New Wallabies coach backs Gregan - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

New Wallabies coach backs Gregan

By Glenn Cullen 02/02/2006 06:35:17 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies coach John Connolly has made a meeting with George Gregan the No.1 priority of his new job, giving every indication the besieged captain will feature prominently in the Australian 2007 World Cup campaign.

Connolly, who was officially announced as the replacement for deposed mentor Eddie Jones, is yet to have his assistants finalised and is still sorting out a team selection panel but the 54-year-old put those issues behind touching base with Gregan.

"One hundred and eighteen Tests and I think he is one of Australia's great players - he will be one of the first people I meet with over the next day or so," Connolly said.

"Like everyone else he has things to prove to make the side but I think he is one of Australia's great players and at the moment we only have two or three certain selections in the team."

Connolly wouldn't say whether Gregan was one of those "certainties" but any speculation that the veteran would be put out to pasture under a new coaching regime was quickly brushed aside.

Gregan described Connolly's appointment as a "move forward".

"I spoke to him in the lead-up and I spoke to him obliviously today once the announcement's been made and I'm sure we'll touch base pretty soon," he said.

Hard on the heels of the Gregan issue will be confirming the new coaching structure which Connolly today described as being decidedly flatter than that under autocrat Jones.

There would be attack and defence coaches with another assistant to look solely after restarts.

Welsh assistant Scott Johnson is expected to fill the attack role while former Reds hooker Michael is also in the running to fill one of the secondary positions.

"I think we have a lot of areas we need to improve in," Connolly said.

"I don't think we can hide from the fact where we are sitting - fourth in the IRB (International Rugby Board) standings and a half a point away from being sixth."

Connolly, known for a 10-man style of rugby during his extended coaching tenure with Queensland, will target sorting out Australia's failing set piece, admitting on Thursday the Wallabies were "technically deficient" in a number of areas.

He said he had an open mind in terms of selections.

"You don't come off a big losing streak and think everything is hunky dory," he said.

"Everything is up for grabs and I think that's exciting for the players."

The focus he added was on the World Cup in France but Connolly said he was still aiming to win back the Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cups in his first year at the helm.

"We do focus very much on World Cup because that's the prize over the hill but the Australian public and everyone else expects Australia to perform well every time they go on the field," he said.

Australian Rugby Union chief executive Gary Flowers described Connolly's appointment as a "fresh start" for Australian rugby.

"We strongly believe that we have a very talented and capable coaching team that will address the problems that have recently been identified in the end of season review and by the selection panel," he said.

Despite more than 20 people showing interest in the coaching or assistant roles, Connolly's appointment was essentially secured after Waratahs mentor Ewen McKenzie backed out of the running last month.

Waratahs captain Chris Whitaker had said last week the national coaching position was a "Steven Bradbury" appointment with Connolly essentially the last man standing.

Connolly responded curtly to the reference on Thursday.

"Steven Bradbury won a gold medal at the end, so we'll take that," he said.

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