Blake catches Connolly’s eye

Australian coach John Connolly believes he may have found a solution for his troublsome loosehead prop position currently occupied by Bill Young.

Improving Queensland front-rower Rodney Blake has emerged as a shock contender to start at loose-head prop for the Wallabies this season, Connolly told the Australian Associated Press.

Blake has impressed at tight-head for the battling Reds during the Super 14 but the Wallabies coach has his eyes on the hard-working 130kg bulldozer for the No 1 jersey due to his extra size.

The Tongan-born 22-year-old has twice shifted to the other side of the scrum without problem this season, including in Saturday’s gutsy 23-16 win over the Cats in Johannesburg.

On a day it was speculated Queenslanders would be absent from the former Reds coach’s first Test team, Connolly noted Blake was well and truly in the mix for selection.

“We were interested to watch him play loosehead last week,” he said. “But where Queensland are going to play him is a problem. It’s up to Queensland where they play him but we were very interested in watching him play loosehead,” said Connolly.

It’s understood Connolly, wanting a bigger pack to turn around Australia’s set-piece problems, views Blake as his possible loosehead specialist due to the lack of large options for the No 1 jersey Young has owned since 2002.

NSW prop Al Baxter (116kg) has recovered well from the Twickenham disaster against England to be the form tighthead with Blake while the Force’s David Fitter (119kg) is also seen as a strong scrummager.