Isn?t it great to see some real rivalry developing between the Kiwis and the Brits?
There has been more cloak and dagger stuff from these two foes in the last week than I reckon there has been in the past century.
First of all, Bradford coach Brian Noble decides his star winger at club level, Lesley Vainikolo, has had enough of rugby league this year and needs surgery on a knee which has restricted the hulking flanker to 20 tries in his last 10 appearances, including a mere six in one game against Hull KR. Shockingly, it would appear that this is the first time it has entered Noble?s brain that perhaps Vainikolo might be required to play for New Zealand this weekend against that other team he coaches ? Great Britain.
Oh, and then when New Zealand coach Brian McClennan has the temerity to suggest that Noble is acting in such a way as to disadvantage the Kiwi?s and favour the Brits, Noble reacts to the news with disgust claiming he would never act in such an improper manner. Well then forget the rule book, that?s good enough for me.
Next, we have the selection mind games creeping into play. Noble has decided to select four halves, ballooning his team to 19 players until 1 hour before kick-off. This was met with one-upmanship from McClennan, who flat out refused to name a team!
McClennan believes Noble has had enough time to watch his team go around against Australia twice to work out his game plan. The selection dilemma for the Kiwi?s revolves around whether Clinton Toopi will be fit to take his place or whether Shontayne Hape will fill-in once more. Then there?s the on-again, off-again chance that veteran halfback Stacey Jones will make a comeback from a week-long retirement at International level.
This is obviously why Noble has yet to name a halves combination ? he?s unsure if he needs four halfbacks to counter Jones!
This is all being played out with the backdrop of veteran Kiwi Ruben Wiki?s declaration during the week of the healing effects of kava, an age-old herbal drink which relaxes the body whilst keeping the mind alert. Despite that fact, someone had to remind Ruben that he was just about to break Gary Freeman?s record for the most Tests played for New Zealand.
But is it any surprise these two teams are behaving like this? I mean, they both have so much in common - they reside on little islands with terrible weather and for most of their lives they just want to move to Australia.
Anyway, back to the game?without knowing the exact line-up?s it is a bit difficult to make an educated decision, but that?s never stopped me in the past.
Three things stick out:
1 ? I?m not sure how the Kiwi?s will go playing in the cool U.K. weather and after such a long plane trip they must be a little tired.
2 ? I simply don?t like the games that Noble is playing. It?s all well and good to mix up a few selections with your team, but if you were confident that your best halves would get the job done there is no need to select another two.
3 ? This is Great Britain?s first hit-out in the tournament and I think with the uncertainty surrounding the team they might not stand up to be counted. On the other hand, the Kiwi?s are beginning to get used to one another and will be match fit after two tough games against the Aussies.
Based off this I think the Kiwi?s will win, but it will be close.Like