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Connolly hits the panic button


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Scott Staniforth, who was part of the World Cup-winning Wallaby squad of 1999, has been recalled to the side by coach John Connolly. This is one of the nine changes Connolly has made ahead of Australia’s one-off test match against Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Connolly, who completely reshuffled his backline, has made five changes to his pack in what appears to be the reaction of a panic-stricken coach.

He is hoping that Staniforth will add some guile and grit to his ‘monster midfield’, which failed in such spectacular fashion against Ireland last week. Staniforth takes up the organising role of inside centre, shifting captain Mortlock to outside centre and Lote Tuqiri back to the wing.

Staniforth made his debut against the USA in the 1999 World Cup. Only making a second appearance for the Wallabies against Italy in 2002, he then struggled with injuries, before heading north to play for London Irish, leaving New South Wales, as well as any dreams of a return to the test arena.

He returned this year to play wing for new Australian Super 14 franchise, Western Force. A bout of injuries for the Perth side saw him take up the No.12 jersey. His scintillating Super 14 form – he was the Force’s player of the year and leading Australian try-scorer in the competition – meant he earned a previously unlikely call-up to the national squad.

After turning in some solid performances for the ‘A’ side, Staniforth has been duly rewarded by his coach.

He told the Australian Associated Press that “the flame” has always been there to play for the Wallabies, although when he left for London Irish, he thought “it was all over”.

“So it’s good to get back into the fold and I’ve really enjoyed this year.”

“At the moment, we’ve got a full deck on board so it’s good to get an opportunity when everyone is fit.”

It must be worrying, however, for coach John Connolly that with a squad at full fitness, including stars like Larkham, Giteau and Mortlock, he has battled to find a winning combination.

Staniforth seems to be the next option in a long line of desperate searches for a winning backline formula.

Connolly has kept faith with his halves, Stephen Larkham (No.10) and Matt Giteau (No.9), as well as fullback Chris Latham, but has shifted everybody else.

Many experts consider the backline not to be the issue at all when it comes to the Wallabies’ recent woes.

Historically Australia teams have always struggled to produce dominating front rankers and Connolly’s appreciation of this is demonstrated by the changes he has made in the front row.

Veteran hooker Brendan Cannon has been looked over in favour of Stephen Moore, while Al Baxter has given way to rookie Benn Robinson. Mark Chisholm is given the chop as Al Campbell grabs a starting spot, while Connolly looks to a revamped back row to up Wallaby possession stakes.

Australia: 15 Chris Latham (vice-captain), 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Stirling Mortlock (captain), 12 Scott Staniforth, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 Matt Giteau, 8 David Lyons, 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Al Campbell, 4 Nathan Sharpe (vice-captain) 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Mark Chisholm, 19 Phil Waugh, 20 Wycliff Palu/Stephen Hoiles, 21 Josh Valentine, 22 Mat Rogers

Date: Saturday, 25 November
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.30 GMT
Referee: Donal Courtney (Ireland)
Touch judges: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Hugh Watkins (Wales),
Television match official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie (France)

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