Old makes way for young Lyons
By Scrum's Keiran Roberts
April 6, 2000
Stu Pinkerton, a New South Wales stalwart, has been supplanted by youth with emerging flanker David Lyons ousting him from the Waratahs' make-or-break game with the Waikato Chiefs on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Pinkerton paid the price on Thursday along with erratic flyhalf Manuel Edmonds for last weekend's insipid 31-16 loss to Queensland plunging the lacklustre Waratahs into seventh place.
Pinkerton held the distinction of missing just one match in almost three and a half seasons of Super 12 and was captain for three games last year, but Lyons' form has proved irresistible in what has been a dismal season for the Waratahs. Lyons has shot into reckoning off the reserves bench in six games so far this campaign and coach Ian Kennedy is fast running out of time to revive NSW's receding chances of making next month's finals after dropping the last three games.
There hasn't been much to laud about this season in NSW rugby, but the positive signs have been the emergence of young flankers, Phil Waugh and Lyons, as the Waratahs continue to be hounded by the derisive tag of perennial underachievers. Kennedy has avoided using the dreaded 'D' word for Pinkerton's demise, rather explaining that the back row will play on a rotational basis for the rest of the season as combinations are changed weekly.
"That doesn't necessarily mean Stuey has been dropped," Kennedy said. "Now that David Lyons has emerged we have four players that are playing quite well. Straussy came off the bench last week. This week it's Pinko. We're just having a look at a few different combinations."
No where is the musical chairs more obvious than at the contentious flyhalf position where Christian Warner and Edmonds have alternated each match - this week it's Warner's turn to play at No.10. Warner has started in two Super 12 games this season, but is yet to be paired with scrumhalf Chris Whitaker. They will call the shots against the similarly disappointing Chiefs in Hamilton on Sunday.
Warner says NSW are conscious another loss will lay them open to more underachieving jibes, which have been borne out of the Waratahs' first seven unproductive years in the southern hemisphere tournament.
"We know the importance of this game," Warner said. "It's going to be hard ... no matter what. If we do have a loss we have to rely on other teams."
Warner said both he and Pinkerton had been victims of Kennedy's rotational selection policy.
"I think last time I played I didn't get too many options," he said. "I wasn't happy with my game either. Just coming on last week and doing a few things ... the confidence is there. With Stuey, for us he's played virtually every game for the last three years."
Kennedy is unconcerned by the changes to his halves combination as he looks to spark his side for the Super 12 run home.
"It might be five or six games (in) but we're not playing well," he said. "Manny Edmonds has been given some opportunities and hasn't thrown his hand up and said 'it's mine'.
In the third team change announced Thursday, but this time injury-induced, prop Rod Moore replaced Cameron Blades, who was ruled out with an ankle injury. Blades joined fellow prop Richard Harry (strained calf muscle) and utility forward Daniel Manu (strained Achilles tendon) on the sidelines.
The NSW team is: Matthew Burke, Scott Staniforth, Jason Little (captain), Nathan Grey, Marc Scherbina, Christian Warner, Chris Whitaker, Tiaan Strauss, Phil Waugh, David Lyons, John Welborn, Tom Bowman, Jason Reilly, Brendan Cannon, Rod Moore. Reserves: Matt Dowling, Manuel Edmonds, Sam Payne, Stu Pinkerton, Michael Brial, Al Baxter, Mark Crick.