By Alan Dymock
SOMETIMES THINGS go too far.
Like the private joke said aloud too often or the headlines whenever a football team scores six goals, talk of spying, spies and undercover Aussies coming from the Lions tour is grating the nerves already.
So when even John Eales is saying “there’s no better way to spy than to infiltrate the opposition” about a game of rugby in which two Wallabies have been released to play for the Waratahs, you know things are getting silly.
The legendary lock continued: “I’ve absolutely no doubt that direct contact with the Lions in games will be a help to the Wallabies. I’m sure there will be something to spy on in the deepest corners of rucks.”
Dave Dennis and Rob Horne better have notepads in their socks and a spare day to analyse the date and moves the day after, then. Maybe they will suspend themselves Mission Impossible style above the Lions changing room after? Maybe they’ll put on some scuba gear and lurk at the bottom of the Lions’ communal bath?
Let me be clear, teams have studied the opposition for as long as any of us can remember. Warren Gatland came out himself and said he was not accusing anyone of spying. Both Test squads will be so insular in their focus and so concerned with how they press, defend, ruck, scrummage, jump, throw, attack, kick and run lines that they will not have time to sit down and debrief players that may have once touched a potential Test starter at a ruck.
Mind you, a good cop, bad cop interrogation from Patrick ‘Rala’ O’Reilly and Andy Farrell would be worth seeing…
Of course, spy-talk pales into insignificance once it is realized that the Lions have only tried out small chunks of their Test team together by this point and that they will almost certainly play a different way against Australia than they would against teams like the Waratahs and Queensland Reds.
For that reason, the incessant bleating about the weakness of some of the provincial sides is irrelevant. If you are not ready for a Test match after spending so long in camp – regardless of the warm-ups – you may find you are doing a disservice to the jersey you are wearing.
The Waratahs have picked the best possible team they can, considering their circumstances, and the Brumbies will do the same on Tuesday. Yet, even then, Gatland and his spooks will know that there are certain players they cannot risk playing from this point on and certain combos they still need to trial.
If in-game spying is now a ‘thing’, then good luck to anyone supporting the preposterous notion. Gatland will not really be worried and his team can only play what is selected in front of them.
He and they will crack on. Let’s just hope they don’t score six tries and Robbie Deans isn’t spotted in the stands wearing a trench coat and dark shades this Saturday.