So South Africa has become the undisputed world champion, winning the Rugby World Cup for the fourth time.
Pretty impressive since they were not welcome to attend the 1987 and 1991 events. Still, that situation has now resulted in a Springboks team that is truly representative of a diverse culture that is the rainbow nation.
As far as I can tell, rugby in South Africa does not have to compete with rugby league and Australian Rules (obviously) for their player pool. Yes, there is soccer, but this attracts a largely different skill set and, dare I say it, mindset, to that of the rugby player.
Of all the teams making the quarter finals of RWC 2023 rugby league is at best peripheral, although Fiji rugby would be richer with an infusion of the league players who play in the NRL competition.
All the Pacific island teams would benefit by having local players from the NRL, not to mention those who now play rugby internationally for other nations.
But, here we are in Oz with a relatively small pool of players, traditionally drawn from privileged private schools. What can we do? I know, bring back Eddie — no, we tried that.
I have a much better plan. Practise being a republic. Bring in a tyrannical President who can pass sweeping, illogical and binding laws for the good of the people.
Use our rich heritage in this sphere of operations (stay with me here). We have some outstanding candidates who are itching to get back into public life. The list is unlimited. Former leaders in Victoria, Western Australia, New Zealand come easily to mind.
Next, get some (sports) scientists on your payroll to prove that rugby league is a major contributor to climate change. These scientists will prove that rugby league players are more likely to drive cars with high fuel consumption, and drive them in such a way as to cause the Antarctic ice sheet to melt in the next two years.
Also, league players eat far too much red meat, which, as we all know, contributes to intolerable levels of methane in the atmosphere, causing a rise in temperature of at least one degree Celsius every ten minutes. And, they are far less likely to install rooftop solar panels than other members of the sporting community.
Give the scientists a brief time frame to prove these irrefutable facts (two weeks should be enough) and then issue a statement that 97% of the scientists agree that rugby league is a major contributor to climate change. The science is settled. Anybody who disagrees is a dinosaur.
The decision of the President is “that there will be zero men and women playing rugby league by 2025”. Boom.
So now the stage is set for a rugby renaissance. The challenge will be – who shall the Australian selectors pick for the 2025 Wallabies team to play the British and Irish Lions?
Let’s start with which Wallabies will stay on. The current Wallaby tight five may have to remain. It is doubtful any league players could or would want to start in the front row. Without at least a year in the Blades Front Row Academy they would be monstered in five minutes by any international pack in the scrums, rucks and mauls.
They would be useless in lineouts and restarts (although in the latter they may not look out of place with that level of incompetence). Also, most league players would be the incorrect shape for the front row — simply not squat and fat enough. I would love to see Payne Haas, Thomas Flegler, Junior Paulo and Harry Grant join the Academy, and maybe Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (although Tino might be better suited to the second row).
So, for now, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Allan Ala’alatoa, Blake Schoupp, James Slipper and Pone Fa’amausili will have to hold the fort until the Blades Academy students graduate or new blood is found.
Are there any obvious league players for the second row since it seems you need to be about two metres tall? Ross Lane, Tino (above) and Pat Carrigan come to mind, but are there others? Again, education would be needed at Eales, Harrison and Partners. For now, we will have to work with Will Skelton, Nick Frost, the Arnold brothers and Matt Philip.
There are league players who would, with the correct guidance, be more comfortable in the back row with Rob Valetini. Certainly my top pick would be Cameron Murray, who has rugby in his background and would mimic the performance of the original ‘mister perpetual motion’, Ray Price.
Rugby Australia has their sights set on Angus Crichton, and there is no doubting his ability. He also has a rugby background and may well be a hit.
There are other candidates such as Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo from Penrith, Patrick Carrigan and Lindsay Collins, all of whom would be energetic and resolute defenders, as well as creative with the ball.
The backline is another matter altogether. I would scrap the whole Wallaby backline apart from Marika Koroibete. The rest of the incumbents are either inconsistent or pedestrian. The fullback would be James Tedesco (kicking skills would need serious attention) and joining Koroibete on the wing would be Valentine Holmes.
A centre pairing of Bradman Best and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow would provide spark and power, with Kotoni Staggs on the bench. Nathan Cleary would control the game at 10, and Nicho Hynes would learn the halfback role relatively quickly.
You could throw the very competitive (and annoying) Cameron Munster into the game at some point. Other Wallaby backs might be considered as bench players: Tate McDermott, Carter Gordon, Isaiah Perese, Len Ikatau and Mark Nawaqanitawase.
And the coach? Wayne Bennett, of course.