An article I found by Gregor Paul (a Kiwi), on the 10 most over-hyped players in international rugby, before people start saying how some of these players are quality, the author says that in the article, he's just saying the media went overboard on them
10. Rocky Elsom
It seems a touch suspicious that Rocky Elsom went to Ireland and became a legend. Did he play out of his skin over there – way better than he normally does? Or do they have a much lower benchmark on what they expect and are therefore easily impressed?
It is probably a combination of the two – and Elsom has dined out on that European sabbatical. His legend has been built on it.
“Rocky had quite a big impact on Irish rugby during the brief time he was playing in Ireland,” said Denis Leamy the Munster back-row at the 2011 World Cup. “In his time at Leinster he was excellent, from what I could gather looking in. He brought on the guys around him. He’s left a bit of a legacy there.
”When he returned to Australia in 2009 he was installed as Wallaby captain – because he was supposedly the rock solid, inspirational figure the team had been missing. Really? Had anyone actually been paying attention because Elsom looked like a hulking but massively underachieving brute before he left for Ireland and has regressed since he returned. As Wallaby captain he was random and feisty – but only to referees. He led the Wallabies to a solitary test win against the All Blacks in his tenure and last year he was the defensive weak link that New Zealand exposed – Ma’a Nonu running over him in both the Tri Nations and the World Cup.
He may in fact be an Australian version of Sione Lauaki and anyone who is getting angry while reading this – stop now and ask…how many huge tests has Elsom played? Where would he sit on a world pecking order? Ahead of Jerome Kaino? Or Thierry Dusautoir? Not even close. He’d be behind Schalk Burger as well. And he’d be behind O’Brien and probably Adam Thomson and bizarrely…way behind his fellow Wallaby Scott Higginbotham. Face it – Elsom maybe enjoyed the luck of the Irish while he was there but nine months does not a career make.
09. Shane Horgan
It had to be read twice – to make sure it really had been written: the normally reputable and highly commended Irish Times, had actually suggested that the world had not seen a player like Sonny Bill Williams since Shane Horgan came on the scene. Seriously – it took hours to stop laughing.
Horgan – a potato with all the qualities of a horse except speed – was scarily bad. The Leinster man played at wing or centre and yet the smarter observers would have seen prop or lock as his best position. Playing there he could have wheezed away with all the other donkeys. Does anyone remember him coming here with the British Lions in 2005? Nope…nor did we which makes the comparison with SBW all the more ludicrous.
Obviously the Irish – and their judgement is under scrutiny for the esteem in which they hold Elsom – think Horgan is some kind of rugby God. He’s actually held in fairly high regard across much of Europe and yet to the southern hemisphere eye he’d do well to hold a place at Manawatu. How can that be? How can the Irish and Brits see gold and we see tin? Oh yes that’s right – because they have no idea.
08: James Hook
We are fully prepared to admit there is a glimmer of hope for James Hook. There have been times when he’s looked to be worth the fuss. But those occasions are increasingly hard to remember and for the last two years Hook has been heading backwards despite the fact his bank balance has been heading forwards.
Perpignan, when they realised they weren’t going to be able to afford Daniel Carter, downsized their ambition last year and signed Hook for a reported 750,000 Euros a season. They hoped that they were buying a moderately wealthy man’s Carter. Hmmm, they aren’t so sure now. Maybe a destitute man’s Carter or actually, how about we don’t link Hook with Carter in anyway.
It was the World Cup that set alarm bells ringing. He had multiple chances to be a hero and couldn’t take any of them. Against South Africa in the opening game he firstly missed a kickable and crucial penalty in the first half. It was a controversial miss as it went higher than the Wellington posts and left some believing it may have in fact gone over. “I did not ask the referee to consult the television match official but in hindsight maybe I should have,” said Hook.
Actually, mate, you should have banged it down the middle to remove all doubt. As you should have with the penalty four minutes from time that would have won the game for Wales and changed the course of the World Cup. But under pressure, Hook spooned it and then again in the semi-final when Wales needed a hero, Hook disappeared. He was a ghost – leading to him being subbed early in the second half.
