Well, you’ll obviously start your search for a front row in Argentina, you’ll go looking for your flankers in New Zealand and you’ll expect to get a couple of ugly, great boilerhouse locks from England. Wales should provide a couple of fly-half contenders, South Africa should give you your centres and your wingers will both speak French. And you might even treat yourself to a Scottish full-back.

And at number nine? Dead easy. The easiest of the lot, in fact. Because if your search starts anywhere other than Australia then you’ve probably taken a wrong turning. If it ends anywhere other than Australia you’ve probably taken a lot of drugs.

The globalisation of rugby, a crowded Test calendar and the free traffic of players between countries should have sounded the death knell for distinctive national characteristics, but it is a refreshingly persistent feature of the game that a few old stereotypes still exist. And if anyone doubted that Australia is still the spiritual home of the scrum-half they only had to turn up at Twickenham last weekend to see how wrong they were.

Will Genia gave one of the all-time great performances for the Wallabies as they beat England 18-9, one of those here-there-and-everywhere masterclasses of half-back play. He was sharp, he was clever and he was wonderfully effective. By the end of the game he had collected a try, an absurdly large piece of crystal as the Man of the Match, and the unswerving admiration of the rugby world.

His display was also a thumping reaffirmation of the importance of trad-
itional scrum-half virtues and traditional scrum-half proportions. The number nine role has not seen the big is beaut-iful arms races that other positions have suffered, but some coaches still seem to have expected their scrum-halves to stand over six feet and be able to arm-wrestle Ricky Hatton.

Genia is built along more old-
fashioned lines, only 5ft 9in and just over 13st. Granted, he packs a lot of muscle on that diminutive frame, but his slight stature means he can go for gaps that others would only consider after a lengthy programme on the Atkins Diet. Better still, he has the awareness to choose his moment to make a break and the pace off the mark and the balance in his running to make the most of it. There is no more dangerous player around the fringes in the world game today.

Over the top? We shall see. Specif-ically, we shall see what Ireland can do to counter the threat of Genia at Croke Park this afternoon and what Scotland will do about him when the tyro terror turns up at Murrayfield next weekend. In Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip, Ireland have two of the best defensive loose forwards in the game today; if Genia can work his magic against them then his threat will concentrate the minds of Scotland’s coaches for the next six days.

A parallel concern, of course, is that Genia will concentrate the minds too much, that the threats offered by others in the Wallabies side might be overlooked. If the first job for the Irish and Scottish defences is to make life uncomfortably claustrophobic for Genia, to deny him the wriggle room he needs for his trademark breaks, then the second is to remember that there is still Matt Giteau in the first receiver slot if the scrum-half is forced to move the ball on.

Robbie Deans, the Wallabies’ coach, is all too well aware that Genia showed his hand at Twickenham a week ago. “It is easy in the first instance,” said the former Canterbury full-back who played five Tests for the All Blacks. “But the key to really establishing himself is that he’s got to keep developing. He’s got to keep improving. Most importantly for Will is that he has to master the team skills. I’m not suggesting he won’t. What I am suggesting is that his circumstance will never be the same, because as awareness grows of his 
capabilities, what he is confronting will change. It will be a moving target.”

Rugby has a depressingly rich history of next big things who vanished almost as suddenly as they had arrived. However, the signs are that Genia is unlikely to add to their number. Level-headed, humble even, no one is more aware than he is of the need to be 
vigilant and the importance of adding layers to his game.

No one, that is, with the possible exception of Chris Lane, the schools coach who took Genia under his wing when he arrived at Brisbane Boys College nine years ago. “Will would stay back after school training until he kicked a left-foot field goal from near the sideline,” Lane recalled. “Whether it was for pride or a milkshake bet with me, he had the desire to work to make something of his rugby.”

That desire has been a constant in Genia’s life since his earliest years in Papua New Guinea. His father Kilroy was, at various points, defence, justice and foreign affairs minister in the Papua New Guinean government, but the young Genia grew up obsessed with Australian sport. His earliest hero was Steve Waugh and his earliest sporting experiences were centred on cricket games staged in the backyard of his home in Port Moresby. The Papua New Guinea capital has the dubious distinction of being ranked by the Economist magazine as the worst capital city in the world to live in. It has a murder rate three times that of Moscow and an adult unemployment rate of close to 75% . It was, to be frank, a good place to get out of at the age of 12.

Despite knowing little of rugby union – his other main passion had been rugby league – Genia’s natural skills and his fearless relish for physical 
contact marked him out as a star of the future from his early teenage years. He played at various age-grade levels, but the most significant part of the process was that he was selected to play for the Queensland Reds Super 14 team in 2007 before he had played a single senior club game. He made his full Test debut for the Wallabies against New Zealand in Auckland this year. His finger has been on the fast-forward button since.

Can he keep it there? There is huge pressure on the 21-year-old from the Australian public. But then, they have good reason to have high expectations of a man in green and gold who wears the number nine on his back.