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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:00 pm

Well sad news for the Blues and indeed the ABs (bet a few Irish posters pricked up their ears with interest at this news) with Jerome Kaino out for six months with a shoulder injury. You never like to see these long-term injuries with BOD out for Ireland for example this entire 6N campaign.

But his absence and another thread got me thinking about how integral Kaino is to the AB team and of course the Blues. For Kaino was not always held with such universal high esteem. After the exodus of Jerry My Guns Are So Big I Have To Lose Some Size Off Them Collins, there was a big void in the ABs. Many ex-players and fans weren´t initially enamoured with Kaino and his contributions. I think it was as late as 2010 when the public began to get convinced by the idea of Kaino as an integral player. With Read and McCaw out for a great part of last season, Kaino had to step even further up in terms of seniority and responsibilities. His work with the ball in hand and grafting up the middle noticeably improved as well as usual destructive work in-tight.

So how many players can you think for your side (past or present) that had a rough start to their test careers who blossomed to become key players for their side? It doesn't necessarily have to be form. It could be discipline as an issue or a tendency to self-destruct at key moments. There are too many players who never made the step up to test rugby who previously showed great promise but there´s not too many who found it tough early on and then had the transformation from ugly duckling into graceful swan (although swan is not really a metaphor otherwise associated with rugby. Maybe a swanny but not a swan!)

Here are some other examples I could think of for the ABs.

Brad Thorn. This was a guy who was met with a lot of scepticism coming across from the ditch. Lock was thought the best position for him but he wasn´t considered a jumper and many thought the technical requirements of the position would be loston him. He was even offered to tour with the ABs with the autumn series and he turned it down saying he preferred a season in Super Rugby before making the step up to test rugby. Now the Crusaders are finding it tough this season and I wouldn´t be surprised if Brad has left a void that they´re finding difficult to fill.

Ma'a Nonu He started like Tana Umaga on the wing but didn´t have anywhere near the success. Indeed comparisons were often made between the two and Nonu was often thought as the poorer cousin. The move to outside centre didn´t help his cause. When he was dropped, he used to throw his toys out of the cot and rumours would surface he was off to league. Discipline was a big problem for him and he was in danger of becoming another talented footy player who could play a few positions but not well enough to hold down a regular job. Then the move came to inside centre and he developed a passing game that wasn´t evident when he was playing at outside centre or on the wing. He even started using the grubber kick instead of himself as a battering ram each time.

Who can you think for your side that had a rough start to their international careers and came back to be integral members of the national squad? Does Dan Parks qualify? I think if he had retired after the World Cup last year, I think many would have said yes. Unfortunately that match against England soured opinion for him big time which I think is a tad unfair, albeit understandable given the result and circumstancesof the game.

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Post by red_stag on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:06 pm

Sebastian Chabal, Gordon Darcy and Simon Shaw are ones that come to mind.
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Post by mr_stonelea on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:09 pm

You could argue Shane Williams...he had 3 or 4 years in and out of the Wales team until he found his confidence.

Mike Catt wasn't really rated by England fans until he turned 30.

Neil Back was another....he was around for a long time, considered too small by successive England selectors....I guess it was the 97 Lions tour which made England realise that he was a special player.




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Post by MrsP on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:09 pm

Rory Best and Andrew Trimble.

To a certain extent Tommy Bowe also.

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Post by Impossible Standards on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:10 pm

Shane Williams and Adam Jones.
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Post by rodders on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:12 pm

Well Tommy Bowe is an obvious example. Seemed to struggle at international level initially and was left out of the 2007 RWC squad in favour of ex RL convert Brian Carney.

From 2008 onwards he improved out of sight and his blistering form for Ulster earned him a recall before heading to the Ospreys and has gone on to make the no 14 jersey his own, represent the lions and become one of the best wingers around.
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Post by GunsGerms on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:12 pm

Tommy Bowe. Worst debut I can remember v NZ (I think) went on to be quite good.


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Post by Effervescing Elephant on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:12 pm

Ian Balshaw, keep the faith man! There's time yet!!!!!
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Post by Guest on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:13 pm

Impossible Standards wrote:Adam Jones.
Yeah, good call. For a long time Adam was just one of the Hair Bears and recognisable mainly for his barnet. Over the last few years he's become one of the finest tight-heads in the game. Working on his weight and fitness has helped him enormously.

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Post by rodders on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:14 pm

David Wallace too... he was in his late 20's before nailing down an Ireland jersey.
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Post by RuggerRadge2611 on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:15 pm

Dan Parks? Was he ever a swan? Maybe for 1 season but he seriously overstayed his welcome at international level.

