Mortlock eyes third World Cup campaign - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mortlock eyes third World Cup campaign

By Darren Walton 03/12/2008 04:11:45 PM Comments (0)

Reinvigorated and enjoying career-best form, Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock says he will consider playing on until the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

A shattered Mortlock had to be talked out of playing out his career overseas after Australia's World Cup quarter-final flop in France last year and it was widely thought he would hang up his boots when his current contract with the ARU expires in 2010.

But the powerhouse centre now says he'll weigh up his future in the next 12-18 months and is not ruling out a third World Cup campaign in New Zealand in three years.

"By no means am I going to close the door. No way," Mortlock told AAP.

Mortlock has the full backing of Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, who has encouraged his inspirational captain to play on "for as long as he wants".

"Stirling's getting younger by the day," Deans said. "I wouldn't limit his rugby life span."

Mortlock would be 34 at the next World Cup, but Deans believes it is "absolutely" realistic for the 76-Test veteran to target the tournament as a possible swansong.

"It can be done," Deans said.

Along with five-eighth Matt Giteau, Mortlock has been the form back on the Wallabies' spring tour and fans got an insight into the skipper's true value when he was poleaxed in the opening minutes of last Saturday's 21-18 loss to Wales at Millennium Stadium.

Without Mortlock's midfield presence and team leadership, the Wallabies slumped to their only defeat in four Tests in Europe.

"You've only got to look at games this year. He's at the thick of everything that happens," Deans said.

"When you look at the amount of leadership we've lost this year, in terms of historical leadership - Gregan, Larkham, Latham, Vickerman, Elsom - it's been important to us to have blokes like Stirling who understand the arena, understand what's required.

"Not only in terms of playing but also in terms of preparation. He loves the occasion."

Deans suspects the influx of youth in the Wallabies ranks this year plus Mortlock's move from outside to inside centre had been key factors in his skipper's rejuvenation.

"He's really enjoying his rugby and I think he's quite enjoyed the challenge of the positional switch," Deans said.

"It's brought with it some different requirements in terms of time and space and skill set, but he's enjoying being extended.

"It's probably advantageous from a leadership perspective as well. Being a bit closer to the action, allows him to get involved and inspire."

Mortlock admitted the culture change since Deans took over as Wallabies coach in June had revitalised him.

"I'm not one who lacks energy but I guess this season has given me a resurgence in just my enthusiasm levels," he said. "I've been up the whole time.

"Last year coming off the World Cup and all that was last year, it was a big disappointment and I had to make a decision on where I wanted to go.

"And as soon as I made a decision, it gave me a huge amount of drive and passion to hopefully be part of the renewal process and I've just been loving it.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying being associated with footy. The environment is really conducive to that and this group of guys are a great bunch of guys to be a part of.

"Maybe in a year or so it will be time to sit down and hopefully my form and everything are in the right shape.

"If they're not, so be it. But I will be doing everything in my power to make sure they are."

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