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Mortlock talks up the Rebels

Melissa Woods, AAP | November 25, 2010

Former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock is excited about the competition that has surfaced for starting positions within the fledgling Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby side. As the team continue preparations for their entry into the expanded 15-side tournament next February, the Test centre, who is on the comeback after back surgery, says competition is fierce at the new outfitted cited the intriguing battle for the halfback spot where another veteran Sam Cordingley is up against youngsters Richard Kingi, who is training the house down, and Nick Phipps, currently on tour with the Wallabies although yet to make his Test debut."The squad (coach Rod Macqueen) has assembled is extremely strong," Mortlock said at a Weary Dunlop rugby lunch in Melbourne."Usually in the team you have eight to 10 guys, maybe even 12, who you'd say they're in those positions and there's a few up for grabs."That's certainly not the case in this team, everywhere you look from the front-row, back-row, centres, there are a lot of guys who are putting up their hand and it's a great environment to be part of."Mortlock is hoping to force his way back into consideration for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next year and said he should be back in full training in about a month. "The back injury couldn't be better," the 31-year-old said.

"Every time the medical staff lift the intensity of what I'm doing its responded really well so I'm very, very happy."Macqueen was also delighted with his side's progress, having just returned from a high-altitude training camp at Falls Creek."We're all very aware there's a long way to go but we're pretty happy with where we're at," Macqueen said. The Rebels will get a true measure of their standing during their Super pre-season preparations, having lined up four trial matches, including three games against Tonga and Fiji, before squaring off against the Crusaders at AAMI Park on February 5.They will face Tonga twice and Fiji once in January.

The Rebels will make their official competition debut against the Waratahs at AAMI Park on February 18.Macqueen admitted the matches against the physical island sides were a risk.

"It's going to be the first time we play together as a team so we've got to be prepared to challenge ourselves," he said."I've got to say it is a risk for us because you can get injuries out of those sorts of games because they can be very tough, but at the same time if we want to be the best and test how high our standards are, that's the best way to do it."

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Mortlock eyes rugby World Cup comeback

Melissa Woods | October 06, 2010

Former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock may have missed another Test squad selection this week but that hasn't dimmed his World Cup ambitions. Mortlock underwent back surgery in May which ruled him out of national selection for this year but the 32-year-old, who will play for the Melbourne Rebels in next year's expanded Super rugby competition, remains focused on regaining his fitness and forcing his way back into the Test line-up. "The injury's going really well and that's where I'm focused at the moment," he said on Tuesday."That's going really well and the next port of call for me will be to get training ... and down the track we'll see." Mortlock said he's back running and hoped to be able to start full training by the start of December."I definitely want to give myself some good lead-in time to the trials next year and be part of those," he said. The former Brumby said he wasn't concerned about running out of time ahead of next year's World Cup in New Zealand, to be held in September-October. "Not at all although I did have a sentimental moment leading up to the Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney because it's a year out from the World Cup," he said."That was when I saw the surgeon that week as well, who said I could start running so it was a very good week for me personally. "I'm focused on helping the Rebels go as well as possible and I think on the back of the extended Super season, it's a great opportunity for anybody to show their wares and put their hands up for the squad next year." He thought there were some "real positive signs" about the current Wallabies although they had been let down by their losses in tight matches."But you can definitely see them improving and that's a great thing," he said. Mortlock said he'd had the blinkers on regarding this week's Test selection for the spring tour."I haven't looked to be honest because I want to be quite insular about what's going on at the moment, and that's being focused on rehabilitating my injury."Mortlock has moved his wife and three children to Melbourne and spent the past month soaking up the AFL fervour in the sport's heartland. Rather than being intimidated by the challenge of his new Super Rugby outfit finding a market, Mortlock said he was excited."It's made me see just how passionate Melbourne people are to get behind their team so I'm very excited by that," he said."I see it as a great opportunity for us and so far the support we've received has been fantastic."

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Stirling Mortlock: I'll be fit

Russell Gould, Herald Sun | May 28, 2010

STIRLING Mortlock has declared he could be at his dynamic best when he starts with the Melbourne Rebels next year, after surgery to repair a seven-year-old injury. The former Wallabies captain had his Super 14 season ended early by a disc problem in his back, which he revealed had been dogging him for some time. His injury-plagued final season with the Brumbies raised questions about the 32-year-old's durability for the new team, but he said he would be "ready to go" when the Rebels start playing next February. Mortlock underwent the surgery this week.

"I have had this injury for about seven years and have kept it in check," he said yesterday."But lately it has been wearing away at me and the harder you try to make it better the worse it gets."I'm very confident that some good will come out of a lot of pain this year. I am aiming to be as physically as strong and dynamic as I have ever been next year, and the most flexible. I am sure I will be ready to go. "I'll be mentally and physically as fresh as I could be as well, with a long period of not playing rugby, too. It's a great starting point for joining the Rebels."The surgery and expected three-month recovery meant Mortlock could not be a part of the Wallabies' spring campaign this year. But he intends to spend that time getting in touch with as many of his Rebels teammates as possible to make a start on ensuring the new club is successful from the outset."From next week I will start talking to a few of the guys and the coaching staff about everything we will be doing next year, " Mortlock said."For me, it is exciting that I get a good chance to do that and everyone that has signed has that same mindset. "The sooner we do that the better and everyone is keen to start brainstorming and putting together plans."Only one Rebels signing, prop Laurie Weeks, was included in the 30-man Wallabies squad named yesterday for the upcoming 10-Test program which concludes with a clash against the All Blacks at Etihad Stadium in September. Rebels coach Rod Macqueen has started a month-long European holiday content with the manner in which his squad was coming together. The Rebels now have 25 players after securing the services of 117kg Western Force prop Nic Henderson. He was once signed by Melbourne Storm before forging a rugby career with the Brumbies then the Force, and adds further strength to the Rebels' forward pack.

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Macqueen hopeful Mortlock factor will tempt Gasnier

Melissa Woods | April 04, 2010

Melbourne coach Rod Macqueen doesn't expect Stirling Mortlock to become the Pied Piper of the Rebels, but is hoping he may help lure Mark Gasnier to the new Super 15 franchise. The former Wallaby skipper signed a three-year deal last week to join Melbourne for the team's inaugural season, bringing the number of new recruits to 10.Queenslanders Richard Kingi and Adam Byrnes along with Welsh international No.8 Gareth Delve have also signed on in the past fortnight. The Rebels have some promising young backs in their ranks, such as NSW's Peter Betham and Lachie Mitchell, who is currently in the UK along with another new signing, former England Test five-eighth Danny Cipriani. However, the scalp of former league star Gasnier, who is currently playing with French side Stade Francais, would be a coup on and off the field. Macqueen said Melbourne offered the chance for Gasnier to learn from one of the best in Mortlock, which would help his bid to play in next year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand."From his perspective he's got to have confidence in that he's going to be playing alongside players like Stirling Mortlock and Danny Cipriani," Macqueen said. "I'm sure that would give him a lot of confidence."Macqueen said he believed Gasnier's decision was still "a way off", but the Rebels had no issue with Gasnier delaying his decision, and it wouldn't affect the recruitment of other players despite his large playing fee. Gasnier’s Australian manager George Mimis couldn't be reached for comment.Macqueen said the Rebels would continue to methodically assemble their playing list, with the squad not due to start training until October. While the former Wallabies coach admitted he would be looking overseas for props, he said there was no shortage of candidates to play for Australia's first privately owned franchise."We're sitting back and cherry-picking the players we're after," he said.

"We've got no shortage of players who want to come to the franchise, but the reality is that we're after specific types of skills within players and also we're after players who want to come for the right reasons."

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Rebel Stirling Mortlock with a cause

Russell Gould, Herald Sun | April 03, 2010

Stirling Mortlock will play out his Super 15 career with new club Melbourne Rebels. Source: Herald Sun PRIZED Rebels recruit Stirling Mortlock has signed on to play out his Super 15 career in Melbourne. Russell Gould asks the former Wallabies captain why he chose to head down south.

RUSSELL GOULD: What was the most significant factor in deciding to move to Melbourne?

STIRLING MORTLOCK: Coach Rod Macqueen was a significant factor. He recruited me to the Brumbies and was my first Wallabies coach. As a person and a coach he has been extremely innovative. He made it clear that this was going to be something special and that was driving him. So that was exciting. Likewise, there was the opportunity to finish my career in Australia and tie in with post-career, possibly pursue coaching, and I have also a young family so it would have been a big call to uproot them and take them overseas. This was also perfect timing with a World Cup campaign coming up next year and hopefully pushing towards that. It all added up. When did Rod first raise the idea with you?

It was a fair while ago, probably before he was officially the coach. At those initial stages it was just chatting about things and it progressed from there. It's a situation I never thought I would be in. I pride myself on being an extremely loyal person. People show faith in me and I like to return the favour. That shows from me playing for Gordon juniors - they have been my club forever - then the Brumbies gave me my first opp in 1998 and I stayed there for 13 years. I never thought I would play for another organisation. Was it hard to leave the Brumbies, where you played your entire super rugby career?

They had been keen for me to play on next year, but the reality is they were never going to offer me another two- or three-year deal. That's why for me the timing was perfect to come to Melbourne. It’s the best thing for me staying in Australian rugby, too, and hopefully it could start to be the norm for players to finish here, then go in to business or coaching or whatever, as opposed to going overseas and doing a superannuation dash for cash. And this is more beneficial long-term?

Certainly from my perspective this is a long-term opportunity to be a part of a new franchise, hopefully to be an integral part of that over the next two to three years knowing full well I am winding down my rugby career and amping up my post-football career. It’s exciting for me to have made that firm decision, and the next port of call is to start looking for places to live and embrace the next chapter of our lives. You post-career plans have begun also then?

For the last few years I have been trying to focus on a post-rugby career and have been studying applied finance. For the past two years I have been associated with Citi Group, doing an internship-style program there, which has been fantastic for me, getting some work experience. But you are here to play rugby first and foremost?

I haven't thought about the balance. Everything is still fresh and new. That's the exciting thing - we start from scratch. I feel with next year being a World Cup year I want to play some fantastic football to try and be involved in that. And then I feel as though I will definitely be able to give another year, and then hopefully the following year after that. From the get-go there has been an understanding with Rod we would talk about that when it gets closer. The reality is I am keen, very excited about having a mentoring role and being part a new club's culture and its heart. Now you're a Rebel do you try to convince others to come? That's the idea of having a big name, such as you, joining the club. My job isn't to be a salesman. We have spoken about the guys who are on board and opening up a dialogue, having some communication on how we want to do things, all the way down to our playing style and our culture and the things we value. But from my perspective I am looking to get back to the Brumbies and focus on the back half of our season. But Rod might ask you about players given you are at the coalface, and see them up close every week?

The beauty of having guys who have signed is you can start brainstorming on what we are doing and getting a feel for different potential recruits. But the reality is Rod is driving that. Certainly our input is something he would be happy to have. Culture, and a strong culture, is high on Rod's agenda for the Rebels. Does that appeal to you?

Everything that Rod was saying made clear sense. I truly believed it as well. It is about that connection with the community and giving everyone the sense they belong. Part of that would be family as well. I’m bringing my wife and three kids and all the other players will have partners and family and that will be a huge part of this club, and maybe the partners could have some input. Having that sense of family in a club is a unique thing and something we would want in our culture. What about being the face of the club?

No dramas at all. In the last few years I have taken a bit of a backward step towards a lot of those things. But with the guys who are coming on board there is a going to be a great mix of seasoned campaigners with young guys wanting to try something new and fresh. The reality is when you get that mix right, and the best people in and for the right reasons, it is a lot easier to do special things. Do you want to be captain?

I've had no thoughts at all about that, which has been the beauty of this. Rod has been open and upfront that there will be a lot of people contributing to what we do and that's what it is all about. I have no qualms whether I am going to be captain or not. What about your body? Will it last three years?

So far this season my body hasn't been ideal. The reality is every year at the start of the Super 14 you try to push your body as hard as you can so towards the back end you start peaking, and for the Wallabies. I have been pushing myself extremely hard in the gym and on the pitch and probably gone a little bit too hard. But I want to get rid of a few niggles and ramp up my fitness. Are you in Wallabies calculations? What has Robbie Deans said?

I spoke to Robbie last year about his plans for the team moving forward and I know that next year he'll have a plan in place and perhaps my role within the Wallabies team could be more a mentor-style role. I haven't spoken to him since but I will. The reality is I have to get out there and play well and make that decision easier for him. That could be to the Rebels' benefit in their first year ahead of the World Cup?

One thing I try to pride myself on is giving my all every time I take the pitch, whether it is game one or the last game or close to Wallabies selection. I want to be consistent. Having said that the inaugural season for the Rebels will be an important one and everyone wants to be pushing to do something special. Can they be competitive straight away?

It will be a challenge. The Super 14 is a very difficult tournament. All the teams are quite close in their talent and ability and throw in the significant amount of travel and it's a team's ability to have depth to cope with everything, maintain your form and then peak at the right time. As a former Wallabies captain there will be high expectations on you to perform. Is that fair?

I'm more than happy to deal with that. I am really happy with where I am at in my rugby life and coming to a new team could give me a little bit of a burst, a new lease on life. But can you deliver?

I think everyone (at the Rebels) hopes that I can, and so do I.

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Rod Macqueen says Mortlock signing crucial for Melbourne Rebels

Russell Gould | April 01, 2010

Melbourne Rebels coach Rod Macqueen says he expects three full years of service from prized recruit Stirling Mortlock. After months of speculation, the former Wallabies captain confirmed he would play out his Super 15 career in Melbourne after signing a three-year deal. Mortlock, 32, rejected a lucrative offer from French rugby to join the Rebels with a view to participating in the 2011 World Cup. Macqueen said he would use Mortlock's on-field experience for as long as possible, but said his off-field value would be just as important. "I would be happy to get two years on field and then he would have another role to play with us," Macqueen said."And we are going to have the value of his experience and expertise alongside younger players. It's an ideal scenario for us."He's a good player, he's got the skills we are after, and he has the type of culture we are after."It's uncertain whether Mortlock would captain the team, and Macqueen has not decided on what position he would play."We don't want to pocket anyone in any position at this stage," he said. "Stirling has a couple of positions he can play and we will see how that pans out."Macqueen is adamant the veteran adds significantly to the playing roster.

