In what could be an unprecedented spectacle, reports have emerged of an international between the Wallabies and the Great Britain rugby league side on December 6, 2014. This spectacle, to be held at Wembley, should prove a sell out.
Now when I say ‘spectacle’, I concede it could be a ‘debacle’ for one of those sides – and it won’t be the Wallabies.
The leaguies will no doubt get hammered for 40 minutes during the half played under rugby union laws. Great Britain will find out the hard way that in union it is possible to have no possession if your set piece and break down skills are inferior, which they will be.
Someone like Sam Burgess would be a handful when carrying, but he won’t get any ball.
Could you imagine how much havoc David Pocock and co would have in 40 minutes against a bunch of leaguies? It will be carnage.
But will the Wallabies be able to adapt to 40 minutes of rugby league? I say yes, if they make the correct selections.
The nature of league is that so long as you can defend reasonably well you get the ball back every minute or so. The Wallabies will get enough ball to overpower their smaller, less skillful rivals.
So who from the Wallabies might make a 13-a-side team list?
Starting with the forwards, we’d have to assume that Slipper, Robinson, Kepu and co would not be mobile enough for league.
Both Palu and the returning Elsom have some league experience so both of these guys could be the starting props. Let’s face it, they probably won’t be available because they are so injury prone.
I propose Stephen Moore and James Horwill would be good choices at prop. Both can carry and both are good defenders. One Tatafu Polota-Nau could sub on at prop for impact.
Will Genia would most likely still wear the No.9 and fill the hooking role in the half of league. It would be great to see him with the extra room that a league game would present him.
The problem would be his lack of size in defence, so you’d be instructing him to get into marker as often as possible.
As for the back row, I’d suggest Higginbotham and Simmons would make an awesome league second row. I know Simmons started out as a junior leaguie and Higginbotham – well, he would be our equivalent of Sam Burgess albeit a little quicker.
I don’t care who you are, with the defense back 10 metres both these guys would be a handful out wide. I’d imagine Scott Fardy would offer something off the bench.
At No.13 it would be understandable to have Michael Hooper due to his speed, though perhaps Pocock’s muscular presence would be the equivalent of Paul Gallen. Either way, one would start and one would sub on.
As for the backline, I don’t think there would be any real surprises apart from the fact that Great Britain will be overpowered out wide and completely out-skilled.
This is a facet of the game that is the most similar between the two codes, except that rugby union backs aren’t used to the luxury of the 10 metre gap. They could really run amok.
So here is my Wallabies league side with the rugby league numbering system.
1. Adam Ashley-Cooper
2. Joe Tomane
3. Tevita Kuridrani
4. Israel Folau
5. Henry Speight
6. Kurtley Beale
7. Quade Cooper
8. Stephen Moore
9. Will Genia
10. James Horwill
11. Scott Higginbotham
12. Rob Simmons
13. David Pocock (c)
Subs: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Jesse Mogg
This side would not beat the Kangaroos at their game, but I reckon they’d be too good for Great Britain.
It has also been speculated that the All Blacks are considering a match against the Kangaroos. Now that would be a bell ringer!
The result considering the All Blacks could field the following League side?
1. Israel Dagg
2. Julian Savea
3. Ben or Conrad Smith
4. Ma’a Nonu
5. Cory Jane
6. Benji Marshall
7. Dan Carter
8. Brad Thorn
9. Aaron Smith
10. Jerome Kaino
11. Steve Luatua
12. Kieran Read
13. Richie McCaw
Subs: Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Smith (the other one)
It would be rugby union all the way baby!