Burke backs Gerrard for Wallabies No.15 jersey


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Australia’s most-capped fullback Matt Burke has called for Mark Gerrard to become Chris Latham’s successor at No.15 for the Wallabies.

Latham’s international career is now over due to injury and Burke believes the versatile Gerrard’s form for the Brumbies has made him the best fullback in the country.

The other contender Cameron Shepherd of the Western Force is a slight favourite for the job after he was nominated by Latham as his likely replacement when the 79-Test veteran learnt he faced surgery on a torn pectoral muscle.

Shepherd also has the advantage of recent playing experience with Matt Giteau who it is believed has replaced Larkham for the Number 10 jersey.

Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher who leaves his post next week has also indicated Gerrard, who has never started any of his 23 Tests at fullback, needs to improve his consistency to be considered a long-term Test No.15.

But Burke who now plays for Newcastle Falcons in England and played 81 Tests for Australia from 1995-2004, felt the 25-year-old’s improvement in an inexperienced Brumbies backline suggested he was ready to make a full conversion from the wing.

“I think you’ve got to give it to Mark Gerrard,” Burke told Fox Sports.

“He’s the one who’s been stepping up in the Brumbies backline this year.

“He’s been able to lead their young blokes around.

“He’s got a strong boot, good footwork and a good step so he should be the first one chosen.”

Interestingly Shepherd, 23, replaced Gerrard in the Wallabies 30-man squad at the Rugby World Cup last September when Gerrard was ruled out for injury.

Burke also felt that young Waratahs speedster Lachlan Turner was a fullback of the future but would only realise his potential when the Waratahs gave him full responsibility for the position that he has shared this season with Sam Norton Knight and even Lote Tuqiri.

England based Burke, 35, hopes that incoming Wallabies coach Robbie Deans would blend Australia’s emerging young talent with seasoned international campaigners in a tough 2008 campaign.

“You’re going to be playing against teams like New Zealand and South Africa, and France and Ireland are coming out, these are intimidating teams,” he said.

“You can’t choose a team that is too fresh. They get mentally tired and beaten up.

“You have to partner them with older guys.

“(But) when you have a new coach and talent coming through it would be sad not to use that talent.”

Burke also lauded the career of Latham who was for many seasons Burke’s opposition for the No.15 jersey before Mat Rogers took the spot for most of 2003.

By 2007 Latham had nailed down the fullback jersey and started every Test in last year’s world cup campaign in France.

“He was able to produce things that were out of the ordinary,” Burke said.

“He got Australia out of trouble a numerous amount of times.”

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