Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Even Maths Nerds Can Enjoy Rugby...

... though this is about the only comic that the Rolling Maul can understand on the website it came from (click on the comic to go there)

Friday, 13 June 2008

Waballies No More?

With the 2008 Australian international season about to kick off, now is an opportune time to assess this season's feeble opposition and take a look at this season's Wallabies line up.

The Wallabies
The coach may be new and may be a Kiwi but Matt Dunning is still in the front row. For a guy who started most of the end of season matches for the Waratahs from the bench and has the world's least impressive supporters club website this is a pretty impressive effort. Obviously Michael Foley, the Wallabies forwards coach, has big wraps on him, big enough to convince Robbie Deans to pick him, and Deans knows his forwards. Indeed he once was one.

Elsewhere the pack is packed with Waratahs as it should be. After all, the Waratahs were by far the best Super 14 pack in Australia, though this may have had something to do with Matt Dunning being on the bench. Wycliff Palu also topped the try scoring charts for the Tahs, Rocky Elsom chipped in with a few as did Dean Mumm and Phil Waugh. Meanwhile George Smith touched down a few times for the Brumbies.

So with a bunch of rookies in the back line and on the bench (Burgess, Barnes - don't kid yourself, Berrick is lucky to make the squad, Hynes, Cross) Deans' tactics in 2008 are obvious - keep the ball in the forwards, don't let Berrick touch the ball, and let the Wallabies back three (or should that be the forward back three or is that a dance step?) control the ball and score all the points.

Reports from last week's match against the All Blacks suggested that the weather in Wellington was the coldest and windiest the Irish boys had ever experienced and that somehow contributed to their loss. Well having been to Ireland and experienced a mid Summer gale and a mid Summer blizzard that felt like icicles through three layers of footy jerseys it is obvious that Irish Rugby players aint what they used to be. That the Irish players are soft is confirmed by their Six Nations and World Cup performances, where narrow lucky victories over Georgia and Italy confirmed their world standing.

There isn't enough luck of the Irish in a river of Guinness to help this team. Wallabies by 30.

France may have been runners-up at the World Cup, beating New Zealand along the way, but that counts for nothing when the scales aren't tipped in their favour. Indeed if anything demonstrated the true French Rugby spirit it was their grinding loss to the aerial ping pongers of Argentina.

And with Robbie Deans at the helm, the man who should be All Blacks coach, and a Wallabies line-up still smarting from a loss to a Northern Hemisphere nation (admittedly one that happened in the Northern Hemisphere so it doesn't count), the the motivation won't be lacking.

OK, so the French do have Sebastian Chabal in their side, a man who isn't afraid to let his hair grow and eats children, but as a Rugby player he hasn't played for Frnace since the World Cup and even then he was a bit part bench player, sort of like Matt Dunning for the Waratahs. But has Chabal ever kicked a field goal?

Wallabies by 25 and 22.

South Africa
It took a black coach to rid the Springboks of their quota system but what was wrong with a system that led to World Cup glory? It's been down hill ever since for South African Rugby, with an appalling Super 14 record and the usual bickering at home. So while it's been down hill it's just been a return to the status quo. For the Springboks this means breath sapping high altitude kickathon narrow victories at home and thrashes away from the comfort of their mad referee bashing supporters.

In South Africa: Springboks by 3
In Australia: Wallabies by 22.

New Zealand
The All Blacks are still smarting from their World Cup loss but when aren't they? If there's one thing an All Black likes it's getting his revenge for World Cup humiliation out of the way before the next World Cup, and usually at the expense of Australia.

This year sees a brand new fresh All Blacks with a new coach and an exciting array of fresh faces. Oh that's right - that's Australia. The All Blacks have the same coach that screwed up all the pre World Cup planning and then screwed up team selection and match tactics at the World Cup yet somehow hung on to his job.

Still, if there's one thing you can rely on it's that it will be cold and rain in Auckland in winter and the exciting Wallabies young guns that have been mesmerising the Rugby World with their crisp passing and dynamic back line moves will drown in a sea of mud and All Black boot studs.

In New Zealand: All Blacks by 8.
In Australia: Wallabies by 10 and 17.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Australian Super 14 Team of the Year

Moving right along...

Now that the international selection trials are over with predictable results, the Rolling Maul can do the hard work for Robbie Deans by selecting the Australian Super 14 Team of the Year that the Australian Rugby Community deserves:

Matt Dunning - Dunning's star continued to rise during this year's Super 14, and the season ended as last year's did with him doing laps behind the goal posts while the Waratahs battled it out on the field. Somehow Michael Foley, the Waratahs forwards coach, refers to him as the best tight head in the country. Wasn't Robbie Deans hired to put an end to such nonsense?

