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Greg Growden
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After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Australia v Argentina, Rugby Championship
Will Genia's demotion 'just plain dumb'
Greg Growden
September 11, 2013

When you drop your only world-XV quality player to the bench, you would want a long list of very good reasons to justify it.

No wonder the "hard ball" demotion of Will Genia has astounded all because the long list of reasons does not exist.

Genia's axing is baffling and dangerous, especially as Argentina is a far better team than what many in Australia think. Don't laugh … the Pumas could easily win on Saturday because they possess so many of the attributes - such as a powerhouse scrum, confrontational defence and effective breakdown work - that has destabilised Wallabies outfits in the past, leading to shock losses.

And let's be realistic. Genia is not playing to his usual standard, but he has not had such an enormous form slump that he deserves the public humiliation of one week being Test captain, and the next on the bench covering his knees with a travel blanket.

The real problem in the Australian team is elsewhere, in particular the inability of the Wallabies scrum to show any menace. But in another indicator of how appalling the back-up strength in Australian rugby is, virtually the same pack remains.

It's is also fair to say that one reason why Genia has looked fatigued and sometimes frazzled is because those he-men around him haven't done their job. Genia has been forced to pick up the slack, sometimes playing like an extra backrower or extra fullback to stop the leaks.

It's fair enough if you give your back-up scrum-half Nic White more game time off the bench, but to start him when he is surrounded by so many inexperienced performers is an enormous decision. You must also now seriously question the level of leadership in the team. Ben Mowen is a competent provincial leader, but a Test skipper? Come on.

Mowen is not even playing in his best position, being outpointed at No. 8 in recent Tests against New Zealand and South Africa, and should instead be on the blindside of the scrum. This is also not the time for huff and puff captaincy, but cool, precise leadership - which could prove a big challenge for Mowen in his first appearance as Test captain.

We always knew this was going to be a weird week when Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said that he had to dumb down the team tactics. This was a sad indictment on the level of intelligence of his side.

And good on former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones for saying that he disagreed with McKenzie's comments "that you can dumb the game down" because "I can't see how we can play any dumber".

There is a common theme here, though, as Genia's demotion is just plain dumb.


Follow live text commentary of the Test between Australia and Argentina on Saturday, September 14, from 730pm (AEST), 930am (GMT)

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