In perhaps one of the shortest summer tours in history, which sees 3 full blooded Test matches played in the space of a mere 11 days, you’d have to argue that of the two sides France has it all to prove. Let’s put aside the references to it being a second or even third string French side. To be honest given France’s depth at the moment, such labels are becoming increasingly irrelevant. France’s “unknowns” have impressed plain and simple while there are enough well known names in Saturday’s squad that there is every reason to believe that despite the ridiculous turnaround times between the three Tests, France can still rise to the occasion.
Australia also field a top notch side, but are not suffering from the travel fatigue their French counterparts are likely to be experiencing. Wallaby Coach Dave Rennie, must be thanking his lucky stars for a Test series that is providing the best possible preparation for a busy season ahead for his charges. The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup are literally just around the corner followed by a challenging trip to Europe in the fall. With the series with France tied one apiece, Saturday’s decider will give us a real indication of how both sides have weathered this rather odd year of the pandemic.
So here’s what got us thinking in relation to tomorrow’s eagerly anticipated Showdown
French sides rarely travel well on their end of season Tours and despite this Series proving the critics wrong – is there really enough left in the tank for one last big performance?
France have so far been surprisingly good in this finale to their long season. They would have the series in the bag by now had it now been for a moment of madness at the death against the Wallabies in the first Test. Even in the second Test there were moments towards the end where you couldn’t help having a sense of deja vu. France managed to hang on and get the job done second time around, but if you’re a French supporter it’s unlikely you’ll have either hair or fingernails left after the series decider with the Wallabies tomorrow. France could win it but true to form they could also blow it spectacularly. At some point fatigue is likely to get the better of them, and their concentration and decision making at times can still be questionable. Add in the fact that Coach Galthie has had to rotate his squad yet again, meaning that there are more surprises and unknowns on Saturday’s team sheet than there are familiar faces. If France pull it off, then surely their claim to be genuine contenders for the Webb Ellis trophy in two years time are a given, as the depth they now have is rather remarkable to say the least!
A rather extraordinary player who is surely more than just an impact player
After watching the Wallabies prop”Tongan Thor” Taniela Tupou try his hand at the scrum half role last Tuesday, you have to wonder why Coach Dave Rennie is starting him on the bench for this match. However, as an impact player he certainly provided plenty of that last Tuesday. Given that France’s bench may not be the best, we can only assume that Rennie is saving one of his 3 best players for that last quarter of the game where France may simply not be running at optimum efficiency. Tupou was absolutely immense when he came on in the second Test and provided the French with all sorts of problems. If you want a finisher who can clearly take on a variety of roles then it doesn’t get much better than the “Tongan Thor”. An exceptionally skilled player, expect to see Tupou play an important part in Australia’s 2021 Test campaign, and we can’t wait to see him in action tomorrow.
France will be hoping that this guy lives up to his reputation
You have to scratch your head at Wallaby Coach Dave Rennie deciding to throw the dice and hand flanker Lachlan Swinton a starting berth for such a crucial Test on Saturday. Swinton is a disciplinary liability of note for the Wallabies, and to be honest we struggle to see what value he brings. His performances for Australian Super Rugby bottom feeders the Waratahs only stood out this season because he earned two reds and one yellow card, further compromising a team already struggling to make a statement in the competition. Should his propensity to see red come to the fore once more on Saturday, Australia will be hard pressed to hold out a man down against a very motivated French side determined to upset the odds. It’s a gamble and we hope for the Wallabies sake it doesn’t prove too costly.
A legend in the making
We were surprised to see Cameron Woki be relegated to the bench in favor of Sekou Macalou for the First Test. When he replaced Macalou his presence was immediately felt, and in the second Test where he was given a starting berth he made sure that French Coach Fabien Galthie was left in little doubt that the Bordeaux back rower is a vital cog in France’s machine with a view to the World Cup. We can’t think of an outing where Woki hasn’t impressed since taking the French camp by storm last year. Despite only having six caps for France, his ability especially under pressure is that of a veteran. Solid, reliable and in the thick of everything he is liable to make Wallaby problem child Lachlan Swinton’s life a misery.
France also choose to roll the dice
Teddy Thomas is a brilliant attacking winger make no mistake. However, when it comes to defense the adjectives suspect and lazy come into play a little too often. In his opposite number Filipo Daugunu for the Wallabies, he will meet many of the same qualities. Daugunu is also know for his defensive frailties and his all round ball skills are not as polished as the Frenchman’s. However, if Thomas switches off which he does with alarming regularity, then it could be a very long day at the office for France, making it impossible for them to use him as the weapon they need while leaving themselves dangerously exposed defensively. Australia will know this and will likely target Thomas as much as possible. If France are vulnerable tomorrow, this is one part of the park where it could be most in evidence.
Despite some of the unknowns peppering France’s starting XV tomorrow, we’ve heard enough good things about them that given the calibre of France these days and the brains trust in the coaching box, we aren’t as anxious as we would have been in the past. Australia will be up for this and then some, and on paper it’s hard to argue against them clinching the series tomorrow. What we are likely in for though is an absolute belter of a Test match, and a fitting conclusion to a series that has gloriously exceeded its billing and given the other showpiece event of the month the Lions Tour to South Africa a serious run for its money!