Can anyone imagine Carter being taken off for reasons of form? Maybe Hook will mature and learn the art of consistency and performing when it really matters. And maybe Germans will learn how to queue patiently and Australians will learn how to be humble and the French won’t be arrogant and the English will be loved by everyone.
07: Courtney Lawes
When Courtney Lawes is stripped back to his component parts – he makes a compelling case to be considered world class. He’s physically big – a 2.02m mass of athletic muscle with the agility, speed and engine to play in the back-row if needs be. He can leap for the ball in the air; he is a tough man – happy to put himself about and stand up for himself and can carry the ball. So why is he on this list? What’s not to like?
It’s because somehow the whole doesn’t add up to being anywhere near the value of the component parts. Lawes played one belting game against the Boks at the end of 2010 and hasn’t done anything since. He talks a big game, says lots of scary stuff but his World Cup amounted to one dumb decision to drop his knees into prostrate Pumas hooker Mario Ledesma. It was a nasty act that earned Lawes a suspension and showed him up to be a cheap shot merchant.
He’s young enough to mature into the player many in England say he already is but what worries is that he had two years in the England set-up when Martin Johnson was manager and didn’t progress. There could be no better mentor for an aspiring lock than Johnson and yet Lawes played like a dunce for most of 2011. So far the Lawes’ show has been a non-event.
06: Chris Ashton
The England wing does this big showy swan dive thing when he scores tries and the English love him for it. They confuse a showy dive with being a great player.
True, Ashton has scored a lot of tries – 15 when this was being written – so that helps paint the picture of him as a player of considerable talent. But wait a moment here…who has he scored his tries against?
Not exactly heavyweights of the world game; four have come against Italy, three against Romania and two against Georgia. Frankly, Neemia Tialata could have landed the same haul if he’d been on the wing for those games. Ashton is all dandy when he’s asked to finish an overlap. But can he beat players one-on-one? Can he create from nothing? Does he have any wider football skills?
Obviously the answer – so we believe – is no, otherwise he wouldn’t be on this list. He’s not a bad player – just nowhere near the legend some believe he is.
05: Robbie Robinson
Excuse us for not being in anyway interested when Robbie Robinson signed with the Chiefs. It’s hardly as if the Highlanders were heart-broken to lose him. They didn’t put up much of a fight to keep him and there wasn’t a single tear shed in their soup when he left.
“Oh no…what will we do now?” they didn’t ever wail because they have the far superior Colin Slade and Ben Smith to play at 10 and 15. They were probably sniggering away when the Chiefs, chests all puffed and talking of a bright new future, paraded their new signing. “He is a good man, has an excellent skill set with the ability to play both 15 and 10. That sort of versatility is crucial for such a demanding campaign,” said new Chiefs coach Dave Rennie when he signed Robinson.
Excellent skill-set huh! What, like he can make himself invisible for an entire game? The sad truth about Robinson is that he’s neither a 10 nor a 15 – he lacks the breadth of vision and snappy hands for the former and the explosive power for the latter. He can accelerate and deviate – but so too can blue-arse flies and in a couple of years, Robinson will be playing somewhere God forsaken in Europe and no doubt eventually be capped by England who have an insatiable appetite for over-rated Kiwis who were chocolate tea-pot standard in Super Rugby. Think Riki Flutey… Mark van Gisbergen…Thomas Waldrom.
04: Freddie Michalak
There is no question Michalak played a critical role in knocking the All Blacks out of the 2007 World Cup. He made an important pass that helped France score an important try. So we all remember him and think he’s something brilliant. But in actual fact, he’s really not.
When he played Super Rugby for the Sharks in 2008 he was decidedly ordinary. When he returned midway through last year’s campaign, he wasn’t any better. He played so far from the traffic that he posed little or no threat to the defensive line.
He doesn’t kick the ball all that well and is a tiny, titchy little thing exclusively reliant on being elusive rather than powerful. To be fair it was easy to see why he was so highly rated at first. He was a halfback initially – nimble and lively around the fringes with the added attraction of being able to goal-kick. But from 2003 he was used mostly as a first five and never had the same impact.
