Monday, September 26, 2011

Apples With Apples

So with the French put to the sword the thoughts now swing to the knock out stage and the inevitable question: can we win the whole thing?  An interesting thought crossed my mind - how does the present team stack up against the team that lost the quarter final on 2007 - here's the match up

New Zealand 2007
1 Tony Woodcock           1. Tony Woodcock - is building nicely into form

2 Anton Oliver                 2. Keven Mealamu - a more dynamic player than Oliver, better lineouts

3 Carl Hayman                 3. Owen Franks - close call - the young up and comer maybe has it on defence

4 Keith Robinson              4. Brad Thorn - no contest - Thorn had another massive game on Saturday

5 Ali Williams                   5.  Sam Whitelock - there on form and as good as Ali ever was

6 Jerry Collins                  6.  Jerome Kaino - a more complete player and leading the defence

7 Richie McCaw (c)         7.  Richie McCaw - the game has changed - but look at the stats - still great leading the team in tackles, hit ups and metres gained - he's a better captain this time round as well

8 Rodney So'oialo           8.  Kieran Read - miles ahead lets hope he gets back

9 Byron Kelleher             9.  Piri Weepu - has the big game temperament Byron lacked

10 Dan Carter                10. Dan Carter - has learned how to drop kick

11 Sitiveni Sivivatu         11.  Richard Kahui - such different players - I like the creative solidity of Kahui

12 Luke McAlister         12.  Maa Nonu - is he the most in-form back in the tournament?

13 Mils Muliaina             13.  Conrad Smith - well he's a actually a centre so...

14 Joe Rokocoko           14.  Corey Jane - at his best Joe was amazing but Jane is so constructive

15 Leon MacDonald       15.  Israel Dagg - on a different planet


16 Andrew Hore             16.  Andrew Hore - not at his best yet

17 Neemia Tialata           17.  Ben Franks - maybe a close run thing but a difference in ticker for sure

18 Chris Jack                  18.  Ali Williams - streets ahead as an impact lock

19 Chris Masoe               19.  Thompson/Vito - both are better

20 Brendon Leonard        20.  Ellis/Cowan - both are better

21 Nick Evans                 22.  Colin Slade - a toss up here - Evans never quite stepped up, Slade has yet to

22 Isaia Toeava                22.  Sonny Bill Williams - more game and makes less mistakes

Overall?  A better team I think in 2011.  Although to be fair that quarterfinal team had a younger Smith available (the 2011 version has bulked up and has greater physical presence) and Mils available for fullback.  The selectors were so in love with Leon though they wanted to find room for both.  No such sentiment this time round.  Mils is dropped and Dagg is in.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Business Time

So its money where mouth is time for the AB's squad - so here is my team to play every game from here, rather than the one they may pick:

1. Woodcock
2.  Mealamu
3.  Franks
4.  Thorn
5.  Whitelock
6.  Kaino
7.  McCaw
8.  Read/Vito
9.  Cowan
10. Carter
11.  Kahui
12.  Nonu
13.  Smith
14.  Jane
15.  Dagg

Reserves: Hore/Afoa/Williams/Vito (or Thompson)/Weepu/Muliaina/Williams

So the justifications around the marginal selections.  Whitelock starts ahead of Williams for his accuracy and workrate, but William's big game temperament and impact game gets him game time off the bench.  Cowan gets in on his defence round the fringes ahead of the impact of Weepu and the better clearance but reduced physical presence of Ellis.  Kahui and Jane beat out Toeva and the out of his league Guildford.  Dagg gets the nod on form at full back.  This is the lineup I expect the AB selectors to name.

The bench is the hard call, but I have gone for a team to win the World Cup stacked with impact players.  Afoa beats out the less mobile Franks.  Vito is the utility ahead of Thompson if Read is fit.  Covering 6 and 8 is more important for me than covering 7 - McCaw needs to play the whole game if we are to win. 

The big call is in the backs.  I take the risk that Weepu will cover 1st V ahead of Slade.  Again Carter must play the whole game so the substitute requirement is to cover injury not a tactical substitution.  If Carter goes off injured I back Weepu over Slade to steady the ship and Cowan to tough out the full 80.  Williams simply must play.  He is a gamebreaker of huge talent covering centre/2nd V (and now apparently wing).  Its Muiliaina who fills out the mix though as he too can cover Centre, Wing and fullback and offers stability and experience with gamebreaking ability coming in fresh.  When you add in the versatility of the starting wingers there are plenty of tactical options on attack or to consolidate a winning position.

I think there are risks however you select the back reserves.  The risk I take is banking on Carter finishing the game and not getting 2 injuries at halfback and 1st V.  Unfortunately we simply don't have a back up 1st V who is even close to ready - and I don't think it would make much difference if it were Donald, Slade or Cruden - they are all fragile compared to the rugby nouse and experience of Weepu.