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Enough with George Smith already

JDP Roar Guru

By JDP, JDP is a Roar Guru

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    One of the greatest things Robbie Deans did was to drop George Smith for David Pocock and allow some fresh youth to come through into the Wallabies.

    When viewed as a part of a five year plan, it was clear that on that end of year tour youth and reinvigoration of our team was a major focal point.

    For example it was great to see a young Quade Cooper jink and weave through the Italian defence to wrap the game up for the Wallabies.

    Fast forward to the present day and the inevitable rumblings of ghosts past have begun their almost relentless championing of George Smith’s return to the Wallabies.

    Paul Cully in the SMH discusses his statistical form, Jim Williams describes him as a must have, and many have gone to biblical lengths saying that heaven and earth must be moved in order to have the chosen one drafted back into the gold jersey.

    I’m not so convinced.

    George Smith was great, heck maybe even the greatest forward to don the Wallabies jersey, but he is not the right answer for this team.

    Sure there are a stack of pros to having him in the team. For example, the Brian O’Driscoll effect – Smith’s experience and nous is a great thing to have around the training park, especially for players like Liam Gill.

    Fotu Aulelua has already come out in the press this week and said how much of a strong influence Smith has had on his form to date.

    But, and it is a big but, time moves on and there should be no room for sentimentality.

    John Connolly and Eddie Jones (two of the worst coaches of the Wallabies in my life) showed too much sentimentality in allowing players like George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and yes even Smith to continue past their use by dates.

    While I like Smith, his time has gone and it truly is time to continue our commitment to our youthful backrow superstars, Gill and Michael Hooper.

    I have watched every game of Super Rugby this year, and Liam Gill is far and away the most impressive no. 7 in this country at the moment – and this is coming from someone who is not the biggest Reds fan at all (I took no end of pleasure when the Force dispatched them on the weekend).

    He is everywhere, he is skilful and he is smart. Like all the great breakdown practitioners, he is composed at the breakdown and chooses his contest.

    I sometimes have to pinch myself to realise that the guy is 20 and still growing into his body and role in the Reds. With David Pocock out, Gill must be the bolter for the 7 jersey.

    Hooper dominated pretty much every opposition he came up against last year as he took his opportunity and went from strength to strength – his acceleration and linebreaking capacity was a surprise to most of us, given his relatively small stature.

    Many Roarers have noted his lack of ground work as a negative – which is a fair point. There is no doubt in my mind his effectiveness has been dulled by the fact that he starred on the end of year tour and is targeted at breakdowns.

    This is something that McCaw, Pocock and Smith have all had to live with, and Hooper is learning this lesson now.

    I find it interesting that in some ways Hooper’s stature (and attitude) seem to parallel Phil Waugh’s – a gutsy, lionhearted player (albeit different) while Liam Gill has that ‘natural feel’ that permeated Smith’s play (that freakish ability – not sure if anyone saw Gill’s right foot clearance last week).

    So where do we get to? Enough with the George Smith chat already and more focus on the future.

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    The Crowd Says (127)

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 7:04am
      Sports Nut said | March 23rd 2013 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      Smith is on fire. We have no experienced players to take in against the Lions. Look at how good our Wallabies team was in 2001, coming off the WC and bledisloe successes, stacked with experience and talent. The whole country wants him back, he’s a legend and is still the best 7 in the country. Shame on you.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 2:22pm
        niwdEyaJ said | March 23rd 2013 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

        absolute rubbish. GS is easily the best #7 in Australia and should be picked for that reason alone. Even if Pocock was around, I’d still have him in the squad, probably even in the 22 as he can cover all three loose forward positions and who would you want on the park in the last 20mins of a test match against the Lions – Hooper or Gill with a handful of tests between them or George with a whopping 110 tests and current form that put him ahead of the others anyway? It’s a no brainer!!!!

