Before we start treating an All Blacks victory in Brisbane as a fait accompli its worth considering a few things.
It is true that the Wallabies are in a state of disarray, and must be vulnerable.
Their legacy of player power has come back to bite them, and it is extraordinary that their captain should be publically defending a repeat offending player ahead of the team unit, and by extension the coach.
Ewen McKenzie has tried to take a firm line in the past, but despite his strong actions on the end of year tour last year has been unable to instil a sense of no nonsense in the team.
From this distance it’s hard to tell whether it’s a case of him losing the support of his team, or whether the team is split with some for and others against.
He not only has to deal with that, but also a media contingent that pushed his case relentlessly during the Deans era but appears already to be clearing a path for his replacement by Waratahs coach Michael Cheika.
Yes, it looks like a very dysfunctional family right now, and one can only imagine there are two possible outcomes in Brisbane. Either they fire in defiance and cause the All Blacks all manner of bother, even win the game, or they continue to implode and cop a hiding.
You would suspect the chaos in the Wallaby ranks might have the All Blacks licking their chops at the prospect of an easy kill, but I rather suspect the state of affairs will have the coaching staff a little uneasy.
They’re expected to win, and if they don’t it will be damaging. Back to back losses right now would not be a good thing a year out from the World Cup.
They will have to be very careful to manage what cricket coach David Trist used to refer to as “arousal issues”.
This game is sandwiched rather awkwardly between an energy sapping, gut busting, rapid fire round the world trip to Argentina and South Africa and an end of year tour that starts enticingly in Chicago.
Already this year they have produced a sub-par effort in Australia and it cost them a win. They will need to be well up for this, regardless of the perceived state of the Wallabies.
On another matter there has been much talk since the Johannesburg test about the TMO call against Liam Messam and the role of the TV director in bringing the incident to the attention of the crowd, the players and the referee via a succession of replays on the big screen.
In the end it was a fair penalty, but the danger is in ensuring that incidents are treated consistently.
The case that leaps to mind is that of the Millennium Stadium and All Black tests in 2009 and 2010.
In 2009 Dan Carter made a desperate try scoring tackle that was shown at least 6 times on the big screen. It was high without being life threatening, and worthy of a penalty, which did not happen at the time. However passions were so inflamed after the repeat screenings that the citing commissioner was leaned on heavily to cite Carter and he was duly banned for a game.
And yet a year later, when at the very same stadium, in a game covered by exactly the same TV company, Andy Powell swung a full blooded roundhouse, closed fist, into Richie McCaw’s face near the end of the game, in the guise of a “tackle”, it was neither replayed on the big screen, nor acted upon, despite being a far more injurious act than that committed by Carter.
My point is if such incidents are to be treated in the same inconsistent and clearly parochial manner as seen in the Cardiff tests in particular, then we will have a new type of bush justice.
It might be best that replays on the big screen for anything controversial should only be aired at the request of the ref, his assistants, or the TMO.
It is their job to run the game, not the crowd, and not someone in a TV van.