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Thread: Stannard forces his way back

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    Champion KenyaQuin's Avatar
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    Stannard forces his way back

    Stannard forces his way back
    Wayne Smith | March 13, 2008

    Stannard forces his way back | The Australian

    THE irrepressible James Stannard has bounced back into the Western Force side, replacing star recruit Chris O'Young at halfback for Saturday's Super 14 match with the Blues in Albany.

    The Force had no option but to turn to the unfashionable Queensland boilermaker after first-choice halfback Matt Henjak's career spectacularly derailed last month and could scarcely believe it themselves when Stannard delivered pass after pinpoint pass to Matt Giteau against the Cheetahs and Lions in South Africa.

    Still, as soon as the heavyweight competition arrived, Stannard was pushed aside and the vastly more experienced O'Young was entrusted with the halfback duties against the Crusaders last Sunday. However, it soon became apparent that the chemistry in the reworked Force halves wasn't what it had been. In one telling moment, Giteau clapped his hands in annoyance after O'Young delivered the ball just out of reach.

    Coach John Mitchell gave the new pairing every chance to click but just on the hour against the Crusaders he tossed Stannard into the fray. Within minutes, the 25-year-old had so antagonised Crusaders hardman Ali Williams that the All Blacks second-rower actually shaped to punch him before thinking better of it.

    But for all his ability to work in heavy traffic, it is Stannard's slick passing that is serving him and his outside backs well. After all, with the Force boasting a backline full of linebreakers in Giteau, Ryan Cross, Drew Mitchell and Cameron Shepherd most especially, it is not a running halfback they need.

    The Australian selectors may well be thinking along similar lines. The fact that Stannard is developing an intuitive combination with the player who will be the Wallabies five-eighth this year is no load for him to carry.

    Meanwhile, Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher has thrown his backing behind another rookie, naming former Australian Schoolboys five-eighth Matt Toomua on his bench for tomorrow night's match against the Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium.

    It's a huge call thrusting an 18-year-old in as backup to Christian Lealiifao, 20, and Fisher admitted he will have his fingers crossed that his starting five-eighth does not go down injured in the opening minute.

    "But we hope that the match situation is such that we're able to give Matt some reasonable game time," said Fisher - code, perhaps, for the fact that Toomua won't see a lot of action unless the Brumbies are way in front - or behind - with 20 minutes to go.

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    Veteran BLR's Avatar
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    Why do our articles have to be dirtied by by Brumbies news...I hate how journalists mix stories together....O'Young must be wondering whether he made the right choice around about now...

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    Veteran zimeric's Avatar
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    awesome leg-up for James though...
    i was really impressed with his accurate passing as well, i did think he wasnt has strong on the loose ball on occasion but that will come with confidence.
    I think Mitch will not stick with one halfback if he has two contrasting players he will use them as each weeks gameplan allows.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BLR View Post
    ....O'Young must be wondering whether he made the right choice around about now...
    What I would hope he is thinking about now is "Oh yeah, I'm back in the Bigs and better lift to new heights".

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    Champion prop53's Avatar
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    On his performence today against the Blues he will be warming the bench for a while to come

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