This was meant to be a piece about all the great rugby to be watched this month with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and the Pacific Islands all touring Europe.
It starts with Oz v Wales 1.30 am Sunday (EDST), peaks with NZ v France on each of the next two weekends and continues until November 27 with all test matches broadcast on Fox and three Wallaby tests on Channel 10.
Yesterday’s warm-up for the Wallabies against a Welsh club’s second-string side might have been mentioned briefly in passing. It was just going to be an easy and experimental leg stretcher. But then the wheels fell off the Wallaby wagon with arguably the worst defeat in our 15-a-side history – Ospreys (minus 13 of their best players) 24 d Australia 16.
The official ARU media releases are calling the defeated team “Australia A” but that’s not what coach John Connolly was saying before the game:
“You want to win every game,” he said. “That’s why we are not calling the second team Australia A. They are the Wallabies and so the plan is seven wins for the Wallabies on this tour.”
So we’re on to Plan B already. Or maybe C.
Despite the usual positive chatter, there was more than a touch of desperation about selections before the Swansea debacle. Playing winger Mark Gerrard at five-eighth for the first – and probably last – time in his life and starting Matt Giteau as half-back against Wales this weekend hint at the thinness of our backline stocks. The faithful are left hoping for some luck and unexpected magic.
The contrast is particularly sharp after watching the highly entertaining semi-finals and final of the Air New Zealand Cup last month with the talent, pace, skills and depth of Kiwi rugby simply amazing.
But never mind their top teams – a semi-final of the second division Heartlands Cup seemed to have more happening than the average Australian Super 14 outing.
Some of those speedy Wairarapa Bush backs must have an Australian grandmother. Or great-grandmother. Or a cousin….