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Opinion

Did the Waratahs hide players selected for the Wallabies to avoid comparisons with non-selected Reds?

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Roar Pro
28th March, 2022
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It was great to be back at Suncorp Stadium to watch the Reds play the Waratahs on Saturday, despite having to enduring a torrential downpour and a bunch of Red’s forwards repeatedly singing “YMCA” by the Village People and “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, in a car commercial before the game.

A special shout out to Reds prop Harry Hoopert, his moustache was the perfect complement to his dance moves, though there was a palpable fall in gusto the fellas sang the line “you’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess”.

The game was an interesting one, I expected the Reds to spank the Tahs, but the Men in Blue who were missing six of the ten players selected for the Wallabies training squad this year, gave a good account of themselves.

Early on they capitalised on a shaky Reds lineout which gave up multiple early turnovers to Waratahs steals, with the Tahs doing well to score a sparkling team try which was completed by halfback Jack Grant.

Their pack also played with plenty of mongrel, the held up try from a Reds rolling maul being an excellent example of how the Tahs are turning around a poor 2021.

Red’s class shone through though with a score of four tries to the Tahs two, despite losing Dane Zander to a red card followed by Tate McDermott to a yellow, thus being down to 13 players at one point.

The desperation in defence was brilliant, with forwards Josh Nasser, Ryan Smith, Angus Blyth, Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson all putting in double figure tackle counts, with inside centre Hamish Stewart topping the Reds tackle count at 15, while being a constant and influential presence slowing down opposition ball at the ruck.

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Despite having been the defensive glue that has held together the best backline in the Australian Super Rugby teams for the last three seasons, combined with excellent passing, kicking and playmaking skills, Stewart cannot seem to get noticed by Wallabies selectors.

Stewart may not fit the mould of the blockbusting inside centre that is in vogue, but there are plenty of Test matches that have been won through stoic defence, with Saturday’s game providing an insight into how valuable a 12 like Stewart might be in the wet fields of Europe in 2023.

It will be a massive shame if he decides to leave Australian rugby without having been given a fair go, for no reason other than an unchallenged bias in Wallabies midfield selections.

The non-selection of Stewart highlights the broader issue that the Waratahs had ten players selected for the Wallabies this week, while the Reds who are the far better team, only had eight.

Perhaps Dave Rennie was providing the Reds an opportunity to make the point to the perpetually element in the Waratahs fan base and in particular the Sydney media, but unfortunately a number of Tahs players were sick or injured so couldn’t be compared to their northern rivals.

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However, it is notable that Harry Johnson-Holmes and Jed Holloway who were both selected by Rennie, were started off the bench by Darren Coleman. This unnecessary decision by the Waratahs not to start two of their “best” players, begs the question about whether this was a deliberate ploy to limit comparisons with Reds who were not selected.

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Neither of the two Waratahs forwards changed the course of the match when they were substituted on. Wallabies training squad selectee Lalakai Foketi also failed to make a definitive impacts, he made a few breaks at outside centre but didn’t play the key contribution that could have been expected of him, of defeating the Red’s defence to get Waratahs points on the board, when the Reds were two men down and vulnerable.

The only Waratah who got the call this week and played in this match who showed that he deserved it was Dave Porecki, who as a hooker who can throw straight into the lineout, is a priceless commodity in Australian rugby.

Only the Waratahs coaching and executive staff who know the true motivations behind the odd selections for this game. However, if you were a Waratahs player who was selected under those circumstances who wanted to believe that you were selected on merit alone, it would be hard to be comfortable with this week’s selection decisions.

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As for the Reds, they showed yet again that they can win under adversity, whether they be disadvantaged by a poor refereeing decision or the disappointment that comes with lack of due credit in national selections.

As long as they keep finishing games infinitely more gusto they finish Taylor Swift songs, these Queensland Reds will remain the Princes of Queensland.

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