Tue, Aug 08, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Calls for Wallabies captain Gregan to be sacked intensify

AP , BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

The fallout from Australia's woeful 20-18 win over South Africa in a weekend Tri-Nations rugby international has continued into a new week, with calls intensifying for captain George Gregan to be fired.

Eddie Jones, replaced by John Connolly as Wallabies coach after a sequence of test losses last year, is now saying changes need to be made now with a view to next year's World Cup.

And he did not spare Gregan from the changes, suggesting that Matt Giteau should be seriously considered as a scrumhalf instead of a center.

Gregan became the most capped Wallabies skipper of all time when he led Australia onto the field against South Africa in Sydney last Saturday night, his 56th test as captain surpassing John Eales' record of 55.

The record was overshadowed by Australia's performance, barely three weeks after it walloped South Africa 49-0 in Brisbane.

Connolly described it as Australia's worst performance of the winter. Critics in the media rated it the worst showing by an Australian lineup in a decade.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, in its "Monday Maul" column, said Australia's win "camouflaged nothing."

"They were diabolical. A new coaching regime has not stopped this side from going down the same route that has led them a long way from being No. 1," the paper said. "It is time for the Australian selectors to clamber out of the mire."

"The first step is for them to stop being conservative, have the courage to dramatically change this side ... [and] get rid of the skipper," the paper said.

Jones told a Sydney radio station there was an obvious lack of energy in the Wallaby lineup after a narrow 13-9 loss to New Zealand the previous week, and that could be addressed with changes.

"There definitely needs to be changes," Jones said. "If changes are going to be made to senior players, they really need ... to happen now."

Gregan, the most capped international rugby player of all time, was well below par behind Australia's backpedaling scrum. His ball distribution was slow and one of his errors led directly to a South Africa try.

But his form was reflected across the field. Flyhalf and playmaker Steve Larkham had his second "off game" in succession at No. 10, and was replaced late in the match along with long-time halves partner Gregan.

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