- By Kevin McCarthy
You can go a bit far with treating the World Cup warm-up matches as meaningless.
For example, if the All Blacks had lost at Eden Park, we’d now been in the alternate reality nightmare of imminent Rugby World Cup doom. We’ve been there before, and it isn’t a nice place.
Australia would be the most puffed up of roosters by comparison, as they were – a little – after Perth.
And the rest of the world would be salivating.
As someone else pointed out, the meaningless bit is that the relative merits of teams before the world cup can’t be well judged by these games. The tournament itself, after all, is its own self-contained world, where what has gone before can easily be upset – a lesson that the All Blacks have surely learnt over and over now.
But even so, we did learn on Saturday that the All Black side can summon up the physicality to out-match or match others up front, and the ferocity to defend for 80 minutes.
With those in place, and a smart tactical kicking game, they look much more potent.
The trick will be turning up the dial when its needed at World Cup time, because there’s no way they will want or need to be going at 11 for every match.
As for Australia, well when they’re on the back foot they look one-dimensional and without many ideas on attack. As most sides do. They’ll be more than a handful for most teams at the Cup however, and not to be written off.
As an aside, why does anyone get lathered up over the All Blacks slipping down the current world rankings to no 2, and possibly no 3 in the near future.
Its an algorithm guys, it doesn’t dislike or like the All Blacks any more than any other algorithm (although Wayne Barnes was clearly a glitch in the matrix).
So this is what happens when you play mediocre rugby and get so-so results in the Rugby Championship. Well, third place actually
Just remember you can’t wear the number one badge proudly for like five years, and then suddenly disparage the system when it spits out the wrong answer.
Seriously, do you really think Shag is sweating over his cellphone for a call from Liam Squire, as the media would have you believe.
That makes Hansen look like some love-lorn teenager, which I am sure he once was.
Squire will have made it known through back channels or front channels whether he is ready to come out of his exile.
But yeah, it will be replayed with images of Shag fumbling for his Samsung.
As for the big announce next Wednesday, let’s remember to put aside the provincial rivalries and accept there will be too many Crusaders in the side.
This will be our team, shooting for an unprecedented three-peat. And if your favourite ain’t there, don’t worry. There’s going be collateral damage to come.
The Lions have hardly come roaring out of the sheds yet in the National Provincial Championship.
But their first home match, this Friday, is against a team doing even worse.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a winless Canterbury. Something you don’t get to write very often these decades.
So if you can, get to the Stadium and see if we can heap some more misery on the Red and Blacks.
Wellington Axemen loose forward Vaea Fifita will make his first appearance for the Wellington Lions in 2019 when they meet Canterbury.
Fifita was released by the All Blacks to play the round three match and Lions head coach Chris Gibbes had no hesitation in selecting him in the run-on XV.
“He’s an All Black who is hungry to play and wants to contribute to this side,” he said. “We all know what sort of athletic and dynamic player Vaea can be on the field so we are really looking forward to seeing that on Friday night.”
Fifita replaces Mateaki Kafatolu in the only change Gibbes has made from the starting side which drew 27-27 with Hawke’s Bay last week.
There are changes on the bench where Kafatolu replaces Luke Tau’alupe while lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi comes in for what could be his second appearance in place of Galu Taufale.
Wing Losi Filipo could also make his first appearance of the season after being named in the 23-man squad.Kick-off is 7.35pm.
The Wellington Lions squad to meet Canterbury is:
15 Billy Proctor (Marist St Pats)
14 Wes Goosen (Old Boys University)
13 Vince Aso (Paremata-Plimmerton)
12 Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata)
11 Pepesana Patafilo (Tawa)
10 Jackson Garden-Bachop (Northern United)
9 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (Tawa)
8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas (Old Boys University)
7 Du’Plessis Kirifi (Northern United) (c)
6 Vaea Fifita (Wellington)
5 James Blackwell (Petone)
4 Josh Furno (Wests Roosters)
3 Alex Fidow (Oriental-Rongotai)
2 Asafo Aumua (Avalon)
1 Xavier Numia (Oriental-Rongotai)
16 James O’Reilly (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
17 Morgan Poi (Old Boys University)
18 Sef Fa’agase (Johnsonville)
19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi (Marist St Pats)
20 Mateaki Kafatolu (Petone)
21 Connor Collins (Hutt Old Boys Marist)
22 Trent Renata (Oriental Rongotai)
23 Losi Filipo (Northern United)