Michael Pascoe writes:


Despite what the Wallaby camp thinks
whenever the going gets tough, the Rugby media is the antithesis of normal journalism: they really do prefer
a “good” news story.

Sure, when there’s nothing nice to write the
pack can dip their quills in bile with the best of them, but generally there is
a much greater tendency to be patriotic and supportive of Australia’s
great international football team rather than to bag them.

And that’s why you have to learn to read between
the lines sometimes to work out what’s really happening. With Australia
facing the possibility of extending its losing streak to six tests this
weekend, there seems to be a lot of positive thinking going on. Good heavens,
the Wallabies management even trotted out captain George Gregan for a convivial
French fireside chat with his critics ahead of the game and his historic 115th
cap, as the SMH‘s Greg Growden reports.
It’s a record no race horse can come near.

Australia plays a French team (6.30 am
AEDT, 5.30 real time, broadcast live on 7) that’s also been losing more than
its fans can condone, a team that also has a coach under pressure to justify
why he should be trusted to take the side to the 2007 World Cup. So the
Wallabies have a chance. On the other hand, the French are notoriously harder
to beat on their own soil. We’ll find out.

Getting in their retaliation first, Wallaby
management has been keen to paint this European spring offensive as a testing
ground for new blood with 2007 in mind.

Well, yes but no. The Australia
A team that defeated the French Barbarians on Tuesday night had some
interesting selections, but there’s nothing adventurous about Sunday morning’s
Wallabies – Eddie Jones desperately needs a win.

But back reading between the lines, amid
all the glowing press coverage of the Australia A victory and the performance
of a couple of young players plucked from grade without Super 12 experience, it
smells like Eddie’s Australia A experiment failed in perhaps its most crucial task:
finding a test-quality prop.

Google coverage of that match and you’ll
read plenty of glowing tributes about what must have been a great show. Greg
Growden again for example:

A big, black cloud has suddenly moved
from above the Australian rugby landscape.

With months of soul-searching after
five straight Test losses, a spectacular performance by Australia A to swamp a
quality French Barbarians line-up provided hope that Australian rugby has
enough young guns to revive fortunes.

And so on. But read the various reports
closely and you’ll find mention of a push-over try by the French and an example
of why teenage No. 8 Leroy Houston is special: “….which was highlighted in the
25th minute when an Australia
scrum was about to explode under intense French Barbarians pressure. But Houston provided
the escape route by quickly gathering the ball at the back……”

The game wasn’t broadcast, making it
impossible to be sure from this side of the earth, but it looks like the dark
lining to the Australia A silver cloud is that the gold scrum failed. And nothing was said
about the lineout either.

You can unearth all the promising Australia
A running rugby you like, but if the Wallaby scrum and lineout continue to be
dismantled the way they were by New Zealand and South
Africa this year, we
won’t be playing in the 2007 final.