Nick De Luca is a swan in the making. Always seemed to struggle at international level until recently. Next season I think he will have matured into the player Edinburgh fans see week in week out all think he could be.

Visser too has blossomed into one of the best wingers in Europe after being thrown on the Premiership scrap heap at Newcastle. Tope Scorer in the ML 3 years running in a team that struggles to win..... can't be bad can it?
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Post by Biltong on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:16 pm

Ugly duckling turned into a swan, will be Percy Montgomery, he was out in the cold (literally) in then Jake White recalled him, has become the most prolific point scorer for the springboks, and RWC medal winner.
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Post by red_stag on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:17 pm

A good call Rodders but it was injury enforced - he made his debut in 2000, went on to tour with Lions in 2001 and then got three or four very bad injuries - he was only out of Irish squad for 3 years. Got back in for 2005-2006 and been there ever since.
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Post by George Carlin on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:20 pm

Visser is an incredibly good example - I still don't think that Falcons fans can believe the difference.

Ross Ford is anothe quite good example. Told he was too short for flanker at club level and completely kicked the sh!t out of his body with power lifting until he developed the physique for hooker. It's between him and Best for the Lions shirt now and I go back and forth over who would be best.
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Post by mr_stonelea on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:22 pm

You could argue Shane Williams...he had 3 or 4 years in and out of the Wales team until he found his confidence.

Mike Catt wasn't really rated by England fans until he turned 30.

Neil Back was another....he was around for a long time, considered too small by successive England selectors....I guess it was the 97 Lions tour which made England realise that he was a special player.




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Post by Islingtonv2 on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:22 pm

Dan Cole for England. Probably still considered an ugly duckling by many but our pack would be a shambles without him now despite it taking him a while to get up to international speed.

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Post by rodders on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:23 pm

Fair point stag, maybe Wallace was an injured duck but he definitely peaked later in his career.

I thought Dennis Hickie and Girvan Dempsey were late bloomers too. Played their best rugby close to the 30 mark.

I remember Hickie getting skinned by Mike Catt one time when Catt got selected on the wing for England!
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:26 pm

mr_stonelea wrote:You could argue Shane Williams...he had 3 or 4 years in and out of the Wales team until he found his confidence.

Mike Catt wasn't really rated by England fans until he turned 30.

Neil Back was another....he was around for a long time, considered too small by successive England selectors....I guess it was the 97 Lions tour which made England realise that he was a special player.



And you have. Further up the page...verbatim. You remind me of a Red Dwarf quote. Why don´t we drop the defensive shields. A sage suggestion with just two minor drawbacks sir. One we don´t have any defensive shields and two we don´t have any defensive shields. Now I know strictly speaking that´s only one drawback but i thought it was such a big one it was worth mentioning twice. Hug

Some good names mentioned there. I have reservations about Chabal though. Good for highlight videos but never really cemented his place.

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Post by red_stag on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:37 pm

Kiakahaaotearoa,

Chabal got 62 French caps. Thats a whopping amount.
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Post by SecretFly on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:44 pm

Shane Horgan was a bit of an awkward player when he first appeared. Bad handling, generally over-eager and missing passes because of it.

But rather than improve and completely change, I actually think he did/does use that untidiness now still to his advantage. I love how he plays but he's very like Bowe, very freeform and loose - things could go wrong probably as much as they could go right, but that's them.

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Post by B91212 on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:56 pm

Tom Palmer - won a few caps early on in his career against lesser opposition but most (including me) were surprised when he returned in 2009 against France off the bench and showed he had become an international standard lock.

James Horwell - remember him playing against England at 8 once and thinking he looked far to slow for an international backrower. Fast forward a couple of years and not only is he just about the best lock in Australia but he is also the captain. So a late(r) developer plus he need a position change.

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Post by Feckless Rogue on Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:58 pm

I thought Bowe wasn't good enough for international rugby. Didn't rate him at all. But he bloomed. Adam Jones is another one. At first I thought he was just a big hairy tub of lard who wasn't fit enough for top flight rugby. But he's become one of the best tightheads in the world under Gatland.

In the future I think Luke Fitzgerald will surprise some people and become a stellar international player. He's been unlucky with injuries and had problems with form, but he will bloom into a swan. Just my opinion.
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Post by SecretFly on Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:04 pm

Feckless Rogue wrote:I thought Bowe wasn't good enough for international rugby. Didn't rate him at all. But he bloomed. Adam Jones is another one. At first I thought he was just a big hairy tub of lard who wasn't fit enough for top flight rugby. But he's become one of the best tightheads in the world under Gatland.

In the future I think Luke Fitzgerald will surprise some people and become a stellar international player. He's been unlucky with injuries and had problems with form, but he will bloom into a swan. Just my opinion.

