WILL Genia signalled his emergence as a world-class scrum-half to a northern hemisphere audience for the first time on Saturday as he orchestrated Australia’s successful defence of the Cook Cup defeating England 18-9.
The Papua New Guinea-born No 9 may be struggling to keep up with his senior colleagues in the bid to grow the best moustache for November, but he was head and shoulders ahead of everyone else on the field at Twickenham rightfully earning the man-of-the-match award with a spirited display.
Genia, 21, first prompted suggestions Australia may have finally found a suitable heir to George Gregan, their great scrum-half, during their poor run in this year’s Tri Nations.
His display in the win over England drew platitudes from those who know best. But his half-back partner Matt Giteau refused to compare him with Test rugby’s most-capped player.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, as George Gregan is a legend in the game and a legend in Australia,” said Giteau. “But Willie is a great player and showed how talented he is here.”
Genia scored the opening try for the Australians, who ended their barren recent run with a comfortable victory over a makeshift England.
Adam Ashley-Cooper settled the debate when he barrelled over in the corner midway through the second half.
“He is not one for the future, he’s arrived already,” the former England scrum-half, Dewi Morris, said of Genia.
“Is he really 21?” queried Stuart Barnes, the former England stand-off, who then compared the Queensland Reds scrum-half to the great Wallabies No 9 from their grand slam side of 1984. “He could be Nick Farr-Jones.”
Savouring his “amazing” Twickenham experience, the fearless Genia insisted “there’s no point being nervous”.
“You’ve got to be excited and look forward to the challenge because it’s an opportunity that you never want to take for granted, playing for your country,” he said.
“I just try to be as calm as I can. No point if you’ve made a mistake thinking about it and dwelling on it because you’re just going to make more mistakes.”
“You just take the opportunities as they come really. If it’s on to run, you run. If it’s on to kick, you kick. If it’s on to pass, you pass.
“You’ve just got to be aware of what’s in front of you.”