A lot of Australian fans are hell-bent on blaming Robbie Deans on absolutely everything that goes wrong for the Wallabies: he’s the head-coach, and a Kiwi head coach at that. The Mole just doesn’t subscribe to that. Deans is a good coach. However, he does have some blind spots.
There are three senior Australian players who would have been in the Mole’s matchday squad yesterday for the Wobs: Matt Giteau [28 years old, 92 caps]; George Smith [31 years old, 110 caps]; and Nathan Sharpe [33 years old, 96 caps]. Sharpe is in the World Cup squad, but wasn’t in the match-day squad; the Mole would have had Smith for McCalman and Giteau for either one of the centres [with Shmoo Mitchell on the wing and AAC at 13]. There’d also be a strong argument for Wallaby legend Stirling Mortlock [34 years old, 80 caps] to have been included in the RWC11 squad ahead of the barely 22 year old Rob Horne, who has yet to play a minute of international rugby in 2011.
Personally speaking, the Mole thinks that too much experience – and talent – has been jettisoned by Deans. George Smith racked up a serious season for Toulon [as the Mole has noted previously, he played more minutes than any openside bar one in the Top 14 this year] and will still be a better openside in a decade’s time than Ben McCalman will ever be. He’s about three months older than Richie McCaw, who’s captaining New Zealand from the same position – surely he’s not too old to be involved? I’ve no doubt that Deans could have approached him and asked him to stick around for one more big tournament.
Faainga? Good tackler, hard-worker … barely an international class centre, and certainly not a top quality No13. Are you telling me they couldn’t have used the physicality and leadership of Mortlock in the centre of the park? What does Faainga offer that Mortlock doesn’t? Nothing, frankly. He doesn’t have the pace that Mortlock might have lost, doesn’t have good passing skills, doesn’t have a kicking game of any note – he certainly doesn’t have anything that could be compared with Giteau’s kicking and distribution game.
The Mole mentioned it before that he was surprised that Deans opted for three ordinary young centres [grey man McCabe, Faainga and Horne] with little big-game experience and no outstanding physical gifts in his squad. Taking unfit players like Mitchell, Horne and arguably Berrick Barnes looks to have somewhat backfired on him – especially because of Ioane’s injury. With Beale, AAC and HTLJOC, there’s a lot of versatility in the backline … but they’re just running out of men.