The All Blacks Are Coming and Flood/Wilkinson

18 10 2010

Graham Henry announced the 30 man touring party that will be travelling to the Northern Hemisphere this November. Notable not only for the sheer quality of names (despite a few injuries) that have been picked, but mainly for the inclusion of their rugby league convert and potential superstar, Sonny Bill Williams.

This is a name that many people outside of the southern hemisphere won’t be too familiar with but, by all accounts (and having done some research on youtube), he looks likely to take the international rugby world by storm. Certainly we at the Compulsive Hooker are slightly scared by what he might be able to do to what we suspect will be an outclassed English side. Upon leaving rugby league in 2008, Williams joined Toulon in the Top 14, playing alongside such luminaries as Jonny Wilkinson and Carl Hayman before re-signing with the NZRU (New Zealand Rugby Union) and refusing an offer that has variously been reported as between 5 and 6 million US dollars from Toulon.

To give all NH fans a taste of what we might be in for have a look at the video below. Clearly the all round package he obviously has good hands on him as well as being an enormous tackler. His hit just after 3 minutes is particularly worth replaying. In the international arena he may come under more scrutiny for not wrapping his arms around the player – an old habit from his rugby league days – but either way he remains a fearsome prospect. (You might want to turn the volume down as the music the poster of the video has put with it is remarkably annoying).

The rest of the squad is much as expected although we are disappointed not to see Israel Dagg travel due to his thigh injury. In several cameos off the bench in the Tri Nations he scored a couple of incredible solo tries and showed that the New Zealand conveyor belt of running talent is still in operation.

The All Blacks played some of the best rugby that the Compulsive Hooker has ever seen over the recent tournament and particularly in the early games took rugby to a level rarely seen before. The pace and precision was extraordinary and we cannot help but think that they will complete the ‘Grand Slam’ in the Autumn with relative ease this year. A full preview will follow for all these games but for now let us just say we are already highly excited by the prospect of international rugby on every weekend throughout November – it really is one of our favourite times of the year!

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Wilkinson / Flood

Talking of rugby weekends, the one we have just had was not bad at all with the second round of the Heineken cup matches being played. With the debate about who should be playing fly-half for England about to be renewed once more, we thought we would watch both the Leicester vs Scarlets game and Munster vs Toulon to get up to speed on the relative form of the two contenders Toby Flood and Jonny Wilkinson.

During Saturdays game in Ireland, Wilkinson emerged just after half time to play in a side that was being dominated in every facet of the game by an excellent Munster team. Taking things by the scruff of the neck it was noticeable that Wilkinson immediately injected life to Toulon providing them shape and a great deal of width. Unfortunately with Munster defending well and the Toulon backs lacking depth, he was unable to ultimately provide the cutting edge that the French side needed. Encouragingly though, reports on a resurgence of form do not look to be entirely misplaced with his passing being good on the whole and a couple of half breaks showing some quick feet plus a well taken drop goal.

In Leicester’s game Flood was making his comeback from an injury and therefore could have been forgiven some match rustiness. On the contrary though he was decidedly good and his combination with the effervescent Ben Youngs at scrum half might be enough to tempt Martin Johnson to retain his services. It is true he was playing in a dominant team behind a pack going forwards unlike Wilkinson at Toulon, yet his performance will have pleased the England management no end.

The Compulsive Hooker does not have a history of rating Toby Flood highly so our verdict based on this weekend may come as a surprise – yet we wouldn’t change the Leicester 9/10 combination for the opening game on this evidence. Obviously a lot can change over the next 3 weeks and this is far from an open and shut case, but, with Flood also being the incumbent, we would put our money on him starting.

 

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3 responses

18 10 2010
Dingo

Sonny Bill Williams is definately a name to remember, he’ll fit perfectly into the all-black style too, great speed and loves to run and pass, just have to watch whether the NRL lures him back with some big cash. And don’t worry about Dagg, you’ll see plenty of him in the years to come, he is an amazing player, always has the knack of making plays from nothing deep in his own territory, it’ll take a bit of effort to dislodge mils, but AB’s dont have too much to worry about for the next few years in the full back department.
I’ve also never been a big fan of Flood, I’ve always been a big fan of Jonny, the injuries break my heart, Flood always seemed to be a bit nervous, not the best decision maker, the talent is there, but the temprement a little wanting, but even though haven’t been able to catch him in ation this season, heard a lot of hype he’s finally ripening, well, we’ll see. England has always held there number 10’s in high regard, a lot of pressure to finally get it right…

18 10 2010
Bradders

I can’t see that even the NRL would be able to match Toulon’s $5 million offer… Looking forward to seeing him play!

18 10 2010
Jonathan

Never seen SBW play, certainly looks handy! Blimey, quality!

Always impressed with the league boys when they come to union; they really show up the union boys in terms of releasing the ball when in the tackle, some impressive off loading here.

NZ, are sheer class; England do not stand a chance this winter. Let us hope the NZ peaking before a WC continues!

Wilkinson is a General of the highest order; Flood, extremely talented and a quality player but not the leader Jonny is. Yes Jonny has his critics, but he is the best number 10 in England, all he needs to do in an England journey is get him flat to the line. He remains to deep, change the angle, change the game.
I think the development of Youngs will also help Jonny rekindle that attacking stance.

Gotta love the autumn test series, bring em on! Good luck England!

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