We need to be competitive from day one. We can't pick a young side and build over three years, we need some older players, Macqueen said. "Hopefully it could revitalise his career a little bit."

 

Macqueen has long admired Mortlock, having plucked him from club rugby at the age of 20 to tour with the Wallabies in 1997 and giving him his Test debut in 2000.Mortlock, who lives in Sydney out of season and Canberra while playing for the Brumbies, will move to Melbourne later this year. "We're willing to commit to him, and he is willing to commit to us. It's very pleasing," Macqueen said. The Rebels remain in the hunt for South African brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, as well as former NRL star Mark Gasnier. Rebels chief executive Brian Waldron is in talks with state and local governments about using Glenferrie Oval as a training base. The council-owned pool and gym, formerly used by Hawthorn, is receiving a $30 million upgrade and the oval, recently deemed too big for local Aussie rules teams, has been resurfaced.

 

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Rebels land a leader - Mortlock heading south

SMH | April 1, 2010

THE Melbourne Rebels now have a captain after former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock yesterday agreed to join the franchise. Mortlock, 32, who has been linked with the Rebels for many weeks, has signed for three seasons, but it is understood the Australian Rugby Union will only provide a top-up to his contract next season - a World Cup year. The Rebels have been eager to find a major Australian figurehead to lead their campaign, and have found it with Mortlock, who is one of the few Australian players involved in the Super 14 who has had previous links with their head coach Rod Macqueen. Mortlock, who will be leaving the Brumbies after 13 seasons, began his Test career in 2000 when Macqueen was Wallabies coach. He is bound to be used as a major recruiting agent for the Rebels, who are gradually luring players.

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Mortlock links up again with Macqueen

AAP | March 31, 2010

Melbourne bound . . . Stirling Mortlock has signed a three-year deal with the Rebels. Stirling Mortlock will link with mentor Rod Macqueen for the third time in a celebrated career after the former Wallabies captain signed a three-year deal with new Super Rugby team the Melbourne Rebels. The veteran of 80 Tests has also agreed to extend his international career for another year in the hope of playing in the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand. After 13 successful seasons with the Brumbies - including captaining them to the 2004 Super 12 title - Mortlock, 32, had been toying with the idea of joining an overseas club. But Macqueen convinced him of the benefits of a shorter move south which is expected to see him made the Rebels foundation Super 15 captain."We've got a number of other signings coming up, but we're very happy about signing Stirling," Macqueen told AAP on Wednesday. "From a personal perspective, I signed Stirling when he first started out with the Brumbies and then with the Wallabies, so it's nice to see him finishing off his career when we're starting up the new franchise in Melbourne."It's important to acknowledge that he's done a great job for the Brumbies and the Brumbies have been very good for Stirling."The decision for players now at that point of their career is whether they go overseas and make a lot of money."But the issue with that is that when they come back they're starting afresh in business."He's chosen to stay in Australia with his family and start to assimilate into business and I think it's the right decision."Mortlock could play either at outside or inside centre for Melbourne, but Macqueen wouldn't be drawn on anointing him as the team's first skipper."We're not guaranteeing anyone any positions or the captaincy," he said. "It will be a matter of when the side comes together, we have to make sure we put the right players together."Obviously he's got great leadership ability, he's led his country, but we won't be announcing the captain until next year and we've already got a lot of leaders in the side."I'm looking to have an intelligent team and he'll certainly contribute to that."Macqueen said Mortlock could either see out his three-year contract on field, or move to another role within the organisation in 2013.Rebels CEO Brian Waldron said that in addition to Mortlock's playing attributes, the all time Super Rugby record points scorer would provide the start-up franchise with a massive off-field boost."In a day and age when the game has lost some of its higher profile names, there's no doubt that Stirling Mortlock's name is synonymous with rugby and success in rugby," he said."We think he's a fantastic person to help us grow the brand of the Rebels in this market."We'd love to see him be successful for three years, that's what he wants to do."Mortlock became the Rebels' 10th signing, three days after they secured the services of Welsh No.8 Gareth Delve. Melbourne's inaugural list also includes English five-eighth Danny Cipriani and rising Queensland prop Laurie Weeks.

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Stirling Mortlock joins Melbourne Rebels, three-year Super 15 deal

Fox Sports | March 31, 2010

Super 15 newcomers Melbourne Rebels have landed former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock for their first three seasons in the competition. Mortlock ended months of speculation about his playing future by joining coach Rod Macqueen at the new franchise. The 32-year-old has knocked back a number of lucrative offers from French rugby clubs and hopes the move will aid his bid to be part of the Wallabies 2011 World Cup campaign. According to the Herald Sun, Rebels officials are remaining tight-lipped in keeping with their policy of making announcements about the signing of players in-season in Australia low-key. But they are quietly beaming after securing the services of the man Rebels coach Rod Macqueen nominated a high priority from day one. Macqueen has long been an admirer of Mortlock ever since plucking him from club rugby at the age of 20 to tour with the Wallabies in 1997.Mortlock also made his Wallabies debut in 2000, when Macqueen was national coach. Despite reports however, it’s unlikely Mortlock would be the club's first captain. Instead he is set to be used as a mentor for what could be a young squad of players, ' which is slowly coming together.

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Mortlock to fly Rebels flag

ABC | March 31, 2010

Former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock has signed a three-year deal with Melbourne's new Super rugby team. Mortlock’s Brumbies team-mates Rocky Elsom and Stephen Hoiles have also been linked to the club. The Rebels will join the Super 15 competition next year. The 32-year-old Brumbies centre has also re-signed with the ARU for another year, taking him through until the end of the 2011 World Cup. Rebels coach Rod MacQueen said it was a great signing coup for the fledgling club."I actually was the person who signed Stirling to the Brumbies and the Wallabies, so this is the third time round," he said."I'm really looking forward to it, I think he's done a fantastic job for the Brumbies as have the Brumbies for him."But instead of going overseas and seeing out his career there, he'll see it out in Melbourne."MacQueen told Grandstand Mortlock's role may extend off the field if the 32-year-old's form tapers off in the later years of the contract."In the third year, he might be in another capacity within the organisation at that stage," he said."He brings with him a lot of expertise and he'll be a great acquisition for the side."It's also a good start for him to get into business and life after rugby. It just depends on how he goes; the main thing for us is that he's playing really well."It'll be great if we get three years out of him but if we don't from that perspective he'll have another role to play."

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Mortlock joins Melbourne Rebels, re-commits for World Cup

Reuters | March 31, 2010

Former Australia captain Stirling Mortlock has joined the Melbourne Rebels on a three-year contract, the Super rugby expansion franchise said on Wednesday. Mortlock had long been linked with the team, which begins playing in an expanded Super 15 competition next year, and joins England fly half Danny Cipriani and Wales loose forward Gareth Delve as big name signings for the franchise. "Stirling is yet another addition to our growing team of players with strong leadership skills," Rebels coach Rod Macqueen said in a statement. "The opportunity to play out his career in Melbourne, and not overseas, is great for both Australian rugby and Stirling as he helps us build the foundations of the new club." Mortlock is the leading scorer in Super rugby and was the first player to pass 1000 points for the competition earlier this year. He has played for the ACT Brumbies since 1998.The 80-test veteran, who turns 33 in May, has also re-committed to the Australian Rugby Union with an eye to winning a place in Robbie Deans’ Wallabies squad for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, the national body said.

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It's almost official: Mortlock set to become a Rebel

JOSH RAKIC | March 28, 2010

EXCLUSIVE

WALLABIES star Stirling Mortlock will become the Melbourne Rebels' highest-profile signing so far after finally agreeing to terms with the new Super 15 franchise. And he won't be the last. A well-placed Melbourne source has revealed to The Sun-Herald that the 33-year-old Wallaby was "coming to the club" and said his signing could be announced as soon as this week - once the Australian Rugby Union signs off on the deal. Mortlock joins English glamour back Danny Cipriani and Queensland prop Laurie Weeks to become just the third signing for the fledgling club, with as many as five other names - some Wallabies - expected to be known within the next 10 days. But chief executive Brian Waldron would neither confirm nor deny the reports, saying only that things were not all doom and gloom for the Rebels, as speculated, and that the franchise was doing better than as perceived by the public."The problem is you're reliant on the ARU to make announcements, so we're waiting on them to finalise things," Waldron told The Sun-Herald. But we're travelling OK."We have a few things ... we're just waiting on an ARU sign-off."

Meanwhile, another source close to the Rebels' camp revealed that the new franchise, which just two weeks ago was given free rein by the ARU to sign Australian Super 14 players, already had a third of its playing roster all but finalised just two months into its existence."We've got nine, 10 players that have already signed or committed to sign," the source said."And if that's the case, we've got a third of the list. And others are really sitting back and waiting to see if you get a bit of momentum."There are certain players who we don't want to announce at the moment. It's all a timing thing. Because of the regulations with the ARU, if they're players who have got your top-up and that sort of stuff, or they're overseas players, there's a few more rules and regulations we have to go through."But we've got in the order of nine to 10 players who have signed or are basically as good as across the line. That's not a bad thing."So if we can announce a few key signings in the next few weeks, then I think things will fall into place quite nicely."Mortlock had wanted a three-year deal with the Rebels and a matching ARU top-up, but it is believed the veteran centre is looking to life after football, with the ARU prepared to extend his contract only until the end of the 2011 World Cup.

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Mortlock senses a southerly change

RUPERT GUINNESS | February 26, 2010

CAPE TOWN: Former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock has given his strongest indication yet that he will join the Melbourne Rebels, outlining why a contract with the new Super 15 franchise is more attractive than lucrative overseas offers. Mortlock, in Cape Town with the Brumbies for their Super 14 game against the Stormers at Newlands on Friday night (4.10am Saturday, Sydney time), said he was excited by the idea of being a foundation member of a fifth Australian Super side and playing under World Cup-winning Wallabies coach Rod Macqueen. The veteran of 119 caps in Super rugby is off-contract at the end of this season, and has been encouraged by the Brumbies to seek opportunities elsewhere as they cannot offer the 80-Test Wallaby more than a one-year contract. Mortlock ruled out a move to Japan, where he was courted by several big-spending teams, and said his options were to play in Europe or with the Melbourne Rebels. While he did not entirely discount Europe as an option, he strongly indicated the Rebels were best positioned to snare his services."There are a couple opportunities overseas I am looking into, and likewise the opportunity to be part of a new franchise and a new beginning is a very exciting one," Mortlock said. "Everything about the Melbourne Rebels franchise seems great. Being a founding member of any organisation, and likewise being associated with Rod Macqueen, who has been there and done it all, is a significant part of why I would want to stay and go to Melbourne."Mortlock said he would decide his future in the weeks after returning to Canberra from South Africa. He lauded the Australian Rugby Union's decision last week to relax the anti-poaching restrictions that it had placed on the Australian Super sides. The ARU last week brought forward the date for recruitment and negotiations with players from June 1 to March 15."It is very tough for a new franchise to secure players, especially players who are in my situation who are currently entertaining offers overseas," Mortlock said. "But the franchise couldn't make a formal offer. So it is common sense, basically."It is great to hopefully have some clarity in terms of a genuine offer to go here or there, so that [ARU] ruling is a good one from my perspective. Otherwise, what are you going to compare an offer overseas with? 'My word is as solid as oak?" 'Mortlock agreed that the ARU's new position created a new option for what could be the last playing contract of his illustrious career. "As an organisation, the Brumbies would have only offered me a one-year deal as opposed to an opportunity to go overseas on three-year deals or a two- to three-year deal down in Melbourne," he said. "They are not comparable, really."I was always looking at the possibility of staying and finishing up my career in Australia - without ruling out the opportunity of going overseas as well. They are both genuine opportunities, and the door is open on both. I couldn't tell you where I am heading at this stage."Meanwhile, Mortlock is keen to mark Springboks centre Jaque Fourie in Friday night's clash at Newlands, where the Brumbies hope to make up for their second-half disappointment against the Bulls last weekend."Jaque, along with Bryan [Habana] ... add a lot of firepower to an already quality back line," he said. "Marking against him is a good challenge."

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Melbourne Rebels raid Stirling Mortlock

Iain Payten in Cape Town, The Daily Telegraph | February 26, 2010

STIRLING Mortlock shapes as the Melbourne Rebels' first Australian signing next month after admitting he's leaving Canberra and that reuniting with Rod Macqueen at a new franchise is "very exciting prospect”. But the Rebels shouldn't expect an answer any time soon from Rocky Elsom, with the Wallabies skipper suggesting he's happy to wait until after the original post-Super 14 deadline before pondering his home in 2011.The ARU's decision to wind back the Rebels' ban on signing Australians to March 15 has seen their negotiations heat up with key Wallabies targets. The Rebels approached the former Wallabies skipper in January and, following the Brumbies' revelations this week they've not yet offered Mortlock a contract for 2011, the 33-year-old admitted yesterday he would end his 10-year stint with the ACT. Mortlock is waiting on a concrete offer from the Rebels to weigh up against European club interest, but said he always thought he'd end his career in Australia. On the move ... Stirling Mortlock. Source: The Daily Telegraph

"Everything about the Melbourne Rebels franchise seems great," Mortlock said in Cape Town ahead of the Brumbies' clash with the Stormers tonight."Being a founding member of any organisation and likewise being associated with Rod Macqueen, who has been there and done it all, is a significant part of why I would want to stay and go to Melbourne."Mortlock said the ARU's decision to lift the July 31 ban was sensible, given the Rebels had been unable to make formal offers. The Brumbies had been upfront in saying he would only get a one-year offer at best, he added. Mortlock could probably earn more in Europe, particularly with his ARU top-up money likely to be reduced next contract. However, a package put together by Melbourne will no doubt involve some attractive post-career business opportunities with the Rebels' array of city backers. But while a conversation with his wife and manager stands between Mortlock and a final decision in coming weeks, Elsom is, typically, in no such hurry. On a one-year deal with a one-year option at the Brumbies, the world-class flanker is also being pursued by Macqueen's Rebels but after just one game for ACT, self-managed Elsom is not even contemplating next year."I haven't had a whole lot of time, so I just haven't been doing it. You have to focus on what is important, and that is here [with the Brumbies] at the minute," he said.