        At most, I’d look at starting Gill or Hooper to see how they go, but having George on the bench is a must in case they screw up or the game gets tight…

        With all the other new faces in that should be in the Wallabies squad if Deans’ head isn’t buried in his backside (Lealiifano, Mogg etc), it is important to have some senior guys to bring balance and composure to the side and right now, there is no one better for that role than George.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 7:12am
      Rebel said | March 23rd 2013 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      I can not agree with this at all. Australia are about to play the Lions in a three TEST MATCH series, not friendlies. You do not select on potential, you pick your best team possible, nothing to do with sentiment. If the young guys want the spot held by an elder player then they need to get better. You would never see the ABs move on Richie McCaw to develop Sam Cane. They develop Cane with opportunities where possible, but by on large stick with the best player available.
      Gill is a good player but he is not far and away the most impressive No. 7 in this country. If he was then there would be no debate.
      I do not have loyalty to any no. 7 in Aus, but from what I have seen from GS, in my opinion only, he has played the best games at 7 I have seen this year, backed up by those pesky statistics that apparently mean nothing. Everyone will have a different opinion of who the best player is which is fine, but to have the view that you pick on potential is wrong.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 7:16am
        Justin2 said | March 23rd 2013 @ 7:16am | ! Report

        Agree with your first paragraph 100%.

        Gill has been outstanding all year as has smith in his two games so far. Pocock is a massive loss due to his strength over the ball. Hooper isn’t in the same class in this area with any of these 3 and I believe he should be last picked of them as I see this as a real opportunity for us to dominate the breakdown with a great pilfering 7. The Lions don’t have one…

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 3:53pm
          Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

          The Lions have Warburton, Armitage, Tipuric, Robshaw, O’Brien, Rennie, Brown and a few others to choose from.
          Rennie, Warburton and Armitage are noted pilferers.

          • March 23rd 2013 @ 7:30pm
            Justin2 said | March 23rd 2013 @ 7:30pm | ! Report

            From what I’ve seen they we not in the same class of pilferer, Pocock murdered Warburton lat year.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 8:47am
        Simon Levingston said | March 23rd 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        I do not agree either and why wouldn’t you have George Smith in the mix for selection? If you do you are maintaining the standard of quality for Gill and Pocock to be selected ahead of the best no.7 in world rugby, even at 32. If you don’t this is the equivalent of rolling the dice and hoping for the best. Why would one limit their opportunities by ignoring the obvious. Clearly John Philipson you are either very young or you have not managed anything more than a chook raffle.

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 10:33am
          Darwin Stubbie said | March 23rd 2013 @ 10:33am | ! Report

          How many ‘best #7s in the world’ can Aust have at any one time

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 11:24am
          Chivas said | March 23rd 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

          Chook raffle, best 7 in the world… By whose standard? Does IRB player of the year mean anything. I can’t remember him doing that recently. I also think this is the kind of blind parochialism being referred to in the article.

          But yell and stamp your foot indignantly… you must be right.

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 11:48am
          Bobby said | March 23rd 2013 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          Warburton is an exceptional 7 and will be picked for the Lions tour. We cant pick Hooper against him we need the likes of a Pocock, Smith or Gill.

          • Roar Guru

            March 23rd 2013 @ 1:30pm
            Jiggles said | March 23rd 2013 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

            Warburton isn’t even the best 7 in Wales let alone the home nations.

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 3:48pm
          Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

          The best 7 in the world is Richie McCaw.

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 3:45pm
        Hightackle said | March 23rd 2013 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

        Im afraid that the ABs do move players on to develop others or overlook older players in favour of younger players.

        Also the issue is not if you move players on in this instance. It is if you bring a guy from out of retirement, change the eligibility rules for him, drop the incumbants and open a can of worms in doing so.
        Smith is not going to be an wallaby all year, perhaps he shouldnt be for 3 games either.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 7:21am
      eagleJack said | March 23rd 2013 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      It’s a tough one. Gill has to start for the Wallabies and I have no doubt he will. And I want to see Mowen/Palu at 8.

