWO years ago and the many years before, the sly, elusive, creative fox, but he offers far more than the AWOL nonentity that Conrad Smith represented last year.

              Conrad Smith’s last season was a pantomime. He seemed to have lost all his attacking powers (in the same way that AAC did last year in the same position), and was kept purely because of being a sacred cow.

              It’s not suprising a 30 year old player loses his edge, but it is suprising to keep him on when his play no longer merits it.

              • March 6th 2012 @ 10:00am
                Rugbug said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:00am | ! Report

                You obviously didn’t watch the Hurricanes Lions match KPM, yes lets cut CS and banish him to the NH i’m sure this will make you happy

              • March 6th 2012 @ 10:05am
                mania said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:05am | ! Report

                wow conradSmith a non entity?!?! amazing KPM. u obviously dont watch a lot of AB’s tests.
                conrad is the openside of the back line. u need to watch AB’s games a bit closer. conrads strength isnt just in his attacking with ball in hand. its wat he does without the ball u need to watch. his tackling, turning the ball over and his vision to appear in a position to stifle opposition attack is amzing.his work load and accuracy is better than any 13 in the world.
                fruen needs to think more in his game and be a lot more consistent. his defence is suspect and his workload is average. accuracy isnt great either. fruens all brawn and no brains.
                Messam, has had his opportunities but just fails to click at test level. u need to watch messams past tests.
                Vito was told what to do to make it back in the AB’s and he did it. ie, more straight running, head in the rucks mauls more, dont over think defence and just focus on tackilng the man in front of him. i think Vito’s contribution to the WC win showed he’s been developed nicely and this form is continuing in this years SR
                Maitland, is an almost AB but doesnt offer more than the wings we have. with the game plan of defusing bombs there was no way he was going to take the jersey off Jane. Kahui showed why he’s in the squad for his versitility and big game experience. maitland has promise but the number 1 wing in NZ? i dont think so
                there is honour in wearing the jersey. u just cant cheapen it by giving it to everyone.

              • March 6th 2012 @ 10:11am
                kingplaymaker said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:11am | ! Report

                Those 5 would be successful internationals in all countries except New Zealand, and it isn’t just because of competition. That’s 5 pretty talented failures. That’s called a major system failure.

                I repeat. Conrad Smith last year had lost his powers. He used to be great, the best 13 in the world, but NOT LAST YEAR. Clearly this distinction is impossible to understand.

          • March 6th 2012 @ 9:58am
            Rugbug said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            Here we go again,
            Give it a rest KPM and find another subject to bang on about, we had this similar argument throughout 2011.
            I’m not sure if you noticed byt NZ managed to win a World Cup last year so surely theya re doing something right.
            Only 15 men can take the field at any one time but using your logic you would expect 80% of NZs super rugby players to be ABs by the years end!

            I’m not entirely sure the ‘ruthless’ culture of New Zealand rugby works

            So Two world Cups at Senior Level
            Bledisloe Cup holders for the last 9 years straight
            10 of 16 Tri Nations Titles
            10 of 16 Super rugby Titles
            Under 20s world champions since its inception.

            Yup your sure right KPM the ruthless culture of NZ rugby certainly isn’t working ……….

            • March 6th 2012 @ 10:16am
              Rugbug said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:16am | ! Report

              Not unusual for KPM to completely skip comments he certainly can not argue

            • March 6th 2012 @ 2:59pm
              Onor said | March 6th 2012 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

              dude you forgot womans rugby.. and our sevens team

            • March 6th 2012 @ 9:42pm
              Sprigs said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:42pm | ! Report

              Point is, they should do a lot better with all that talent.

              Weren’t you seriously disappointed with the lack of penetrating power of the NZ backs in the WC?

              Everybody got so excited by the occasional Dagg try (and he is superb) but there should have been so many more brilliant tries from all the backs on offer– especially given a dominant pack.

              • March 7th 2012 @ 10:39am
                Rugbug said | March 7th 2012 @ 10:39am | ! Report

                Not at all Sprigs,

                Show me any other country in world rugby who has a record like NZ’s
                Most countries would love to have it.

                The results speak for themselves Sprigs end of story you can not argue with their!
                Any attempt like yours and KPMs to belittle what is NZ rugby union and its dominance is hysterical and a sad attempt of blighting their name. i guess when your teams can’t do it on the paddock you resort to throwing jibes on sports forums.