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Rebels looking to lure Mortlock

CHRIS DUTTON, Canberra Times with AAP | January 25, 2010

Stirling Mortlock may head to Melbourne in 2011. Photo: Karleen Williams

Stirling Mortlock could finish his Super rugby career in Victoria if Rod Macqueen is successful in luring the ex-Wallabies skipper away from Canberra. Two weeks after announcing Macqueen as coach of the Melbourne Rebels, the club has ramped up its worldwide search for players with assistant coach Damien Hill expected to meet with former NRL star Mark Gasnier while on a trip to Europe this week. Macqueen confirmed Mortlock was on a player wish list which also included Rocky Elsom and Julian Salvi for his team's inaugural season next year. The former ACT Brumbies and Wallabies mentor is not allowed to sign any Australian Super14 players until the end of the season. However, the Rebels are hoping to strike a deal with ARU boss John O'Neill to end the ban enforced until May 31.With Mortlock in the last year of his contract with the Brumbies, Macqueen said the 32-year-old would be a perfect fit to lead the Rebels into their first season."Stirling has indicated he could be interested in Melbourne and it's important to note we're building a new team and Stirling would certainly fit into that," Macqueen said."He's got good leadership qualities, he's been loyal to the Brumbies in the past and he would certainly be the sort of person we would look at."Having said that, we don't want to disrupt the current competition. But Stirling is certainly a person the Rebels would be interested in."I think [Mortlock] still has some time to offer, it's like when we started at the Brumbies, we had a mixture of old hard heads with up-and-coming players."New Melbourne recruitment boss Greg Harris, until April last year the Western Force's chief executive, said Hill flew to Europe yesterday to gauge interest from overseas-based players, many of whom were in the final weeks of working on new deals. The Rebels can sign up to 10 overseas players. Former league international Gasnier, who plays for Paris club Stade Francais, has said he will make a decision on his future early in the year. Mortlock is yet to decide on where he will play beyond this season and will suit up for the Brumbies in their first pre-season trial against the Wellington Hurricanes on Friday. Despite not being able to lock players into the Rebels roster, Macqueen who was named Melbourne's first coach two weeks ago has already drawn up a recruitment list. While Macqueen's preference is to predominantly fill his roster with Australians, one player unlikely to get a call is embattled scrumhalf Matt Henjak. The ex-Wallabies and Brumbies No.9 has not played in the Super 14 since he was sacked by the Western Force after he punched then-teammate Haig Sare in February 2008.The 28-year-old's contract with French Top 14 club Toulon expires in May.

However, Macqueen said he would only recruit players who fit "the right culture"."It would be lovely to think we could get Australians back that are playing overseas and that should be our priority," Macqueen said."Without associating Matt with any issues, the important thing to note is that we want players that are coming for the right reasons. I don't know Matt and I'm not in a position to speculate whether he's on our radar or not."Certainly our No.1 criteria is to have players that will represent the right culture that the Melbourne Rebels are about."I've always been someone who is absolutely meticulous about culture and from day one that would be the most important aspect of every player we look at for the Rebels ... it's important to have the right type of people."Macqueen likened his task to get the Rebels up and running to the role he played in helping the Brumbies get off the ground. He is now largely based in Melbourne and will spend the Super 14 season, which begins on February 12, scouting potential stars for the Rebels.

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Wins just around the corner: Mortlock

AAP | August 10, 2009

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock insists Australia is definitely heading in the right direction despite a shaky start to their Tri Nations rugby campaign. Losses in their first two Tri-Nations games have left Australia languishing last on the ladder with just one bonus point. Now in their second season under New Zealand-born coach Robbie Deans, Australia is still in a "growth pattern", according to Mortlock. "It may be quite frustrating at the moment because the results haven't showed the work that we've done," Mortlock told reporters at Sydney airport after the team returned from South Africa."I've got full confidence and I'm pretty sure the whole group does that we're still heading in the right direction and it will only be a matter of time before the results also show that."Both Mortlock and Deans praised the defensive effort of the Wallabies in Cape Town, where they conceded only three points during a period where they were down to 13 men for almost 10 minutes. "Probably a year, or a year and a half ago, we would have got absolutely slaughtered in those conditions, but the boys dug in deep, that's a real positive," Mortlock said."We've just got to assess our discipline and our ability to take advantage of opportunities. "Deans also extracted positives from the loss, believing Australia out-performed the Springboks in all areas apart from discipline and the lineouts. Mortlock expects to miss Australia's next Tri Nations fixture against New Zealand in Sydney on Saturday week because of a knee injury. Although x-rays in South Africa cleared him of a break, Deans fears cartilage damage could rule his skipper out for their four remaining Tri-Nations matches. Deans said he would disclose the identity of the replacement captain for the August 22 game when the team was announced. Flanker George Smith, who has captained Australia before, is among the leading candidates for the job.

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Mortlock talks up red hot Springboks

Greg Growden in Cape Town Chief Rugby Correspondent | August 7, 2009

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock emphasised the enormous challenge confronting his team at Newlands on Saturday by describing the South African side as being close to the perfect rugby line-up. After the Springboks' complete overhaul of both the British and Irish Lions and the All Blacks over the past two months, captain John Smit's line-up is even being labeled by some of his countrymen as the best South African side of all time. Now the Wallabies, who showed off their mental inadequacies in Auckland last month by basically handing victory to the All Blacks, have to come up with a counter in the first of three Tri Nations matches against the Springboks this season. While Mortlock is buoyant, he knows there is no point underestimating the task ahead of his team this weekend, especially with the Wallabies' record on South African soil being so flimsy. After all, the Wallabies haven't won in Cape Town since 1992 and in their past 10 Tests in South Africa have only achieved one victory - last year in Durban. Apart from the home-ground issue, the Wallabies have to encounter the threatening prospect of a merciless Springboks team, who are at the peak of their form. As Mortlock explained yesterday: "This is close to the most complete Springbok outfit that I've seen. Most of the guys [in the Wallabies] are saying that and so am I."It all revolves South Africa's pride and self-belief.

"It is just the confidence that they go about their business which strikes you. They are a team on their game."But Mortlock is hardly a doom merchant, instead emphasising that while their preparation for the Cape Town Test has been excellent, it will still require a faultless 80-minute performance to cause an upset."We've had an extended preparation for this game and sometimes it is a bad thing when you have the bye. But for us it has been a chance to do a lot of good work in Australia and in Cape Town, and while we are coming off the back of a Test where we weren't happy with how we went, I have been really impressed with the resolve amongst the crew. I'm confident that we will go out there with a positive intent. "When we have played well against the Springboks, it has been because we have been involved in a composed, concerted effort for 80 minutes. They are a team which are at the moment in a really positive frame of mind, are playing a style of football that they are very comfortable with and they are playing it very, very well. So you'd be crazy not to go into such a game without a full 80-minute performance and a really good one at that. There's a lot to play for."The Wallabies skipper added that they would not follow the inconsistent All Blacks, who dramatically varied their game plan and suffered losses in Bloemfontein and Durban."The All Blacks tried to change things in both Tests against South Africa, whereas our mindset is more about having the tools to put out there whatever you see fit at the right time," Mortlock said."Hopefully that will be the point of difference for us. Any opportunity we see, we have to take it straight away."And while the Wallabies have deliberately not discussed last year's 53-8 trouncing in Johannesburg, it remains in the back of their minds.

"It's a good thing for us because it reminds us how damaging they can be when they're in the zone. And they're in a real positive frame of mind at the moment, so it reinforces the reality of what is in front of us," Mortlock said. Meanwhile, Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell emphasised that they had to perform much better in the air than the All Blacks. "The Springboks got some good pay with their contestable kicking against the All Blacks," Mitchell said."It's just a matter of getting yourself in position, getting up in the air and being strong. In the moment, you just have to execute the skill."The Wallabies named an unchanged starting team, with Peter Hynes moving onto the bench at the expense of Phil Waugh. The bench will have a four forward-three backs split.

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Boks now rugby's benchmark, says wary Mortlock

AAP | August 2, 2009

Skipper Stirling Mortlock has no doubt the Wallabies face the toughest assignment in world rugby next weekend after witnessing the Springboks systematically dismantle the All Blacks in Durban overnight (AEST).The all-conquering Springboks, fresh from their historic home series triumph over the British and Irish Lions, prevailed 31-19 at ABSA Stadium to post back-to-back Test wins over the All Blacks on successive weekends for the first time in 33 years."Regardless of whether or not they've got the No.1 ranking, the Boks are certainly the benchmark in our mind," Mortlock said. The Springboks, in fact, assumed the No.1 ranking this week and can also lay claim to possessing the world's premier goal kicker after sharp-shooting fly half Morne Steyn scored all 31 points in a record-breaking performance that placed the Wallabies on red alert. Steyn's first-half converted try - which gave the Boks a lead they refused to relinquish in the wet conditions - plus nine penalty goals from 10 attempts earned him a tally which surpassed All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens's Tri Nations record of 29 points against Australia in Auckland in 1999.The deadly display sent shivers through the Wallabies camp.

"We certainly can't afford to make any mistakes in our own half. Anywhere near the halfway line, you've got to be a little bit worried," Wallabies assistant coach Jim Williams said. Joel Stransky, the hero of South Africa's 1995 World Cup-winning campaign, hailed John Smit's men as one of the all-time finest Springboks teams."They're so talented, so experienced. But what they do so well is they apply relentless pressure on the opposition," Stransky said."They force possession, they force penalties and they take full advantage."

Mortlock, a veteran of 80 Tests dating back to his debut in 2000, claimed the Springboks were even superior to when South Africa secured a second World Cup two years ago."There's no doubt they've been improving over the past period of time and that probably culminated in them winning the World Cup in '07. But they've certainly moved their game forward from there as well," Mortlock said."They're just a really, really well balanced side and they're playing with a lot of confidence, which comes about by being successful and understanding the systems and what you're trying to achieve."And probably where Springboks teams in the past may have played really direct football based around their set piece, totally, these guys have the ability to use the width as they see it."They have the ability to sting you off turnovers so, there's a lot more variation in how they can do things in attack. "The Wallabies haven't won at Newlands since 1992 in what was South Africa's first Test against Australia after two decades of sporting isolation. Making the Wallabies' task even more challenging is the fact they will spend most of this week preparing without coach Robbie Deans following his father's death in New Zealand last Friday. Deans is not due to arrive in Cape Town until late Wednesday, leaving Williams, the Wallabies' first-year skills coach Richard Graham and senior players to take charge."We share responsibilities very well in the squad and Robbie not being here in the early part of the week is fine," Williams said."The guys are fairly well versed with their routine for the week and we've had that little bit extra time to prepare ... so it's just a matter of fine-tuning some things and certainly we'll be chatting to Robbie over the next 24 to 48 hours to hear his ideas. "We'll be in touch constantly just making sure we've got things down pat."

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Kiwi utility aims to avoid another head-on with Mortlock

Phil Wilkins | July 10, 2009

Australians remember Luke McAlister well enough, and certainly McAlister, New Zealand's likely five-eighth for the start of the Tri Nations rugby union tournament, will never forget the Wallabies. Again, with Dan Carter recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and Stephen Donald troubled by a hamstring strain, McAlister is destined to be moved from his favoured midfield role at inside-centre to five-eighth to become general of the All Blacks' back line at Eden Park in Auckland tomorrow week. Skilful, fast, physically imposing, tattooed and tough, 25-year-old McAlister is the son of former New Zealand Maori representative Charlie McAlister, and a utility who can play almost anywhere in the back line. But sometimes versatility comes with a curse. There is a surefire way to reignite a long, rum-fuelled, weekend bush barbecue when the food runs out. The property owner wanders off, tosses some "jelly" in the river and scoops up the stunned mullet. The then Australian coach John Connolly might never have practiced the art but two years ago he used a stick of gelignite at the Melbourne Cricket Ground named Stirling Mortlock. The Bledisloe Cup Test played at the MCG on June 30, 2007, was a day McAlister will recall without fond memories. In lead-up events, New Zealand's coach Graham Henry lost fullback Leon MacDonald with a strained groin, causing him to move Mils Muliaina to fullback, promoting Aaron Mauger from the bench to inside-centre and transferring McAlister to outside-centre. New Zealand began well enough, leading 15-6 inside half an hour. Knowing that outside-centre is one of the most difficult positions on the field to defend, Wallabies coach Connolly resorted to the oldest ploy in the game: he advocated his backs not simply run around the All Blacks but to career over the top of them, the language Mortlock loves to hear. His powerful straight running blasted the Test apart. By the end of the game, McAlister was sick of the sight of the soles of Mortlock's boots and seeing his studs disappearing in the MCG distance. Australia won 20-15.Even after the loss, New Zealand remained $1.50 favourites to win the World Cup in France four months later. Ultimately, of course, along with the Wallabies, the All Blacks were on their way home before the semi-finals. Three weeks after the MCG loss, back in his correct position at inside-centre, McAlister shared in New Zealand's 26-12 defeat of Australia at Eden Park, the ground where he made his Test debut against the British and Irish Lions in 2005. He has not played against Australia since. Following their demise in the World Cup, New Zealand's rugby suffered an exodus of players to the goldfields of Europe, elite players such as scrum strongman, Carl Hayman. To the acute disappointment of New Zealand, McAlister was one who departed, turning his back on Kiwi rugby at the age of 24. He spent last year in England. But McAlister knew the job at home was not finished, his rugby work not done, especially for the All Blacks. He was back before the end of this year's Super 14 to claim a position in Henry's Test squad. Without Carter, McAlister was five-eighth against Italy, drawing scant praise. All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith observed, without identifying McAlister: "We executed poorly. We were too sideways rather than direct. We got a bit deep. The faster the Italian back line came up, the deeper we got. It was pretty disappointing in that regard."Still, New Zealand won 27-6, McAlister converting all three tries and banging over two penalty goals in the success. Coach Henry offered McAlister his backing, knowing his five-eighth cupboard was otherwise bare. When he jogs out on to Eden Park later this month, McAlister will be too busy assembling thoughts for the battle ahead to think of the MCG loss. Not so Stirling Mortlock. The old stick of gelignite trick will be high on his priority list.