      So Smith would be picked on the bench. He can adequately cover 7 and 8. But that means young Hooper misses out. His speed and line breaking ability would be incredible from the 50min mark.

      So how much weight does Smiths experience and leadership qualities carry? When it means we dump an incredible prospect who will play dozens of Tests for the Wallabies in the future.

      Personally I’d lean towards Hooper. Would provide beautiful spark when brought on against a tiring Lions pack.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 7:22am
      Billy Bob said | March 23rd 2013 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      Obviously we will play at least two 7’s, with a possible position switch on top of that.
      It’s a mute point. Over a three test series as well as provincial lions games it would be prudent to have more than 3 options for one specialist position.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 7:47am
      nickoldschool said | March 23rd 2013 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      If we were talking about a one-off test i would agree with you. But we are talking about a month-long series against a great opponent and a huge emotional aspect in the games played. Thats why i think to have a GS in the squad, not necessarily in the starting XV, is important.

      Another comment about your line:” John Connolly and Eddie Jones (two of the worst coaches of the Wallabies in my life) showed too much sentimentality in allowing players like George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and yes even Smith to continue past their use by dates.”

      I agree that Gregan had probably a few too many tests but I do think Larkham and Smith did more than ok till the end?

      • March 23rd 2013 @ 8:43am
        Frank O'Keeffe said | March 23rd 2013 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Larkham was all Australia had really,

        Australia’s had a very bad history of managing the five-eighth position since 2005.

        2005 was the worst and bleakest year and really the end of the golden era of Australian rugby (1984-2004). But people forget how incredible Stephen Larkham was in the opening Tests of that season. He was fantastic. Unfortunately he was so, sooooo, injury prone. Larkham got injured and everything unraveled.

        Elton Flatley was meant to stand-in for him, but started to suffer from dizzyness before the Test, and Giteau got blooded… absolutely blooded. Australia actually almost won, but Habana scored a great try. That was the first time I realized how incredibly fast he was.

        Giteau at 10 never worked… something Deans never realized. Matt Rogers came in to five-eighth for the Test against New Zealand and played incredibly well. Given the injuries Australia had, Australia were pretty gutsy in that Test to claw back and only just lose. It looked like Rogers was the heir apparent.

        Rogers played horribly in 2006 though. John Connolly lost his mind and started treating the 2006 European Tour as if it was practice for the World Cup – “let’s try a combination here, etc.” Roger played his worst Test for Australia against Wales and that was the end of that.

        In hindsight, Matt Rogers was a really good player and should have been Larkham’s successor. But by 2006 he had a few personal issues he needed to sort out. It’s not his fault things went wrong.

        Against Wales in 2007 Connolly brought Barnes into 10 and he played a remarkable Test – a really impressive game. Connolly had a better idea of what made a 10 than Deans ever did.

        After playing a brilliant 2008 Super 14 season (really his best ever season), Deans failed to put Barnes at 10 for the Wallabies. Giteau did some good stuff in 2008, and he wasn’t as bad as he was in 2009. But so, so many times his kicking game let him down. The 2008 Brisbane Test was painful. The Aussie forwards outplayed the All Black forwards, which almost never happens, and Gitea’s aimless and pointless kicking let Australia down. It was worse in 2009.

        People don’t realize how responsible Deans is for Australia not winning the Bledisloe back in 2009. If he hadn’t played Burgess and Giteau together, Australia might have won.

        As underrated as Berrick Barnes is, and as much unfair criticism as he cops, one kind of feels like Deans pulled the five-eighth pin on him too late. He’s still a good player, but not the player he was in 2008 or could have developed into had Deans left him at 10.

        So let’s see where we are:

        – Elton Flatley
        Got injured and couldn’t play.

        – Matt Rogers
        Was incredible in 2005, he personal problems affected his game in 2006.

        – Berrick Barnes
        Was amazing in 2007 and 2008, but Deans badly mishandled him… and continues to mishandle him!

        – Matt Giteau
        Never had the kicking game for 10.

