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Quade Cooper, left, gets most of the praise in Australia, but Will Genia, right, is considered the Wallabies key man by many who play, or have played, the game.
Quade Cooper, left, gets most of the praise in Australia, but Will Genia, right, is considered the Wallabies key man by many who play, or have played, the game.

Genia has the Midas touch for Wallabies

Quade Cooper may get most of the talk, but Will Genia is considered the player Australia would most miss.

Australia's X Factor half-backs appear to have a little of the X-Files in their seemingly supernatural understanding.

The almost telepathic partnership between Quade Cooper and Will Genia has been the driving force behind the Queensland Reds jump from next-to-last in the Super Rugby standings to champions within three seasons.

It is a combination that could tip the balance decisively in Australia's favour should they meet New Zealand in the all-antipodean final many are predicting to take place in Auckland on October 23.

High-profile half-back pairings have contributed heavily to both of Australia's World Cup titles.

The well-heeled combination of Nick Farr-Jones and Michael Lynagh at Nos 9 and 10 was crucial to Australia's win in the 1991 World Cup, and George Gregan's partnership with fly-half Stephen Larkham was instrumental in the 1999 World Cup victory and the run to the final in 2003.

There is no doubt Australia's chances in 2011 hinge on Genia and Cooper, even if they are still only a couple of seasons into their partnership.

While Cooper has captivated seasoned observers with his unorthodox style of play at fly-half, Genia is acknowledged as being the player who makes the Wallabies tick.

"Will finds his No 10 with a good pass," Ewen McKenzie, the Reds coach, said. "He has authority and he leads."

Farr-Jones considers Genia to be the key figure for the Wallabies, the player they cannot afford to be without.

"Will Genia, we all know, is without doubt the best scrum-half in the world, but I'd say leading into the World Cup, along with [the All Blacks fly-half] Dan Carter, he is the most valuable player that any team has," Farr-Jones said.

Larkham concurs.

"Quade Cooper has been given a lot of kudos ... Fair enough, but he has been given that freedom in many ways by Will playing so well inside him," the former Brumbies playmaker said last month.

"That combination at No 9 and No 10 is crucial, and these two guys are very impressive. Will is a great asset in what the Wallabies can achieve with the way he manages the forwards - he also runs the ball better than anyone in Australian rugby." At last, Australia look to have a scrum-half successor to Gregan, the 139-Test former Wallabies captain. Farr-Jones, the 1991 World Cup-winning Australia scrum-half, goes on to add that "if I woke and found out that Genia had a tournament-ending injury, then I'd almost give up on the Wallabies' hopes - he is that good".

The son of a Justice and Foreign Affairs Minister in Papua New Guinea, Genia has been instrumental in helping the Queensland Reds and Australia to some milestone victories.

He has the priceless ability to turn a match on its head with one line break or one fizzing pass. His solo, 65-metre try in the Super 15 final in July broke a 13-all deadlock, and was pivotal in helping Queensland beat the Canterbury Crusaders to win their first Super Rugby title in the professional era.

The other came in the Tri Nations decider: Genia scored an early try as Australia raced to a 20-3 lead over New Zealand last month, but it was his break - astutely using the referee Wayne Barnes as a shield as he scampered up field from behind a ruck - to create a try for Kurtley Beale in the 61st minute that proved to be the significant momentum changer.

New Zealand, who had scored 17 unanswered points to level the match, did not get another good scoring opportunity and went down 25-20, giving Australia their first Tri Nations title in a decade.

"It makes my job a lot easier when the boys work outside me. Credit has to go to the runners outside to create that space," Genia said in understated reflection.

"Just grateful to be in the right place at the right time."

Asked if he can add a World Cup to that collection, Genia replied simply: "Let's hope so. Who knows?"

Simply put by a man who does not tend to make grandiose statements and definitely likes to let his performances do the talking.

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