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Giteau snub has players scratching their heads

SEVERAL players are surprised that Matt Giteau was overlooked as the Wallabies vice-captain and that the five-eighth was not told before Berrick Barnes was named as Rocky Elsom’s deputy last Friday.An insider yesterday told the Herald a number of players believed Giteau deserved to at least be ”sounded out” for a new leadership position before any decision was made by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.Giteau has not enjoyed his best year, but his supporters believe he has done enough in previous seasons to warrant consideration for a higher leadership role.”He didn’t get sounded out. It was a bit of a kick in the face for a bloke who has put in for that jersey for a while,” the insider told the Herald .”They could have at least acknowledged to him that they were going for someone else. If I was Matt Giteau, I would be disappointed.”It doesn’t augur well for your team when the bloke who touches the footy the most is not too happy about what’s going on. I think he has more of an assertive presence on the field than a Berrick Barnes. Ask anyone in the team, that’s what Gits does well. He’s been there and everyone listens.”Giteau has not spoken publicly about missing out on the vice captaincy since it was confirmed last Friday. Nor has he spoken about last Wednesday’s Herald report that Deans may switch him with Barnes from five-eighth to inside-centre. But he is understood to be upset about that and may reconsider his playing future in Australia.While unveiling Elsom as the new Wallabies captain and Barnes as his deputy last Friday, Deans surprised many by revealing that he had not spoken to Giteau about the vice-captaincy.Giteau has long been touted as a future Wallabies leader and many observers believed he was at least in line to become Elsom’s No.2.Asked if Giteau was disappointed to miss out, Deans said: ”I’ve got no idea, I haven’t had that conversation with him yet. I hope not, because it’s about the team and how the team functions and Matt already has a huge leadership role within the team. You can argue that what we ask of him is greater.”A Wallabies spokesman yesterday said it was understood that Deans – as of yesterday afternoon – had still not broached the subject with Giteau.The Wallabies broke from their training camp at Coogee after last Thursday’s intra-squad trial game. Deans was understood to be spending yesterday with his family and was not available to comment.However, the Wallabies will need to iron out any potential kinks in their unity before their seven-week end-of-season tour. They assemble tomorrow in Coogee for another training camp.The Wallabies leave Australia on October 24 to prepare for their clash with the All Blacks in Tokyo on October 31.
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Robinson keen to test himself against best of the north

FOR Wallabies forward Benn Robinson the grand-slam tour represents the hurdle that could lead to him being hailed as the world’s best prop. While his teams have ridden through troughs and peaks, Robinson has been as one of the most consistent performers in Australian rugby.The loosehead specialist was a star in this year’s Super 14 for the Waratahs and for his efforts was judged a clear winner of the Herald Cup, presented to him last Thursday before the Wallabies intra-squad trial match played at St Ignatius College in Riverview.Robinson did not play in the trial due to a groin strain, but his place on the 35-man Wallabies squad for the end-of-season tour was never in question.To understand why, one need only look to his stellar season for the Wallabies, despite Australia’s last place in the Tri Nations. Robinson was a rock for both the Wallabies’ scrum and the entire side. In their stunning victory over the Springboks in Brisbane, Robinson won the man-of-the-match award. And in the last Test loss against the All Blacks in Wellington, he was voted the players’ player.Robinson is also one of the short-listed nominees for the Australian Rugby Union’s John Eales Medal, to be awarded on Thursday week.However, for Robinson the real turning point will come when he packs against the front rows of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland one year on from his first tour to Britain, where he started in three of the five Tests in a Wallabies front row that made huge improvements to their poor reputation.”We can take a lot from the way we have been scrummaging the last couple of years, especially on the tour last year,” Robinson said yesterday. ”We took big steps in the way we scrummaged over there. If we look to this tour and games ahead it will be another big test.”Robinson says what makes the challenge even harder is the strong culture of scrummaging in the northern hemisphere, as well as the unpredictability of opposing forward packs that the Wallabies don’t usually play against during the year – unless they tour Australia before the Test season starts in June.”They are so dominant and powerful as players. If you are off just a little bit they can really hurt you. That means being adaptable,” he said.”You are facing different tightheads and looseheads and they scrummage differently to the way the southern hemisphere scrums pack down. ”Robinson said attacking the opposition scrum effectively was often the key to winning the game.
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Kingi ready to slay giants of game

