Wallaby coach John Connolly hopes to build some winning momentum as well as develop depth in his squad on the November tour of Europe.
Connolly is yet to win an overseas match in charge of the Aussies. In fact, the last time the Wallabies won an overseas fixture against any team was on last year’s tour, where they beat the Irish 30-14 at Landsdowne Road, Eddie Jones’ penultimate game in charge. They then lost the final game of that tour against Wales 22-24 at the Millenium Stadium.
2006 has been no better, with all four away Vodacom Tri-Nations games against New Zealand and South Africa being lost by the Aussies. This is why Connolly, while looking ahead to next year’s World Cup, is still desperately in need of a successful run away from home.
“It’s about finding a balance for both. Our thoughts are about winning, but equally we have a very new group that’s got a lot of young players,” he said. “We have to build our depth, and you can only do that by giving other people opportunities.
“It’s important for our confidence [to get some wins overseas] but it’s also important for building our depth.”
The 37-man squad began a training camp at Coffs Harbour yesterday. A lot has been said of the experimentation to take place on this trip, as the Aussie selectors look to have another look at their options before settling on combinations for the 2007 showpiece. Matt Giteau has been tipped to play at least one game at scrumhalf, Mark Gerrard will play in the midfield and Cameron Shepherd is expected to get some game time at fullback.
“I think they all know it’s very competitive for places next year,” Connolly said. “There are a lot of variables, and if you have depth in your squad, you’ve a better chance of coping with things that may happen down the track.”
The Wallabies play four Tests in successive weekends against Wales, Italy, Ireland and Scotland. Unlike the Springboks, who will only play Tests on their tour of Ireland and England, the Aussies will also play midweek matches against Ireland A, Scotland A, Ospreys and the Barbarians. This should also give Connolly additional room for experimention with his greater squad and a chance to formulate contingencies to the tried and tested combinations.