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Alternative Reality 15

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Cyril
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Mon 17 Feb 2014, 4:34 pm

When it comes to test rugby, it's funny how quickly the sands can shift. Sometimes a player gets an opportunity and is in the right place at the right time. Other times he's in the wrong position and the wrong moment. Imagine if Nick Evans had come onto the scene a few years later when Carter started to break down with injury more frequently. How would he have stifled the development of a player like Cruden or Barrett? Imagine if somebody had decided on one position for Hook or Tait and made them stay in that position through thick and thin. Would they have come out stronger or worse off?

When I think of Byrne and Foden and the players they have to usurp to get back into the team, it's very difficult to imagine a scenario where they would be welcomed back with open arms. Yet Rene Ranger probably thought the same thing when he signed for a French club only to be courted by the NZRU when it was too late. Injuries tend to come in waves and player stocks can quickly vanish just as they can materialise. It's very difficult to anticipate what your dire needs will be with any degree of accuracy.

Similarly, players you might have given up all hope of resurrecting their careers or solidifying them can have a way of surprising you. Kaino didn't have much in the way of warm fuzzy feelings among the selectors but he turned out to be NZ's most consistent player of 2011. Quade Cooper became the prodigal son last year but does JOC have any hope of returning to the fray or will he become another French Giteau (excuse the pun).

Then you have the players like Ferris, Juan Smith, Richard Kahui who could have had so many more games at the highest level only to be robbed by injury.

Squads are ever expanding in the modern era and judgment calls have to be made. But how many players slip through the nets for whatever reason? You could make probably a good few squads out of these types of players. Who are the biggest alternative reality players for your respective nations?

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Post by BamBam Mon 17 Feb 2014, 5:14 pm

For England, 2 spring to mind, both injury related

Tom Rees - looked at as a future captain, had a great tour of NZ, but his injuries just never let him go on to what he could have been

JSD - at a time when we were crying out for creativity, he was the best attacking player in the Prem, but managed to get injured every single time he was called up for the international squad

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Post by gleesonisgod Mon 17 Feb 2014, 5:47 pm

For Ireland:

Neil Best...Had some superb games but I think it was leaving Ulster that made him fizzle out in the end. His highlight reel on youtube is better than SOB's and Ferris'

In terms of injury, David Pollock (same u20 team as SOB and O'Donnell and had a better rep and was progressing faster if I remember correctly, had to retire) , Simon Best, Paddy McAllister (still hope for him yet tho), Stuart Olding (best 12 in the country imo, got season ending injury)

Players who were talked up but haven't delivered: Ian Nagle, Dom Ryan, Mark Flanagan


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Post by Rugby Fan Mon 17 Feb 2014, 7:16 pm



Stuart Barnes instead of Rob Andrew is English rugby's most interesting alternative reality. Every other selection choice in the late amateur era would be subordinate to that one.

If Tim Rodber hadn't been sent off during the 1994 tour of South Africa, he might well have been an England captain. That probably would have put us on a different trajectory. Not sure if it would have been better or worse, but definitely different.



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Post by Cyril Mon 17 Feb 2014, 7:21 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:When I think of Byrne and Foden and the players they have to usurp to get back into the team, it's very difficult to imagine a scenario where they would be welcomed back with open arms.
In terms of Foden I think when he returns from injury he'll be back in the fold. Brown is currently in possession (and quite rightly) but a fit and firing Foden will push him hard. He can also cover wing (and centre at a push) and, I think, he would be most people's preferred bench option over Goode. It does depend on who Lancaster considers 10 cover in the future. If that's Ford it might be an opening for Foden on the bench as the 'back cover' option.


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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Mon 17 Feb 2014, 7:41 pm

He has to contend with Wade if he gets his chance coming back from injury. It's possible certainly Cyril but something tells me his ship has sailed like Cory Jane might find out having to contend with Piutau.

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Post by Cyril Mon 17 Feb 2014, 7:45 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:He has to contend with Wade if he gets his chance coming back from injury. It's possible certainly Cyril but something tells me his ship has sailed like Cory Jane might find out having to contend with Piutau.
Wade (and Yarde) are wingers though. Foden is first and foremost a full back. He's covered wing for England (and did ok) but I wouldn't say he's in competition with wingers for a spot in the squad.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Mon 17 Feb 2014, 7:48 pm

I don't see him supplanting Brown though so wing or back row utility is the best he can hope for.

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Post by Cyril Mon 17 Feb 2014, 7:54 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:I don't see him supplanting Brown though so wing or back row utility is the best he can hope for.
Nor do I (for the moment) but I really do think he's genuine class. He's been a bit unlucky with injuries recently. Brown has really taken the opportunity with both hands. I believe Foden is good enough to make it a genuine contest.

It really does depend on the make-up of the bench.

