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Thread: Connolly: Country must come before state this year

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    Connolly: Country must come before state this year

    Country must come before state this year

    John Connolly
    Sunday, January 14, 2007


    There has been a lot of debate during the past week about player availability and the different goals of the state bodies compared to those of the national body.

    We've seen New Zealand's attitude in terms of their World Cup focus - they've pulled their top 25 players out for half of the Super 14 season and it seems South Africa intend to tread a similar path with rotation of some of their stars.

    It's a complex problem and I can see both sides. We have a different situation here from New Zealand, where state coaches are independent of some areas of the ARU.

    As the game has evolved the physical component is becoming more important and national teams, such as New Zealand and Ireland, have had rebuilding phases.

    State unions are also extremely conscious of their bottom line in providing value games for their supporters, yet the Wallabies want the players in the best possible condition for the World Cup in October.

    England have wrestled with this problem since the game embraced professionalism, and after spending 2 years there, I understand the situation well.

    Unfortunately, with these decisions the players are caught in the middle. All want to perform well for their province but their ultimate goal is to play well for their country. They know that to represent their country, they need to play well for their state.

    With the fallout over the past week or so, we need to be clear on a couple of issues.

    We have a strong players' association under the presidency of Tony Dempsey and normally we have a collective bargaining agreement.

    This ensures the players have the correct amount of rest between seasons and sufficient holidays to help them recharge for the following year.

    Unfortunately, in a World Cup year, the Super 14 season has been brought forward, squeezing the off-season for the players.

    So, in conjunction with the players' association, the ARU and the state CEOs, a restricted training agreement (RTA) was agreed to.

    This entailed a number of issues about the rest, preparation and welfare of the players.

    Part of the agreement was for players to be rested during the Super 14. I met the state coaches in December and we stated this would be enforced only on a needs basis, not a compulsory basis.

    It was also adjusted to allow Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, part of our elite 22-man squad, to play in the trials.

    The rest of the players we deemed required a very strong physical preparation, which would limit their January training under the auspices of national fitness coach Jason Webber with the state fitness coaches.

    There's no doubt they may well be underdone for the first couple of Super 14 games, but we thought there would be a long-term gain.

    It's disappointing these things are played out in public. It is something rugby must avoid in future.

    For rugby to go forward in this country we need goodwill and a willingness from all parties to find middle ground.

    I don't think the New Zealand model, where players sit out, would be good here because we have different needs.

    It is a massive year physically for the players. We are asking them to start priming in January and expecting them to keep up the standard until mid-October.

    On Friday, the ARU and the players' association, in consultation with Ewen McKenzie from the Waratahs and Laurie Fisher at the Brumbies, released a statement that says we will allow a few players to participate in the second half of the last trial to prepare themselves for the opening Super 14 game. Players would need to request a hit-out.

    It's a good compromise and I'm sure we've learned an important lesson from all this. By the time the next World Cup comes around in New Zealand, to perform we'll need to start carefully planning in advance.

    The ARU started planning to get the RTA in place in the middle of last year. Even after six months of planning, it's hard to find middle ground that serves all bodies. The support and understanding of Fisher and McKenzie has been encouraging.

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  2. #2
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    Connolly fears disaster for fragile stars

    Connolly fears disaster for fragile stars

    Rupert Guinness, c/o Rugby Heaven
    Tuesday, January 23, 2007


    Deep-seated fears still exist among Wallabies coaching and management staff that player drain and injuries will derail Australia's World Cup campaign this year.

    The hot topic of "restricted training activities" for chosen Wallabies was off-limits for Connolly at yesterday's Australian Rugby Union season launch.

    But there are still heavy rumblings of concern that come September 8, when the Wallabies begin their World Cup campaign, Australia's cattle will be in short supply.

    When asked how he felt about the World Cup with the season about to start, Connolly flatly said: "I guess we are apprehensive. We have a massive Super 14 coming up. I guess we keep our fingers crossed that everyone gets through unscathed."

    Among the many smiling faces of ARU chieftains as they championed the code's prospects in the World Cup year with enthusiasm, Connolly's showing was at best a brave attempt at trying to share the optimism. To be fair, he had some hard acts to follow.

    First up was General Peter Cosgrove, urging rugby fans to support their code, saying: "This is a call to arms. This is a call to enlist, to mobilise a mate "

    Then came ARU chief executive Gary Flowers, declaring that the season leading up to the France World Cup, which includes six competitions held in Australia - the Super 14, Australian Rugby Championship, the Adelaide Sevens, Pacific Nations Cup, the Test series and Tri Nations - "is the first for Australian rugby, the most significant year of rugby ever undertaken in Australia".

    And Connolly didn't rule out what many may believe is unthinkable: that the Wallabies may still win the World Cup. So long as his players are fit, that is.

    "If that happens we are reasonably confident that we will be very competitive," Connolly said, although clearly aware that in Australian rugby that is not so simple.

    "It is one of the issues for Australian rugby and always has been. We don't have the depth of the New Zealanders or the South Africans."

    It is an issue that has already been highlighted this year, with several key injuries and the debate between the ARU and Super 14 teams over player management.

    And while refusing to discuss the RTA policy, Connolly still alluded to it by making comparative references to the systems in New Zealand and South Africa. "We have to manage those players properly to perform at the end," he said. "We've seen how New Zealand have done it [All Blacks will not play in the first seven Super 14 rounds]. South Africa are going to rotate players through Super 14.

