Bird-brain plan to stop Burgess boys
Titans co-captain Greg Bird believes his side has to use brains rather than sheer brawn if they hope to win the middle of the ruck against the Burgess boys and a South Sydney forward pack he says are the benchmark of the competition.
With a game against a resurgent Rabbitohs outfit followed by a local derby against the Broncos next Friday night, the next fortnight presents the perfect opportunity for the Titans to quieten those detractors who question their current lofty position on the table with an even bigger crowd expected than which turned out for the Broncos game in Round 5.
Sam, George and Luke Burgess have all been named in the Rabbitohs squad for Saturday night at Cbus Super Stadium and stopping the forward momentum of Sam and George in particular shapes as the Titans' greatest challenge.
Only once this year has either Sam or George been kept to under 100 metres in a game and in 10 of 15 occasions they have each run for more than 150 metres, coming up with an astonishing 417 metres between them in their last outing against the Broncos.
While teams such as the Sea Eagles and Wests Tigers have successfully employed a tactic of matching fire with fire against South Sydney, Bird believes it will be in the Titans' best interests to approach the challenge from a more thoughtful angle.
"You can't sell those big guys short," Bird said. "You can't just say, 'Get under their skin and we'll win.' They'll come back at us times 10 because they're big and aggressive blokes. It's not just going to be a bash-up in the middle, there will probably be a lot of strategy that we'll discuss later.
"I think [the mobility of our forward pack] is one of our strengths and that's something we're probably going to focus on a little bit, our mobility and their size.
"We know where they're going to be coming. They're going to be coming down the middle, they're going to be coming aggressive and we've got to hold our own in defence, which I think we've been quite strong at the last few rounds.
"We're going to have to do a lot of work with them, tiring them out, twisting them up and throwing options at their defence rather than just carting it up into them."
Sam scored a double and George got a try of his own when the Rabbitohs disposed of the Titans 36-6 in their last outing at Robina in 2013, a dominant performance that has not been forgotten north of the border, Bird saying that they "embarrassed" them on their home turf.
"It's exciting, you want to test yourself against the best and they're certainly the best," was Bird's summation of the South Sydney forward pack. "They probably started [the season] a little bit slow but they're a force, especially with 'GI' (fullback Greg Inglis) at the back. As soon as those big guys get on a roll he comes flying through the middle and it doesn't get any easier.
"We did play a really good strong game against [the Tigers] but it's really going to be no comparison to coming up against the Burgess boys. They're internationals and have done it for a couple of years now and they're only getting better every game.
"Sam Burgess is probably playing the best footy of his life. He's made a point that he's come to play this year before he takes off to England and he's going to be a force this weekend."
As for stopping 194-centimetre and 120-kilogram George, the rugged Titans back-rower said it was a matter of executing their defence as they would for any other player... only better.
"Get up in front of him and get in his face," Bird said of how to limit George's impact. "You want to slow him down before he gets a head of speed up because when he gets those legs pumping he's pretty hard to bring down.
"Staying tight and getting numbers in the tackle, just all the things we do with the smaller guys but you've just got to be better at it with George and Sam because they're not just big, they can step and they've got speed, so it's going to be a mission."
Titans hooker Beau Falloon spent plenty of time playing alongside George in the NSW Cup with North Sydney when he first arrived from England in 2011 and despite his initial lack of mobility, had no doubt he would develop into a dominant force.
"He used to do what he's doing now in NSW Cup at North Sydney so I always knew he was going to be a good player," Falloon said.
"He was only really young, he was only 20 years old and playing a lot of 20s and NSW Cup just earning his stripes, but he's got all the experience behind him now and he's taken his opportunity and making the most of it.
"George has proved to be a world-class player, he plays for his country and he's one of [Souths'] big-game players and if you don't commit to tackling him 100 per cent you're going to find yourself on your backside."