Thursday 27 October 2016

Blues need Big Ben fit for Bath

Leinster centre in race to overcome gluteal strain

Ben Te'o, Leinster, is tackled by Marco Fuser, Treviso
Ben Te'o, Leinster, is tackled by Marco Fuser, Treviso

New Zealander Ben Te'o and Englishman Sam Burgess are what Australians like to call great mates.

They even use to be great team-mates at South Sydney Rabbitohs.

They both concluded their National Rugby League careers - or se we thought - with the glory of a Grand Final garland around their necks in 2014.

At that time, coincidentally, it marked the end of their personal stories in one code and the beginning in another.

While Burgess joined Bath Rugby as a convert to union, Te'o moved to Leinster in a return to the game.

This could be the main and decisive difference between two men on experimental missions.

Burgess had to deal with the pressure of being hailed as the missing link that would turn England from good to great.

Essentially, he was badly treated, pushed between centre by England and eventually flanker by Bath without mastering one or the other on a fast-track into international rugby.

On arrival in Dublin, Te'o fractured his forearm and worked his way back into the game further from prying eyes.

Whatever both would do in season one, they were destined to be better for the experience in season two.

The Champions Cup draw even pitched Leinster and Bath into the same Pool of Death, where the friends would surely meet in a match of muscle and skill.


Burgess was thrown into the deep end of the World Cup and sank without trace on board the bad ship England.

Then, the bombshell came exploding out of the English club. Burgess had agreed to go rejoin The Rabbitohs.

Bath coach Mike Ford felt "he didn't have the stomach" to complete the transition.

Burgess said his heart and family were in Sydney.

It all amounted to the same difference. All the while, Te'o has been linked with rumours of a return to Australia, the Brisbane Broncos the latest to be linked with the 28-year-old.

The headline on an article in The Courier Mail yesterday read 'Sam Burgess return could pave the way for Ben Te'o's move to Brisbane.'

Meanwhile, he has been relearning, growing in one position and in a code he has already played during his teenage years.

"I think Ben has performed really for us in the games that he's played so far this year," said coach Leo Cullen.

The man is a physical freak with fast feet and fine lines complemented by soft hands.

There is a fair argument to be made that Leinster missed him more than anyone else against Wasps as he repairs from a gluteal strain.

All the pretty patterns in the world come to nothing without penetration somewhere along the line.

Leinster are already on the brink in Europe.

They need an arrowhead in attack.

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