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Robbie's Wallabies are looking like World Cup winners, says Horan

Darren Walton | June 28, 2009

TEST legend Tim Horan senses the Wallabies are on the verge of another special era that just may lead to an unprecedented third Rugby World Cup triumph in 2011.As one of only two players, alongside John Eales, to have started in two World Cup final wins, Horan knows what is required for a team to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. And he firmly believes coach Robbie Deans is building a squad with all the necessary traits, most importantly depth and leadership, to emulate Australia's triumphant outfits of 1991 and 1999.In particular, Horan sees similarities between Deans’ class of 2009 and the '99 Wallabies, who began turning the corner about two years out from their World Cup success."I mean, the average age of this group of players is probably a lot less than we were going into 1999, but if they can stick together and maintain their structure, they're a pretty unique group," Horan said."This Wallabies team in the next 18 months could be one of the better ones that we've seen."They've got a great opportunity to bring back the Bledisloe Cup this year, probably the best opportunity in the last three or four years."But also looking a bit further forward to the World Cup, I think we've got a fantastic opportunity ? because with this group there's not too many players who are going to be retiring in the next two years."The good thing about it is, while Stirling Mortlock's been there and he's been a fantastic leader, he's been able to develop and Robbie's been able to develop other leaders around him."You need that. As we had in '99, you need those five or six leaders that we had on the field calling the lineouts, scrums, backline plays, defensive plays."That's why we were so successful. It wasn't just a captain and a vice-captain.

"This Wallabies team is not too far away - a bit to go yet - but not too far away from [also] developing those five or six leaders."Horan, player of the tournament at the '99 World Cup, believes the Wallabies have an excellent mix of depth, class, youthful exuberance and experience that should be peaking in New Zealand in 2011."When there's depth in Australia's front row, you know there's depth right throughout the team, which is a great way to be," he said."When we start talking about who's going to be selected at prop, rather than saying there's only one to choose from - that's what we had in 1999."We had Nathan Grey putting pressure on me [for a place in the centres]. There were guys putting pressure on in every position and that's a healthy position to be in."And that's what Robbie Deans is looking for, a [genuine] squad. We're lucky now to have two back-up No.10s, whereas a year to 18 months ago we were lucky to have one."Like Daniel Carter [with the All Blacks], Matt Giteau is a very important cog in the whole situation for the Wallabies."But if he's injured, Berrick Barnes can step up there easily now. If Berrick's injured, Quade Cooper is not far away. He's got a bit to go yet but he's not far away from being a good reserve No.10."That's something we haven't had. At the World Cup in 2007, we didn't have the depth required to win those sorts of games."Horan credits Deans as the architect of Australia's revival after the Wallabies' quarter-final exit at the last World Cup in France."Robbie has very clear and concise ideas and the players know where they stand," he said. "He also gives them the latitude to play what's in front of them and play to their natural abilities. I think it's a good call. "You can certainly see what Robbie is looking for, you can see the patterns coming now."He wants two decision-makers at 10 and 12, but he also wants a very quick back three and out-and-out finishers."But the midfielders will have to make the opportunities, provide some space for those guys out wide, and flyers will finish them off."I'd like to see Lote Tuquiri there in time. He's too good an asset. But it will come for him; he'll play more Test matches, there's no doubt."Horan and his old teammates gathered in Sydney on Friday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Australia's 1999 World Cup final victory over France.

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Wallabies announced end-of-year grand slam tour

AAP | June 17, 2009

The Wallabies have confirmed they will embark on an end-of-year grand slam tour of the UK and Ireland for the first time in 25 years.

Australia will open the campaign against England at Twickenham on November 7, it was announced on Wednesday. The Wallabies will play Ireland at Croke Park in Dublin on November 15 before heading to Scotland for a Test at Murrayfield on November 21.The last Test of the tour will be against Wales in Cardiff on November 28.

It will be the first grand slam tour since the 1984 Wallabies, coached by Alan Jones and captained by Andrew Slack, became the first Australian side in history to beat England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock has welcomed the grand slam announcement.

"The opportunity to go on a grand slam tour is massive," said Mortlock.

"It's been too long since Australia was last able to do one of these tours.

"I was only seven years old at the time of the last one. Consequently I don't have any real memories of that tour, although I have obviously seen television footage of Mark Ella, Nick Farr Jones and the like carving up."Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the tour is one of the toughest challenges in international rugby."Last year's spring tour was a great experience for everyone involved, and this one will be even better," Deans said.

"It will be a massive challenge, but one that we will be ready for."

Negotiations to secure the England match have also involved Australia inviting Fiji to play a Test against the Wallabies in Australia on June 5 next year. Grand slam Tour:

November 7 v England at Twickenham in London

November 15 v Ireland at Croke Park in Dublin

November 21 v Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh

November 28 v Wales at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff

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Stirling Mortlock relishes no-nonsense approach

Wayne Smith | June 16, 2009

IT was once the most hurtful barb that could ever be hurled against a Wallabies side, that it had played conservatively. Now, Australian captain Stirling Mortlock embraces the description. The Wallabies might have outscored Italy five tries to one at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night, with teenage run-on debutant James O'Connor fizzing-up the occasion with a personal hat-trick, but it was very much a triumph of no-nonsense field-position rugby. Far from being offended by the suggestion his side had played a controlled, conservative game, with Matt Giteau and Berrick Barnes angling pinpoint kicks into the corners to pin the Italians down, Mortlock yesterday spoke enthusiastically about the tactics and suggested they were designed to fry far bigger fish than the Azzurri."That was the pleasing aspect from our perspective, that we played a consistent kicking game and were effective at mounting pressure on them through our kicking game," said Mortlock."Down the track, it's very important. The two matches we've played this year (against the Barbarians and Italy) our kicking game has been very good. Hopefully we can make a bit of progress on our ability to mount pressure on the opposition with ball in hand as well."If that happens at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night in the rematch with Italy, well and good, but clearly coach Robbie Deans is using these early-season internationals to embed tactics needed sooner than expected against the giant-killing French and then next month in the Tri Nations. Significantly, the All Blacks played most of the rugby in the Dunedin Test on Saturday and lost, squeezed by the pressure France exerted at the breakdown and by their ferocious, unrelenting outside-in defence. It was hardly a lesson Deans needed to learn but it will not have hurt the Wallabies to be reminded that some old, harsh rugby realities are reasserting themselves now that the ELV sanctions no longer apply. For all the high-fiving that greeted O'Connor's Boys Own heroics in Canberra, there was not a lot of frivolity about the Wallabies' play. Few 50-50 passes were thrown, tricky situations were cleaned up, not compounded, and Giteau and Barnes took a beady-eyed, dispassionate approach to running the game. If the Wallabies weren't going anywhere, ball was put expertly to boot. Somehow Barnes even managed to make an outlandishly tricky banana-kick to touch on the run appear routine. Whatever else Deans may be as a coach, he is what Napoleon demanded all his generals be - lucky. The odds of him migrating from a team run by the best five-eighth in the world last year, Dan Carter, to one boasting the current holder of that title, Giteau, would have been ridiculously high all on their own. But it is truly amazing to think he could part company with Aaron Mauger in New Zealand and then, a year or so later, find another such heady "second five-eighth" in Australia in the person of Barnes. Certainly Mortlock counts himself lucky to be playing alongside a player of Barnes's quiet but deadly efficiency. "It's a joy, basically," Mortlock said. "Berrick is an outstanding player and a great bloke. His core skills are fantastic kicking in games, his ball-playing ability as well, and defensively he's really solid."It is unlikely Deans will tinker extensively with his side for the Second Test, although it would make sense for him to ease winger Peter Hynes back into the fray in place of Lachlan Turner, whose head still must be ringing after his sickening collision with Mauro Bergamasco's knee. The Wallabies coach will surely look closely at his back row after Italy succeeded in regularly slowing down Australia's ruck ball. While rugby stats are notoriously inaccurate pointers to work rates, it nonetheless is worrying that blindside flanker Dean Mumm was credited in one set of stats with no runs and only two tackles. It wasn't surprising Mumm had some difficulty there after having spent most of the season in the Waratahs second-row but what the Wallabies need in the absence of Rocky Elsom is a blindside flanker making an Elsom-like impact around the field. But second-row to back-row is a cinch switch compared with the one demanded of Ben Alexander, a specialist loose head thrust in at tight head for the final quarter in Canberra. Even against Italy's second-string front-row, Alexander struggled and while he is eagerly embracing the notion of becoming a prop who can play both sides, that's a process that normally takes months, if not years, certainly not weeks.

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Rob the builder creating a special era: Mortlock

Stathi Paxinos | June 16, 2009

WALLABIES captain Stirling Mortlock is willing to accept some mistakes when Australia play their second Test against Italy at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night. Not a lot of mistakes, he adds, but to him, it is all part and parcel of the attitude of this Australian team."It's not about the error, it's about trying to better yourself and trying to improve," Mortlock said yesterday. "You can't go to the extreme and make too many errors but you want guys to be pushing themselves, you want them to be bettering themselves and that's part of the process."Mortlock has been around for long enough to have seen several cycles in Australian rugby. He debuted for the Wallabies in 2000 when Australia was at the peak of the rugby world, became captain in 2006 when it was slumping and is now heading a team of generational change, and most importantly one, he believes, that is beginning to again believe in a shared ambition."I think the group can feel that we are moving in the right direction or we're at least moving in a direction and we're hopeful that is the right direction," Mortlock said. "There is a sense that we are building towards something."It's very early days and we've just got to make sure that day-in and day-out we keep on pushing forward and try and maximise our gains that we make both on and off the pitch as a group. To be part of that dynamic where there's so many guys looking to develop as players, so many guys wanting to be part of something special, wanting to be part of something as a group that's really positive to be part of that. It's hard to compare eras but the here and now, we're really focused on maximising all that we can do."We were blessed [during the era leading up to and following the 1999 World Cup success) to have so many world-class players and you don't realise [that] at the time. At the moment we are more in a building phase and possibly and hopefully, if we get to where we aspire to be down the track, we can reflect back and say that [this] was a great era. But we've got a lot of work to do and a lot of things to do prior to even saying that."Mortlock said the squad, in its second year under coach Robbie Deans, had a good mixture of new blood - headlined by 18-year-old James O'Connor - experience and those who were somewhere in between. One of its strengths was that it had a sense of selflessness and the players were willing to accept the Deans philosophy of giving competitors for the same position a chance to be tested on the field. "Personally, I'm thoroughly enjoying being part of this team because there's so many guys putting up their hands and chipping in for the cause and that just makes my job easier," Mortlock said. "That's the mindset of the group. It doesn't matter if it's your first year or your eighth year you've all got a role to play and the more that you do that, the more that you bring to the team, the easier it is for everyone else. "We [the whole 30-man squad] always meet at the start of the week and everyone has a role to play in the preparation for that Test match. Obviously there are age differences, [but it's] a good dynamic."The 32-year-old said there were plenty of areas where the team could improve, such as the breakdown - an area that will be tested against Italy, who the Wallabies beat 31-8 in Canberra on Saturday night. "They've got some good individual players but they've got a pretty dominant scrum, a good lineout and [are] extremely tough to break down, so it's very hard for us to get continuity and cohesion in phase play because they are so good at the breakdown," Mortlock said. "So for us that's something to look at, how we can achieve more cohesion in attack."That was echoed by back-rower Richard Brown, who warned the Wallabies must quickly lift their game to ensure they were ready for the tough Tests ahead. "We need to step that area up this week if we are going to be serious about the Tri Nations," Brown said.

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Wallabies run riot over Baa-Baas

June 6, 2009

Rugby League convert Sonny Bill Williams of the Barbarians is tackled by Nathan Sharpe and Drew Mitchell of the Wallabies in the Nick Shehadie Cup match at Sydney Football Stadium. The Wallabies tamed Sonny Bill Williams and thrashed a disjointed Barbarians side to open their international season with a 55-7 victory at the Sydney Football Stadium. Showing some early season rustiness against an even less cohesive Baa Baas, the Australians scored eight tries, with winger Drew Mitchell grabbing a double, to post their biggest victory in 11 games against the invitational side in front of 39,688 fans. The Wallabies led 20-7 at the break after three first-half tries, before running away with the match, the famous Barbarians' first on Australian soil, in the second 40 minutes. Man-of-the-match Matt Giteau booted four conversions and a penalty goal on top of a pinpoint kicking game in general play. Playing his first game in Australian since walking out on NRL club the Bulldogs, Williams looked dangerous on occasions with his trademark offload and only an amazing tackle from halfback Luke Burgess prevented him scoring with his first touch in international rugby in just the third minute. But the former NRL superstar was also on the end of plenty of attention from the Australians, most notably from opposite number Stirling Mortlock, who smashed him in a big tackle two minutes later. Williams also had a hand in the Baa Baas' first-half try, scored by Iain Balshaw on the stroke of halftime. He was also booed by a small section of the crowd wearing blue and white when he cleaned up by a Lachie Turner grubber in the second half. The Wallabies have injury concerns over Burgess (hip) and Matt Hodgson, who left the field in the first half of his first game for Australia with an AC joint problem. Robbed of Australian star Rocky Elsom, who withdrew with a leg injury on match day, the thrown-together Barbarians attempted to play with their trademark flair but predictably struggled for combination and pace. The Wallabies opened their scoring through James Horwill in the sixth minute, before Mitchell got his first in the 16th and Giteau dummied twice and strolled over untouched in the 23rd. Their attack lost some momentum until the 57th minute, when hooker Stephen Moore finished some good work from George Smith and Josh Valentine to push the floodgates open. Prop Ben Alexander strode over in the 66th minute, Mitchell got his second in the 72nd, while David Pocock and James O'Connor bagged tries in the final three minutes. Australia take home the new Sir Nicholas Shehadie Cup with the win.

Mortlock said Williams "held his own" while Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the step up had been huge for the Kiwi."The toughest thing for Sonny was going essentially from club rugby into an international," Deans said."You just don't get the license to play and you could see he was often looking to offload and play a game that you can probably get away with at club level, but you just don't here because the channels close and the contact is more significant."Deans was pleased with the first hit-out but will look for more patience from his side."It was a good start, there was some really good stuff," he said.

