How would sir like his steak cooked? Restaurateurs of New Zealand take note, mine’s a medium thanks. How about you, the reader? And possibly of slightly more import, how does one like one’s Wallaby or Springbok? (You can’t use a flower in a cooking metaphor, sorry. Or for that matter an All Black)
Potential England Number 8 Nick Easter came out this week and suggested that the Tri Nations could leave the big three Southern Hemisphere teams tired from battering each other silly in endless legs of the Bledisloe Cup, and you do wonder if he has a point.
One way to look at it is: would you want us to go into the World Cup having just played in the Six Nations? In general the answer would be no, though from Scotland’s point of view, traditionally we’re just coming on to a game about then due to injuries forcing the coaches to pick the form players rather than injured favourites so it might actually suit us! Even if the squad would be reduced to rubble for years afterwards.
The All Blacks or the South Africans probably won’t be that troubled. They have frightening depth in many areas and probably have enough talent even in the weak ones to see them through to the knockout stages when the big guns could take more of a role. Although New Zealand won’t want to lose to France in the pools, in case they try to fit a third shade of blue on their shirt.
I can see that Australia might have a bit of trouble though. After a competitive Super 15 in which Queensland have made the final, their pack will take a beasting against both SA and NZ, and that is one area they need to be in tip top shape come the World Cup if they are to give what could be an awe inspiring back division the possession they need. Could be a few tired legs in the Aussie front 5 – sure to set Irish and possibly even Italian eyes-a-smiling. Especially with the small amount of rugby BOD and chums played last season, they should be in peak fitness to chase Quade Cooper all over the park.
One area it could help the Northern Hemisphere is preparation and tactics, given that other than maybe Ireland in their last 6N game, no Six Nations team has really showed their World Cup hand in terms of how they might (hope to) play – sometimes I wonder if Scotland have a hand – whereas the Tri-Nations will have to show theirs live on Sky.
I can’t see even Graham Henry or Robbie Deans coming up with a “save this wacky 5/8ths move for the World Cup” playbook, so their pool opponents may get some ideas about what they will be facing come September. Of course, Quade Cooper doesn’t know what he is going to do from one moment to the next so there will always be that element of unpredictability in the Aussie team that no amount of video research can help with.
It’s not really an issue that will affect Scotland. Our boys should be very well prepared and we wouldn’t hit a big Tri Nations team till the quarters at the earliest. By which point they will be (like us?!) just hitting their stride or will have punched themselves out (unlikely).
Besides, I don’t see what Nick Easter is worrying about, it won’t affect England that much either, he’s putting the cart before the horse again and feeding the Red Rose hype machine. After defeat against the Argies (all riled up about the Falklands again) and us, the Auld Enemy with a nation of distant relatives firmly behind us, England won’t get out of the group stages to face a big Tri Nations team anyway, eh what?