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Wallabies to use ARC as preparation

By Jim Morton 20/06/2007 08:19:56 PM Comments (0)

The maligned Australian Rugby Championship will play an important role in the Wallabies' World Cup preparations with key Test players released to finetune their skills in the inaugural competition.

Star fullback Chris Latham and loose-head prop Greg Holmes are almost certain to play the first two rounds of the ARC to ramp up their returns from long-term injuries.

Fringe Test players who have had little match time during the Tri-Nations - including the likes of Mark Gerrard, Sam Cordingley and Stephen Hoiles - can also expect to get some much-needed miles in their legs when the competition kicks off on August 11.

The 30-man World Cup squad is selected on July 25, a week after the Tri-Nations finishes with the Auckland Test against the All Blacks on July 21.

Latham is optimistically aiming to make his international return against New Zealand at Eden Park but even if he does the Test selectors believe he will need more match time to be close to top form for the World Cup, starting in France on September 7.

Showing his importance to the campaign, the 2006 Wallabies player of the year will be named in Australia's reviewed 32-man Tri-Nations squad on Saturday.

He has been invited to train with the squad in the build-up to the Bledisloe Cup Test against NZ at the MCG on Saturday week as part of his comeback from a knee reconstruction.

Wallabies coach John Connolly said both Latham and fellow Queenslander Holmes would play club rugby in the coming weeks.

Connolly said props Al Baxter and Benn Robinson, halfback Cordingley and possibly Stephen Hoiles would also play for their clubs this weekend after failing to get any or much match time in the 22-19 loss to South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.

That quartet - plus the likes of Gerrard, James Horwill, Dan Lyons, Hugh McMeniman, Adam Freier, Rodney Blake and Scott Staniforth - have had little match time since the Super 14.

Connolly said he was keen to use the eight-team national competition - designed to bridge the gap between club rugby and Super 14 - to prepare players as well as squad training.

"The ARC may be used for a number of players to play if we think necessary," he told AAP.

"Chris Latham is a case in point. Even if he plays that Test (against NZ on July 19) he'll probably need another couple of games under his belt.

"He's been out for a while. He needs to play and he needs to play well.

"Holmes is also a case in point, and there's a couple of other players here that may not play a lot of rugby (during the Tri-Nations), a couple of bench players may need to play.

"It (the ARC) will be important to us I suggest."

Connolly has been an advocate of the competition, to be played under new experimental laws, despite the expensive concept copping flak from many quarters.

The release of a handful of Test players would give an injection of extra quality and interest ARC organisers would love.

"I think it's an important part of Australian rugby going forward," Connolly said.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 AAP

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