"We were a little bit impatient, put the ball on the ground a little bit too frequently where if we'd just been a little bit more patient we would have profited."Barbarians captain Phil Waugh, who will join the Wallabies squad on Sunday morning, was impressed with the Australians. "They certainly finished off well ... that pressure into points really hurt us," he said. Deans confirmed Elsom would also join the Australian squad on Sunday and his injury would be assessed by medical staff. Hodgson is likely to spend a lengthy time on the sidelines, while Burgess' injury is considered minor.

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Put a shot on for me, Stirling

June 5, 2009

Less than a month ago, Brumbies coach Andy Friend was questioning how much more Stirling Mortlock had to give, but now he has no doubt the warrior centre is still the man to lead the Wallabies. Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock admits a few people have approached him in recent days, asking him to show up Sonny Bill Williams in tonight's match against the Barbarians at the Sydney Football Stadium. It seems some ill feeling remains over William’s dramatic walkout from the Bulldogs last year and, for some, Mortlock is regarded as the best man to expose the convert in his new domain. Even Williams, in his first major rugby appearance - which will lure All Blacks coach Graham Henry to the game - has conceded to being nervous about the possibility that outside the boxing ring, Mortlock may be the combatant to put him in his place."Yes, I've had a few people come up to me, and say, 'Put a shot in for me', but it's all a bit tongue in cheek," Mortlock said yesterday. "Sonny Bill is a world-class athlete. He has proven his worth in league and is going very well overseas in union. Last week he was in the [boxing] ring, doing a bit of damage there as well. I've got no doubt he will be looking forward to playing on a bigger rugby stage and he will be up for it."Mortlock was in his typically jolly pre-match mood and laughed when asked if he would remind his No.13 opponent that shoulder charges, which are usually overlooked in league, are regarded as a serious no-no in rugby union. "I think he has learnt pretty quickly in union that shoulder charges are illegal," Mortlock said. "Just as upper cuts are pretty illegal as well. "The Wallabies skipper conceded that confronting Williams head on would be "something quite different" but it would be ridiculous if he focused all his attention on the controversial Barbarians outside-centre."We've had some footage of Sonny Bill playing at Toulon. But with so many different players around him in the Barbarians line-up, you can't be too sure what to expect," Mortlock said. "That's probably a good thing for us. That will make us focus on ourselves and being as cohesive as possible."Also I'm not really focused on going at one player. You're more focused on the role you have to play in the group. I have to make sure that I link in well with the other guys in the back line. Certainly the back line have a few things we are looking at doing but we aren't sure how the opposition will defend as a unit. We're also not sure where the opportunities are going to be."That's the dilemma of confronting a high-quality Barbarians line-up, who proudly state they are here for fun and frolic but are also certain to be ultra-serious as soon as the whistle blows. The Barbarians include many players who aren't used to performing together, so there is uncertainty about what style they will play. It means the Wallabies, in their first appearance of the season, have to be prepared for anything. As so many Australian players are using this game to re-establish themselves in the Wallabies line-up before the Test calendar starts next weekend against Italy in Canberra, the match will become an important physical and mental challenge. Slip-ups won't be allowed, especially with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans indicating he is likely to try other players in starting roles over the next month. The way to stop that is for those with the first chance in the green and gold to convince the coach tonight they are irreplaceable. Mortlock said it won't be like the traditional, throw-it-here- there-and-everywhere Barbarians encounter. "Our fixture against the Baabaas last year was a physical and brutal affair," Mortlock said. "Also the talk this week from the Barbarians team is that they are here to win and that they are ready for a very physical battle. So we're ready for that. We're preparing as if it is a Test match. "No doubt they have enough quality in that team to put up a Test match standard performance and we are anticipating that. It's our first match of the year and it is great to be up against a Barbarians outfit which seems ready to take us on. For us, we couldn't ask for a better first-up hit-out."

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Sonny fears next bout - stopping Mortlock running rings around him

Greg Growden Chief Rugby Correspondent | June 2, 2009

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS yesterday was back in friendlier territory, at a cherished football ground, surrounded by rugby notables, but still confessing to one fear - that Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock might make a fool of him on Saturday night. Williams returned to the Sydney Football Stadium, where at a media conference he joined several of his new Barbarians colleagues who had flown in several hours earlier from London after defeating England 33-26 at Twickenham. The travelling group included others returning to familiar ground in Sydney, with Wallabies back-rower Rocky Elsom, who is expected to announce this week he will join the Brumbies, and Waratahs captain Phil Waugh. William’s quest to find some familiarity in a relatively foreign domain was also helped by his return to the arena he described as his favourite in Australia. This time around, he will be wrestling with a different rugby code, but where exactly he will play in a bid to show to all that he is adept at the 15-man game, remains a mystery. Barbarians coach David Young yesterday was coy about the position Williams would play against the Wallabies, but the player concerned made it clear he was eager to confront Mortlock at No.13. Young did at least admit Williams would be seen somewhere in the Barbarians back line. Young and his assistant coach, Mike Catt, the former England midfielder, admitted they had not seen a lot of Williams during his year with Toulon in the French league because their matches were hardly shown on UK television. But both were well aware of his reputation, and fascinated by his somewhat different preparation of having a professional boxing bout last week. But Williams, decked out in the Barbarians tracksuit, looked hardly the pugilist yesterday. He was quiet and civil. When he was asked if he was nervous about his first major game since he controversially crossed codes, he replied: "Yeah definitely.""You see the names like Stirling Mortlock, Matt Giteau and that gets you a bit nervous," Williams added. "And I want to show in this match that I'm not just a league player trying to play rugby, but that I'm a rugby player."I'm especially looking forward to playing against Stirling Mortlock. I've watched him since I've started playing league, and I've really admired the way he plays not just with the ball, but also without the ball. He can hit really well. "I'm not going to say I will go out there and be a star player, or anything like that," Williams added. "I'm going to go out there and try to do the basics well, and not let Stirling Mortlock run through me."Despite all Williams has achieved in league, he knows Mortlock could well show him up. Adding to the pressure is that several of his former Bulldogs teammates will be at the game, watching how he adapts, and ready to ridicule him if he falters. Who exactly they are he wouldn't reveal, because as Williams put it, "I don't want to say their names, or they might get into trouble". "I've just got to try and soak it all up this week, and learn from some of the best rugby players in the world," he added. "Anyone who takes part in something like this and doesn't learn anything from it is a fool."Even more foolish is if he gives his opponents ammunition by being short of the mark against the Wallabies."You're always going to have your critics ? So I'm going to go out there and try and have a strong game and just show people I can play rugby."Is he expecting boos or cheers when he runs out? "A bit of both."

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Brumbies coach Andy Friend - Mortlock should still lead

Wayne Smith | May 18, 2009

Less than a month ago, Brumbies coach Andy Friend was questioning how much more Stirling Mortlock had to give, but now he has no doubt the warrior centre is still the man to lead the Wallabies. The worst game in Brumbies history, the 56-7 Anzac Day loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington, coincided with the worst performance Mortlock has played in the Brumbies jersey. Although Friend subsequently came to realise a viral infection the previous weekend had drained Mortlock of all energy, not the shape to be in when confronting All Blacks battering ram Ma'a Nonu, it took all of his self-restraint in the immediate aftermath of that record defeat not to dump the Wallabies captain. In the end, he retained him in the side but nonetheless switched him from the midfield to the wing."It was a very un-Stirling-like performance from him against the Hurricanes," said Friend, no doubt referring to Mortlock's five missed tackles."But since that day Stirling has shown what a phenomenal character and inspirational leader he is."And I said to him yesterday my respect for him as a person has grown immeasurably in recent weeks. It's not my call, of course, but in my opinion he still has the desire and the ability to play and lead at the top level."All of Mortlock's post-Hurricanes performances seemingly built towards his towering game for the Brumbies against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday. What transpired at Waikato Stadium wasn't the scenario the Brumbies had crossed the Tasman seeking. Pre-match rain all but ended their hopes of playing the expansive game they hoped would deliver them the bonus-point win needed to qualify for the Super 14 play-offs and instead plunged them into a slugfest against the Chiefs. That’s when Mortlock came storming to the fore, both with his crunching defence and irrepressible ball carries. The Brumbies might have matched the Chiefs with one try apiece but they spent almost the entire second half in desperate defence and ultimately saw their finals hopes terminated by a late Stephen Donald penalty goal. Mortlock's rugged game epitomized the Brumbies' heroic efforts and Friend had every reason to feel proud of his side's parting contribution to the Super 14 season. "We tried very hard but we just weren't good enough," he said.

Friend's debut season as a head coach in Super rugby is one that will haunt him forever because of the death of Shawn Mackay. But by any normal standards 2009 represented a very solid start under the new coaching regime and one that augurs well for the seventh-placed Brumbies to seriously challenge for the title next year. Certainly the recruitment of star halves pairing Matt Giteau and Josh Valentine should add a new dimension to the Brumbies' attack next year."I'm obviously wrapped in those two signings," Friend said. "You need people at nine and 10 who know the game and how to control it. "Yet even working with what they already have, the Brumbies' coaching staff has done well, scrum coach Bill Young most especially. Certainly the improvement of the ACT based side's set piece has been one of the most pleasing features of the season, and it was music to Friend's ears after the Hamilton match when his Chiefs counterpart, Ian Foster, congratulated him with the words: "What the hell have you been doing to your scrum? "The other significant development made this season was in deprogramming the Brumbies from their traditional approach of playing to preordained phases. "You don't necessarily play to a pattern but to where the space is," he said. "We've made good progress on our set pieces and our defence and also on an attacking structure that doesn't have some of the constraints of the past."

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Robbie Deans backs Stirling Mortlock to play key role

AAP | May 11, 2009

ROBBIE Deans insists Stirling Mortlock remains well in the mix to retain the Wallabies captaincy in 2009.

Stirling Mortlock kicks the goal to be highest point scorer in super rugby at Canberra Stadium last Saturday Picture: Kym Smith, turning 32 next week, Mortlock is under growing pressure from a clutch of younger, in-form players _ headed by Queensland dynamo Digby Ioane _ to hang on to his Wallabies No.13 jumper in 2009, let alone the national captaincy. The scrutiny on Mortlock reached fever pitch last month when Brumbies coach Andy Friend shunted the 76-Test stalwart to the wing for the first time in almost a decade of Super rugby. Deans, though, says Mortlock remains one of the most influential players in Australia, an assertion emphasised in his match-turning display in the Brumbies' season-saving win over the Blues on Saturday night. Stirling has shown through Super rugby again that he's still a player who has a presence and an ability to impact on a game _ as recently as last weekend, The Wallabies coach said today. His acts (on Saturday) were the pivotal acts in the game that turned the momentum. But, most importantly, what was evident most of all was his desire. He still wants to make a difference as opposed to just make up the numbers, and that's a critical quality with any player Deans said Mortlock, like all players in contention, was well aware he needed to keep performing to gain ongoing Test-match selection. There's no guarantees for any player _ and they don't want a guarantee, he said Nothing is forever. They're all very aware and conscious of the fact that it will finish some time. That's not the point. The point is, what are you going to experience while you're in it and while you're involved and how long do you want to be involved. What is it that excites you? And the day they wake up in the morning and they're not excited about it, then that is not a good scene _ particularly if they're blokes who do have a guaranteed spot because they're all blokes who take pride in what they do. They don't want to be part of a guarantee without a great experience behind them. So it's not an issue. Deans is spoilt for choice when it comes to outside-centre options, with Ioane proving a revelation during his time in the midfield for the Reds this season, while Ryan Cross and the developing Timana Tahu are also staking claims. Mortlock, though, remains the man, according to Australia's prince of centres and former Wallabies selector Tim Horan. Horan claimed today Ioane should be in the Wallabies' starting XV somewhere, but said he'd prefer to see him on wing and Mortlock retained at outside centre. Digby Ioane has put his hand up to take 13 or a winging position, so it's going to be difficult for Stirling Mortlock, Horan said: But he should hold down his 13 position. He's probably the guy that needs to be in the backline to keep the stability there. His form warrants it, especially in the first four or five games of the Super 14 - he was the most outstanding Australian back in those early games. Mortlock also received support from Berrick Barnes, Deans' likely first-choice inside centre: He's a great leader, Barnes said. He was a tremendous leader for us last year.

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Mortlock no declining force, says Deans

AAP | May 11, 2009

He is refusing to guarantee him a walk-up start, but Robbie Deans insists Stirling Mortlock remains well in the mix to retain the Wallabies captaincy in 2009. Turning 32 next week, Mortlock is under growing pressure from a clutch of younger, in-form players - headed by Queensland dynamo Digby Ioane - to hang on to his Wallabies No.13 jumper in 2009, let alone the national captaincy. The scrutiny on Mortlock reached fever pitch last month when Brumbies coach Andy Friend shunted the 76-Test stalwart to the wing for the first time in almost a decade of Super rugby. Deans, though, says Mortlock remains one of the most influential players in Australia, an assertion emphasised in his match-turning display in the Brumbies' season-saving win over the Blues on Saturday night."Stirling has shown through Super rugby again that he's still a player who has a presence and an ability to impact on a game - as recently as last weekend," the Wallabies coach said on Monday."His acts (on Saturday) were the pivotal acts in the game that turned the momentum. "But, most importantly, what was evident most of all was his desire. He still wants to make a difference as opposed to just make up the numbers, and that's a critical quality with any player."Deans said Mortlock, like all players in contention, was well aware he needed to keep performing to gain ongoing Test-match selection."There's no guarantees for any player - and they don't want a guarantee," he said."Nothing is forever. They're all very aware and conscious of the fact that it will finish some time."That's not the point. The point is, what are you going to experience while you're in it and while you're involved and how long do you want to be involved. What is it that excites you?"And the day they wake up in the morning and they're not excited about it, then that is not a good scene - particularly if they're blokes who do have a guaranteed spot because they're all blokes who take pride in what they do."They don't want to be part of a guarantee without a great experience behind them. So it's not an issue."Deans is spoilt for choice when it comes to outside-centre options, with Ioane proving a revelation during his time in the midfield for the Reds this season, while Ryan Cross and the developing Timana Tahu are also staking claims. Mortlock, though, remains the man, according to Australia's prince of centres and former Wallabies selector Tim Horan. Horan on Monday claimed Ioane should be in the Wallabies' starting XV somewhere, but said he'd prefer to see him on wing and Mortlock retained at outside centre."Digby Ioane has put his hand up to take 13 or a winging position, so it's going to be difficult for Stirling Mortlock," Horan said."But he should hold down his 13 position. He's probably the guy that needs to be in the backline to keep the stability there."His form warrants it, especially in the first four or five games of the Super 14 - he was the most outstanding Australian back in those early games. "Mortlock also received support from Berrick Barnes, Deans' likely first-choice inside centre."He's a great leader," Barnes said. "He was a tremendous leader for us last year."

