Are the stakes too high at the 2023 Rugby World Cup to give an up-and-coming player an opportunity at the big time?
Should the selectors ease a player into pool matches and off the bench for the win or go home games? Or do you bite the bullet and start him in the knock-out matches?
I’m talking about a player like Cam Roigard who scored a sensational try against the Springboks in the warm-up game. The try appears to be downplayed by observers, but this was a superb individual effort.
I’m not saying to select someone based on one try but is it his time right now. Start with Roigard to provide that spark of brilliance and slight obscurity and have Smith on the bench to provide the old head.
Sometimes when a match has gone like the warm-up one, it is too late for the potential match winner to come on, so why not start with him?
We saw back in 1991 the classic case of selectors picking players based on experience rather than form when the All Blacks lost to Australia in the RWC semi-final. Not saying Aaron Smith is out of form, but if that was Smith who came on and scored that try, he would have no contenders for his role.
It is a complex issue of what percentage of experience versus youth wins a Rugby World Cup, it appears to be more of a surge of form at precisely the right time. One factor is the lack of mental baggage carried by the inexperienced player against traditional rivals, we see it with first year players who have a brilliant season but then go off the boil in the second year when the opposition are more familiar with him.
There are many theories and opinions as to the perfect formula to win a Rugby World Cup, but is it as simple as picking the best players based on form and attempt to make decisions based on the right blend of objective and subjective thinking?
The team that makes the right decisions on players will win the World Cup. Ever hired anyone for a work role? The guy with the impressive resume should get the job, but that person who my gut was telling me to pick them won out.
Logic tells you that the brilliant Michael Jones should not have played in the 1987 Rugby World Cup after one match for Samoa and a tour with the NZ Barbarians, but the selectors took a punt and he was immediately a star in the rugby universe.
Of course, it is a complicated business though and we have seen plenty of “project” players who have not developed according to their potential.
It is a bit like backing a racehorse, some win, some lose, but when you get it right you reap the rewards. The great horse Seabiscuit lost his first 17 races but Tom Smith the conditioner sensed his greatness and the rest is history, the key being “instinct” won out on this occasion.
So, I come back to Cam Roigard the 22-year old Hurricanes half-back, who was one of the few shining lights against the Springboks with his try and comfort with rugby at this level.
His first points in an All Blacks jersey came from a brilliant break inside his own half, he fended off two defenders and outpaced the rest to just make the touchdown.
“Coach Ian Foster, after the heaviest defeat on New Zealand 35-7, will be alarmed at how his first choice selection were second best in every facet of the game,” from Radio NZ.
Do you look at the cold hard facts that this was just a practice game, the All Blacks played a fair percentage with 14 men, it was a wake-up call and the bookies still have NZ as favourites or do you foresee the future where it is now time for an up and comer like Roigard to be selected to start the big matches?
Tough call, I would say that Foster will go with Aaron Smith as he is a conservative coach who rewards his experienced players. But would it not be exciting for Roigard to make his mark?
I wonder what Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson would do?