Rodney Blake - Last seen on a flight to Japan, Blake was the Next Big Thing in the Australian Rugby Front Row. He's still big but the hype was about as useful as his mullet and unfortunately he started to believe both of them. Won't be missed.

Saia Faingaa - Faingaa was the last hooker standing for the Brumbies after retirements and injuries found him in the starting line-up. Until he got injured. But he gets his spot in this team because the missus thinks he's cute.

Second Rowers / Locks
David Pusey - Nathan Sharpe is the heart and soul of the Western Force forward pack, not to mention an inspirational leader. David Pusey has a great beard in his publicity shot.

Al Kanaar - Two seasons ago Kanaar was the great hope for the Waratahs. Last year Kanaar was the great hope for the Wallabies. This season, Al Kanaar retired before the first match with chronic injuries from the bearing the weight of such hope.

Number 8
Scott Fava's sideburns - Fava's sideburns retain their spot in the Super 14 team of the year after leading Fava astray for another season. The Quokka Shokka kicked off the greatest season in Force history in terms of headlines and ensured Fava's elevation to the Force Hall of Fame AND Team of the Century which are to be announced on Rottnest Island in 2106.

Breakaways / Flankers
Not Ben Robinson, the other one - Beau Robinson, not to be be confused with Ben Robinson, the prop in the same team, spent plenty of time on the bench watching Cliffy Palu and Phil Waugh run rampant. That's until David Lyons regained fitness and Robinson, not Ben, the other one, was shuffled back to grade footy. Until Lyons got injured again. Robinson, not Ben, the other one, learnt plenty from watching Phil Waugh go round, mainly in the hairstyle Department though.

Peter Kimlin - The so forgotten man of Australian Rugby no one even knew he existed in the first place. He is listed in the Bumbies Profiles as a Flanker but for a team that was decimated by injuries to the extent their water boys were on the bench, how can the Rolling Maul not be aware of him getting any game time?

Matt Hanjak - A tough choice. Josh Valentine excelled himself by starting the season as the Waratahs first choice halfback and ending up in grade Rugby. Josh Holmes was the great hope of the Brumbies after they poached him for the Waratahs but he was last seen backing up George Gregan's long time understudy Patrick Phibbs. But Matt Henjak is the perfect choice. Expectations were pretty low to begin with for Henjak but he managed not to meet even those after beating up teammate Haig Sare. He was last seen giving boxing lessons to Nick Darcy.

Five-Eighth / Flyhalf
Lachlan Mackay - The best chin in the business, Lachlan Mackay left the Waratahs for the Force to great acrimony after seemingly solving the Waratahs five-eighth blues. Two years later he'd still barely played a game after injury followed by more injury. He finally cracked the starting line-up in the centres this season after Scott Staniforth got injured and when Matt Giteau got injured he was back in his most familiar role - getting injured again and missing the remainder of the season.

Haig Sare - Matt Henjak's punching bag deserves his place in the Super 14 team of the year after being the catalyst for ridding the game of Matt Henjak.

Berrick Barnes - Wallaby five-eighth one day, second fiddle to Quade Cooper the next. And if that's not bad enough, Barnes was the only Red not chosen to captain the team at some stage during 2008.

Clyde Rathbone - If you thought The Rolling Maul reserves pride of place in this Super 14 team of the Year for those players who spend more time in traction, plaster or in rehab (of the physical kind, not the Henkjak kind) than playing you'd be right. King of the Hospital Ward kids is Clyde Rathbone, who has now spent two entire seasons (minus 20 minutes of footy) nursing various knee, leg and groin ailments. He's still on the payroll and is planning on playing at least a half a game next year.

Andrew Walker - Walker spent most of the season representing Australia around the world in his capacity as World's oldest sevens player. His level headed leadership of a bunch of kids saw the Aussies fail to achieve anything of note. He finally received another Super 14 call up to replace an injured Chris Latham, scoring a match winning try, but one match later was dropped back to obscurity where he can be expected to remain. Unless...

Clinton Schifcofske - 2007 was a massive year for Schifcofske, his first season in Rugby. Australia A representation and an outstanding kicking and try scoring record had him mentioned as an outside World Cup chance. This season his radar boot was off target, he rarely crossed the tryline and he's signed a contract to play Rugby overseas. Nice knowing you.