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Stirling Mortlock Super Rugby's leading pointscorer

Sunday Mail | May 10, 2009

STIRLING Mortlock became Super Rugby's leading pointscorer as the Brumbies scored a crucial 37-15 win over the Blues in Canberra last night. The Brumbies overcame a lackluster start to the match to score five second-half tries and earn a bonus point, keeping their Super 14 semi-finals hopes alive. Both sides went into the match needing a win to have any chance of making the finals and it was the Blues who made the most of their opportunities in the first half. The visitors took an early three-point lead after five-eighth Jimmy Gopperth slotted a penalty goal in the second minute before Brumbies fly half Matt Toomua landed a drop goal to level the scores 15 minutes later. The Brumbies were often beaten at the breakdown and lacked any real penetration in attack, while the Blues tried to play a more expansive game, beating the home side out wide on numerous occasions and earning a 10-6 lead at the break. However, it was a different Brumbies side in the second half with Mortlock stepping up to lead the charge. The Wallabies captain crashed over four minutes into the second half to kick-start the Brumbies' revival, before converting his own try and eclipsing former Crusaders five-eighth Andrew Mehrtens' Super points scoring record in the process. Three tries in the next 15 minutes then put the game out of the Blues' reach.

Mortlock added the extras for two of those tries to take his points tally in the match to 12 and his scoring record to 994 -- four ahead of Mehrtens -- before he was taken off after a head knock. The Blues hit back with a try in the 62nd minute to get back to 32-15 but the match was all but over and the Brumbies went further ahead with a fifth try to Sitaleki Timani five minutes from fulltime.

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Mortlock creates Super rugby history

AAP | May 10, 2009

STIRLING Mortlock has led the Brumbies to a crucial win over the Blues in Canberra, scoring a try and kicking seven points to become the all-time highest Super rugby point scorer. The Brumbies overcame a lackluster start to score five second-half tries and earn a bonus point, keeping their Super 14 semi-finals hopes alive with a 37-15 victory. Both sides went into the match needing a win to have any chance of making the finals and it was the Blues who made the most of their opportunities in the first half. The Blues took an early three point lead after No.10 Jimmy Gopperth slotted a penalty goal in the second minute before Brumbies five-eighth Matt Toomua landed a drop goal to level the scores 15 minutes later. The Brumbies were often beaten at the breakdown and lacked any real penetration in attack, while the Blues tried to play a more expansive game and earned a 10-6 lead at the break. However, it was a different Brumbies side in the second half with Mortlock leading the charge. The Wallabies captain crashed over four minutes into the second half to kick-start the revival, before converting his own try and eclipsing former Crusaders five-eighth Andrew Mehrtens' Super points scoring record in the process. The Brumbies secured a vital bonus point with another three tries in the next 15 minutes, taking them out to a 32-10 lead and putting the game out of the Blues' reach. Mortlock finished the match with 12 points to take his all-time points scoring record to 994 - four ahead of Mehrtens - before he was taken off after a crunching tackle by Blues prop Tony Woodcock. The Blues scored another try in the 62nd minute to get back to 32-15 but the match was all but over and the Brumbies went further ahead with a fifth try to Sitaleki Timani five minutes from fulltime. Mortlock said the points record was pleasing for him personally, but it was the second-half team performance that was most satisfying."We were all aware we were a little bit off physically (in the first half), in particular at the breakdown," he said."The physicality the forward pack showed in the second half was outstanding."

He said he wasn't sure at the time whether the try he scored secured the points record."So I made sure I got the kick, it was good that it got a nice bounce off the posts."It's pleasing, but I was asked about it earlier in the week and I said that I'd take the win first and foremost and it was excellent that we grabbed the bonus point and got a good win."BRUMBIES 37 (Huia Edmonds, Francis Fainifo, Stirling Mortlock, Patrick Phibbs, Sitaleki Timani tries Mortlock 2, Matt Toomua cons Mortlock pen Toomua drop goal) BLUES 15 (Jimmy Gopperth, Joe Rokocoko tries Gopperth con pen) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Matt Goddard (AUS).

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Stirling Mortlock leads Brumbies revival

AAP | May 9, 2009

Stirling Mortlock has led the Brumbies to a crucial win over the Blues in Canberra, scoring a try and kicking seven points to become the all-time highest Super rugby point scorer. The Brumbies overcame a lackluster start to score five second-half tries and earn a bonus point, keeping their Super 14 semi-finals hopes alive with a 37-15 victory. Both sides went into the match needing a win to have any chance of making the finals and it was the Blues who made the most of their opportunities in the first half. The Blues took an early three point lead after No.10 Jimmy Gopperth slotted a penalty goal in the second minute before Brumbies five-eighth Matt Toomua landed a drop goal to level the scores 15 minutes later. The Brumbies were often beaten at the breakdown and lacked any real penetration in attack, while the Blues tried to play a more expansive game and earned a 10-6 lead at the break. However, it was a different Brumbies side in the second half with Mortlock leading the charge. The Wallabies captain crashed over four minutes into the second half to kick-start the revival, before converting his own try and eclipsing former Crusaders five-eighth Andrew Mehrtens' Super points scoring record in the process. The Brumbies secured a vital bonus point with another three tries in the next 15 minutes, taking them out to a 32-10 lead and putting the game out of the Blues' reach. Mortlock finished the match with 12 points to take his all-time points scoring record to 994 - four ahead of Mehrtens - before he was taken off after a crunching tackle by Blues prop Tony Woodcock. The Blues scored another try in the 62nd minute to get back to 32-15 but the match was all but over and the Brumbies went further ahead with a fifth try to Sitaleki Timani five minutes from full time. Mortlock said the points record was pleasing for him personally, but it was the second-half team performance that was most satisfying."We were all aware we were a little bit off physically (in the first half), in particular at the breakdown,'' he said."The physicality the forward pack showed in the second half was outstanding.''

He said he wasn't sure at the time whether the try he scored secured the points record."So I made sure I got the kick, it was good that it got a nice bounce off the posts."It's pleasing, but I was asked about it earlier in the week and I said that I'd take the win first and foremost and it was excellent that we grabbed the bonus point and got a good win.''

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Mortlock's move to wing 'weird', says Ioane

AAP | May 1, 2009

Queensland danger man Digby Ioane has questioned the Brumbies' wisdom in shunting the Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock to the wing, depriving him of a benchmark outside-centre battle. Rising Wallaby winger Ioane was keyed up for a head-to-head midfield confrontation with Mortlock at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night in a major test of his development at No.13.But Brumbies coach Andy Friend's decision to reshuffle his backline, with centre Gene Fairbanks and fullback Mark Gerrard back from injury, has left the Australian captain on the wing."That's a bit weird," Ioane told AAP. "He's the best centre in the world, I don't know what he's doing on the wing."But even if he's on the wing he'll play well."

Friend's faith in rookie playmaker Matt Toomua and Fairbanks' return from a groin niggle at inside centre see Tyrone Smith move to outside centre where he'll mark Ioane, the Reds' tackle-shedding strike weapon. However, Ioane's hot Super 14 form at No.13 isn't expected to see him considered in the midfield for the Wallabies, where Mortlock is likely to start ahead of Ryan Cross. The 23-year-old Queenslander is challenging both Lote Tuqiri and his Reds team-mate Peter Hynes for starting berths on the wing, where he played three Tests on last year's European tour. Given opportunities ahead of Lachie Turner by Test coach Robbie Deans, Ioane credited Mortlock and Tuqiri's "inspirational" leadership with his ability to step up to the next level.

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Mortlock looking to terrorise Reds

AAP | May 1, 2009

Stirling Mortlock says the Brumbies powerful back three must stand up to ensure their Super 14 season stays alive against would-be giant-killers Queensland. Mortlock will play out of position on the wing on Saturday night in a move which has bemused the Reds who are desperate to end their woes against their Australian bogey side. But the Wallabies skipper said he wouldn't be stuck on the sideline and would enjoy a roving commission to terrorise the Queensland defence at Suncorp Stadium. Mortlock will combine with fellow Wallabies back Adam Ashley-Cooper and a fit-again fullback Mark Gerrard in a highly experienced and penetrative back three following a backline reshuffle after the Brumbies 56-7 thumping by the Hurricanes. A loss will end the eighth-placed Brumbies season and the Test veteran said it was highly important he, Ashley-Cooper and Gerrard made their mark."It's crucial for our whole back three to get involved in the game," he said. "All three of us will have the mindset to get involved and we'll be roving. "Gerrardo has been in outstanding form for us this year so to have him back is a great boost and he adds a little bit of class and control as well as his big kicking game."Reds coach Phil Mooney expects to see Mortlock all over the field despite the No.11 being on his back, just as the Brumbies expect Berrick Barnes to be calling the shots at five-eighth despite being named at inside centre. The Brumbies are also looking to follow the lead of Queensland, coming off a breakthrough 31-24 upset of the Blues in Auckland, by bouncing back from a bad loss. After scoring their first win on the road in 20 matches, Mooney said the his young, inconsistent side was now looking to end to put together their first back-to-back win in three years. "We've got an opportunity now to put to bed the theory we can't back up," he said."The preparation has been good and the leadership has been good again so its up to the players."We can break a barrier tomorrow night."

But they will have to do with a far less mobile back-row than the Brumbies with George Smith and Stephen Hoiles presenting a huge danger at the breakdown. The Brumbies have won 13 of the 14 Super rugby matches between the two sides since 1996 and intelligent preparation and planning have been hallmarks of their success in the past. Rubbing salt into the Queenslanders, there's been a tradition of former players haunting the Reds. The likes of Pat Howard, Tim Atkinson, Mark Chisholm, Julian Huxley and Jim Williams have risen in the past to star against their former state. Novice playmaker Matt Toomua, a Brisbane State high School product, is hoping to be the latest after coach Andy Friend stuck with the teenager in spite of last week's horror loss.

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Digby Ioane can't displace Stirling Mortlock

Wayne Smith | April 28, 2009

No matter how well Digby Ioane performs against Stirling Mortlock in the final Australian derby of the season in Brisbane on Saturday, Queensland Reds' coach Phil Mooney can't see him unseating Australia's captain at outside centre in the Wallabies. While the clash of hookers, former Queensland stalwart turned Brumbies hero Stephen Moore against his long-time Reds team-mate Sean Hardman-- who will become Queensland's most capped player - will be the emotional highlight of the match, it will be the collision of Ioane and Mortlock at outside centre that has most significance. Ioane, nominated by Brumbies' coach Andy Friend as the Reds player his side must contain if it is to keep alive its semi-final hopes, has been the stand-out Australian player in this year's Super 14, save arguably for Matt Giteau. While he might not singlehandedly have masterminded victories as Giteau has done for the Western Force, Ioane has been almost unstoppable at times. But whether that translates into an immediate call-up to the Wallabies Test side, either at outside centre or wing, remains to be seen. Certainly Mooney feels that protocol needs to be observed, especially with the early-season Wallabies selections."I think players like Stirling and Lote Tuqiri have the runs on the board over many seasons," said Mooney. "So I'd expect they'd be given the chance first-up. After that, it's up to them."It could be, of course, that Ioane is not being considered by Australia's selectors as a direct rival to Mortlock, especially as the Force's Ryan Cross has surged back into form at outside centre to provide real depth in the position. If that is the case and Ioane is tossed into the mix as a winger, he could well be challenging his own Reds team-mate Peter Hynes for a Test position.

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Every game a grand final: Mortlock

AAP | April 18, 2009

Stirling Mortlock says the Brumbies are ready to continue their "emotional and physical journey" towards the Super 14 finals after keeping their season alive in spectacular fashion against the Bulls. The ACT side scored a thrilling a 32-31 win over the South Africans at Canberra Stadium on Friday night thanks to a late try from fly half Christian Lealiifano and conversion from Mortlock. The emotion-charged, bonus-point win - achieved without injured fullback Mark Gerrard - came just two days after the funeral of teammate Shawn MacKay. Since losing to the Sharks on the night Mackay was struck by a car in Durban, the Brumbies have won three in a row and have now moved within reach of the top four. With four games remaining their finals dream is still alive, although they will just about need to win all of their remaining games, starting with next Saturday's tough away trip to Wellington. But Mortlock believes his side will thrive under that pressure given what they've been through so far."The whole journey that this team's been on has been an experience both physically and emotionally," the Brumbies skipper said."We've put ourselves in the situation now where pretty much every game is a grand final."But I think that's a good thing for us.

"This group usually responds to pressure, so that's how we're mentally approaching every match."But it doesn't get any easier going over to play the Hurricanes over there in the cake tin (Westpac Stadium)... It should be a massive challenge and one we're really looking forward to. "Mortlock, who shifted to the wing in a reworked Brumbies backline, was crucial to the win on Friday night, kicking three conversions and two penalties. He praised his team's spirit, but warned that would only get them so far unless they worked on the basics of their game, especially defence. "There's a tremendous amount of spirit in this team," Mortlock said.

"But what we need to do is improve a lot of our basics of our game.

"But certainly underlying what we're doing, there's a huge amount of effort and spirit and effort which is great."A sour point of the loss came from a suspension to prop Guy Shepherdson, who was banned for two matches on Saturday for striking Bulls lock Danie Rossouw with his knee in the 27th minute of the win. Shepherdson will miss away matches to the Hurricanes and Queensland Reds but can return the following week against the Blues in Canberra.

