Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Wallaby great Mark Ella joins anti-Gregan chorus

AFP , SYDNEY

Matt Giteau of the Wallabies is on the attack during the Tri-Nations rugby union Test match between the All Blacks and Wallabies at Eden Park, Auckland, on Aug. 19. A debate has been raging in the Australian media over whether skipper George Gregan should make way for Giteau.

PHOTO: AFP

Wallaby great Mark Ella says the time is right to move Matt Giteau to scrumhalf, replacing record-breaking skipper George Gregan.

The Wallabies left Friday for South Africa where they will play their final Tri-Nations Test of the season against the Springboks in Johannesburg on Sept. 9.

There has been raging debate in the Australian press over the merits of 33-year-old Gregan continuing in the national team at No. 9 with just over a year before the World Cup in France.

Ella, one of Australian rugby's most gifted players before his stunning retirement at age 25 after 25 internationals in 1984, has joined the calls for Gregan to go and put Giteau in his place.

"Matt Giteau's unique array of skills are being wasted by the Wallabies at inside-centre and the time is right to move him to halfback," Ella said in the Australian yesterday.

"I'm prepared to say right now, with his pass and acceleration, that Giteau can become another [Wallaby great] Ken Catchpole if the move to No. 9 is made sooner rather than later," he said.

"Even though he is one of the game's premier inside-centers and an accomplished five-eighth [flyhalf], I believe the time has come for Giteau to go back to the position where it all began for him, halfback [scrumhalf]," Ella said.

He said that the opportunity would likely become available if Gregan was rested from the Wallabies' European tour in November.

"By all accounts, Wallabies captain George Gregan has instructed the selectors that his ageing body needs a long rest and obediently [coach] John Connolly will no doubt follow directions and spell Gregan for the end-of-year tour," Ella said.

The 126 Test-capped Gregan became rugby's most capped international in June, when he surpassed prop Jason Leonard's 119 caps for England and the British and Irish Lions.

Gregan is also Australia's leading Test captain, passing predecessor John Eales' record of 55 Tests, when he led the Wallabies to a 20-18 victory over South Africa in Sydney last month.

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