          • March 6th 2012 @ 9:58am
            WQ said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            Fancy players being “left to fend for themselves”, even worse, players having to survive in a “ruthless culture”.
            It seems to me that if a few other countries adopted these above mentioned attributes they may fair a little better. Who knows they may even avoid producing precocious brats like Cooper and Giteau!

          • March 6th 2012 @ 12:15pm
            peterlala said | March 6th 2012 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

            KPM, to call Conrad Smith a sacred cow is slanderous.

            Secondly, the thrust your argument seems to be that New Zealand has a paranoid and fearful approach to rugby. This may be true, but your argument is undermined by New Zealand’s consistent international success.

            • March 6th 2012 @ 12:33pm
              kingplaymaker said | March 6th 2012 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

              ‘KPM, to call Conrad Smith a sacred cow is slanderous.’

              That statement proves the point I believe!

          • March 6th 2012 @ 3:36pm
            Kuruki said | March 6th 2012 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

            I disagree with allot of what you have said.

            Fruean is still developing. His workrate has improved but he still goes missing for periods. The fact that he is sitting behind a seasoned veteran in Conrad Smith and arguably the inform back in world rugby Richard Kahui, it’s very hard to see how he could have been a seasoned international. There was also a bloke by the name of Sonny Bill Williams to contend with. His time will come.

            Liam Messam has had more then enough opportunities to prove himself as an All Black. He is just one of those players who excel at Super level but cannot seem to click into full gear at international level. Once again he is with a bunch of players Kaino, Thompson, Read, McCaw, Vito who can all play multiple positions in the backrow. Messam has not taken his chances with both hands and i think we may have seen the last of him in a black jersey.

            Victor Vito has come full circle. Initially he was a loose ball carrying flanker who thrived in the open space, now he is a true workhorse who has improved his technical skill level massively and tightened his game. With his new skills and workhorse attitude, added to the ability to stride out in open play, Vito will take the spot Messam has failed to nail down and will become a familiar face on the bench for the All Blacks. I think the All Blacks handled Vito perfectly, they blooded him, gave him things to work on and then gave him another opportunity during the World cup which he nailed.

            Maitland is another young talent that is also still developing his game. He is young and still has plenty of years ahead of him. Considering guys like Guildford, Ben Smith, Rene Ranger failed to crack a wing spot for the All Blacks, it is hard to argue Maitland should have been there by now. His time will come.

            I don’t get your statement about New Zealand not perfecting what is available. There is only so many positions available in the international side, when you look at the crop of World cup winners they had last year, how do you find room to develop more players then they already have done?. There has to be a fine line between developing players and making sure your top side gets enough game time together to get the job done. They obviously got that part right.
            The sacred and untouchable cows you speak of are the reason we are now World champions. Experience is vital to winning a World cup. The next few years will see more opportunity given to the younger guys to stake a claim and push for a spot. This may be the year Conrad Smith is knocked off his perch by a hopefully fully fit Richard Kahui.

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2012 @ 9:54am
        Brett McKay said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        KPM, I don’t believe there’s any desire for Cipriani to fail at all, hysterical or otherwise, in fact I think most pundits want him and the Rebels in general to do well in Super Rugby.

        Paul Cully’s article wasn’t about denegrating Cipriani even, it just came from the angle that we could all learn more about James O’Connor the flyhalf if he played there for the Rebels. He even mentioned the likes of Farrell, Barrett and Bleyendaal, and noted that it would be great to be able to see how O’Connor emerges from that crowd. Nothing sinister, just a pertinent observation.

        But I will thank you for the somewhat controversial lines about the better list of 10s, and the squandered talent in NZ (both of which, it would be fair to say, I’m having trouble agreeing with), you’ve nicely added to what should be an interesting discussion today..

        • March 6th 2012 @ 10:08am
          kingplaymaker said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          Maybe Paul Cully wasn’t bagging Cipriani, but the rest of the media and especially the commentators such as Greg Clark really seem to have it in for him. He’s obviously an easy target for them.

          I would say that in terms of pure talent the top 5 Australian 10s I listed are superior to their New Zealand competitors. Remember that only three of them play at 10 nowadays. Certainly I think Cooper would be preferred to all but Carter, Beale and JOC would be preferred to all but Carter if they played 10 regularly, possibly Barnes.

          It’s curious because New Zealand produces more good players in every position except 10.