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Injuries force Brumbies reshuffle

AAP | April 16, 2009

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock says his move to the wing was a logical solution as the Brumbies seek to deal with the Bulls' kicking game in Friday night's Super 14 clash. Injuries to fullback Mark Gerrard (hamstring) and winger Alfi Mafi (groin) saw coach Andy Friend ask Mortlock to hand over his outside centre role to Tyrone Smith, while Gene Fairbanks will start at inside centre. And Wallabies fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper will in the Brumbies' No.15 jersey for the first time this season."It seemed like the logical solution to get our best players on the paddock," Mortlock told AAP on Thursday."It's been a fair while for me playing in the back three but I'm looking forward to it."I started off my rugby career as a winger or fullback so it has been a fair while, but it shouldn't be too much of a drama."Mortlock said the move was in part aimed at nullifying the prolific field kicking game of Bulls five-eighth Morne Steyn, which helped bury the NSW Waratahs last weekend."Obviously in light of playing the Bulls, it's not too bad an idea to get some guys at the back who can return the ball or kick," Mortlock said."A significant part of the game at the moment is the ability to solve opposition tactical kicking and to win the territory battle is pretty important. "Steyn won't be the only one ensuring Mortlock has a busy night, with the Wallabies captain set to mark one of Springboks pair Bryan Habana or Akona Ndungane. The Brumbies fare welled teammate Shawn Mackay at his Sydney funeral on Wednesday, and Fairbanks said the players were looking to move on. "We'll be looking to move forward, yesterday was emotionally very draining for everyone and it was a very sad day," he told reporters on Thursday. "Playing for him now is something that we'll all definitely be trying to do."

The Brumbies will be looking for a third straight win in a match crucial to their chances of forcing their way into the play-offs."We got a big lift out of winning last weekend and having the funeral this week for Macca, it will be a big lift for the guys if we can have another win this weekend," Fairbanks said. Friend admitted the loss of Gerrard against the Bulls would present a challenge."I think (Gerrard's) the best kicker in the competition ... and tomorrow night against a side that does like to kick too, without him there it is potentially a loss," Friend said."But Stirling can kick, Frankie (winger Francis Fainifo) has got a good high ball and chase and Adam Ashley-Cooper's a very solid kicker too so we'll be OK."The Bulls have their own setbacks, Friend said, with Bakkies Botha suspended and captain Victor Matfield returning to South Africa for the birth of his second child. "It's not ideal preparation but I suggest that the Bulls haven't had the ideal preparation either, losing two second-rowers," Friend said. The Brumbies will welcome back captain Stephen Hoiles, who has recovered from a medial ligament tear in his left knee.

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Mortlock returns for the Brumbies against the Cheetahs

Karlis Salna, AAP | April 2, 2009

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock will return in a much-needed boost for the shaken Brumbies in their Super 14 clash against the Cheetahs this weekend. The Brumbies have had a horror run in South Africa, with the side failing to register a win in their first two matches of a three-leg tour. Far worse, the side has also been waiting anxiously the learn the full extent of injuries to teammate Shawn Mackay who remains in a critical condition in a Durban hospital after being hit by a car in the early hours of Sunday morning. The 26-year-old suffered a cervical spinal fracture and dislocation, a fractured skull as well as a broken leg and multiple facial fractures and lacerations in the incident. Mortlock will again play in his preferred role of outside centre and resume his midfield partnership with Tyrone Smith. Gene Fairbanks, who ran on at inside centre in the 35-14 loss to the Sharks in Durban last week, returns to the bench. Mortlock was ruled out against the Sharks after sustaining corks in both thighs during the side's 25-17 loss to the Lions two weeks ago. Brumbies coach Andy Friend said the 76-Test veteran would provide a much needed boost to the backline."Stirling's a key member of the squad and we're naturally pleased to have him back fit and ready to go," he said."I thought Gene and Tyrone were very strong for us in a beaten side last week, but Stirling's a world-class, experienced outside centre and someone you can't afford to not have in the starting XV.""He provides us with a lot of leadership, experience and direction in the backline."Mitchell Chapman retains his starting position at blindside flanker after making a successful return from a long-term shoulder injury last weekend. The Brumbies delayed the naming of the team following the incident involving Mackay and have named an extended bench with one player to be omitted ahead of the match in Bloemfontein on Saturday night.BACK TO TOP




Mortlock out but Brumbies remain hopeful

Darren Walton | March 27, 2009

Stirling Mortlock has failed to complete training for the Brumbies after corking his leg last week. The Brumbies are hoping history repeats when they tackle Super 14 title favourites the Sharks without inspirational centre Stirling Mortlock early on Sunday morning (AEDT).The Wallabies captain failed to complete training on Thursday night after corking his leg in last weekend's 25-17 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg. Brumbies coach Andy Friend has opted to start Gene Fairbanks at inside centre, with Tyrone Smith replacing Mortlock at outside centre. The Brumbies, sitting precariously in ninth spot on the table nearing the halfway point of the competition, enter the round-seven fixture at ABSA Stadium in an eerily similar position to the last time they took on the Sharks in Durban. On that occasion, two years ago, the Sharks were riding a nine-match winning streak at home and Mortlock was scratched after breaking his hand the previous week in a first-up tour loss for the Brumbies in South Africa. But the ACT outfit rallied to post an against-the-odds 21-10 boil over.

The Sharks are now on a seven-game home winning streak and have lost just one of their last 10 matches in Durban since falling to the Brumbies - the 2007 final heartbreaker against the Bulls. Coach Friend on Friday said the Brumbies were bracing for a bruising and frenetic encounter against the second-placed Sharks."Everything they do, they do it at real pace and real purpose," he said.

"They run hard, they tackle hard, they clean out hard and they scrummage and lineout hard."So it's going to be a very torrid affair.

"And given that they're just back from (their four-match Australasian) tour and in front of their home crowd, they're going to want to please them and show the form they showed on their road trip wasn't a fluke."So it's going to be a pretty full-on trip."

The Sharks netted three wins in Australia in New Zealand, finishing with an impressive 22-10 victory over the Western Force. Friend said he didn't buy into the theory the South Africans may be travel weary."Coming back from Perth, sitting in a comfy seat for 12 hours, I don't think that really fatigues you," he said."It's a big challenge for us more than anything, given that we lost our last game and we want to prove that we are better than that."Despite losing to the Lions, the Brumbies still boast one of the best records in South Africa of the nine Australasian franchises, having won 11 from 21 in the Republic since 2000.And all six previous matches played between the Brumbies and Sharks in Durban have been determined by margins of 12 points or less, as have the last six played between the sides at all venues.BACK TO TOP




Brumbies captain Stirling Mortlock's injury clearance.

David Beniuk and Adrian Warren, AAP | March 22, 2009

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock has been cleared of a serious leg injury after a sickening collision during the Brumbies' 25-17 Super 14 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg. Mortlock hobbled off Ellis Park in the second half after his leg was bent back awkwardly, but early indications are he suffered only a cork and could be available for the clash with the Sharks on Saturday (Sunday AEDT)."At this stage it appears that Stirling has suffered a corked thigh in both legs," Brumbies doctor Warren McDonald said."We will monitor him over the next 48 hours and see how he pulls up."

Mortlock walked freely on Sunday and will not require scans, a Brumbies spokesman said. Coach Andy Friend lamented his side's inability to finish off the South African strugglers, who rebounded from a racism row to post their first victory over the Brumbies since 2003."We just didn't finish them off. We had plenty of opportunities, our execution was poor and we didn't capitalise on our opportunities," Friend said."We didn't put them under enough pressure."

Asked if there was any reason for that, Friend replied: "No, sometimes you have off nights."But Friend was satisfied with his side's set-piece work and praised Mark Gerrard's kicking game as the former Test winger continued a strong season in the No.15 jersey. The Brumbies head to the Indian Ocean city of Durban on Sunday to prepare for the crucial clash with the second-placed Sharks, who will return home with a 3-1 haul from their Australasian tour. Friend said he didn't expect the travel home to affect the Sharks, just as he wasn't using the 14-hour flight as an excuse for the Brumbies' first-up loss in their three-game trip to the Republic."If you let travel be an issue, it becomes an issue," he said.

"You jump on a plane and get home and sleep well and recover from it for a couple of days, you're fine."That's not the reason why we didn't win."

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Stirling Mortlock's monkey business a bad sign

Wayne Smith | March 13, 2009

Brumbies coach Andy Friend has some worrying news for the New South Wales Waratahs - Stirling Mortlock has been carrying on like a schoolboy on a diet of red cordial. Most of the time, Mortlock conducts himself with all the decorum and dignity expected of an Australia captain. But former Wallabies coach John Connolly was always secretly delighted whenever his skipper started behaving excitedly in the days before an important Test. The more boisterous Mortlock became, the more damaging Connolly knew he would be on the field. Friend has made the same connection, which explained his relief when Mortlock returned to his misbehaving best before the Brumbies captain's run, letting loose his famous chimpanzee calls and literally monk eying around at every opportunity."He is definitely carrying on," Friend observed. "No one is safe."

Certainly not the Waratahs if Mortlock is able to funnel all of his irrepressible energy into his midfield running. Sadly he has not been able to do so for the Brumbies this season, at least not since he seized the opening match against the Highlanders by the scruff of the neck and almost single-handedly turned it around. Since then, however, he has struggled to impose himself, despite playing in the 12 jersey where seemingly it should have been easier for him to get involved in the game. Friend persevered with him there, believing it was only a matter of time before Mortlock felt as comfortable at inside centre as he always has at outside centre. But when both the Crusaders and the Western Force were able to corral the Australian captain with surprising ease, the Brumbies coach bit the bullet and re-assigned positions. Much as he hated to move Adam Ashley-Cooper from outside centre to the wing to accommodate Mortlock at 13, he realised that would provide the Brumbies with a better balanced backline."I still think Adam's best position is 13," said Friend. "But Stirling hasn't been on his job at 12. He is the key to us obviously and getting him on his game is very important."The Waratahs coaching staff would not have been doing their jobs if they had not noted the success the Crusaders and Force enjoyed against the Brumbies using a rushing outside-in defence, and Friend fully expects NSW coach Chris Hickey will employ similar tactics again tonight in an attempt to shut down the ACT. "The secret is not to go wide at every opportunity," he said. "That was our trouble, we were still attempting to get the ball wide in the face of that defence, getting belted and then entering a world of pain. We need to be smarter."Smarter, of course, does not necessarily mean subtler. Certainly the introduction of Wallabies spring tourist Peter Kimlin to the Brumbies pack at blindside flanker suggests Friend is searching for direct hard runners who will give the ACT go-forward before the "go-wide" button is hit. Once that button is hit, however, the Brumbies will want to shift the ball as fast as possible which has Hickey thinking that, for all the diversionary fanfare surrounding Mortlock's return to 13 and the introduction of Tyrone Smith at inside centre, the nub of the ACT tactical switch is the selection of the slick-passing Josh Holmes ahead of the more physical Patrick Phibbs at half-back."I thought the change at half-back was specific," Hickey said. "That was probably the most significant, the one that signals a change in their game."The late withdrawal of tight head Al Baxter from the Waratahs' front-row could tip the scrummaging battle in favour of the Brumbies who, for all their other failures, still scored a pushover penalty try against the Force. But clearly the reshuffle in the Tahs second-row, with 204cm Chris Thomson coming in alongside Will Caldwell to allow Dean Mumm to move to his preferred blindside flanker position, appears to be the opening shot of a NSW lineout offensive. So far this season the Brumbies have ridden the massive boot of full-back Mark Gerrard for easy yardage, but if the Tahs are able to squeeze them in the lineouts as the Reds felt last weekend, kicking for the touchline might not be such a smart option for the home side. Until the loss to the Force, the Brumbies had lost only once to another Australian side since the start of Super rugby in 1996, to the Waratahs in 2005.Friend is deliberately underplaying the local derby element, insisting his side is treating the Tahs as simply their next opponent. For all that, the Brumbies have always prided themselves on turning Canberra Stadium into their fortress, but their self-image could take a real battering if they lose two local derbies in succession.

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Stirlng Mortlock supports interstate clash

AAP | March 1, 2009

WALLABIES captain Stirling Mortlock has no qualms about a return NSW-Queensland clash in the middle of the Test season. Waratahs and Reds officials are working on a July fixture, which would fall between Australia's Tests against Italy and France and the Tri-Nations series, as the sequel to next Friday's interstate Super 14 clash in Sydney. As derby fever grips the tournament, former Wallabies coach John Connolly has also called for a rugby state of origin series to plug gaps in the calendar. National coach Robbie Deans is not a believer in cotton-wooling players, and Mortlock backed that stance."Footy players like to play games, that's certainly the case with everyone I've had to deal with," he said."If you live life thinking that injuries and negativity's going to dominate you, then it probably will."We want to play footy, we want to play high quality matches and I think the more the merrier."World class flanker Rocky Elsom has flagged his return to Australia in time for the Tri-Nations after a stint in Ireland, with speculation he could return to his home state of Queensland and turn out for the Reds in July."I don't think it's as much of an issue where he plays as long as we get him back in Australia, that's the really important thing," Mortlock said."Rocky was in exceptional form for us last time he played for the Wallabies and to get him back is a real positive."

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Stirling effort steals the points

Greg Growden | February 23, 2009

IT WASN'T quite as spectacular as his last-minute penalty goal that won the Durban Test and the Tri Nations for the Wallabies in 2000, but Stirling Mortlock's conversion from near the sideline that won the game for the Brumbies on Saturday night was a belter. A fist pump and an extravagant leap into the air summed up the 31-year-old Wallabies skipper's feelings about clinching such an important win over the Crusaders at Canberra Stadium. Seasons can turn on such tight victories. The central figure in the Brumbies' victory was fullback Mark Gerrard, who scored the last-minute try, but it was Mortlock's poise under pressure that secured all the points in the 18-16 victory. Luck was with the Brumbies, considering the Crusaders excelled in the final 20 minutes with a mighty defensive effort. The Brumbies had the ball for minutes on end but the Crusaders kept thwarting them, until the last play of the game. ACT coach Andy Friend was somewhat bedazzled that his team snuck home.

"A lot of people were saying that we made a lot of errors, but their defence was so good. It forced us into errors," Friend said yesterday. "You can do all the pre-season training you want, but until you come up against a fearsome defence like that, you don't know how you are going to handle it. We didn't adapt as quickly as we could have, and didn't get deep enough. It was unbelievable how they kept coming at us."Friend believed the team's self-confidence was crucial in ensuring their second tight victory in as many weeks."There is a lot of belief within the group and you see they are playing for each other," Friend said. "It is the second week we've scraped home in the last few minutes, or the last few seconds."The Queensland Reds' late revival wasn't as successful - they lost 27-24 to the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday after being behind 27-5 in the 61st minute. The Reds rallied with three tries in 14 minutes, but failed to finish off the job. Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper again excelled, prompting coach Phil Mooney to say: "He is one of those young guys who when he has the ball, you're not quite sure what is going to happen."The Reds have injury concerns with Berrick Barnes (corked thigh), Peter Hynes (knee) and Sean Hardman (Achilles tendon).

