By Alan Dymock
IT’S NOT even a Rugby Championship weekend and there’s enough goings on to twist several pairs of knickers with all the whip of Lulu on repeat.
The big news in New Zealand is that Richie McCaw has been brought back into the fold despite injuring his knee and despite him looking likely to miss the second game against the Pumas in Argentina next week. Such is his clout within the set-up that obviously reinstating him makes sense for the harmony of the group.
However, it is also telling that Piri Weepu is welcomed back to the All Black camp after his dumping before the Championship. He has not played since the three-Test series against France in June, but is in as a replacement for the injured TJ Peranara and it is credit to New Zealand that in the unlikely event that Aaron Smith turns in a poor display or takes a knock there is vocal force in Weepu to come in.
A harsh truth would be that neither player are necessary against Argentina, but it can only add to the mystique of the All Blacks to have them in the wings, whispering in the ears of the youngsters.
One youngster that certainly needs a talking to but who is probably too far out in the wilderness to hear you now is James O’Connor. His place with the Wallabies is now forfeit.
On Sunday the resident bad boy of the Wallabies took things a step to far when he was ‘escorted’ from Perth airport by the authorities after enjoying too much merriment at the expense of the defeated Pumas. Since then he has been punted from the Aussie squad for the remainder of the Championship.
Head coach Ewen McKenzie said of the recent infraction and O’Connor’s prospects of a return: “We won’t be forced into making any decisions around his return until I’m satisfied that he can once again contribute positively to what we are trying to achieve as a group. The reality is that representing your country is the ultimate honour but also a week-to-week proposition.
“To be selected, players must consistently do the right things on and off the field. We’ll continue to assess James on that basis before any team decisions are made about a return.”
Clawing a way back for this tormented player may be pretty hard indeed, regardless of talent.