It wouldn’t be a start to the season without the customary feud between the provinces and the national body. The spat is specifically related to the proposed camp three weeks before the Lions series.
I can understand where the provincial coaches are coming from – it’s their necks on the line if they play with the best players absent from their line-ups.
In this case, perhaps it is for the better of the game. The Lions series hits our shores every 12 years. What we learnt as a rugby-playing nation last time is that the British and Irish Lions come well prepared. In 2001, the Wallabies, too, were prepared, but not initially ready for the intensity that came with this amalgamated team.
I can’t stress enough the importance of this series and that success must go the Wallabies’ way. Maybe then, gathering together the elite players could be a positive, a chance to iron out the cobwebs that usually come with the first game of the international season.
So what has to happen as a team?
To start with, cross fingers, the selectors get to choose a squad from a healthy group of men. This is the coach’s dream.
The success of this team is to get the right group of players playing well at the right part of the season. The difficult job for the players, however, is maintaining form through to June and somehow being fresh and ready to go for the Lions series and the Rugby Championships.
The ideal scenario is to have a team chocked full of players around that time of the year who would be world-XV standard. The players in the reckoning could be the likes of Benn Robinson, David Pocock, Will Genia, Scott Higgenbotham and Kurtley Beale.
All players, when on song, can be devastating in their positions. Other key members of the team have to lift in their positions to become great international players – the key here is to limit any weak links.
When looking across the states through the Super Rugby teams, the strength comes down to how they are faring as a group. It’s not a necessity to be topping the competition, but that would be nice – more important is whether the players are able to work well in combinations. Front row, second row, back three, for example.
This, at least, would give something for the selectors to work with. That would be taken into account.
One competitive advantage the Lions have is being able to choose the best players from each team. The Wallabies have to match them man for man and out-play them on the park.
Conversely, the Wallabies’ competitive advantage is that they are a team, a team that will stay strong under the pressure of a Lions series.
As for any side, keeping a fit team together is of utmost importance. A settled team with strong combinations is so important. This allows for consistency in play and decision-making. An interesting scenario evolved in cricket over the summer, introducing a rotation policy. I can understand the importance of keeping the players fresh, yet disruptions sometimes lead to inconsistencies. Unfortunately, this cannot be an option in season 2013.
Barring injury, the strategic use of the 23 men on the park for the duration of the season is imperative to success and could overcome the over-use issues. The momentum gained from the Lions series should put the Wallabies in a good position for the Rugby Championship.
Here’s looking forward to 2013.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.