Joe Roff believes toying with team selection close to the World Cup could cost Australia at the showpiece event in France.
Roff was part of the 1999 World Cup winning team in the United Kingdom but retired from rugby in 2004 after 86 caps for the Wallabies.
The former ACT Brumbies winger raised concerns about Wallaby coach John Connolly’s forecasted positional experimentation and had his reservations about the potency of some of the expected combinations which include playing Matt Giteau and Mat Rogers as his halfback pair and Stephen Larkham and Lote Tiqiri as the midfield combination.
“It will be interesting to see how much mixing and matching John Connolly does. It’s getting late in the World Cup preparation and it’s quite dangerous to be trying too many different combinations,” Roff told Britain’s Independent newspaper.
The 31-year-old though stated his confidence in Connolly’s ability to extract the best from his players, something he says was missing in the latter part of former coach Eddie Jones’ tenure.
“Towards the end under Eddie Jones, we became quite prescriptive – the players weren’t allowed to just play,” he said.
“Looking at the games this year under John, you could see an element of enjoyment coming back in. He knows how to win and he can be reasonably relaxed while being conservative.”
He came out in strong support of embattled 127-Test veteran George Gregan and was adamant that he should lead Australia at the World Cup.
“I do think he’s the right man,” he said. “I think he’s motivated, though how I don’t know after that many Tests. It’s just the tall poppy syndrome – after he’s been so good for so long, the critics are looking for something with him.
“George doesn’t win any players’ player awards, but that’s because they take it for granted he will perform.”
Asked whether the ARU should follow New Zealand’s example and rest key players for the Vodacom Super 14 in preparation for the World Cup, Roff said Australian rugby lacks the depth of New Zealand, and added that the All Blacks were “dangerously well-prepared” for the tournament.