It also became apparent from 2003 that under pressure he was a bit useless – he couldn’t hit a barn door during the World Cup semi-final against England. He hasn’t really looked like a genuine test player for the better part of five years yet he remains super high profile in France and beyond.
It’s probably something to do with his smouldering looks and marketability because it can’t be for his rugby. But give him his dues, he knows how to cash in on his fame and underserved rating. While he has absolutely no business being anywhere a test jersey, he can still talk about his desire to be back in one and be taken seriously. He said at the end of last year: “I want to play with Les Bleus again and that is easier when you play in Europe.” It’s also easier when you play like an international footballer – but let’s not worry about that insignificant detail Freddie.
03: Danny Cipriani
Casual followers of Super Rugby could be easily confused into thinking Danny Cipriani is in fact a rugby genius. He won seven caps for England as a 20-year-old and that was enough to have some hailing him the best five eighth in world rugby.
But really, the hype around Cipriani was built on the fact he was capable of occasionally running through a gap. Maybe after almost 10 years of Jonny Wilkinson the English were desperate for a more adventurous, skilled player. Jonny was metronomic but he was no runner or passer. So Cipriani came along – moderately capable of playing a running game – and imaginations were allowed to run wild. The English lost the plot – they were so desperate to believe they had found someone special that they ignored the fact Cipriani couldn’t tackle a plastic bag or stick to a game-plan. They allowed his celebrity status – built on his love of high profile ladies and night spots – to be a substitute for genuine achievement. So what that he hadn’t actually proven himself – he was good with the women and loved by the tabloids.
Former England coach Martin Johnson wasn’t buying any of it. He took one look at Cipriani and saw him for what he was – a young kid with a bit of talent but a million miles away from being the total package. Cipriani is big on talk short on substance and seems destined to make more of an impact off the field than he’s ever going to manage on it.
02: Pierre Spies
If test much rugby was all about how tough you are in the gym then Pierre Spies would be the best No 8 in world rugby. The fact tests are won by graft, courage, ability to smash the hard yards and blast over the gainline is a bit of a problem for Spies as he doesn’t do much of that. Still, that doesn’t stop him from rating himself. “That player is still in the making. It’s me,” was his response in 2009 when he was asked who he saw as the best No 8 in world rugby. “Look I’m going to make no excuses for having confidence in my ability. If you look at the guys out there not much separates them. I’d like to think I have that extra bit that sets me apart.”
Well it’s nice that you think that Pierre – but if you are going to dream why not make it of something worthwhile like world peace and the eradication of famine? Talk about fertile imagination. Where was he when the All Blacks played the Boks at Eden Park in 2010 and Kieran Read stomped all over the show? Oh hang on, that’s right, he was there. As a spectator? Might as well have been. Spies is a glorious athlete but Read is a glorious rugby player.
01: Gavin Henson
Surely everyone realised Gavin Henson was going to feature on this list? Is there a more perplexing obsession than the one the Welsh hold with Mr Perma-tan? Probably not. Henson could hardly have done any less on the world stage. His total achievements are one big tackle and one big goal kick. But off the field – man he’s been prolific. His best form has all been in the bar or on reality TV where apparently, stick him on the dance-floor in a tight, shiny outfit with sequins on it and he starts to move elusively and gracefully. Stick him in the bar and he’s all over it – drinking hard and talking freely. He’s had a brush with the law for an incident on a train that really wasn’t cool and then covered himself in glory at Toulon where he abused his own team-mates before fighting them.
Quite incredibly, though, none of this stops the Welsh from thinking he’s ace. When Henson was on his two-year dancing sabbatical the nation still howled for his inclusion and just as incredibly coach Warren Gatland, an otherwise sane and astute judge, thought it wasn’t such a bad idea. The instant Henson ended his self-imposed exile, he was back in the national set-up and would have made the World Cup had it not been for injury. Amazing, all this fuss for a bloke who has managed three-fifths of stuff all.