Australia coach John Connolly will resist the urge to make drastic changes to the side that narrowly beat the Boks in Sydney.
Connolly and fellow selectors, Scott Johnson and Micheal O’ Connor confirmed that the backline will remain unchanged for next Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup Test, but said that they were looking at the much maligned Wallaby pack.
“We were flat and yes we’ll review their [the forwards] performances and we’ll decide over the next week whether to make a couple of changes,” Connolly told the media.
A win for the All Blacks will secure their second successive Tri-Nations title and the Wallabies will know they have to improve significantly to have a realistic hope of getting the four points.
Of particular concern will be the poor form of George Smith, hooker Tai McIsaac and tighthead prop Rodney Blake. McIsaac struggled to hit his jumpers against the Boks and was average in other facets of play, prompting calls for the return of Jeremy Paul. But forwards coach, Michael Foley, says the Western Force man can’t be saddled with all the blame.
“It was a good lesson for us in the lineout to keep things simple,” Foley said, suggesting McIsaac wasn’t an automatic fall guy for Paul.
“Coming off the bench suits Jeremy down to the ground, he’s one of the best hookers around the field in the world.”
A series of mediocre performances by veteran Wallaby scrumhalf George Gregan has revived calls for his axing with Brett Sheehan, Josh Holmes and out of form centre Matt Giteau being touted as possible replacements.
Connolly admitted that the recent performances of Gregan was a concern but played down the option of Giteau at No. 9.
“He hasn’t played there for four years obviously. He hasn’t played off a lineout or set a scrum in that time either and that’s a concern.
“When your set piece is finding its feet it’s hard in certain positions,” Connolly added, defending Giteau’s lack of impact at No.12. “But we don’t have to go back far [to the 49-0 win over South Africa three weeks ago] and he was man of the match, a world class player and everyone was over the moon,” he said.