Schif in running for Latham's Test spot - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Schif in running for Latham's Test spot

By Jim Morton 09/01/2007 07:06:50 PM Comments (0)

Chris Latham's season-ending injury has propelled league convert Clinton Schifcofske into World Cup contention and increased Queensland's interest in luring home Toutai Kefu.

Schifcofske, poised to take Latham's Reds No.15 jersey in the Super 14, is among a handful of players viewed as potential Test replacements.

With 2006 back-up Mat Rogers released to play in the NRL with Gold Coast, Wallabies coach John Connolly admitted the fullback position was wide open.

Western Force and Australia A fullback Cameron Shepherd will start the season as the frontrunner but will be challenged by the likes of Mark Gerrard, Sam Norton-Knight, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Schifcofske.

The former Canberra Raiders skipper, 31, was overlooked for a place in the Wallabies' extended 47-man squad for last week's fitness camp but Connolly will watch his progress closely.

"It's open across the board I would suggest," said the Australian coach, who originally opposed the ARU's decision to release Rogers.

"It would have been nice (to have kept Rogers) but that's gone now and we have to get on with it."

Showing the size of Latham's loss, following a freak training accident which has left him needing a knee reconstruction, Connolly rated him one of the least expendable payers in the country.

"We have two or three of them but he would be in the grand final," he said.

Latham's injury has left the Reds with three vacancies in their 33-man squad three weeks before the Super 14 kicks off following an injury to back-rower Ben Mowen (shoulder) and doubts over the availability of Japan-based former Highlanders centre Ryan Nicholas.

Reds coach Eddie Jones is doing his best to find a big-name replacement but has ruled out former Wallabies winger and fullback Joe Roff, who played his last game for Oxford University last month.

But he did admit the Reds were looking closer at bringing back Kefu from Japan to shore up their stocks of strike weapons.

"It doesn't really help us in terms of position but we have to move reasonably quickly," he said.

"Over the next week and a half, if we're serious about drafting him into the squad we'd have to do it over that period of time."

Kefu is contracted to Kubota until the end of the Japanese competition next month but may also be out of Queensland's financial reach.

Jones, to trial both Schifcofske and Peter Hynes at fullback in the Reds three Super 14 warm-ups, has guaranteed the code-crosser would make his starting 15.

He is reluctant to place too much pressure on Schifcofske by talking up his Test claims but cheekily questioned whether the ARU will show serious interest after refusing to offer him a central contract.

"He'll be a useful player but you've got to remember the ARU didn't want him in rugby," he said.

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