WALLABIES rookie Richard Kingi is hardly an imposing figure – even among his fellow halfbacks. But thanks to the years of mauling he received playing backyard footy with his elder brothers, he will never shy from taking on ”Jonah Lomu-like people” in a one-on-one tackle.Kingi has courage and strength that belies his 176cm height and 77.5kg weight – in a head-to-head with Lomu at his peak Kingi would give away 20cm and 37.5kg.And as he prepared to join his new Wallabies teammates tomorrow for their final training camp before leaving for their end-of-season tour on October 24, the 20-year-old Queenslander revealed many of his yet-to-be-appreciated traits were picked up during childhood.Kingi, one of seven uncapped players in the 35-man Wallabies squad, recalled with affection how his two elder brothers, Niheta and Heperi, ”used to rough me up” on the ad-hoc playing ground that became the backyard of their home in Te Puke, near Bay of Plenty in New Zealand where he lived.Kingi looks back with fondness on those days where the three boys and younger brother Rauru proudly called themselves ”The Four Kings”.”It’s out on the rugby field that you learn your rugby, but nothing compares to backyard footy with your brothers,” he said. ”That is when you get your older brothers running at you. Tackling them … mate, you’re fearless. When it comes against the Jonah Lomu-like people, it’s easy.”They are brave words for any Wallabies greenhorn, let alone one who will come up against towering forwards during the grand slam leg of the tour that includes Tests against England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – plus two midweek games in which he will likely feature.The first midweek clash is against Gloucester, in between the October 31 Test against the All Blacks in Tokyo and the first against England in London.So, is Kingi apprehensive about playing in the cold and bog of an England paddock? Is he worried about the forwards who will try to face-plant anyone in their way?”No way, you can’t. Not when you are wearing the green and gold jumper,” Kingi said with a smile.Kingi is not one the Gloucester club should underestimate. A former Rotorua Boys High School student, Kingi first played rugby league after moving to Australia and the Gold Coast in Queensland at the age of 15. He soon took up rugby union and made the Queensland under-16s and in time was discovered by Australian Sevens coach Michael O’Connor.And while playing for Australia in this year’s IRB Sevens series, Kingi, who moved to halfback this year after playing at five-eighth and inside-centre, showed that with his strength and guile he also has skills and speed – attributes that helped him become the fourth-highest point scorer of the competition.”Sevens has developed my football more than I could have imagined [with] the vision, the rucks,” Kingi said. ”Normally backs don’t get into rucks, but in Sevens that’s what you have got to be able to do. You’ve got to do everything. You’ve got to be able to run, you’ve got to be able to pass from the ground, you’ve got to be able to clean out. It’s awesome.”Kingi’s pride for the jersey he wears – whether it be with the Queensland Reds with whom he has an academy contract, or Australia – is matched only by his pride for who he represents. And that is his family, says Kingi, who is the cousin of New Zealand Maori captain and Chiefs openside flanker Tanerau Latimer.While only 20, Kingi and his partner, Sharna, already have three children – son Destyn, 3, and daughters Jyahti, who is 21 months, and Kudan, who is 10 months. Kingi has not forgotten the advice of his Australian under-20s coach, Brian Melrose, who reminded him of the importance of that pride.”He said you play for who you are. He asked me: ‘Who do you play for?’ I play for my family. That’s the biggest advice anyone has given me.”
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McKinna left to rue what could have been

WITH his team urgently needing points to stay in touch with the top sides, Central Coast Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna was left fuming after watching his team blow an early lead against the competition’s bottom side yesterday.The Mariners caught North Queensland Fury on the hop with Matt Simon’s first-minute goal but then failed to add to the scoresheet, leaving them with a tally of one goal from their last three games. After missing the chance to take top spot last week, the Mariners now sit fifth, just a point clear of seventh-placed Adelaide and six points behind competition leaders Sydney FC.McKinna’s side held on until well into the second half before a header from Daniel McBreen snatched a point for the visitors.”They didn’t really threaten us that much but the goal was from slow organisation by us at the corner,” McKinna said. ”It was a great delivery and a good header. You can’t argue with that, but we should have been organised quicker.”Despite their early advantage, McKinna was less than convinced by his side’s performance, saying they failed to apply themselves when they ”should have gone on to win the game two- or three-nil”.”I didn’t think we deserved to win that,” he said. ”In the second half we knew they would play the long ball and put some pressure on, but our intensity dropped off. The first 20 minutes was good and then we just slowly backed off. We didn’t pick up many second balls and went flat.”You could see it happening, but we didn’t change things.”By contrast, Fury coach Ian Ferguson paid tribute to his side’s character in digging out a point.”Credit to these boys, they’re absolutely fantastic to work with and they give us their all, every game,” Ferguson said. ”We’re getting a reputation for being competitive, workmanlike but they can play as well, as you could see in the second half.”Fury captain Robbie Fowler shared the sentiment, saying it was evidence of strong team spirit.”It shows we’re fighting for each other,” he said. ”We’re not kidding ourselves – we’d like to turn these draws into wins but if you can’t get that, draws are the next best thing.”
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