          • March 6th 2012 @ 10:19am
            WQ said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:19am | ! Report

            KPM, just quietly I think you are covering one eye!

          • March 6th 2012 @ 10:36am
            Rugbug said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:36am | ! Report

            Just excuse me whilst I go change my pants after peeing myself with laughter

          • Columnist

            March 6th 2012 @ 12:53pm
            Brett McKay said | March 6th 2012 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

            KPM, how do you manage to so swiftly ignore the veritable busload of quality Kiwi flyhalves that have headed OS in recent years, with no obvious way past D.Carter?

            What Australian clubs wouldn’t have given to find an Aussie grandmother in the family trees of guys like Delaney, Berquist, Evans, and co…

            • March 6th 2012 @ 1:00pm
              kingplaymaker said | March 6th 2012 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

              Brett maybe but let’s compare the top 5 players now:

              Cooper vs Carter
              Beale vs Slade
              JOC vs Cruden
              Barnes vs Donald
              Toomua vs Weepu I suppose

              Based on the RWC.

              I think the only absent player who could unbalance the list would be Evans, but he isn’t as creative as the top three Australians, even if he makes up for it in other ways.

              Remember, just because the ABs are top in 95% of possible ways, that doesn’t mean they are in 100%.

              To give the reverse side of the medal: look at centres. Mccabe, Faiingaa, Barnes (perhaps JOC), vs SBW, Nonu, Smith, Fruean, Mcalister, Kahui.

              But at 10, Australia I think is now on top, and on top of the world too, but sadly at the expense of almost every other position.

              • March 6th 2012 @ 1:21pm
                WQ said | March 6th 2012 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

                KPM you must be delusional to think that Cooper should even be mentioned with any of the top 20 number 10’s playing the game based on the RWC.
                Did you not watch any of the RWC??

              • March 6th 2012 @ 1:27pm
                kingplaymaker said | March 6th 2012 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

                WQ of course I watched it: I seem to remember Cooper played behind a pack being savaged with all of the crowds booing him, while the NZ fly-halves played behind dominant packs with all the crowds cheering them. No wonder he didn’t seem so great.

                You could also argue that if he had had New Zealand quality centres instead of Mccabe and Faiingaa outside him then his wonderful passing might have lead to more breaks and tries….

              • Roar Guru

                March 6th 2012 @ 3:39pm
                Jiggles said | March 6th 2012 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

                WQ you just showed how much you misguided dislike for Cooper as a person actually blinds your ability to view him objectively. I don’t understand how you can claim to not like Cooper, as You have probably never met him. And you clearly ignore all the time he puts in with his fans. I have never seen Saint Richie or Carter put in as much time with fans after a game as I have Cooper.

                It is this judgement of personality based on a few hysterical and disgraceful actions by the New Zealand media that you have formed your opinions of him as a person and a player. as such I don’t think your comments regarding Cooper should be listened to at all.

                He is a fantastic 10. No Dan Carter, but who is?

              • March 6th 2012 @ 3:59pm
                Kuruki said | March 6th 2012 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

                I really fail to see how Australia are on top of the pack in regards to 10’s when the best performing 10 currently in the Australian Super sides is a bloke by the name of Mike Harris who could not secure a super contract in NZ.
                You put JOC and Beale as 10’s how many internationals have they played in that position?. Toomua? has he even played an international?.

                Looking at the current crop of 10’s, like the author says there is a great young group of talent coming through the Nz system right now. Blyandaal, Cruden, Slade, Hobbs, Barret these young guys are some of the brightest talent we have had in along time. I can see massive depth at 10 in NZ rugby for the next 6-7 years.

              • March 6th 2012 @ 4:20pm
                ohtani's jacket said | March 6th 2012 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

                Christ you’re poor at analysing rugby. You really need to find another hobby.

              • March 6th 2012 @ 5:47pm
                WQ said | March 6th 2012 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

                KPM my response was purely to the comment you have made about comparing Number 10’s based on the RWC and the fact that you rated Cooper along side Carter. Based on RWC form you could not rate Cooper against any of the current NZ Number 10’s let alone the ones you identified above.

                Jiggles I thought I should also reply to your comments about my opinion of Quade Cooper. I have no idea as to what type of person Quade Cooper is outside of his media and Rugby performances. All of my comments relate to what I have seen or heard watching the game on TV, just like many other opinions on the Roar, including yours I suspect!
                Given your comments about Saint Richie and Carter and the amount of time they spend with fans, you obviously spend a bit of time in NZ Jiggles?

