HAVING to be saved by the rain obviously has not dented England’s confidence, with paceman Ryan Sidebottom already talking about sending Australia home without winning the Twenty20 or one-day series.On Tuesday, England were attempting to wipe the seven-ball horror of Sunday’s washed-out match at the same venue when Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson blitzed their top order. They were 2-4 when rain stopped play for good and more showers were expected for today’s final Twenty20 clash.Having already won the Ashes, England are aiming to inflict ultimate humiliation upon their rivals in the coming seven-match ODI series.”It would be an ideal situation if we could beat Australia in all forms of the game, send them home not winning anything,” Sidebottom said. ”There’s a great [determination] in the team that we want to do that.”I think we’re going places as a team. I make no bones about it, we’ve got a lot of improvement, especially one-day cricket. [But] we want to get up there, we want to be No.1.”Meanwhile, Australian opener David Warner will attempt to fight back into the one-day side through performances in the Twenty20 Champions League with NSW.”If I can put some numbers on the board [in the overnight match] and then [I’ve] obviously got the Champions League as well, and then the boys have got the India tour over there, if I can submit some good totals on the board there for myself, just keep pressing my claims forward and if an injury comes up I’m going to make sure my name’s up there at the top of the list to take that,” Warner said. ”If I keep working hard and scoring runs, things might happen for me.”The past year has been an odd ride for Warner, who became an overnight sensation after making his international debut against South Africa and blasting 89 from 43 balls at the MCG in January, was elevated into the one-day team, still had not made his first-class debut for the Blues, and was then dropped from Australia’s ODI team after averaging 15.14 from seven matches.
THE NSW Government is set to sign a $60 million deal to redevelop one of the oldest stands at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the M.A. Noble, with work scheduled to commence before the start of the home summer.Plans are also under way to eventually redevelop the Bradman and Messenger stands. All three stands will be rebuilt to accommodate more seats, but will retain their names.An SCG Trust spokesman said last night he was unaware that the money for the Noble project had been approved, but a source told the Herald the deal was done and would be formally announced shortly.Work on the project is expected to continue during the first Test to be held in Sydney this summer, against Pakistan on January 3.With the addition of the new $82m Victor Trumper Stand last year, giving the ground a capacity of 46,000, the SCG Trust is looking to extend numbers further with the redevelopment of the Noble Stand, which was built in 1936 and seats members.It will be the first major project undertaken since the appointment of former Test captain Steve Waugh to the Trust.Only the Ladies Stand (built in 1896) and Members Stand (1886) were built before the Noble but they will not be redeveloped. The Noble stand was originally known as the New Members’ Pavilion before being renamed in 1947. Internal refurbishment of the stand was completed in 1994.Last night the extent of the demolition and rebuilding of the stand under the new $60m plan was still unclear.But SCG Trust chief executive Jamie Barkley said earlier this year that the Trumper Stand was the first of three parts for a ”masterplan” to increase capacity to 50,000, with the Noble, Bradman and Messenger stands to be rebuilt by the 2015 cricket World Cup. The final phase includes upgrading the O’Reilly Stand.”Naturally, it’s difficult to fit it around your international [cricket] schedule, and also we have an AFL schedule here as well,” Barkley said in January.”Within the next few years we’d like to make a start on Stage Two, particularly if we can get it up and running before the 2015 cricket World Cup.”We will be knocking down the Bradman, Noble and Messenger stands to make sure we get that circular concourse and stand continuous around the ground, while maintaining the heritage aspects of the SCG. The Ladies Pavilion and the Members Pavilion will always remain … they are untouchable.”Monty Noble was one of the greatest all-rounders Australia has produced, and he went on to captain the Test side with an 8-5 win-loss ratio as skipper.Noble played 42 Tests, scoring 1997 runs at 30.25 and took 121 wickets with his right-arm medium-pacers at 25. He was born in 1873 and died in 1940.