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Post by Biltong Mon 17 Feb 2014, 8:02 pm

Louis Ludick is one of the unluckiest players in SA, never got a call up to the Boks.

Stefan Terblanche in my view was one of the best wingers in SA when he was younger, but again, was replaced .......
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Post by Geordie Mon 17 Feb 2014, 8:08 pm

Yeah I think injuries are the key ones. There has been some talented players careers cut short.

As an England fan...
JSD as mentioned above is the obvious one. I genuinely believe had he been lucky he would have been one of the best international players of his generation. He was at times quite sublime.

James Forrester was a very talented No.8 and Tom Rees an fantastic young 7 at a time when we were crying out for a 7.

I think a mention of young Nick Duncombe the Quins SH. I know Quins had very high hopes of him before his sad death. It would have been interesting to see he would have made the England XV.

Im sure most teams can list players whove retired too early through injury.

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Post by Guest Mon 17 Feb 2014, 8:25 pm

Gavin Henson would be the most recent candidate for Welsh rugby, a complete package in terms of ability, the only thing missing was the right mentality during his most important years. Injuries took their toll on him as well. If he had Wilkinson's professionalism he would probably go down as one of the greatest players in the NH.

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Post by Poorfour Mon 17 Feb 2014, 8:33 pm

Duncombe is a good call.

I also think that the alternative reality for England could have been very different if:
a) Someone had persuaded Jonny Wilkinson to leave Newcastle much, much earlier
b) SCW had made Neil Back captain for the 2004 6N and then let him retire gracefully.Back at the time had had 5 games as captain and won them all - the motivation to be the only England captain to lead his country in 10 or more games with a 100% record might have been enough to bring a grand slam and set a different tenor for the rebuilding
c) Richard Hill hadn't done his knee ligaments. If he'd been fit for international rugby in 2007, it might just have been enough for England to win RWC 07

On the flip side, if Lawrence Dallaglio hadn't been caught in that drugs sting, Martin Johnson might never have been captain, and then where would we be? I sometimes wonder if Lancaster hasn't had a similar moment - if Tom Wood and Tom Croft hadn't had their injuries, Chris Robshaw may never have had a chance to establish himself in the team and as captain.

For Scotland, I can't remember when it was but there was a game where Craig Chalmers broke his arm somewhere around half time. In my head it marks a point after which Scotland were never quite the same again.
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Post by theslosty Mon 17 Feb 2014, 8:51 pm

For Ireland:

Luke Fitzgerald was a Lions Test starter in 2009 at the age of 21 and was widely touted as the most talented Irish player since BOD. Showed he still has bags of ability for Leinster this year before he picked up yet another injury just before the start of the 6N this year.

Keith Earls was also a Lion in 2009 and in some ways he is Ireland's Matthew Tait. Was developing nicely for a couple of years and was Ireland's top try scorer in the RWC but since then he hasn't been allowed to focus on one position and subsequently has suffered from a public loss of confidence. Has also had bad luck with injuries, albeit not quite as relentless as Fitzgerald.

If Fitzgerald could ever stay injury free he's definitely got the ability to play for Ireland, Earls although still a decent player will find it difficult to establish himself in the long run considering Ireland's depth in wings. Having said that both were pencilled in as Ireland starters this year before both suffered injuries.

It's also a crying shame we haven't seen more of a Ferris-SOB-Heaslip backrow which wrecked so much damage at RWC 2011. Ferris' comeback is due this month and I can speak for many when I say that I will be keeping everything crossed...

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Post by gleesonisgod Mon 17 Feb 2014, 9:55 pm

theslosty wrote:For Ireland:

Luke Fitzgerald was a Lions Test starter in 2009 at the age of 21 and was widely touted as the most talented Irish player since BOD. Showed he still has bags of ability for Leinster this year before he picked up yet another injury just before the start of the 6N this year.

Keith Earls was also a Lion in 2009 and in some ways he is Ireland's Matthew Tait. Was developing nicely for a couple of years and was Ireland's top try scorer in the RWC but since then he hasn't been allowed to focus on one position and subsequently has suffered from a public loss of confidence. Has also had bad luck with injuries, albeit not quite as relentless as Fitzgerald.

If Fitzgerald could ever stay injury free he's definitely got the ability to play for Ireland, Earls although still a decent player will find it difficult to establish himself in the long run considering Ireland's depth in wings. Having said that both were pencilled in as Ireland starters this year before both suffered injuries.

It's also a crying shame we haven't seen more of a Ferris-SOB-Heaslip backrow which wrecked so much damage at RWC 2011. Ferris' comeback is due this month and I can speak for many when I say that I will be keeping everything crossed...


Probably need another thread for this, but with POM playing like he is, he's gonna be hard to leave out.

SOB and Heaslip cannot/won't be dropped when fit.


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