A Nichey Niche Convo - Here's Hoping England Play The Right Brand Of Rugby

No really Stu, just play the right brand of rugby and you'll have a free pass throughout Aotearoa.

No really Stu, just play the right brand of rugby and you'll have a free pass throughout Aotearoa.

Sometimes the Diggity Doc and the Wildcard talk to each other...

Diggity Doc - El Wildcardo aka the DubCizzle, are you going to be sizzling a few bangers on the barbie on Sunday? It's going to be a pretty epic day ain't it?

Wildcard - No, Doc, I shall not be. And I'll tell you why: I'll be asleep. See, from what I gather, the NRL Final kicks off around 9.15pm NZ time. So you can expect it to be done and dusted around midnight, give or take half an hour. At 1.30am we have the Liverpool-Everton Merseyside Derby, followed at 4am by Arsenal-Man Utd, aka the best rivalry of the Premier League era (although ya Gunners aren't pulling their weight in that fixture so much anymore). Then at 6am the NFL is on and this doesn't even take into consideration the Argentina-Tonga and Ireland-Italy games at RWC15 over that night. Frankly, I'm gonna need all the shut-eye I can get in the lead up. I'll be stockpiling it over the weekend. But an epic day it most certainly will be.

DD - Mate you've opened a can of worms in terms of topics there. I wanna start with the Champions League and more specifically Arsenal, but I'm intrigued by all of this week's Champions League shenanigans. I'm sure you can understand that with the RWC and NRL on, football isn't high on my list at the moment so what's your view on Arsenal's struggles?

WC - A couple of cans of worms, really. And that's only Sunday night so it doesn't even count the All Blacks test! I think on the Champions League, the comments from Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino were pretty on the nose, he said English teams are the only ones that rest players for European games. And then they wonder why they don't get the results, right? Part of that is something Arsene Wenger said recently too, about playing other teams in weaker leagues who can afford to rest players domestically coz they're usually way out in front anyway. I think Arsenal's problems are down to not having the depth they think they do and maybe underestimating a few teams. We're only a third of the way through so I wouldn't panic yet but next game is gonna be a must-win. And hey, if David Ospina hadn't had a howler then they'd at least have gotten a draw still.

DD - That's the other narrative I saw a lot of, how the English teams all struggled, but on a weekly basis the EPL is competitive so I've gotta agree with the managers. What's the go with the derby and rivalry games this weekend?

WC - Well, it's pretty interesting timing for 'em. Liverpool coming off a draw in the Europa League and a rough month of form, Brendan Rodgers is in a fair bit of trouble. I don't think he gets sacked if he can't beat Everton but he definitely won't be trending upwards. While Everton are on a bit of a roll, starting to get things going. Should be a cracker. As for Arsenal vs Man Utd, I have a feeling it won't be the same in competitivity since Arsenal never do all that well against the rest of the big four. United are in good shape too, grinding out wins and starting to get some fluency on attack. But it's their defence that's dominated and even with a makeshift fullback there somewhere (I'd guess Ashley Young on whichever side Alexis Sanchez isn't on) Arsenal probably aren't a team that can take them out of their comfort zone. I can't help but love this game though, it's the rivalry I grew up on, really. I did my top 5 moments between ARS-MUN in the PL Picks this week. You got a favourite, coming from the other side of the ledger?

DD - I think all neutral fans are hoping Everton just pile the misery on their Scouse rivals huh? Well you're not a neutral cos you'll be supporting the Red Devils and wishing for the worst for Liverpool. I'm like you mate but the boundaries of my memory don't stretch back to when Arsenal would trouble your lot. All I can remember are the recent losses and what not ... and more so the great players involved. Both teams had such exceptional rosters that it would always provide some funk. Even the nitty gritty sort of players like Viera and Keane would make it just as fun as Henry or van Nistelrooy.

WC - Oh mate, Vieira vs Keane was the rivalry of a generation! Even Fergie vs Wenger wasn't as tasty as that (although literally it might have been, remember when Fergie got hit in the face by a slice of pizza?). That was my favourite moment, when United broke Arsenal's 49-game unbeaten streak. Apparently they'd printed out '50 Not Out' shirts, which makes me wonder what happened to those? I know they always have personalised championship tees in the NBA, and I've heard talk that when it comes down to a game 7 and they have to print two different designs (one for each team), they send the spoiled ones to Africa as part of their charity interests. So somewhere in the Democratic Republic of Congo or whatever, there's a kid running around in a 2013 NBA Champions San Antonio Spurs tee. Almost like an alternate universe. Anyway, Rooney dived for a penalty in that game (Ruudy scored it), then Roo scored another in injury time. Rio and Ruud both shoulda gotten red cards earlier. And someone threw pizza at Fergie as the Arsenal players (and manager) moaned and sulked. It was amazing.

DD - On a scale of absolute shit (where I think NZ and Aus are on the matter) and the NBA - where t-shirts are given to everyone in attendance for playoff games and the the celebratory t-shirts ... where do we sit? I really only see celebratory shirts in the NRL after a Grand Final win - they are definitely not handing out free shirts to fans.