Fittingly for a little-known kid who has come from the clouds to pilfer the Wallaby halfback jumper from under everybody’s nose, Will Genia is full of surprises.The 21-year-old never played sport, let alone a team sport, until he moved to Brisbane from Papua New Guinea for high school. He only started playing rugby because all the other students at Brisbane Boys College (BBC) assumed he would be a star – simply because he was an islander.And despite his best attempts to go by the much more refined “Will”, there is no escaping the fact his real first name is “Sanchez”, something his Queensland Reds and Wallaby teammates know all too well.The rapid-fire pace at which Genia barks out his sentences is only matched by his meteoric rise through the ranks of Australian rugby. At the start of the Super 14 season, he was a distant second to Ben Lucas in the pecking order for the Queensland halfback job.Now he has usurped Waratah Luke Burgess to become not only the number one halfback in his state but the first-choice for his adopted nation. Genia’s career is in the express lane, so much so that he is the only man playing on Saturday who isn’t listed among 40 names in the Wallaby media guide.Genia was one of five changes for the Wallabies as coach Robbie Deans tries to turn around the fortunes of a side that is winless in the Tri Nations heading into Saturday’s battle with the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium.Former Reds teammate Berrick Barnes returns from injury at 12, while Western Force flanker David Pocock will be handed his starting debut at openside flanker, sending George Smith to number eight.Tatafu Polota-Nau replaces Stephen Moore at hooker and Pek Cowan comes onto the bench for Al Baxter, who along with Richard Brown has been omitted from the squad altogether as the desperate Wallabies try to break their Tri Nations duck, a streak of losses extending to six if you count the final two losses last year.But it is Genia who is the undoubted feel-good story of this Test match. After a number of impressive stints off the bench, the cheeky, guitar-strumming Queenslander’s claims to the number nine jersey could be ignored no longer, capping off a fast-tracked route to the top that Genia himself can scarcely believe.”I started off with Queensland as the bench halfback. Personally I thought I could start as Queensland halfback. It was all about preparing myself off the field as best I could. It’s a great honour. It’s very exciting,” Genia said of his Wallaby run-on debut.A hand injury late in the Reds season meant Genia wasn’t fit for the start of the international fixtures but that didn’t deter Deans from plucking his name from left-field to be the back-up for Burgess, whose grasp on the starting role was never iron-clad.Even if the formerly bulletproof Wallaby coach is starting to feel the heat as results prove evasive, it was deft selection which Genia is determined to pay back with interest.”We can provide opportunities for players but it’s up to them what they do with it. Will is a bloke who’s made the most of every opportunity that has come his way,” Deans said.”He’s also overcome some adversity with his injury. But he’s shown he’s got the discipline and the habits to deal with that sort of challenge.”Genia’s coronation as the man feeding the Wallaby scrum began with a youngster who grew up in league-mad Papua New Guinea and didn’t so much know the rules of rugby until he boarded at BBC, which also nurtured Reds skipper and Wallaby forward James Horwill.”When I was a young fella I didn’t play any sport. Rugby league was massive. I watched a lot of it on TV. I was more into playing backyard cricket,” Genia said.”I didn’t play any team sport until I went to BBC in 2000. I kind of got into rugby because I was an islander and everyone just assumed I’d be good. I started off as a winger and moved into inside centre and then into halfback. I think I’m still fast though.”So foreign was the idea of playing for the Wallabies that it took a reminder from Reds coach Phil Mooney at the start of last season to even plant the notion into Genia’s head.”Phil Mooney, he sat me down and said `If you were picked to play a Test match tomorrow, would you be ready?’ That made me realise the importance of preparing and taking every opportunity you get and not taking it for granted,” said Genia, whose brothers Nigel and Frankie have both played halfback at BBC.”I never really had that in my mind to be honest. I was more focused on starting for Queensland and playing good consistent rugby for Queensland.”Genia’s story is one to savour for local fans but there is no room for sentiment against a Springbok outfit determined to turn around a poor record in Brisbane and continue its Tri Nations domination. On their last visit in 2006, they hightailed it out of town on the wrong end of a 49-0 hiding.Genia has primarily been selected for his inventive play around the ruck, strong defence and crisp service at the breakdown, an area which cost Burgess his place in the side.
