The Rugby Blog stalwart Jon Hobbs moved to Melbourne this year, and has been canvassing some of his team-mates at the local rugby club for their views on the Tri-Nations and Rugby World Cup.
For obvious reasons, they prefer to remain anonymous…
Q: Which players from the other tri-nations teams are you worried about?:
Kiwi 1: From Australia line ‘em up – Cooper, Beale, O’Connor, and Genia are all world class. From South Africa it’s all about the goalkickers – Morne Steyn is the danger man.
Kiwi 2: Obvious to say Quade Cooper the way he single-handedly destroyed the Blues in the Super Rugby semi-final. He has the undeniable Aussie confidence/arrogance….I get the two confused….that either win a match or sink the Aussie dream.
Aussie: Sonny Bill Williams for obvious reasons and Dan Carter rarely has an off day. The New Zealand back row is also quality. Morne Steyn and Patrick Lambie, maybe Jaques Fourie for the Boks, although I think SA have the weakest team (of the tri-nations) going into the World Cup.
Q: Which Northern Hemisphere players are going to make their mark in the Rugby World Cup?
Kiwi 1: BOD will want to sign off on a winner and I’m a massive fan of Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney (though the latter seems to have dropped off a bit lately).
Kiwi 2: It’s a good chance for Toby Flood to really set the world alight and take England through to the quarters and semis.
Aussie: Cedric Heymans, Maxime Medard. I haven’t really seen anyone that really wowed me from the rest of them.
Q: Who would you pick in the debatable positions in your team?
Kiwi 1: I’d pick Sonny Bill at 12 but Henry will in all likelihood go with Nonu. Conrad Smith is a certainty to start at outside centre. Back three is also contentious – I’d have Israel Dagg at fullback but Henry will stick with Muliaina. Hosea Gear on one wing and if Mils is full-back then Dagg on the other wing.
Kiwi 2: As it stands, Ma’a 12, Conrad 13. They know each other inside out. Sonny Bill is still unproven, superhuman busts and crazy offloads looked great in NRL and the “entertainment first, quality second” Super 15 but this is the Rugby World Cup and a big physical South African back line won’t fear him.
Aussie: Back row for Australia I think will be Rocky, if he can find some form, along with Cliff Palu and Pocock. With Higginbotham on the bench – he is a machine.
Q: As things stand, who will make the World Cup final?:
Aussie: At this stage of the year, England and New Zealand. Australia if they get their combos right. Fourth position is interesting, Irish players have had a strong year, France have a good chance.
Kiwi 2: Hard to bet against New Zealand making it, and having France in their pool removes one massive mental barrier. Second team I’ll say Australia – they are very close to being the elite team they were when Larkham and George “four more years boys” Gregan were at the height of their powers.
Q: Is Peter de Villiers finally going to say something that gets him fired during the RWC?
Kiwi 1: If they haven’t fired him already they’re not going to. Imagine what South Africa could do with a real coach.
Kiwi 2: No doubt! When they are eliminated by New Zealand there will be some ridiculous reason – the ref, cheating McCaw, poisoned lamb chops, racism even!
Aussie: De Villiers is a puppet, albeit a terribly outspoken one. Apparently he doesn’t really “coach” the team, he’s more just the face of South African rugby.
Q: What do you think of England using an all black alternate shirt?
Kiwi 1: I think if you were trying to come up with a way to ensure you’re the most hated team by the home fans at the World Cup then you’ve succeeded incredibly well. It’s just a pretty tacky option.
Kiwi 2: I have no issue with it…I fail to understand why, whether it’s a simple change in style or some vain attempt at psychological warfare?
Aussie: I think it’s a disgrace. England could pick any colour in the world and they picked the host team’s 120-year-old historical colour. It would be like them coming to Australia and wearing a green and gold jersey.
By Jon Hobbs