Genia in a bottle
Skysports.com speak exclusively to Australia scrum-half Will Genia
By Mark Kendall - Twitter: @SkySportsMK. Last Updated: 26/07/12 11:29am
At 24 years of age, Queensland Reds and Australia scrum-half Will Genia has the rugby world at his nimble feet.
Having already captained both club and country, Genia is mature beyond his years and now widely regarded as the outstanding number nine in world rugby.
A stellar 2011 saw Genia experience Super Rugby and Tri-Nations glory, as well as a run to the semi-finals of the World Cup in New Zealand.
Individual accolades followed, having picked up Queensland's player of the year award for a second season running, he was voted the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year by Australian writers and also secured a nomination for the IRB International Player of the Year award.
Such extensive success was always going to prove tough to follow and 2012 has brought challenges both on and off the field that Genia would not have foreseen.
But the dynamic scrum-half came through them in typically impressive fashion, his quality underlined by the fact he retained his Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year title on Thursday.
But his pride at that award is overshadowed by disappointment given that, last weekend, he and his club team-mates surrendered their Super Rugby crown following an unexpected defeat to the Sharks - the frustration heightened by the circumstances that accompanied the loss.
"It was obviously very disappointing," Genia told skysports.com. "From our point of view we just didn't start well. The first 20 minutes of the game we felt we built pressure inside their 22 and then we just made silly errors.
"We were chasing the game and when you give away 17 points in finals rugby it's all always hard to get back into the game."
"We're very disappointed not to be involved in the semi-finals and finals, but the season that we had we suffered an horrendous amount of injuries to key players at key times.
"When you're without guys like Quade Cooper and Anthony Fainga'a you're obviously going to struggle. So given the circumstances we were presented with I think we did quite well this season and you can take positives from that.
"But I think we're a much better team than just being in the post-season and saying that's good enough."
However, Genia took some solace from his own displays which got stronger as the tournament progressed.
Reconnected with the Reds
"I was pretty happy with the way I performed and contributed towards the team, that's all I can do at the end of the day, contribute as positively as I can. I was pretty happy with my tournament from a personal point of view."
Of course, midway through the season, Genia's days at the Reds had seemed numbered with a lucrative switch to the Western Force seemingly a formality.
But having reconnected with the club in the nick of time, the scrum-half signed a new three-year deal and acknowledges he could not now see himself pulling on another jersey.
"To be honest it is on a different level when you play against the All Blacks; the rivalry and the passion amongst the two sides is immense, you can feel it in every bit of contact you're a part of. It's probably the toughest rugby that I play when we play against New Zealand."
Will Genia Quotes of the week
"There were definitely thoughts there for a while that I was going," he continued. "I agreed a deal to play with the Western Force and it was only after a good performance against the Blues in Round 10 that I realised, 'was I ever going to feel the same sort of satisfaction after a good win playing for another club?'
"I just realised I'd worked too hard along with a lot of other guys and people in the organisation to build the Reds to where we are now just to give up and turn my back on the club.
"The new contract has undoubtedly helped my game. I felt looking back on everything I was just unsure about where I was going to be and it was weighing on my mind.
"I started playing rugby for the wrong reasons, trying to prove a point and whatnot as opposed to just playing to enjoy it.
"Once I found that stability and felt sure as to where I was going to be I just concentrated on playing well and doing my job for the team. My performances then started to pick up and I played a lot better."
And so with the domestic season done, Genia's thoughts are now turning to the Wallabies and the inaugural four-team Rugby Championship.
Does the introduction of Argentina into the traditional Tri-Nations mix add extra excitement? "Yeah definitely, it's been a long time coming.
"It's always been the Tri-Nations with just three sides and to add Argentina, who will bring their own style to the competition, it spices things up. It broadens the audience of the competition and it can only be good for the game.
Argentina adding excitement
"It's very exciting from a personal point of view, and speaking to the other boys, the opportunity not only just to travel there (Argentina), but also playing a different style of rugby that we're not used to on a more consistent basis."
But for the time being the Pumas can wait, because to open their campaign Australia face the small matter of a Bledisloe Cup double-header with arch rivals New Zealand.
"I think it's the best start that we could have," Genia insists. "We were fortunate enough to win the Tri-Nations trophy last year which was the last ever tournament with three teams. Now with it moving to the Rugby Championship it would be a pretty big thing to win that.
"But the Bledisloe Cup is obviously the big one that we haven't won for a long time and to have that opportunity right at the start of the tournament is really good. You're better off catching the All Blacks right at the start than when they build their way into the tournament.
"To be honest it is on a different level when you play against the All Blacks; the rivalry and the passion amongst the two sides is immense, you can feel it in every bit of contact you're a part of.
"The speed of the game is always very quick and there's just that passion and aggression because of the history and tradition between the sides. It's probably the toughest rugby that I play when we play against New Zealand."
After the All Blacks comes a showdown with South Africa before their opening clash with Argentina a week later.
Genia admits to watching the Springboks in their recent three-match home series with England - a series they would go on to win 2-0.
But it was the performance of England, and his fellow scrum-half Ben Youngs, that particularly caught Genia's eye and he believes they can flourish under Stuart Lancaster's new regime.
"I watched the Test matches against South Africa," he said. "I actually enjoy watching England play, they've good a mixture between the typical Northern hemisphere style of rugby, where they like to play a bit of a kicking game and physical stuff, but also try to be expansive as well and play a different style of rugby.
"I think it suits them because they've got players who can do that, guys like Toby Flood and obviously Ben Youngs - who I think is a great player - and their forward pack can create a very good platform for the backs to do their job.
"I think they're definitely heading in the right direction and they've beaten the Wallabies the last couple of times we've played them."