By Alan Dymock
THIS WEEKEND there may be some big names everyone expects to see, but perhaps some of the most telling contributions will come from scrum-halves with points to prove in the November Tests.
This doesn’t mean that established names like Morgan Parra, Will Genia or Greig Laidlaw need touted – or even stars like Aaron Smith. It is more worthwhile looking at the men yet to be heralded as Test winners or figures that can turn a game or at least put in surprisingly brave displays.
It may seem odd to point out the player lining up opposite Will Genia for Italy, particularly as this is someone who has to share scrum-half responsibilities with Fabio Semenzato and Tobias Botes at Benetton Treviso. It may also seem odd pointing out someone whose last game for Italy was a thumping by Samoa in Nelspruit, South Africa. Yet Gori is a player who has beaten France, played against Wales and England in the last year as well as snapping impressively as Treviso thumped Connacht in the RaboDirect Pro12 a few weeks back. He is wiser than many would know and Australia are hurting. He could put in a strong defensive shift and push his pack around well. That is how you beat this current Wallaby team.
Never heard of him? The Japanese nine is well known in New Zealand, where he plies his trade with the Otago Highlanders and the Otago NPC side. He swaps regularly with Aaron Smith there and he has experienced a different intensity to others in his national set-up. He also offers something different to Scotland’s Laidlaw this Saturday and he will be all over the renowned kicker whenever the pace of the game drops.
He is certainly better known than the others, of course, but the Northampton Saint is yet to lay down a marker for England. He brings boundless energy to the role and as he runs against an Argentine pack that has been described as divided in the last few weeks. Expect him to challenge a few of the bigger boys this week – particularly with a full-throttle Danny Care breathing down his neck, trying to get back in to international contention.
The Belgrano and CONSUR XV scrum-half may be suffering from shell shock after being a substitute for the Pumas when they were obliterated by the Wallabies, at the end of the Rugby Championship. He is a rare starter. So this may be seen as a rare chance but he may show up well with clever pressure-relieving kicks. And he’ll need to.