Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Coach says Wallabies are back on track


Australia's Chris Latham gestures to the crowd after scoring a try against Scotland during the International rugby union match at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on Saturday.


Australia coach John Connolly is confident that the Wallabies are on track to forge a squad capable of gate-crashing the party New Zealand are planning at the World Cup.

After watching his side round off an up-and-down European tour on a high by hammering Scotland 44-15 at Murrayfield, Connolly insisted that there was now a genuine belief among his players that they can stop the All Blacks from turning next year's tournament into a parade.

The Australians have gone down to narrow defeats in their last two encounters with their neighbors and Connolly sees the gap further narrowing in the wake of a tour which he believes has expanded his options on the road to France.

"We've got close to them in the last two games we've played, so there is confidence in this team that we are close enough," Connolly said.

"But we have to do everything right. You can make mistakes against some teams and get away with it, but not against them," he said.

Australia have certainly made their share of mistakes on this tour. They conceded 29 points to Wales in the drawn opening match, struggled to a 25-18 win over Italy and were outplayed in every department as they crashed to a 21-6 defeat in Ireland.

Those performances had left Connolly under a fair degree of pressure and another setback briefly looked on the cards against the Scots on Saturday when some sloppy handling gifted their hosts an early try that allowed them to open up a 10-point lead.

But with flyhalf Stephen Larkham, scrumhalf Matt Giteau and fullback Chris Latham all in majestic form, Connolly's men ended up delivering their most convincing performance of their four matches in Europe.

There were two tries for Brumbies wing Mark Gerrard, with Larkham, Latham and young hooker Stephen Moore also touching down, while skipper Stirling Mortlock landed eight kicks out of eight.

Wings Simon Webster and Sean Lamont capitalized on defensive errors to claim tries for Scotland. But the home side, who had been unbeaten at home this year, never really threatened after the Australians had canceled out their early lead.

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