        • March 23rd 2013 @ 8:55am
          kingplaymaker said | March 23rd 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

          Giteau at 10 worked until the Australian pack declined and big runners like Mortlock left the scene, and Giteau’s own form declined. It’s forgotten how Giteau for a while was praised as an exceptional international 10.

          Barnes was never amazing.

          It’s hard to take these criticisms of Deans seriously when the author thinks Barnes was amazing.

          • March 23rd 2013 @ 9:21am
            Frank O'Keeffe said | March 23rd 2013 @ 9:21am | ! Report

            Barnes was incredible in 2008. I recall the huge wrap Zinzan Brooke wrote on him, saying he was the Aussie he feared the most. He was hands down the best back in the 2008 Tri Nations. Barnes’ kicking destroyed New Zealand in the 2008 Sydney Test. A friend of mine, ohtani’s jacket (who is a narrow-minded All Blacks fan), once admitted Australia probably would have won the 2008 Tri Nations is Barnes didn’t get injured.

            The Queensland Reds were the Berrick Barnes show back in 2008. I think he averaged over 20 tackles per game – looking for work primarily! I guess it’s easy to see where he got so many head injuries later on. This was before McKenzie came in and transformed them from a team that finished last into the most exciting team in the Super 14/15 (in 2011 at least). Before that the Reds were down the bottom.

            Giteau was okay at 10 in 2008. His kicking at goal was the main highlight of his game. I remember a Test against England in 2008 when the Aussie forwards outplayed England (they were hurting from 2007) where Australia won easily. Giteau kicked something like 7 from 7 penalties and was made MOTM. But in general play I felt Wilkinson was the better 10. Wilkinson monstered him with a tackle when he tried an inside jink.

            It was an example of how Giteau could get MOTM, kick well, but in general play be very poor. He was definitely praised. But he is the most overrated rugby player I’ve ever seen. To be fair to Giteau, Luke Burgess had a terrible 2009. He was the equivalent of a club player playing for the Wallabies. I think his passing effected Giteau a bit…

            We bash Giteau so much we tend to forget he was a good player. But he was just so overrated. At least he was better in 2008 than he was in 2009. And yet somehow he was to John Eales medal…? Go figure… Benn Robinson was robbed.

            • March 23rd 2013 @ 9:37am
              kingplaymaker said | March 23rd 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report

              Barnes has never been incredible: he has been solid, good, accurate, calm, but never incredible.

              I’m not going to appear as a great defender of Giteau, but I think he is a little like Smith, excellent until his final days. The problem is that his final days went on too long. Nor did he seem to realise it.

              Smith did the right thing: he had one season where it was clear his powers were going, and left, so everyone would remember the endless fantastic career before him rather than the declining end.

              Giteau and Tuqiri are in a different boat from Smith. They were both excellent for several years, but stayed on so long in decline that many now remember their final declining years more than the excellent ones before. The lesson is simple: when a player declines and he knows it is not a form dip but a permanent decline, he should leave so that the memory of his best years remains. It may be hard to tell the difference between a form dip and a permanent decline, but if it’s clear, then it’s best to go.

    • March 23rd 2013 @ 8:43am
      Karl K said | March 23rd 2013 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      4. Horwill
      5. Mcmenimen
      6. Gill
      7. Hooper
      8. Smith

      To my way of thinking a combination of Gill at blindside and Hooper at openside would be a good start. If you think about it all from a different perspective this combo could work. In defence Hooper flies across from the back of the lineout or scrum and makes the tackle. Gill then has the option of being second man over the ball and pilfering it without having to make the tackle and get to his feet (as long as no ruck is formed). The second man over style of play is what Pocock bring to the game, if you watch some of his games you can see that he quite often waits for the tackle to be made and then steps over the ball.

      I simply see this as a way to get both these quality opensides on the field with out losing another lineout option ( Gill can jump). And

      Smith at eight is simply a must have. While he
      may be an openside, he is certainly big enough and tough enough to play eight and is simply better than any other no8 in the country at the moment.

      My 2c worth

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