AL BAXTER and Richard Brown are gone, and Will Genia and David Pocock get their chance to become established Wallabies after Robbie Deans went brutal by making seven positional changes for Saturday night’s Tri Nations Test against the Springboks in Brisbane.Deans had no choice but to be unforgiving after his team suffered its sixth straight Tri Nations loss when they fell apart for 70 minutes against the Springboks in Perth last weekend. Genia, the vibrant Queensland Reds halfback, takes over from an out-of-form Luke Burgess while Pocock, who played well coming off the bench at Subiaco, receives his first Tri Nations start at openside breakaway, allowing George Smith to move to No.8 at the expense of Brown.Brown and Baxter have been left out of the 22-man squad, with Wycliff Palu returning to the bench and Pek Cowan becoming the new back-up prop. Tatafu Polota-Nau is the new hooker in for Stephen Moore, Drew Mitchell takes over from Peter Hynes on the wing, and Berrick Barnes has overcome his concussion to regain the inside-centre spot. This means Adam Ashley-Cooper returns to his favoured No.13 position and Ryan Cross is omitted.Deans last night said it was time for big changes.”We have managed the entry of David and Will, just to make sure we’re not throwing them in a depth of water that they can’t cope with,” Deans said.”They have both shown they’re ready. Will has looked totally composed at every opportunity. For a bloke who was probably back-up with the Reds at the front end of the year, he’s just taken the big step with ease. Starting the Test won’t faze him.”Deans’s changes must be applauded because it shows he is responding to the problem and knows it is time to properly embrace the new-generation policy. This should have the desired effect of revitalising the Wallabies, as well as convincing those out of favour that the nice guy ”give everyone one more chance” attitude is over.Genia’s promotion was imperative, as Burgess is suffering from a debilitating confidence slump. The Burgess-Matt Giteau partnership had disintegrated and Genia should rectify the poor service to Australia’s chief playmaker.The axed Brown will return, but he has clearly been distracted for some time and needs a break. Also Pocock, after being relatively quiet coming off the bench for several weeks, showed great spirit and provided a high work rate when he replaced Brown at Subiaco Oval.Pocock deserves to start and should work well with Smith, who is adept at No.8. Deans said Pocock had earned his promotion.”George at No.8 gets an opportunity to feed off his work and that could be an interesting combination,” Deans said.”David has everything he needs and I think he will explode at this opportunity. He is a very strong player with a low centre of gravity, who is strong over the ball, strong in the contact area and that’s going to be important for us.”Lachie Turner was lucky to survive, with Hynes the wing casualty, while Barnes’s return from injury leads to a more settled midfield combination with Ashley-Cooper.Ashley-Cooper struggled at No.12, but he should not be used as a scapegoat because despite the Perth Test glitch, he and prop Benn Robinson have been Australia’s most consistent players this season. Ashley-Cooper is also more of an outside-centre/fullback than a No.12.Baxter’s Test future is under serious doubt, with Cowan moving to the bench and Ben Alexander holding on to his tight-head spot. Hooker Polota-Nau has been primed for a starting spot and it is hoped he gets better support at lineouts, and is not the victim of silly early calls. THE TEAMS AUSTRALIA: James O’Connor; Lachie Turner, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell; Matt Giteau, Will Genia; George Smith (c), David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, Mark Chisholm, James Horwill, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau,Benn Robinson. Res: Stephen Moore, Pek Cowan, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Peter Hynes.SOUTH AFRICA: Ruan Pienaar; Odwa Ndungane, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, John Smit (c), Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Res: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Danie Rossouw, Schalk Burger, Ricky Januarie, Adi Jacobs, Frans Steyn.