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Connolly rejects Wallaby decline claim

09/10/2007 09:16:32 PM Comments (0)

Departing Wallabies coach John Connolly insisted Australia wasn't about to enter a decline following their quarter-final Rugby World Cup elimination but warned they would have to lift to keep pace with the rest of the world.

Connolly, whose tenure ended after the 12-10 loss to England last weekend, returned to Australia.

He revealed his coaching career of 27 years was likely to continue.

"There's a number of options overseas that have come up, I think the older you get the more offers you get, I'm sure you get better as a coach," Connolly said at Sydney Airport.

"There's a number of options in Europe that I may look at, but I'll just take a bit at time to thing about it.

He rated last weekend's loss, which equalled Australia's worst ever World Cup performance, as the biggest disappointment of his career.

Asked about the lessons learnt from the current campaign, Connolly said: "the rest of the world is improving greatly, we will have to keep improving."

"We have to be mindful of how the rest of the world are going, we've seen Argentina emerge and Tonga emerge with all of their players playing in Europe, it's becoming more competitive all the time."

While Australia will lose the services of retiring halves Stephen Larkham and George Gregan, Connolly felt Australia wouldn't necessarily fall away.

"Every forward we had at this World Cup could arguably be around for the next World Cup," Connolly said.

"We've seen the likes of Berrick Barnes step up, we've got a number of good young tens coming through and there's a couple of options at halfback.

"We've seen (wingers) Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper emerge.

"Australia have always worked from a fairly narrow base, we're very similar to Ireland and Wales with only four provinces, they've only got four provinces, so we've got to get most things right."

Connolly said he had experienced "a wonderful two years" as coach, but was reluctant to assess his time in charge.

"Other people will do that. We've had 25 games and won 16 and drawn one," Connolly said.

"We've had some good wins and we had a disappointing result the other day."

Asked if he could have changed any of his tactics against England, Connolly said possibly the ball could have been fed into the scrum a bit quicker, but was quick to defend the efforts of Gregan.

He rejected the suggestion that criticism from his predecessor Eddie Jones, who is acting as a consultant to Springbok coach Jake White, had in any way hurt Australia's campaign.

"Most of the players and staff understand Eddie and understand what he is up to at times, so we don't really get involved in that," Connolly said.

"People will judge Eddie on the Wallabies and his performance at Queensland and his behaviour since then and everyone will make up their own mind."

Connolly felt even after their quarter-final elimination New Zealand were probably the best team in the tournament and thought France and South Africa would probably fight out the final.

"The Argentinians play a very different style of rugby and I think the Springboks will have too much power for them and I definitely think France will get over England," Connolly said.

"France at home (in the final) ... it will be 50-50, it will be close."

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