> Do you think our lads can topple the Dragon in October?
It's hard at this point to really decide whether Wales will actually be more
difficult than Italy or Tonga. Wales are quite poor right now, and quite
frankly their options for the World Cup don't look much better than what
they have now, unless they send out an SOS to Quinnell, Gibbs, and Howley to
save the day, but that's unlikely.
The tricky thing about Italy is that they're already looking much-improved,
and by the time the World Cup comes around, they'll likely have Walter
Pozzebon and Matteo Barbini fit and back at no12, both of whom are much
better than Giovanni Raineri. They'll also likely have Carlo Checchinato in
the second row, who in case you've never seen an Italy game before this year
is a truly first class forward. Andrea Lo Cicero, their enigmatic loosehead,
will be much fitter as he's finally got back into club rugby with Lazio, and
Mauro Bergamasco will have been playing on the wing for a few months should
be much improved. The Azzuri could be surprisingly exciting in 6 months.
As for Tonga, well... I don't think anyone has a clue how good they'll be,
even Jim Love, their head coach. A lot depends on who they'll have in the
squad, who makes themself available. A possible tight five could be David
Briggs, Aleki Lutui, Tevita Taumoepeau, Inoke Afeaki, and Milton Ngauamo,
all of whom have Super 12 experience. Add huge ball-carrying back rowers
like Epi Taione, Ipo Fenukitau, Johnny Koloi, Stanley Afeaki, and maybe
Finau Maka and Samiu Vahafolau... 100+kg backs like Salesi Finau, Taunaholo
Taufahema, Seti Kiole, Gus Leger, Salesi Moimoi, Pierre Hola, etc etc etc...
They may not be household names, but it's probably got more to do with an
inability to pronounce their names and the fact that they're Tongan than
their talent. Anyway, a big, strong team they'll surely be, and if halfbacks
Sililo Martens and Josh Taumalolo can get them going, they could stir up
trouble for anyone. And heck, who knows, if the IRB changes eligibility
rules, you could see Isitolo Maka, Charles Riechelmann, and Koula Tukino in
the red jersey. Scary, eh? (well, maybe not to you blasted kiwis but to
anyone else in the world the prospect of facing a tongan team with some
former all blacks in it isn't a happy one)
Anyway, the point is Canada's pool is very difficult, but I think the pack
has been together long enough, particularly the tight five, to give any
team, NZ included, a run for their money. The backs are totally up in the
air, but a Williams to Barker to DiGirolamo to Cannon to Lougheed and
Stanley on the wings with Verstraten at fullback doesn't sound too bad to
Argh... too much analysis.... maybe I'll just roll a couple dice.