August 17, 2019 by admin
It’s no longer just about salvaging pride from a season of massive underachievement, including the British and Irish Lions series loss and crushing defeats to New Zealand in the first two Bledisloe fixtures.
For the Wallabies, it’s now about the money.
If you believe Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver, Australian rugby is on the verge of going belly up. He has been crying poor for some time and now he has player wages firmly in his sights.
Pulver, a multimillionaire with a leaning towards performance-based paid workforces, has been in talks with the players’ union about ditching match payments of $14,000 a test, win, lose or draw.
That the union has countenanced such a proposal without immediately flagging the prospect of a player strike is an indication of just how weak the Wallabies players’ bargaining position has become.
Australia has won two World Cups but the last of those was in 1999 and now the players’ lot is a simple case of losers having no leverage.
It’s against this backdrop that the Wallabies take on the world’s best team on Saturday under the closed roof of the Otago Stadium in Dunedin.
Will the prospect of taking what could amount to a $100,000 per season hit to the wallet finally inspire the Wallabies to do the seemingly impossible and beat one of the finest All Blacks sides of recent times? Just maybe.
Although backing the Wallabies on 2013 form is only for true believers, there remains a glimmer of realistic hope with the late injury withdrawals on Friday of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and winger Corey Jane.
The pair has been replaced by Sam Cane at flanker and Charles Piutau on the wing, both solid players but not with the same pedigree as McCaw and Jane.
The Wallabies, meanwhile, have not been without injury woes of their own but who is to say injury-enforced changes will not finally produce a winning combination against the world champions?
CLEVER RUNNING LINES
Peter Betham replacing Joe Tomane on the wing is a case in point. New Zealand-born Betham poses more questions on attack than Tomane and he could make life interesting for All Blacks centre Ben Smith, a winger-fullback who has been selected out of position to replace the sabbatical-bound Conrad Smith.
Betham and fullback Israel Folau combining in attack with clever running lines and switches could certainly exploit Smith’s inexperience.
Wallaby inside centre Christian Lealiifano is also out injured and replaced by Matt Toomua. Again, like Betham, this could have been the right selection anyway as Lealiifano, while steady and tradesman-like, has not played with any great ambition.
He has kicked goals and made tackles, but has not troubled the defensive line much and should have been replaced, injured or not.
And there’s also the Quade Cooper factor. The enigmatic and at times error-prone flyhalf is well overdue a decent game against the All Blacks. He’s too good a player to keep underperforming against them.
However, as with all trans-Tasman battles, it’ll come down to the forwards and more than likely the front rows.
That’s where the All Blacks have the edge with Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina up against Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and James Slipper.
But with Saia Fainga’a, Benn Robinson, and Sekope Kepu on the bench, there may be a slender advantage to the Wallabies later in the game against New Zealand’s front row back-up of Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks.
The bookmakers have the Wallabies at long odds of 6-1, with even money for a 14.5 point handicap.
Given the players’ powerful financial motivations going into the test, a close result, say within 10 points, would not surprise.
A Wallabies win would be a massive financial windfall for punters but potentially also for the Australian players, who might suddenly find themselves with some leverage to say no to pay cuts.
Having said all that, though, we are talking about the beating the All Blacks at home.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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