    "In Australia, with a smaller player base, we have to make sure we get the balance right.

    "It is very hard to keep players for 10 months playing all the time."

    Connolly is not expecting to get a clear picture of what condition those on his Wallabies wish list are in until midway through the Super 14.

    However, he expects that for the domestic Test series against Wales (May 26 and June 2) and Fiji (June 9), and Tri Nations opener against South Africa (June 16), he will still be fielding sides chosen on a rotational "trial" policy.

    "It will depend on how far some of the Super 14 teams go," Connolly said. "How we approach those first games in terms of whether we use a squad system and that, we will have to wait and see how the water lies.

    "That's not a decision we will be able to make until about rounds eight or nine to see how the teams have gone, who comes back from injury. But I think there will be some rotation through those first four Tests."

    In that case, Connolly would then not field his best side until the Tri Nations Tests against the All Blacks (June 30, July 21) and Springboks (July 7).

    "The preparation for the athlete, getting him in the right physical shape, is our goal," he said. "But I would think the best players will play those last three Tests."

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  3. #3
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    Cotton wool won't win Cup: Jones

    Do you think Eddie may have been to the David Campese School of Diplomacy in the off season
    I guess he must realise that he will NEVER be the Australian Coach again so may as well settle some old debts while (some) people still give a rats clacker about him...
    I'm sure they will be lapping it up in Queensland though, never one to ignore a "them and us" siege!

    Cotton wool won't win Cup: Jones

    c/o Rugby Heaven
    Thursday, January 25, 2007

    Flying in the face of the Australian Rugby Union's controversial policy to keep its Wallabies in cotton wool in 2007, Queensland Reds coach Eddie Jones says skill and technique will win the World Cup - not fitness.

    The ARU has this year enforced a restricted training activity (RTA) period on its 21-strong Wallabies group, much to the frustration of the likes of Jones and NSW Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie.

    Under the RTA, Wallabies were initially restricted to "active rest" in the Super 14 pre-season and not available for contact training or pre-season trials.

    But the ARU has since allowed Wallabies to play 40 minutes of their province's final trial match over the Australia Day weekend but would not guarantee an open book for Super 14 fixtures.

    After welcoming back the Reds' Wallabies contingent for Friday's clash against the Highlanders on the Gold Coast, Jones wondered what the RTA's long term benefits would be for Australia at the World Cup.

    "I would dare say that at the World Cup every side would be as fit as each other - you won't win the World Cup by being fitter," Jones said.

    "You will win the World Cup by having better technique and being more skilled, therefore we have to have balance in everything that we do."

    Jones admitted he had never entered a season with such an unprepared side due to the RTA.

    "At the end of the day there are two things that players have to do to get better - get fitter and better skilled," he said.

    "The only way you are going to get better skilled is by practicing and we have missed out on that.

    "These guys haven't had skill development which is just as important as the physical side of the game."

    A row blew up between the ARU and Jones after Wallabies and Queensland fullback Chris Latham broke the RTA and trained with the Reds - only to suffer a season-ending knee injury.

    A constant critic of the ARU since being sacked as Test coach 13 months ago, Jones claimed there was no such restrictive agreement in place and accused anyone who spoke otherwise of lying.

    Jones said a "formal process of communication" had to be worked out between Australia's Super 14 coaches and Wallabies mentor John Connolly in such an important year.

    Connolly and Jones are reportedly not speaking to each other in the fallout over Latham's injury.

    "It's very important at every time of the year that players only hear from one coach," Jones said.

    "We only have the players for four months. It's important that they get one message.

    "We are quite happy to have communication with the Wallabies coach as long as it goes through the proper channels."

    Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore (hamstring) is not expected to play for Queensland on Friday but lock Hugh McMeniman is "raring to go" in his first game since injuring his neck in Australia's European tour opener against Ospreys.

    McMeniman will play only 40 minutes as part of Queensland's Wallabies contingent that will also feature Rodney Blake and Greg Holmes.

    McMeniman said he had been frustrated by the RTA as he tried to bounce back from serious injury.

    "I haven't played for a year at least. I need to get back out on the paddock so that (RTA) has been a bit disappointing for me," he said.

    AAP

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  4. #4
    How is the RTA different from previous years? The Wallaby players usually get an extended rest period through the trials...

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  5. #5
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    Oh, do you mean like when that fella, what was his name...um... EDDIE JONES was the Wallaby Coach?????

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  6. #6
    Yeah exactly. Seems a little.... oh what's that word... umm, oh I dunno, hypocritical?

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    I had maintained more respect for him than most Aus Rugby people in his last year at the helm of the Wallabies, but that has been shot to pieces in the last two months.

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  8. #8
    Seriously... Talking more crap than Bob Dwyer these days.

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  9. #9
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    SHUT UP EDDIE... Ineed to enter this into the smilies as i am constantly writing this down...

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  10. #10
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    Wondered what had taken you so long mate

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  11. #11
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    The site is on fire today, i have never seen so many posts, everyone is getting excited and getting online, awesome stuff...Yeah, eddie just can`t shut his whingeing mouth can he...Coach, hook me up a smilie "SHUT UP EDDIE" so i don`t get rsi...

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  12. #12
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    I've got one designed for you similar to my "Beef" one but the site isn't saving them at the moment

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    Cool man, hope it will save them soon or i will get arthritis of the wrist repeating myself...

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