Only little problem for Fitz is he's going at the thread backwards. He started off very promising and because of injury and lack of form/confidence in returning, has slid down the quality curve. I have no doubt he can move up it again - but it's becoming a clogged space, the waiting room for International backs positions. Very competitive area

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Post by Feckless Rogue on Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:09 pm

He started off very promising at Leinster. But he's only scored two test tries I think. Bad for winger. And he's not first choice for Ireland at the moment. Didn't get taken to the RWC. He's been an ugly duckling at international level.

But I think he will get into the Ireland team and become a great international player and score lots of tries. I'd like him to play outside center. He has all the attributes, both offensively and defensively. He gets limited opportunities to do what he's best at on the wing. Plus he doesn't quite have the lightning pace of the best wingers, but would be faster than the huge centers most nations now have, especially over the first few meters.

He also is mentally strong. He came back after the nightmare of last season and was on fire for Leinster before injury struck again. I think that if he got an injury free run in the 13 jersey he'd be our replacement for BOD.
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Post by Rory_Gallagher on Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:16 pm

Feckless Rogue wrote:He started off very promising at Leinster. But he's only scored two test tries I think. Bad for winger. And he's not first choice for Ireland at the moment. Didn't get taken to the RWC. He's been an ugly duckling at international level.

But I think he will get into the Ireland team and become a great international player and score lots of tries. I'd like him to play outside center. He has all the attributes, both offensively and defensively. He gets limited opportunities to do what he's best at on the wing. Plus he doesn't quite have the lightning pace of the best wingers, but would be faster than the huge centers most nations now have, especially over the first few meters.

He also is mentally strong. He came back after the nightmare of last season and was on fire for Leinster before injury struck again. I think that if he got an injury free run in the 13 jersey he'd be our replacement for BOD.

THIS. I think Fitz will be a fantastic 13 given the chance, and it will be his most natural position. Hope to see him play more there.

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Post by SecretFly on Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:37 pm

I'd love to see him involved...and 13 mightn't be a bad spot for him (I have my eyes on another wing for that shirt though in the long term)

But I'd love Fitz in because he has IT - the quality that the opposition might contain for a time but with always something else to keep them eternally honest.
However, I seriously think our REAL squad needs to become bigger to allow these players (Fitz and a few others) in to what is a pretty tight ship right now. I really think a real squad with some real rotation would allow more players to be part of the deal and give us so many more options come game day. This in when injury strikes route is too fussy and too shallow.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Fair play Red Stag. Didn´t realise Chabal got so many caps.

The point about perseverance is an apt one. There´s a fine line between giving a player a chance and not giving him enough of one. Particularly in a player that is able to cover more than one position. Continuity of combinations is desirable but so too is having options. You want your best players out on the field as much as possible but hindsight is an annoying thing when injury strikes and you´re left with few options.

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Post by flankertye on Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:50 pm

Riki flutey. First few caps, not much seemed to go his way. But then really hit some form.

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Post by Rory_Gallagher on Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:08 pm

SecretFly wrote:I'd love to see him involved...and 13 mightn't be a bad spot for him (I have my eyes on another wing for that shirt though in the long term)

But I'd love Fitz in because he has IT - the quality that the opposition might contain for a time but with always something else to keep them eternally honest.
However, I seriously think our REAL squad needs to become bigger to allow these players (Fitz and a few others) in to what is a pretty tight ship right now. I really think a real squad with some real rotation would allow more players to be part of the deal and give us so many more options come game day. This in when injury strikes route is too fussy and too shallow.

Fly - By any chance is that winger you have your eyes on to play at 13 Mr Kearney Jr?

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Post by SecretFly on Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:24 am

Rory_Gallagher wrote:
Fly - By any chance is that winger you have your eyes on to play at 13 Mr Kearney Jr?

I probably did say quite some time ago now that I have big plans for Mr Kearney Jr...................... Wink

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Post by Feckless Rogue on Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:43 am

The thing about Kearney Jr. is that he's not really a flashy player at all. So he was fairly unnoticed by us fans looking for the next big thing, when he was learning his trade in his very early career in the Magners. But as time goes on it's dawning on me that he's got it all. I knew he was fast. A lot of young wingers are fast, so it was no big deal. But he is fast. He's decent under the high ball. No surprise. He's a Kearney. It's also become clear that he has great awareness of what's around him, he can spot space and go through it. He can spot support, take contact and offload. He's bulking up and is now quite big and strong. He knows where the try line is, as they say. Without being flashy, he's developed very nicely indeed and is standing out more and more when he plays. And now at 22 years of age, I'm thinking, what are his weaknesses? I think Zebo runs better lines but that can be taught and improved to a large extent, especially in this Leinster team.
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