By Lee Stace
WE AT Rugby News received an interesting email from one of our loyal readers last week.
It was to do with the Western Force’s decision to sign Auckland midfielder Winston Stanley on a two-year deal.
The correspondent was amazed – and rightly so, I might add – that the Perth franchise continues to promote the signing of solid New Zealand provincial performers as major acquisitions.
“It’s amazing how the Western Force signs middle of the road New Zealand players and trumpets them in the Perth media as being global superstars when in fact they are the complete opposite,” he wrote.
“I’m sure other Super Rugby franchises will be shaking in their boots when these ‘big-name’ players turn out for the Western Australians,” he sarcastically added.
This reader has hit the nail on the head.
Like any team, the Force are always looking for ways to improve their game – it’s just a shame their recruitment policy doesn’t match their long-term vision.
Indeed, for every James O’Conner, who, sadly for them, has been lost to the Melbourne Rebels, and David Pocock there has been a Tim Fairbrother, Willie Ripia or, as will be the case next year, a Stanley and Toby Lynn on the payroll.
The aforementioned Kiwi players are good provincial toilers at best. Put them in a Super Rugby situation and they hardly fire a shot. Anyone who follows the New Zealand rugby scene closely will tell you that.
Yet that’s what the Force does and, as our reader rightly points out, wonders why they finish near the bottom of the table.
Irish province Connacht has become a destination for middle of the road New Zealand players (read: Rodney Ah You and Miah Nikora) in recent times and it seems the Force are following suit.
So much so that if you’re a New Zealander looking for a Super Rugby playing gig, drop Richard Graham a line. No doubt the coach will find a place for you in his team next year.
There are plenty of mouth-watering clashes on offer this weekend.
Which player was unlucky not to make the Wallabies’ preliminary squad for the British and Irish Lions series?
Gordon Tietjens’ success in sevens is unrivalled and should place him in the same coaching league as Sir Alex Ferguson.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen named a 38-man training squad and there are a couple of oversights worth highlighting