Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My money men: David Campese

David Campese / Inside Rugby
17:00 AEST Mon Apr 27 2009

They are the players I'd pay good money to see. The players who light up the rugby field with their talent and skills and provide the thrills that make forking out admission worthwhile.
Players whose vision is so clear and ability to read the game so fast, that they re-define (or re-confirm) how the game should be played.

Here are the top six players who I consider bring the "entertainment" back to rugby.

No1 Dan Carter
It's hard to imagine the Canterbury, Crusaders and All Blacks No10 could get any better as his multiple Tri Nations and Super14 titles show.
He has notched up a stunning 879 points (including 25 tries) in just 59 Tests (an average of nearly 15 points per Test).
The way he plays, he definitely has the X-factor. Whenever he gets the ball you want to watch what he does. We need a lot more players like him in rugby.
Whenever you're looking for something special - he delivers. It puts unbelieveable pressure on the opposition as he is the "go to" man. But so many players have to watch him, it opens up gaps elsewhere.
It's hard to think of a particular game or moment that stands out as a highlight of Carter's career. There's just so many of them, take your pick.
Think of the Super14 games or the All Black Test where he missed five or six shots at goal but thanks to his brilliant general play they still won.
Or his performance in the Second Test against the British and Irish Lions in 2005, where he scored 33 points, an individual single-match record for points against the Lions, which is regarded as one of the greatest games ever played by any player in the history of the game.
He just knows where to run and when. He has this amazing ability to scan the defensive line, find the slower players and run at them. He reads the play in an instant then is good enough to act on it.
It's something I see as innate.
It's a natural ability which is sadly missing at times in the modern player. These days coaches don't seem to like unpredictability as it can't be coached.
It wasn't the same when I played. Unpredictability wasn't coached out of us. Sometimes in a game you can't think, you’ve just got to do it. Carter is like that – he knows when it's on and he just backs himself.

No2 Richie McCaw and George Smith
Two of the greatest ever openside flankers for their countries, and both Test captains, who have in many ways redefined breakdown play.
Sixty eight Test veteran McCaw and Smith, approaching the century-mark with 96 Tests, are the masters at playing "to" the ball and will take the slightest opportunity to instantaneously turn the ball over and send their team away on a counter-attacking raid.
Go back through the tapes and see how many times a McCaw or Smith inspired turnover has led to a breakaway try, which sees them take shared second spot in the value for money table.
They are both vital to their team and with their skills make a big impact on every game they play.
Also they simply don't play bad games and each of them add 10 or 15 percent to their team. Look at the Wallabies against South Africa in Durban (Australia won 27-15) when Smith was playing, then in Johannesburg when he wasn't (the Wallabies lost 53-8).
It's similar with McCaw. The All Blacks and Crusaders are different teams with out him.
They both win the ball and they are great leaders, whether acting as captain or not. They know how to counteract the opposition and have great instincts.
Both of them remind me of Michael Jones (the great All Blacks openside flanker who played 55 Tests from 1987 to 1998), who I played against many times. When you played against Jones you knew if Jones was at the bottom of the ruck – go wide. But if Jones was standing in the backline keep it tight because if Jones was out there and you went wide he would invariably turn the ball over and you'd concede a try.
It's the same with McCaw and Smith. They make a tackle out wide, win the ball and they're away.
Another aspect that makes them good value is they perform consistently week in and week out. So as a fan buying a ticket you know you're going to get your money's worth. Those two players are going to do what they're meant to do and perform.

No4 Matt Giteau
Gits speaks for himself, as does his record of 409 points, including 21 tries, in 65 Tests, and he's still five months short of his 27th birthday.
And my fondness for the Force and Wallabies fly-half doesn't just come from the fact that Matt was brought up in my birthplace, Queanbeyan. He can play anywhere, inside centre, fly-half, fullback – I thought his best position was scrum-half – but wherever you put him he is outstanding.
With Stephen Larkham moving on we needed a No10 and that's where Matt finds himself. He has good vision and he tries things. He's not predictable.
That's the most frustrating thing when you watch players these days. They won't try anything. You never get dropped for trying something. You get dropped for not doing anything.
Another of the aspects that make Matt worth his entertainment dollar is he's one of those players who seem to have so much time.
It's like they're moving in normal motion and everyone else has slowed down. They're just that quick.
Look at that game against the Crusaders recently. The Force were gone and then thanks to Gits they got a draw. Great players make something happen. Gits makes things happen.
Matt is a field of gold in this year's barren Super14 landscape.
I've watched the 'Tahs play and it's very frustrating. They don't play as individuals, whereas Matt is an individual.
Don't get tackled, run into space – those were the lessons we learned but now it seems to be "have contact, kick for line" – in both the 15 and seven-man game. You've got no options left. People want running rugby. That's what makes it spectacular.
I think the big change happened when they outlawed rucking. Now without rucking it's so easy to slow down the ball. Back then you got out of the way quickly because if you got caught in the ruck – it was your bad luck.
We want to promote the game of rugby. But it's losing its character. Think back to my day, you can just reel off players worth paying to watch – Serge Blanco, Philippe Sella, Jean-Baptiste Lafond, Mark Ella, Tim Horan, Nick Farr-Jones, Willie Ofahengaue, Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen … You could just go on and on. These days Gits is one of the few players whose still worth watching.

No5 Brian O'Driscoll and No6 Adrian Jacobs
These two players are very exciting. Very good ball distributors who exploit the open space. O'Driscoll, better known as "BOD" (as "in BOD" we trust’), is the Leinster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions captain who will now always be remembered as leading his country to their first Grand Slam (beating France, England, Wales and Scotland) in 61 years in the 2009 Six Nations.
Although now 30, O'Driscoll still delivers.
I remember him playing against Italy a few times and destroying them and when he plays with Gordon Darcy they form a very good combination. O'Driscoll knows how to exploit space.
The last member of my "top value six" is maybe surprising – 28-year-old Sharks and Springbok outside centre Adi Jacobs, who made his Test debut way back in 2001 before disappearing for a few years before re-emerging.
I had a bit of a hand in Adrain's re-birth into an excitement machine, as skills coach for the Sharks for a number of seasons.
Adi's got good vision and shows the ball well. He's small (1.79metres) but he carries his weight well and he’s learnt to runs his lines. He changes his angles. It's such an important skill which seems to be disappearing from modern rugby. He sees the opportunity – he can step in and swerve. Once more – he's not predictable. That's what makes him so hard to defend against.
At the Sharks the 21 Test Bok links brilliantly with his wings – Odwa Ndungane and JP Pietersen.
When I was at the Sharks the great thing is the players want to learn. How to step, show the ball – that's the difference. Once you learn those basic skills you've got to trust your instincts.
These days players are over-coached. Trust your instincts – that's the simple message. In my day we did it because we enjoyed it and what made it exciting was the passion to play the game.
It's the passion and skill of these six stars that make rugby fans across the world pay to watch them.

This is just one of many great features you can find in the latest edition of Inside Rugby .

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