              • Roar Guru

                March 6th 2012 @ 6:05pm
                Jiggles said | March 6th 2012 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

                I am sorry I would like to understand how think “ou must be delusional to think that Cooper should even be mentioned with any of the top 20 number 10′s playing the game based on the RWC.”

                are you seriously suggesting he is worse than the Georgian 10? or the Russian?

              • March 6th 2012 @ 9:54pm
                Sprigs said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:54pm | ! Report

                The mere fact that Mike Harris sneaked through the net shows there is something wrong in the State of Denmark, I mean NZ. How did they let him get away to the land of his gran?

                But even with him playing for the Reds, there is a clear understanding that the team is missing something and we all know what it is– the brilliance of Quade Cooper.

                When both are playing in the same backline….well, let’s wait and see.

              • March 7th 2012 @ 9:24am
                WQ said | March 7th 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report

                Ok Jiggles maybe I was getting a bit carried away by saying he did not deserve to be ranked in the top 20!
                However I sure as hell don’t believe he deserved to be ranked amongst the top 5 and certainly not beside Dan Carter.

              • March 7th 2012 @ 10:43am
                Rugbug said | March 7th 2012 @ 10:43am | ! Report

                Do you honestly believe Mike Harris is the best thing since sliced bread.
                I believe he looks so good in the Australian conference because the rest of the competition is so mediocre.

    • March 6th 2012 @ 6:52am
      thurl said | March 6th 2012 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      Ok I’ll take the bait. tell me (again) how Nz has squandered Maitland, Fruan, Messam and Vito

      • March 6th 2012 @ 6:14pm
        Onor said | March 6th 2012 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

        Maitland is on the back end of a strong pack and a talented backline. Fruen has issues.. messam had his chance and so has vito.

    • March 6th 2012 @ 7:32am
      Armchair Sportsfan said | March 6th 2012 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      To me the answer on less impressive looking aussie flyhalves is pretty simple….the forwards.

      Australia does have some decent forwards, but as a group their ability to CONSISTENTLY win the breakdown (and in a dominant fashion) is not at the same level as the Kiwi sides.

      On the few occasions where one of our packs turns it on, invariably the flyhalf looks pretty good.

      • March 6th 2012 @ 8:24am
        The Other White Wendell said | March 6th 2012 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        yep, right on armchair
        article mostly bollocks

        if the author has really watched farrel, priestland and sexton this year then he would have noted the following

        1. england have not created a try with farrel as flyhalf. they have scored two charge downs. not a single try has been created by him.
        2. priestland is so bad the welsh yanked him
        3. sexton is as limited as halangyahoo or however you spell it.

        muppetry is afoot on the roar!

        • Columnist

          March 6th 2012 @ 10:04am
          Brett McKay said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          Welcome to the ‘muppetry’ then, TOWW – if you’re going to criticise a guy, the least you could do is spell his name right (heck, even Ctrl+V would’ve helped you..)

          1. I’m well aware Farrell hasn’t created any tries from 10, in fact he’s only worn no.10 for one game this 6Ns season.
          2. Yes, Preistland has been replaced.
          3. Your opinion only, and you’re well entitled to it..

          None of your points change anything though, Even with limited success and no direct tries (which isn’t the only measure of a running game, surely), Sexton, Preistland and Farrell HAVE played the running game where ever possible this season. The 6Ns has been a great tournament so far, and I’ve enjoyed more than I thought I would.

          But thanks for commenting anyway…

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2012 @ 9:56am
        Brett McKay said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Armchair, this isn’t to suggest that flyhalf is the ONLY problem in Australian rugby currently, far from it. It’s just the one I’ve looked at a bit closer. Certainly, your point about the forwards and consistency is quite valid..

    • March 6th 2012 @ 8:35am
      anopinion said | March 6th 2012 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      I watched Barnes at 10 for Queensland. He was not very good. Kicked so much good ball away we nearly stopped going to games.

    • Columnist

      March 6th 2012 @ 9:16am
      Ryan O'Connell said | March 6th 2012 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      Great piece, Brett – loved it.

      I wish I had an answer for you, but all I can do is agree.

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2012 @ 10:05am
        Brett McKay said | March 6th 2012 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        I’ll take the token victory.. 😉

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