Rugby Union: Campese's aerial view makes waves

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The Independent Online
TRUST Campo. David Campese likes to air his views on local rugby wherever he goes and if the Irish thought they might escape where the South Africans and others did not, they were abruptly disabused yesterday. There is a Test match for Australia to play against Ireland at Lansdowne Road today and the incomparable wing is not impressed with what he has witnessed here.

'All they do is put up bombs and hope to get the opposition caught in the rucks and get the ball in the scrum,' he said. 'They just play the game to try to spoil the opposition and I don't think that's good rugby.'

All this - except possibly the last remark, which is a matter of opinion - is precisely accurate and endorsed by the way in which all the Wallabies' provincial opponents have conducted an aerial campaign against them.

But what really disconcerted the Irish was his allegation that they had been whitewashed in last season's Championship because 'they were still celebrating nearly beating Australia in the World Cup. Because they were still having a good time, in the Five Nations they played very poorly'.

Now the Irish love a party but this was altogether too much for an incensed RTE radio reporter when he demanded a reaction from Michael Lynagh, Australia's captain. 'I don't think that's particularly fair comment,' Lynagh said. 'I probably would not use the words he used but I don't want to get into an argument with my own team- mate.' Very diplomatic. Campese claimed he was taken out of context, which sounded like an excuse but actually was true, since he originally gave the interview to two journalism students from Galway when the Wallabies were out west earlier in the week. They, sensing a good wheeze and perhaps a profit, wondered if RTE might possibly be interested. They were.

If people ask Campese he will answer. He did, to England's intense irritation, during the World Cup, and he did, to Naas Botha's embarrassment, in South Africa. 'That is his observation after spending a few weeks in our country. He's pretty good at that, I suppose,' Philip Danaher, the Irish captain, sighed.

But as Campese rightly says, Australia know that what will fall on them at Lansdowne Road is less likely to be rain (yesterday was glorious and the forecast is fair) than Peter Russell's up-and-unders. If they deal with them better than the second string did with Jim Galvin's in Cork, they will win; if not, they could lose; and if they are allowed to play as well as they can, exploiting their magnificent athleticism and vast range of tactical options, they will win in comfort and style.

'The Munster victory and the fact that Connacht, Leinster and Ulster have run them close has taken the aura of invincibility off them,' Danaher said after yesterday's training run. 'The players who played in those matches have seen that they have weaknesses and they are just 15 other guys who, if we can be motivated properly and organised enough, can be beaten.'

This is what folk used to say about the All Blacks and, in the remoter past, the Springboks. Leaving aside that in fact Leinster and Ulster were comfortably seen off, albeit after initial difficulty, it is true that the Wallabies have shown a curious vulnerability and inconsistency on tour.

It would scarcely be rational to expect the same again today, especially as Ireland have lost their last six Tests, climaxing in the All Black half-century in Wellington. But when, thank heavens, were Irish rugby men ever rational?