This week we will concern ourselves with a match we saw in Sydney over the weekend…
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with a match we saw in Sydney over the weekend…
Not a long Loose Pass this week, as there really isn't a great deal to shout about. I mean, when you are expecting a close game and it turns out to be a 25-point winning margin (Australia were lucky to even get away with that), you end up a little lost to revisit all the things you'd been talking about before that game. Bar a couple of thrillers in Super Rugby, was there anything else going on this week?
There was, of course, the astonishing vitriol that accompanied the cutting of Brian O'Driscoll from the Test. Leaving aside the personal criticism of Gatland for a moment, here's a fact: we read thirteen columns on the subject of BOD. Every single one, about halfway down, tucked safely away from the attention span of the average reader, uttered some form of disclaimer along the lines of: 'O'Driscoll has not been at his best this tour' or 'Davies has been the form centre yes, but…'
So in fact…. everybody knew it was the right decision. Even the catcallers, those who fancied making a name for themselves, those who love to coach from the sofa, those who just can't see the wood for the trees… everybody knew it was the right decision. Even BOD, professional to the last, said he was 'gutted' and then got on with his leadership role. His grin was one of the widest at the end.
Gatland said he would take no personal pleasure from the call, but he has to. If he has any shred of pride in his work, he has to. It was a huge call for a coach to make, a call many would not have made, but he got it spot on.
Other parts of Gatland's final week preparations did not go unnoticed and uncriticised either, but we'll single out one volley of fire in particular: one from a certain Mr. Woodward of New Zealand 2005 debacle fame, who derided the decision to let the Lions roam in Noosa for a couple of days while the Wallabies headed for training camp in Coogee.
“It was a big mistake to jump on a two-and-a-half hour flight to the Sunshine Coast on the morning after a Test match,” he wrote in the Daily Mail.
“These guys are battered and bruised but you do not need to fly to Noosa to get some rest and rehabilitation. It is the last place I would take the team. You have to lick your wounds and feel sorry for yourself for 24 hours and then get to Sydney to prepare for the biggest match of your lives.
“The Lions needed a lie-in and a full day in the team hotel with the world-class recovery facilities that were on their doorstep in Melbourne. Players are hardly capable of walking up stairs properly on the morning after a game, so to sit on a coach, then in cramped economy seats, then back on a coach would only worsen the stiffness and swelling.”
OK well, frankly, just no. But Mr. Woodward did redeem himself: his was the only pundit opinion we read which said 'Gatland should return to his all-Welsh midfield…'
Best televised moment of the tour: an overjoyed Andy Farrell leaping up from his seat in the coaching box at the second try and screaming out – even the lip-readers were deafened – “yeeees, you beautyyyyyy!” as he banged his desk with his hands. Shades of Peter de Villiers in fact!
Over to Australia and there comes the question: just where to go from here? Is it perhaps time to look at the playing stocks and recognise a few things…
For example: players who can't take responsibility for themselves. i.e. choosing which boots/studs to wear on a damp game day (Kurtley Beale). Players who can't help staying out until four in the morning posing (Beale again, with James O'Connor).
It really seems to us – especially given what's been going on with the cricket team as well – that either Australia now has a truly rotten sporting celebrity culture which will need a new generation to rid itself of, or, given the fact that of the two respective coaches one is South African the other Kiwi, maybe it is just not a viable solution to the national team to have a foreign coach and a different culture.
Back to Deans: he's given the Wallabies a good go. The decision to leave Quade Cooper out in the cold has come back to haunt him, especially as Ewen McKenzie's appointment as new Wallabies coach has now been confirmed. But they've played some fine rugby at times and are better off now than they were when he took over.
If only he could have found a couple of props…
Finally, looking ahead: the TMOs for the upcoming Rugby Championship matches are set to be neutral.
Dare we whisper this is a solution to the landslide of miserable TMO calls we have had this season? Perhaps we can whisper it…
Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson