Mortlock no declining force, says Deans - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mortlock no declining force, says Deans

By Darren Walton and Jim Morton 11/05/2009 05:35:57 PM Comments (0)

He is refusing to guarantee him a walk-up start, but Robbie Deans insists Stirling Mortlock remains well in the mix to retain the Wallabies captaincy in 2009.

Turning 32 next week, Mortlock is under growing pressure from a clutch of younger, in-form players - headed by Queensland dynamo Digby Ioane - to hang on to his Wallabies No.13 jumper in 2009, let alone the national captaincy.

The scrutiny on Mortlock reached fever pitch last month when Brumbies coach Andy Friend shunted the 76-Test stalwart to the wing for the first time in almost a decade of Super rugby.

Deans, though, says Mortlock remains one of the most influential players in Australia, an assertion emphasised in his match-turning display in the Brumbies' season-saving win over the Blues on Saturday night.

"Stirling has shown through Super rugby again that he's still a player who has a presence and an ability to impact on a game - as recently as last weekend," the Wallabies coach said on Monday.

"His acts (on Saturday) were the pivotal acts in the game that turned the momentum.

"But, most importantly, what was evident most of all was his desire. He still wants to make a difference as opposed to just make up the numbers, and that's a critical quality with any player."

Deans said Mortlock, like all players in contention, was well aware he needed to keep performing to gain ongoing Test-match selection.

"There's no guarantees for any player - and they don't want a guarantee," he said.

"Nothing is forever. They're all very aware and conscious of the fact that it will finish some time.

"That's not the point. The point is, what are you going to experience while you're in it and while you're involved and how long do you want to be involved. What is it that excites you?

"And the day they wake up in the morning and they're not excited about it, then that is not a good scene - particularly if they're blokes who do have a guaranteed spot because they're all blokes who take pride in what they do.

"They don't want to be part of a guarantee without a great experience behind them. So it's not an issue."

Deans is spoilt for choice when it comes to outside-centre options, with Ioane proving a revelation during his time in the midfield for the Reds this season, while Ryan Cross and the developing Timana Tahu are also staking claims.

Mortlock, though, remains the man, according to Australia's prince of centres and former Wallabies selector Tim Horan.

Horan on Monday claimed Ioane should be in the Wallabies' starting XV somewhere, but said he'd prefer to see him on wing and Mortlock retained at outside centre.

"Digby Ioane has put his hand up to take 13 or a winging position, so it's going to be difficult for Stirling Mortlock," Horan said.

"But he should hold down his 13 position. He's probably the guy that needs to be in the backline to keep the stability there.

"His form warrants it, especially in the first four or five games of the Super 14 - he was the most outstanding Australian back in those early games."

Mortlock also received support from Berrick Barnes, Deans' likely first-choice inside centre.

"He's a great leader," Barnes said. "He was a tremendous leader for us last year."

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