Dingo’s Rant: North vs South

28 10 2010

The next installment from our tame Aussie!

As the end of the year descends upon us what an extraordinary festival of Northern vs Southern hemisphere sport we have in store.  How much of a loyalty any of us have to our respective hemispheres I’m not quite sure but any opportunity to take sides just adds to the fun of it all.

Now that the ‘gripping’ Commonwealth Games has ended, all four people who watched the event can take a rest and focus on something that does matter. After all, as an antiquated athletic celebration of Britain’s brutal conquest of the globe surely the games themselves should be put into retirement? It does of course give all the smaller nations a chance of sporting success and an opportunity to grab a few minutes in the limelight.  As usual, Australia grabbed most of the medals on offer, followed closely by Nandralone, then stomach poisoning, snake bites and (hilariously) bringing up the bottom of the table, New Zealand. But as the audience numbers suggested none of really matters – lets get to something that does!

Rugby.

Ahhh! The Autumn tours ‘up north’ – always a highlight on the Union calendar. Leading into a world cup year they provide a good preview of what we might expect in the upcoming tourney. Or perhaps – and certainly more accurately – where teams really need to improve to catch up with the All Blacks. As their dominant form during the tri-nations suggests, on home soil they’ll be quite formidable. The great, and perhaps only, good thing to come from where the tournament is being hosted is that with the World Cup in New Zealand, the pressure is even greater on the AB’s to finally deliver to their legions of obsessed followers. And we all know how that story usually unfolds…

So far there has not been too much controversial banter coming from the southern coaches – even the reliably entertaining PDV is keeping eerily quite.  First up this weekend is a little teaser as the two Bledisloe Cup rivals do battle in Hong Kong. With the Wallabies desperate to show they can beat their trans-Tasman rivals, and the AB’s keen to rub a little more salt into an already infected green and gold wound, don’t expect this to be anything less than a full blooded battle.

Disappointingly, Sonny Bill Williams, and the aura which has followed him since his deflection from the rival code, will not be taking part. Perhaps Graham Henry is simply keeping him under wraps to then later unleash him on an unsuspecting six nations opposition. Perhaps it’s just a “If it aint broke” situation – and boy – it sure isn’t broken.

A couple of interesting changes for the wallabies, however, with the other Ben – Alexander this time – moving back into the front row providing an increased amount of stability for the pack. With Salesi Mafu therefore being shifted back onto the bench it will provide him with some time to read a few “Idiot’s guides” to scrummaging.  Drew Mitchell comes back to the wing with the new Queensland Red’s wing Rod Davies, the fastest man during the super 14’s, moving to the bench after impressing in all the training hit-outs.  An exciting prospect that shows Australia’s production line of game breaking backs is still working.

Northern Hemisphere teams will take close note of this match and make their own plans accordingly. After England’s Chief Executive startling revelation that only 2 wins out of 4 would make for a successful Autumn there seems to be little faith in the boys from ‘Engerlaand’.

Poor old Jonny Wilkinson – crocked once more – must be disappointed after displaying some wonderful form in France. Eternal fill in man, Charlie hodgson, is called up again. With Flood in decent, although not dominating  form, it will be left to Ben Youngs to provide the speed and Lewis Moody the muscle. After that, well we’ll see.

One crucial thing I’ve learned as an Australian supporter about playing England though: Never take England for granted – they often find ways to beat the Wallabies.

Apologies to Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but it seems it’s same old for you boys. Please feel free to surprise me.

And France, well, once again we’ll only know on game day. (Even bigger apologies to Italy, but with all due respect – they’re Italy.)

So fire up the Barbie or Braai, crack a Fosters or pour a nice room temperature ale,’ cause it’s rugby bragging rights time again!

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