WC - Well, you know... money. I think the Breakers had champo shirts last year, they've done it before for sure. Maybe Adidas and the All Blacks have something in the works? I mean Adidas are nothing if not prepared, James Harden started his sponsorship with them today with a massive truck turning up at his house full of free gear. This is why everyone should be friends with an elite sportsman. Ideally one roughly the same size as them. Anyway, do you still think JT'll be wearing his celebratory shirt on Sunday night?

DD - But neither the Breakers nor Adidas will be putting a shirt on each chair in the crowd will they. I think I hopr so ... there ya go - I think I hope so. JT unquestionably deserves a title with the Cowboys and it's gotta be said that the Cowboys as a club deserve it as well. They have recruited expertly - from nabbing Lachlan Coote from Penrith to recruiting Jason Taumalolo from Auckland as a teenager. They have also figured out how to be competitive in the NRL which means winning in Sydney and overcoming a consistently shit schedule. They have got better each year and it's a credit to all involved.

WC - Yeah, the fan catering stuff is insane. When the whole crowd wears them too it looks incredible. But that's an NBA thing, doubt you'll ever see it in an outdoor stadium with like 80k+ people there... such as the NRL Grand Final. The Cowboys really have gotten better gradually, to the point where in the last couple years they seemed to be underachieving but it's all part of the journey, I guess. The Broncos got good again in a hurry, all they needed was Wayne Bennett. Which isn't exactly true coz when he left them he left them with the framework in tact and it seems to have survived almost unscathed. I'm still leaning towards the Cowboys too and I think the Thurston Hype is gonna overpower the whole thing. I also think this might be the best the Cowboys will ever be, this is their chance, while the Broncos... they've got more room in their championship window it seems, I dunno. Like, 2015 Broncos vs 2006 Broncos, I think the old team wins that. Which shouldn't take anything away from the current team at all. Either team will deserve this title, but the Cowboys seem to *need* it more.

DD - I think the Cowboys are in a great position to enjoy a successful period in Thurston's twilight years and beyond. Rugby league is a religion up in Queensland and the Cowboys have a vast area and talent pool to draw upon. I've got them finishing in the top-8 for the majority of the next 10 seasons and winning a(/another) title in that decade.

WC - One thing about winning a title is that it kinda legitimised everything you've been doing. It rubber-stamps the approach and that makes more people wanna play for you, youngsters and vets both. But if you don't win one then that becomes the pressure and stability becomes hard to find. It's probably those Thurston twilight years that are holding me back on them, he's 32 now which is the same age as Cam Smith and one year younger than Justin Hodges so it's hard to know how long he'll play. I s'pose what I mean is this incarnation of the North Queensland Cowboys, rather than the club itself. But I do agree that once you've had sustained success for a couple seasons (esp. with a grand final in there), that has a run off. Those teams still compete for 3-4 years afterwards, it's probably only the Dragons who've buggered that pattern up. Hmm. Ouch for me.

DD - Well I do think the Cowboys are and will be a unique case - they just had to figure everything out. Let's not forget that the Warriors are yet to figure everything out. Who's your Clive Churchill medalist?

WC - I mean, if the Cowboys win then surely Johnathan Thurston gets it. Those NRL pundits are a sentimental bunch, and he's already offering the shortest odds in history... though you've got to think the Broncos are coming up with ways to limit him, which'd make Michael Morgan a prospect. But I'm a sentimental one to, so I'm saying Jason Taumalolo with a try and 180 or so metres, plus a healthy chunk of tackles & tackle busts. If the Broncos win then it'll be Ben Hunt, love watching that guy play. Yourself?

DD - The Milf if the Broncos win and Matt Scott if the Cowboys win and Thurston doesn't win it for whatever reason. We won't worry about the All Blacks game but I definitely wanna know your thoughts on Australia vs England at the perfect viewing time on that epic Sunday.

WC - England can win but they won't. That's the nutshell version. I can't imagine them not being intimidated by the pressure and the occasion and it'll take Aussie letting them off the hook for that to happen, something I'd be borderline shocked if they do. It's be a very English Sport thing to do to get knocked out in the group stages of a tournament they're hosting, wouldn't it?

DD - Indeed and I reckon you used the perfect word there - intimidated. For me, I simply can't envision England rising to the occasion and it is going to be a huge game. I can't see a player (let alone the team) standing up and saying 'follow me lads'. Australia are just better in all facets and they'll prove themselves at set-piece time as well which I'd love to see. England think they are the gods of scrums and line-outs.

WC - There probably isn't a Martin Johnson in this team is what you're saying. Fair point too. I just genuinely don't think they're that good, England. And if they prove me wrong then they prove me wrong but Australia on the other hand, at least you know there's something up the sleeve. Plus the best attacking player on either team will be Israel Folau, so that favours them in a close one anyway. England just rate their set pieces because they know they can't play the expansive stuff anyway... Oh God. I've become a New Zealand rugby person, slamming the English like that. *shivers*

DD - They just don't play the right brand of rugby do they? I would offer peptides, but they don't deserve them. I'm sabotaging the All Blacks - an owl dropped in the other night and the Wallabies and Springboks want peptides. I obliged #HateMe. Over and out matey.

WC - Ooh, 'brand of rugby'. You've become to Brendon McCullum what I've become to Hamish McKay. I think maybe we need the peptides. Bon voyage.