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The Thursday rugby two-up: Redemption and the power of old blokes

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15th September, 2021
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Well, the Quade Cooper script practically writes itself now, doesn’t it?!

When we were all younger players playing all the sports we ripped into, we all at some point discovered the benefit of… well, old blokes.

The thing about experience is you almost always need some, but you often don’t know when you need it, and you often don’t know how much you need.

There are times when you don’t need too much at all and need to carve a new path, but there are times when you need more than you’ve currently got, but for reasons you don’t realise, until the old blokes just go out and do something simple yet incredible and win a game for you.

And when we eventually became that old bloke, we all quite enjoyed that moment we earned for ourselves, when the young punks realised they didn’t quite know as much as they thought they did.

It’s a great feeling and you can insert your Quade Cooper script here because his new chapter certainly fits.

Quade Cooper of the Wallabies

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

But the question now for the Wallabies, is what next?

Question 1: Quade Cooper showed the benefit of experience in a side in a bit of a hole – so who’s the old guy in your nation’s team that you can’t do without, or would dearly love in the team right now?

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Geoff
Albeit yet to face the Springboks, the All Blacks are in a good space right now and don’t need any messing around with. This is particularly the case with the coaching team, where Ian Foster seems to be relishing the opportunity to put some distance between he and his old mentor, Steve Hansen, who anyway, has now decided that rugby is a sport better played by 12 people.

If forced to nominate one old guy, there’d be no way that Carl Hayman, even at 41 and battling alcohol related problems at the end of his career, would have been party to the four scrum penalties against the All Blacks we saw last weekend.

For Australia, the template has now been set. Experience over exuberance. Calm over chaos. Matt Burke, the 15 jersey is all yours, mate!

In all seriousness, aside from Rory Arnold, just about anybody and everybody who might make a contribution to the Wallabies has already been roped in; including the Honey Badger!

Brett
Here’s a little fun fact: in nearly two seasons as Wallabies coach, Dave Rennie has made just two changes for his starting hooker, but another five changes to the No.16 jersey. All up, he’s used five different hookers across 13 Tests in charge.

So with that in mind, I suppose we can’t rule a return for the evergreen Stephen Moore, fresh from his inaugural Hospitals Cup premiership with University of Queensland ten days ago.

But without hesitation, the one Wallaby they can’t do without at the moment is James Slipper.

James Slipper against France

James Slipper (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

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His return to form since lobbing into Canberra at the end of 2018 has been nothing short of remarkable. He arrived a guy hoping to contribute from the bench and not upset the applecart as the outsider, and rediscovered his form so quickly that a return to the Wallabies front row was only delayed by how far down the list his name was written.

This year, he’s been absolutely top shelf. He’s been the literal rock for both the Brumbies and Wallabies set piece, and he’d have to be the next name on the team sheet after Michael Hooper. His scrummaging seems to get better every year, and his impact off the bench last weekend, fending off the challenges of firstly Frans Malherbe, and then Vincent Koch was incredible.

It’s great to see Angus Bell coming along now, and just like Noah Lolesio would be learning heaps of Quade Cooper, Bell would be gaining so much being able to work alongside Slipper in the Wallabies camp.

Slipper right now reminds me of the five or six-year-old Toyota Landcruiser ute, which despite having a quarter of a million kilometres on the clock, is suddenly in huge demand and worth pretty much the same as when it was new.

And he’s just as reliable.

Nobes
In my understanding Agustin Creevy would be the player I would like to see on the team.

I love Julian Montoya as a player and as a person, and Agustin is a perfect complement to the team. Not only for his skills but what he brings with his personality.

He is also a playmaker who can change the outcome of a game on offence as well as on defence.

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Digger
Honestly, I am quite enjoying seeing this current All Blacks side having to work without some of the more experienced players available.

I believe it is great seeing them challenged and watching which of the next batch are putting up their hands and who is taking responsibility in the leadership roles, and so far, they have been very good.

It will be a pity we cannot field our strongest, most experienced side against the Springboks for the 100th Test match but a great challenge for those who will get that privilege.

Of the oldies currently out, I would consider Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith, and Dane Coles as those who would improve the current side. Hard to select just one as they would all bring improvement, guess I would plump for Aaron Smith.

And the indispensable bloke? Brodie Retallick would get my vote.

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Harry
If Morne Steyn had started against the Wallabies, the Springboks would’ve won by 6-10 points.

But this does not mean Springbok vice-captain Handré Pollard should be dropped.

Part of how South Africa rose to the top ranking is constancy in backline selection. The evidence is Pollard will return to form with a vengeance.

But it’s still true in a kick-chase, goalkicking duel, there’s only one gunslinger better than 2021 Morné: 2009 Morné.

If we want to attack the line more, then use Pollard’s skills. If it is a kicking battle, Morné.

Handre Pollard of South Africa

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Question 2: What has the Wallabies win over South Africa done for The Rugby Championship now?

Geoff
As far as the title is concerned, it’s very much advantage New Zealand, tough luck South Africa, see you later Australia and Argentina.

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Which isn’t to say that all four sides don’t have an enormous amount still to play for. They all do.

This might seem like an unusual position to take, but I don’t really pay much attention to The Rugby Championship’s points table.

I’m more interested in each contest as it stands, seeing what improvement each side can make, and hopefully getting some great rugby as a result.

Brett
I certainly agree that it’s put New Zealand in the box seat for the Championship win, but it’s really opened up the race behind, which in turn could give the world rankings a bit of a shake-up.

There’s no doubt that South Africa will be hurting all week and hell-bent on squaring the ledger on Saturday night in Brisbane. Beware the wounded Springbok, and all that.

But another Wallabies win this weekend, and all of a sudden, they really firm for second on the table.

That all said, who would be game enough to say the Boks couldn’t beat New Zealand twice? Could we see a bottleneck at the top?

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Nobes
The triumph of the Wallabies helps a lot to bring the All Blacks closer to the title and also moves the Wallabies away from the last place in the contest.

Digger
It has certainly given the All Blacks a leg up to secure the championship, but more importantly, it has provided the host nation with some life.

It’s certainly not all over as I believe this Boks side is much better than what has been shown and touted recently.

The potential is there still for a three-horse race to the title, and it has certainly upped my personal anticipation of matches to come.

Harry
What it’s done is give the All Blacks a clear inside edge to the title.

For over a decade, the championship has suffered from a lack of dramatic tension. And here we are, again, with NZ sailing clear. By the time the Boks face the Blacks, it’ll be all done bar the shouting.

The best thing that can happen for The Rugby Championship is for the Pumas to re-enact their 2020 miracle.

OVER TO YOU: Which old bloke can your team not be without?

And what does the Springboks loss mean for The Rugby Championship from here?

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