Burke backs Gerrard as Wallaby fullback - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Burke backs Gerrard as Wallaby fullback

By Jim Morton 14/05/2008 03:04:22 PM Comments (0)

Australia's most-capped fullback Matt Burke has called for Mark Gerrard to be Chris Latham's successor as the Wallabies No.15.

With the injured Latham's international career over, Burke believes the versatile Gerrard's form for the Brumbies has made him the best fullback in the country.

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

Outgoing Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher 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 England-based Burke, who 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."

Shepherd, 23, replaced Gerrard in the Wallabies 30-man squad at the Rugby World Cup last September when the Brumbies utility ruptured knee ligaments in his first involvement in the tournament.

Burke felt young Waratahs speedster Lachlan Turner was a fullback of the future but would only realise his potential when NSW gave him full responsibility for the position he's shared this season.

The 35-year-old hoped 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."

Considering continuing his career with Newcastle in the English club premiership, Burke lauded the career of Latham who was for many seasons the main contender for his No.15 jersey.

The Queenslander was understudy to NSW's rival Burke during the 1999 World Cup triumph, and also watched on behind Mat Rogers in 2003 before starting every Test in last year's 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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