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Paul heaps more pressure on Connolly


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The pressure on John Connolly and the ARU is increasing, after veteran hooker Jeremy Paul stood down from the Australia A team to play Tonga on Friday and insisted he be released from his ARU contract to take up his place at Gloucester in the Guinness Premiership.

Paul failed to make the 30-man Australia senior squad for the June Tests and believes himself to be out of Rugby World Cup contention, despite Connolly’s protestations to the contrary.

With Connolly insisting that Paul is still a part of the RWC planning, the ARU are refusing a move until the Australia squad is finalised, meaning Paul must stay in Australia until well past the beginning of Gloucester’s pre-season training.

“Jeremy is still very much in World Cup reckoning,” Connolly said.

“Three hookers may well go to France and it’s a very contentious position at the moment. We could also get an injury or two and that would change everything.

“If we do review Jeremy’s position it would only be after the World Cup team is selected.”

But Paul is adamant that his non-selection is enough for him already.

“I just want to move on to the next chapter of my life. And this is not a knee-jerk reaction where I haven’t been picked so I’m going to spit my dummy,” said Paul to the Daily Telegraph on Monday over his decision to stand down and ask for the release.

“You play those (Australia A) games to get back into World Cup contention. Well, that sort of defeats the whole purpose of asking for a release.

“I’ve got a bad shoulder at the moment.. I was pretty happy to play injured for the Brumbies but not now. No more jabs.”

But still, the decision to select him only for the Australia A squad rankles, especially as he was playing near the top of his game at the end of the Super 14 tournament.

“If I finished the Super 14 season the way I started, I would understand (being overlooked),” he said.

“My first six games this year were rubbish. But I don’t think I could have played any better over the last half of the competition.

“At the end of the day, John talks about picking on form. Yet he’s picked a captain (Phil Waugh) who has only played a couple of games all season. So where’s the picking on form?

“You can pull the form card out when you want it, but it’s pretty hard to take.”

Stephen Moore and Adam Freier were the two hookers preferred for the Welsh series.

The brewing row will be unwelcome news to the ARU and Connolly, who are already involved in a similar dispute over Peter Hewat wanting an early release after his non-selection, and under pressure from sections of the media over the choice of Phil Waugh and Stirling Mortlock as co-captains rather than just choosing one leader.

Hewat said on Monday he would take his place in the Australia A team for the Tonga match, but he will still push for his release so he can go to a London club – believed to be Saracens.

“Nothing has changed,” he said.

“I’m surprised to be here after not being named as one of the top 59 players a couple of weeks ago. But I’m looking forward to playing some footy and hopefully proving some people wrong.”


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