Giteau, Smith rated better than Carter, McCaw
By GREG GROWDEN, SMH
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Former Welsh test five-eighth Jonathan Davies believes Matt Giteau has edged ahead of Daniel Carter as the world's best No 10.
And former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones maintains George Smith is in front of Richie McCaw as international rugby's No 1 openside breakaway. So if the Wallabies have supposedly the best playmaker and the top breakdown ball scavenger going around, one could assume they would be virtually unbeatable. They aren't, and still suffer major form fluctuations.
And that is why the Six Nations champions rate themselves a big chance of beating Australia at Millennium Stadium on Saturday, even gaining the support of the All Blacks coaching staff following New Zealand's 20-point win last weekend.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry and his assistant, Steve Hansen, a former coach of Wales, believe that the Welsh were in with "a good shout" of beating the Wallabies in Cardiff. This would have something to do with Henry and Hansen wanting to keep Robbie Deans on edge, which was probably why their comments were laughed off by the Wallabies.
They were naturally more intrigued by Davies's remarks on BBC Wales Television about Giteau. Davies said Giteau, following his French test performance, was "maybe slightly better than Carter at the moment", arguing the Wallabies five-eighth alone could keep the Welsh at bay this weekend.
Jones also said earlier this month that he believes Smith has eclipsed his New Zealand arch-rival to become the game's pre-eminent player at the breakdown. "I think he's better than (Richie) McCaw at the moment," the former Wallabies coach told a UK newspaper.
According to the International Rugby Board, neither Giteau, McCaw nor Smith are anywhere near the best performers in the international game, with all three being overlooked by the judges of the world player of the year award.
Instead, the IRB came up with a hilarious shortlist of Welsh captain Ryan Jones and winger Shane Williams, Carter, Italian skipper Sergio Parisse and Scotland's halfback, Mike Blair. Not surprisingly, with the blatant northern hemisphere bias, Williams won the award, which brought excitement to Wales but was met with a nonchalant shrug everywhere else.
Nonetheless, the Wallabies rate Williams highly, arguing that if he's not contained in Cardiff, Henry, Hansen and co could easily be proved correct. Wallabies fullback Drew Mitchell said he hadn't forgotten how Williams showed him up in a test a few years ago, and warned wingers Peter Hynes and Digby Ioane he was the most unforgiving of opponents.
Mitchell said Williams' extraordinary footwork, which has even befuddled the likes of South Africa's Bryan Habana, made him very dangerous.
"It's not just his stepping, it's his acceleration out of the step. Some guys may beat you with the step initially and they don't quite accelerate out of it, and you can recover a little bit. But there's no time for recovery when you're opposing Shane and you don't quite read his footwork. He is also quite hard to tackle because he's such a small guy and is actually quite strong. Unless you get a good shot on him, he's hard to bring him down."
Mitchell said swamping him was vital. "That's the key with someone like Shane Williams – you don't give him too much space. You have to get in his face as soon as you can, so he can't step too much. You are almost trying to hit him as soon as he gets the ball."
What do you think of these claims? Is Giteau now the world's best five-eighth? And can Eddie Jones be serious rating Smith ahead of McCaw? Post your comments below.