Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

10th September 2012 13:18

Share:

Warren Gatland new Lions coach

Gatland: Was there anyone else?

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the Lions and the Rugby Championship...

So the rugby world's worst-kept secret is out: Warren Gatland will lead the British and Irish Lions to Australia. Twelve years on from Graham Henry's somewhat rollicking tour, another Kiwi will add his personal love of beating the Wallabies to the Lions' mix.

Was there anyone else? Despite Andy Irvine's insistence to the contrary, probably not. Neither Declan Kidney nor Andy Robinson have excelled enough in their roles to warrant lengthy consideration, while Stuart Lancaster is way too green. From club level, you might have been tempted to look at the coaching staffs of Munster, Leinster, Harlequins and Saracens, but otherwise there's not much around.

After the Henry tour, marked by some apparent internal personality and culture clashes, a lot said "never again a non-B&I person." But Gatland, with a long track record in Ireland, England and Wales, comfortably transcends that border.

It's going to be an interesting tour though. Gatland is known for having a titanium-clad streak of stubbornness within, belied by an easy-going nature in general. Obviously the Welsh have bought in, but it will be interesting to see if, as on Henry's tour, it takes time for the non-Welsh in the squad to buy in in the same way the Welsh have.

That stubborn nature is going to be tested to the full when it comes to France. The opening salvos have already been fired in Toulon, with Bernard Laporte issuing hands-off instructions over Gethin Jenkins. Others will surely follow despite Gatland's goodwill tour which has already secured the services of one J.Wilkinson.

And that point is now where the questions start for real. Who, what, and how will these B&I Lions go about their business? Are we looking at a classic tour, full of goodwill and enterprise like the last one (which Gatland was on and contributed to hugely)? Or with the calendar eating into preparation time and the cash-rich sponsors queuing up, with an extra match on the tour in Hong Kong and a crowded schedule on the tour itself, could we end up having a hyper-professional, exclusive 'untouchables' tour like Sir Clive Woodward's? Will the Lions knit under Gatland as they did under Geech or will the tribes start squabbling as they appeared to do under Henry?

That will all be answered next June. In the meantime, the Lionswatch for players begins here. And as is our wont - and no doubt with you guys ready with sharpened hatchets in anticipation of all our 'wrong' choices - we'll kick off the fun with our projected starting XV, based on a blend of form and experience, perhaps a little flexibility, and with a dash of good old intuition and hunch in there. Let the catcalling begin....

15 Rob Kearney, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 BOD, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Paul O'Connell, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
16 Rory Best, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Donncha O'Callaghan, 19 David Denton, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Leigh Halfpenny.


If you had to put money on it, would you bet against Argentina when they welcome Australia to La Plata in three weeks' time?

A win against South Africa does little to paper over the cracks in this Wallaby side. They still look as though they are playing to a game-plan that is beyond them, especially while their leading players continue to drop like flies. Patience is always a watchword, but the shapelessness of the team at times must be a cause for concern.

The captain's armband has become something of a jinx down under. Horwill, Pocock and now Will Genia are all done for the year. Nathan Sharpe, stalwart leader of teams in adversity, is the logical interim choice, but he is sadly beginning to show a little of his age.

We'll see how they cope. At home this weekend you'd back the Wallabies to win. Yet they will find no let-up in the pressure from an Argentinean team that has now moved well beyond just finding feet on the big stage.


That was worth a mention. But if you are going to use the word shapeless, you'd now have to haul up the Springboks as the benchmark for that particular adjective.

They were awful. Jean de Villiers is running as though he has the world on his shoulders. Zane Kirchner offers absolutely nothing. Morne Steyn has been exposed over and over again. Up front, the Boks are discovering that it simply isn't enough to be an angry behemoth any more, that you need a little culture in your play. Jannie du Plessis is becoming a disciplinary liability, and the back row just doesn't seem to know how to help teams link.

But the most worrying aspect might be the behaviour of Eben Etzebeth. His ridiculous actions against Nathan Sharpe - an attempted headbutt at worst, a puerile act of childish intimidation at best - is an epitome of precisely the kind of indiscipline that pervades the current SA set-up. That Heyneke Meyer is considering a recall to Bakkies Botha, no stranger to a twitchy set of neck muscles himself, is a sure-fire sign that nobody in the leadership really knows where to go next.

But the Boks have to go for broke. The inevitable furore over any future defeats will be tempered by attempts to move on from the past and get the new generation up to speed. Right now, just calling back the old guard and attempting to win with yesterday's rugby will appease nobody.

Over-conservative, slow, shapeless. That's the Boks right now. Heyneke Meyer now has a lot more people to win over.

But here's a question: which team has played the most innovative, 'punch above their weight' rugby the past four years in SA? Why, the Cheetahs of course... consistently challenging the best with half the resources. Is it possible, as someone said in private the other day, that South Africa might have missed a trick by not looking to the coaching talents in Bloemfontein?

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 25
Ulster vs Toulon13:00
Scarlets vs Leicester19:45
Bath vs Toulouse15:15
Montpellier vs Glasgow17:15
Northampton vs Ospreys17:15
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks15:15
Castres vs Leinster13:00
Wasps vs Harlequins17:15
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 9217:15
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh vs Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Preview
Friday , October 24
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Brive vs Zebre18:30
Grenoble vs London Irish18:30
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Newcastle19:30
Edinburgh vs LOU Rugby19:45
Saturday , October 25
Bucuresti vs Stade Francais14:00
Rovigo vs Cardiff Blues14:00
Exeter vs Connacht15:00
Oyonnax vs Gloucester19:45
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , October 25
Western Province vs Lions17:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , October 25
Taranaki vs Tasman19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
Glasgow 37 - 10 BathGlasgow vs Bath Report
Leicester 25 - 18 UlsterLeicester vs Ulster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
LOU Rugby 28 - 18 London WelshLOU Rugby vs London Welsh Report
Zebre 24 - 33 Oyonnax
Cardiff Blues 37 - 14 Grenoble
Stade Francais 22 - 38 Newport Gwent D'gons
Bayonne 30 - 24 Exeter
Connacht 48 - 12 La Rochelle
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Lions 50 - 20 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Western Province 31 - 23 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 49 - 30 AucklandTaranaki vs Auckland Report
Manawatu 23 - 18 Southland
Tasman 26 - 6 CanterburyTasman vs Canterbury Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 17
Harlequins 25 - 9 CastresHarlequins vs Castres Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Bordeaux-Begles 13 - 15 EdinburghBordeaux-Begles vs Edinburgh Report
Newcastle 43 - 19 Bucuresti
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615