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Connolly: ‘No more shadow-boxing’



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Australian coach, John Connolly, who goes by the nickname of ‘Knuckles’, has asserted that any “shadow-boxing” that may have taken place in the past in terms of Test selection is now at an end.

Speaking in Cape Town on Monday ahead of his side’s fixture with the Springboks at Newlands in that city on Saturday, Connolly said that his experimentation in the past couple of Tests had been done according to “design”.

Speaking about the significance of the Saturday Test, Connolly defended the relevance of all Test matches.

“All Tests are relevant, no matter the World Cup situation, it’s about representing your country.

“There has been a bit of shadow-boxing, as the coaches are all ware of the need to grow depth in your squad going ahead with the sides.

“But I expect both teams on Saturday to be at their full-strength.”

Connolly has done his chief experimentation at scrum-half, with Matt Giteau getting extended game time in the place of George Gregan.

“It was a catch-22 selection, as we lose Giteau’s presence at twelve when we play him at nine, but there is no doubt that he could be a great attacking scrum-half.

“But that increased running does cut down space for the outside backs, so that would be something we would need to work on in refining his game.”

Indeed those concerns would seem to ensure that George Gregan will likely retain his starting role in this his final year of Test rugby.

“Obviously there are 50/50 calls one has to make in selection, but we are no different to South Africa in that regard.”

Traditionally the Wallabies have struggled in South Africa, but Connolly pointed to the success of some of Australia’s provincial sides as a sign of encouragement.

But despite that, the Australian failure to land a play-off spot was concerning.

“It’s not great for our sides to practice losing, but that said, when we put out our best fifteen onto the park, we will be competitive.”

By Chris Waldburger 365 Digital

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