Australia coach John Connolly today defended his team’s performances on their European tour and maintained the trip provided an excellent learning experience for both him and his players leading into next year’s World Cup.
The Wallabies arrived back home today having produced wins over Scotland and Italy, a draw with Wales and a defeat to Ireland on their four-Test tour which saw Connolly experiment with his backline.
“We are not competing with the critics,” said Connolly.
“We are doing what we think is best for the team. The players are trying as hard as they can, it’s all you can do.
“The All Blacks are obviously setting the bar very high, but the rest of the countries are chasing them.”
The most significant changes saw regular fly-half Stephen Larkham at centre, while centre Matt Giteau saw extensive action as a scrum-half.
Connolly was hopeful of persuading Western Force coach John Mitchell to continue to use Giteau in the new role in the coming Super 14 series, but Mitchell has indicated his star recruit will be back at centre.
Despite playing in somewhat unfamiliar territory, Larkham backed the shake-up.
“A few of the experiments are the ones that we needed to try,” he said.
“We’ve done that now and the coaches and selectors can have a few different options when they are selecting teams from now on.”
Larkham said he was looking forward to a rest having travelled extensively recently, but admitted he and the rest of the Wallabies camp already had an eye on World Cup preparations.
“I think it took its toll on some of the players across the board,” he said of the tour.
“But next year I know the coaches have already spoken about some lessons that they have learned from this year in terms of rotating some players earlier on and even through the Tri-Nations, so that by the time the World Cup comes around the majority of the team will be fresh.”