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Last week I wrote that Great Britain would need a minor miracle to come into calculations for the Tri-Nations final in a week?s time. Well, didn?t they show me up?
Despite picking the Brits to win it simply didn?t enter my head that they would dispose of New Zealand by a margin of 26 points. As such, they have injected an enormous shot of penicillin into the Warrick Farm?s of the tournament, ensuring all three nations remain on tenterhooks until the 80 minutes have elapsed.
This has thrown up the following tantalising equation for tournament organisers:
- If Australia win, the final will be contested between Australia and New Zealand. - If Great Britain win by 1-2 points, the final will be contested between Australia and New Zealand. - If Great Britain win by 3-7 points, the final will be contested between Australia and Great Britain. - If Great Britain win by 8 or more points, the final will be contested between Great Britain and New Zealand.
The advantage held by the Kiwis kicks in if the Brits get exactly 8 points ahead, as they will proceed to the final on a try count-back due to their superior points for. This is nullified if the final score is Great Britain 50, Australia 42.
Is everyone with me so far?
The fascinating aspect of all this is that there is little interest in Scenario 1 ? an Australian victory. I can?t say I really blame the punters as the form shown by Great Britain last week was superb in the face of some average Kiwi play.
And with Australia?s player predicament, it will take a mighty effort from the Green and Gold?s to get the job done.
We don?t know if Barrett?s playing but we?re pretty sure Prince won?t be. If Barrett is passed fit he will join Gower in the halves, an unlikely pairing. Craig Wing has joined the bench with Jason Ryles starting the match at the expense of Steve Price who has been dropped altogether.
The rest of the team remains intact, which is the big problem for Australia.
I?m not the Australian coach and I?ll probably never be, but things need to change in this forward pack pretty soon or we?re not going to dominate up front as we?ve become used to.
In the first two matches New Zealand really played a physical game and our forwards couldn?t cope. It is high time that Wayne Bennett dropped Petero Civoniceva from the team altogether. Whilst being sound in defence, he offers very little in attack.
Mark O?Meley has found himself on the bench as he is the only player offering any sort of impact. This is simply not good enough. He should be starting with Ryles and trying to soften up the opposition pack, enabling Willie Mason to come on and shake things up a bit after 20-25 minutes.
Price could easily come off the bench and keep things sensible as well as his usual high work rate. With Wing adding some spark out of dummy half and Waterhouse acting as a back-up hitman type of bench player, Australia could have all bases covered.
But no, Bennett has stuck with Civoniceva in a move which has added more fuel to the debate of club coaches at representative levels picking their favourites.
And what of Prince? He has had few opportunities to shine but has performed well under those circumstances. I?m shocked that Gower?s mediocre form has forced him out of the squad completely. I believe he could be used as the perfect foil to Barrett if he is passed fit. They have complimentary games that would easily offer more variety that a Barrett-Gower combination.
Moving on to Great Britain, they once again have named an extended line-up with the team to be announced an hour before kick-off.
Their big injury concern to Brian Carney has been resolved, with the big Irish winger named to play. Paul Wellens has been ruled out, with Leon Pryce moving to fullback and Gareth Raynor being called up.
They have also lost halfback Paul Deacon who has suffered horrific facial injuries as a result of a high shot by Nigel Vagana which initially looked nothing more than average.
Harris and Horne might take up the scrumbase combination with Morley and Fieldon once again forming an imposing sight as the Aussies walk out.
I really think the Brits can get them here. I haven?t been overly impressed with the Aussies all tournament and it looks as though the Poms may have finally hit their straps. I just don?t think the forwards have got it in them and the home team should be able to grind out a victory.
Where it gets tricky is in the for-and-against though. I don?t think Great Britain will win by more than seven, which relegates New Zealand to the plane home. This would certainly be a devastating finish for the Kiwis who looked as though they had a place in the final booked up after their impressive form in Sydney and Auckland across into the first game in England.
You can?t be too sure though, which makes viewing on Sunday morning an absolute necessity.