Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Get Genia the priority for All Blacks

The All Blacks will be trying to stop Will Genia exercising his instincts for the game, which can quickly turn the course of a match. Photo / Getty Images.
The All Blacks will be trying to stop Will Genia exercising his instincts for the game, which can quickly turn the course of a match. Photo / Getty Images.

There have always been war cries around the Bledisloe Cup tests.

"Emasculate Eales", "Get Gregan", "Hound Horan" or "Smother Smith" - all those messages were bandied around in the All Black discussions before transtasman battles.

There is a similar focus about tomorrow's start to the latest series but the concentrated emphasis will be on one Wallaby.

He is the smallest Wallaby but he packs the greatest wallop because his wondrous range of skills, fitness and courage are driven by a computer sporting brain.

"Get Genia" will be the highest priority demand from the All Blacks - watch his every move, do not let him distract you for one moment of tomorrow's firecracker start in Sydney.

Will Genia, the Port Moresby-born halfback who was shipped out to school in Brisbane and into rugby's nursery there, is already assured of a place in the Wallaby Hall of Fame.

Think Gregan, Nick Farr-Jones, John Hipwell and Ken Catchpole - the Wallabies have had a rich seam of superstars in the No 9 jersey.

But Farr-Jones, for one, always felt Genia would be the best if he continued to prosper.

Farr-Jones likes the breadth of his game, from the basics skills to his judgment and confident aura when he takes the field.

He has watched Genia intently and his ability to sense the moment to pounce is unparalleled. He is on a different level to other halfbacks because of his instincts for when to pass, run or let loose.

"The things that set apart scrum halves are your lateral vision and I think Genia's got it in spades," Farr-Jones said.

The 24-year-old was a regular threat in the Super 15 series and his work allowed the Reds to summon some hope of repeating their title run from last season.

Genia felt a little battered at the end of that tournament, but after three weeks' stand down and work inside the Wallaby camps he's feeling charged for tomorrow's showdown.

"Nothing replaces match play but I had a club game and some rest so I reckon I'm about right," he said.

"I had to recharge after the tests against Wales and the Super 15, the biggest thing is always getting the mental edge right. I just spent a lot of time at home, in my own space, in my own bed, in my own surroundings,"

Gregan dismisses any significant connection between this year's Bledisloe Cup/Rugby Championship with last year's World Cup semifinal or the recent Super 15 tournament.

But he is also practical enough to acknowledge the work the Wallabies will have to match the visiting All Blacks.

The intensity, speed and physical nature of internationals was very different from the kind of rugby displayed in the Super 15, he said.

The Wallabies had been working hard, they'd come off a tough series win with Wales but it was difficult to say what that would mean tomorrow.

"Beating the All Blacks takes something special," Genia said.

"They are a great side, they have great players and they have been so good and so consistent in the last 10 years. We understand the size of that challenge but we're excited and we've prepared well."

He wasn't about to rate his own work, leaving that to others, but was pleased with his play in the June tests and Super 15 and felt comfortable with his international history.

"On these sorts of big occasions, you have to have fun and enjoy it."

The Wallaby selectors have stayed with the Genia-Berrick Barnes combination used against Wales while the All Blacks have also stuck with their Aaron Smith-Daniel Carter pairing.

Some of the All Blacks formula for success, said Genia, was their ability to be clinical in high-pressure situations. They were able to repeat that while the Wallabies' form graph wavered a bit more.

Working with Barnes was a shade different, it was more about structure than the instinctive offerings from Quade Cooper.

"We want to work on what's coming next, how we plot our way round the track and sustain the pressure," Genia said.

That threat is no secret to the All Blacks.

"I can't give too many tactics," Piri Weepu said. "But I guess we'll try not to let him play his usual game which is poking his head around the corner and trying to draw defenders and put guys into holes.

"We saw it last year in Brisbane where he made a couple of crucial plays and basically kept them in the game."

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- NZ Herald

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