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Brumbies beat Crusaders in heart-stopping win

AAP | February 22, 2009

A Stirling Mortlock conversion after the siren saw the Brumbies secure a last-gasp victory for the second week in a row, beating their arch-rivals the Crusaders 18-16 in Canberra on Saturday night. In a match which lived up to expectations, the Brumbies won a heart-stopping affair after fullback Mark Gerrard levelled the scores with a try in the dying seconds of the match. It is the second week in a row the Brumbies have secured a late victory after winning with a drop goal in the final minutes of their clash with the Highlanders. Brumbies coach Andy Friend said it was again encouraging to see his side play out a full match."It's a good sign actually. Ideally we'd prefer to not have to wait until the last minute to win the game," Friend said. Friend said he expected nothing less than a tight struggle with the reigning Super 14 champions."Their defence was superb, their line-speed was phenomenal, their physicality was great and forced us into a lot of errors," he said."We haven't experienced anything like that in pre-season or at training, you can't replicate that sort of stuff but we'll be better for having experienced that tonight."Despite missing All Blacks trio Richie McCaw, Brad Thorn and Leon MacDonald, the Crusaders showed the depth they are renowned for, holding in their own at the breakdown. The sides traded blows throughout a scrappy first half, scoring a try a piece with Crusaders star centre Casey Lualala and Brumbies No.10 Christian Lealiifano both crossing the line, but it was the visitors that went to the break in front 11-8.The Brumbies played their best rugby late in the second half, with Gerrard a standout. But it was Mortlock that stepped up to clinch victory with a conversion from wide out in windy conditions before a crowd of 17,500.Mortlock, however, was reluctant to take credit for the heart-stopping win, adding that it was reward for the hard work put in the off-season."A huge part of what the guys have done in the off-season was all about the little things, character, and it's shown in both performances so far this season," Mortlock said. "It's a solid foundation ... but we all know there's a lot of things we need to improve on."

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Deans has Wallabies ready to come of age

David Long | February 22, 2009

ROBBIE DEANS guided the Wallabies to wins against the All Blacks, Springboks, France and England last year. But in a statement that will have his 2011 World Cup rivals looking over their shoulders with trepidation, "Dinkum" Deans is far from satisfied. So much so that he said last night, after nine months in the job, that he's only just begun rebuilding the Wallabies."I don't feel like I've set down a great foundation, to be honest," Deans said. "All we've done is start and we really hope to push on now. I really enjoyed the first stretch and I felt we did achieve some things - not everything that we'd like to, but hopefully I've kindled a bit of desire to push on from here."Deans took over a Wallabies side that, like the All Blacks, was bundled out of the 2007 World Cup in the quarter-finals. Solitary Tri Nations wins against the All Blacks and Springboks were followed with impressive end-of-season-tour victories in Paris and London. Utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper recently said the European wins provided great insight into how the Wallabies could move to the next level, and that the players would take what they learnt on the tour back to their Super 14 teams. Deans, though, acknowledges there is still daylight between where the Wallabies are and where they need to be to win the 2011 World Cup. And he sees the Springboks, not the All Blacks, as the benchmark team, a statement that carries on from his suggestion earlier this month that the most dangerous teams in the Super 14 hailed from the republic."My comment was that the best performances in 2008 came from the Springboks. If you're honest about it there's not too many that could argue with that."Their performances at Ellis Park [winning 53-8 against Australia] and at Twickenham [beating England 42-6] were remarkable."While the All Blacks walked away with the silverware, those two performances in isolation were probably the best performances of 2008 and what that shows is their capabilities."Deans knows that if he is going to take the Wallabies to the next level, he'll need his inspirational skipper, Brumbies star Stirling Mortlock, to lead the way."You watch Stirling play and you can see what sets him apart," said Deans. "His huge commitment to what he does and lack of regard for his own well being, that's where the aura comes from, and when you're on the other side you feel that, you feel that energy before you encounter it."When you've observed or played against him you know what's coming, but as he's getting older he's getting wiser as well, not only in the way he prepares but the way he plays."He's adding a few skills to his repertoire, so he won't necessarily take his preferred option, which is running over the top."

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Fearless Mortlock stars in thriller with a late twist

Greg Growden, SMH | February 14, 2009

IT'S summer. We're still working on our tans. Nonetheless in the wrong season that autumn rugby indulgence, otherwise known as the Super 14, could not have started on a more spectacular note at the House of Pain last night. Last minute victory. Dramatic field goal. Whooping and hollering. Anguished losers close to tears. Crazy bash-and-barge tries. And best of all, to start it off there was 100 seconds of unbroken play without one shrill from the referee's whistle. Yes, the rugby season is upon us, and if the Brumbies-Highlanders game, which yielded nine tries, is any indication of what's to come, the Super 14 could become the required elixir to make us temporarily forget about all that financial doom and gloom. The Brumbies are delighted they somehow got out of Dunedin with a first-round triumph, after giving the Highlanders a 19-point head start. And those masterminds at Wallaby HQ would have been as delighted that one of their main men took another step towards ensuring longevity to his international career. When Stirling Mortlock and his Welsh counterpart Jamie Roberts collided last November during the Millennium Stadium Test, making a deafening sound similar to the crashing of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra cymbals, the Wallaby captain must have wondered whether his slotting into No.12 was a wise career move. The long-time outside-centre had been pushed in one spot due to the early tour departure of Berrick Barnes, with Wallaby coach Robbie Deans and company believing that being closer to the action would work in the 31-year-old's favour and help him hang around until the next World Cup in 2011.The Kamikaze Kid knows only one way - straight, fast and direct - and being just one pass away from the action at No.12 appeared enticing. However, after smashing into Roberts in the opening minute of the Welsh Test, putting Mortlock into la la land while his opponent staggering around the field for 15 minutes with a fractured skull, the skipper would have been excused if he went up to his coach and said: "Forget it. Find some other mug."Three months on, it's not the case. Mortlock was last night back at No.12. How he operated basically won the Brumbies the match. It just took the Brumbies a bit of time to work out how to use Mortlock properly. Set moves are perfect. Putting a pressure on him also has the desired effect, as shown in the opening quarter where the visitors decided not to tackle. Sanity returned in the 25th minute when from a scrum in the Highlanders quarter, the Brumbies front row, who deliberately did not set square all game, put the pressure on, providing the clean ball that enabled halfback Patrick Phibbs, fullback Mark Gerrard and Mortlock to perform an oft rehearsed move. A wide pass to Gerrard, with Mortlock charging in at full speed off his right shoulder was enough to start the Brumbies revival with his 50th Super football try. Then in the second half, from the back of a breakdown, Mortlock had the room to again attack the line at full speed, hit and spin in the tackle, and once more finish off the attacking move. It was then time to get some other people into the action. Mortlock's impact improved when his five-eighth Christian Lealiifano, who in last week's trial against the Waratahs obviously thought he was rugby's version of Cliffy Lyons by running across field all night, realised how much more effective it was to go straight, and take the ball to the line. That gave better formation to the Brumbies attack and with it came a marvellous Mortlock cut-out pass to Gerrard that put the former Wallaby away for the team's fourth try. And when it got a bit silly in the final moments, with the Highlanders taking a one-point lead, Mortlock's experience told. In the last minute, Mortlock just put his head down and barged into several opponents, making crucial territory. His teammates got the hint and followed Mortlock's example. A few phases later, Lealiifano was close enough to the sticks to kick the winning field goal. Cheeky match winning stuff. And all due to the Kamikaze Kid.

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Mortlock hands Brumbies captaincy to Hoiles

January 13, 2009

Stirling Mortlock has relinquished the captaincy of the Brumbies with the reins to be handed to Stephen Hoiles. Mortlock is standing down after five years in the job but he is expected to continue as captain of the Wallabies. Hoiles, 27, joined the Bumbies in 2007 and says he is honoured to be named skipper. He says Mortlock was happy to relinquish the role.

"He thought it was time and he will still be a huge part in terms of leadership around the Brumbies," he said."It'd much prefer to do it this time while Stirlo's still here at the Brumbies.

"You'd hate to see him retire in a few years time and not be able to pick up on a few of the things he does."Very happy to have him and George Smith alongside me helping out."

Hoiles said having new coach Andy Friend is also helping to reinvigorate the team."It does feel like a fresh start for us... things are feeling quite good here at the moment," he said. The players are currently at a training camp in Jervis Bay on the New South Wales south coast. Their first game of the season is in Dunedin against the Otago Highlanders on February 13.

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Mortlock positive about future

AAP | December 06, 2008

Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock rates Australia's development on their spring tour as outstanding, but says they still have a lot of improvement left despite an extremely positive first year under coach Robbie Deans. Several players returned home on Saturday morning following a tour which yielded wins over Italy, England, France and the Barbarians and narrow losses to New Zealand and Wales. In their first year under New Zealander Deans, Australia won nine out of their 14 Tests in addition to their season-ending victory over the Barbarians."The development in the growth of the guys going on tour was outstanding and now we can put our feet up knowing that we've had a decent year," Mortlock said at Sydney airport on Saturday morning."I think the skill level has improved and with that the confidence is coming, but I would say that we are fully aware that we've got a lot of improvement left within us and we're excited about the opportunity that the next year or two has in store for us."Mortlock said he felt extremely positive about Australia's future.

"Two very, very narrow defeats to New Zealand, who are definitely number one team in the world and we're very close behind them, as far as competing over those two matches, that's positive," Mortlock said."But we feel as though we have started something here, especially this year and that way we finished off the tour, it's a beginning, and there is a lot more growth left in us."Asked to assess the influence of Deans on the team, Mortlock said: "He's brought a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of positivity and a lot of belief and that's flowed directly into the team and he's excited as the group is about where we're looking to head in the future."Deans blooded a dozen new players this year, with young backs Quade Cooper and James O'Connor earning plaudits from veteran winger Lote Tuqiri whose own participation in the tour was limited by injury."They (Cooper and O'Connor) are going to go a long way," Tuqiri said.

"I think Quade Cooper is untapped and I didn't see much of James O'Connor, but he's a very confident kid and when he gets time on the field I think he will be great, he's only 18."They are both young guys, they are going to be great for Australian rugby going forward." Mortlock said Australia's much scrutinised forward pack had continued improving on the tour. Props Matt Dunning (snapped Achilles tendon) and Sekope Kepu (torn pectoral muscle), who were both injured in the same scrum against the Barbarians, were each anticipating imminent surgery. Dunning hoped he would return faster than the predicted six to nine months layoff period, while Kepu hoped he could still play a part in next year's Super 14 tournament following an anticipated three to four month rehabilitation.BACK TO TOP




Mortlock eyes third World Cup campaign

AAP | December 03, 2008

Reinvigorated and enjoying career-best form, Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock says he will consider playing on until the 2011 Rugby World Cup. A shattered Mortlock had to be talked out of playing out his career overseas after Australia's World Cup quarter-final flop in France last year and it was widely thought he would hang up his boots when his current contract with the ARU expires in 2010.But the powerhouse centre now says he'll weigh up his future in the next 12-18 months and is not ruling out a third World Cup campaign in New Zealand in three years. "By no means am I going to close the door. No way," Mortlock told AAP.

Mortlock has the full backing of Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, who has encouraged his inspirational captain to play on "for as long as he wants". "Stirling's getting younger by the day," Deans said. "I wouldn't limit his rugby life span."Mortlock would be 34 at the next World Cup, but Deans believes it is "absolutely" realistic for the 76-Test veteran to target the tournament as a possible swansong. "It can be done," Deans said.

Along with five-eighth Matt Giteau, Mortlock has been the form back on the Wallabies' spring tour and fans got an insight into the skipper's true value when he was poleaxed in the opening minutes of last Saturday's 21-18 loss to Wales at Millennium Stadium. Without Mortlock's midfield presence and team leadership, the Wallabies slumped to their only defeat in four Tests in Europe."You've only got to look at games this year. He's at the thick of everything that happens," Deans said."When you look at the amount of leadership we've lost this year, in terms of historical leadership - Gregan, Larkham, Latham, Vickerman, and Elsom - it's been important to us to have blokes like Stirling who understand the arena, understand what's required."Not only in terms of playing but also in terms of preparation. He loves the occasion."Deans suspects the influx of youth in the Wallabies ranks this year plus Mortlock's move from outside to inside centre had been key factors in his skipper's rejuvenation."He's really enjoying his rugby and I think he's quite enjoyed the challenge of the positional switch," Deans said."It's brought with it some different requirements in terms of time and space and skill set, but he's enjoying being extended."It's probably advantageous from a leadership perspective as well. Being a bit closer to the action, allows him to get involved and inspire."Mortlock admitted the culture change since Deans took over as Wallabies coach in June had revitalized him. "I'm not one who lacks energy but I guess this season has given me a resurgence in just my enthusiasm levels," he said. "I've been up the whole time."Last year coming off the World Cup and all that was last year, it was a big disappointment and I had to make a decision on where I wanted to go."And as soon as I made a decision, it gave me a huge amount of drive and passion to hopefully be part of the renewal process and I've just been loving it."I'm thoroughly enjoying being associated with footy. The environment is really conducive to that and this group of guys are a great bunch of guys to be a part of."Maybe in a year or so it will be time to sit down and hopefully my form and everything are in the right shape."If they're not, so be it. But I will be doing everything in my power to make sure they are."

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Rugby: Wallabies in same Cup pool as Ireland, Italy

AAP | December 02, 2008

AUSTRALIA captain Stirling Mortlock said his side could have no complaints about any weakness in their 2011 World Cup draw after being placed in a group also featuring Ireland and Italy. The Wallabies waltzed through the pool phase in France last year only to lose to England in the quarter-finals. That defeat led to complaints that the draw had done Australia no favours by leaving them insufficiently 'match-tough’. But Mortlock, speaking after a draw in London on Monday which will see Australia also playing qualifiers from Europe and the Americas, said the Wallabies would be tested early on in New Zealand in three years' time."Having gone through the World Cup last year, you do want to have a couple of tough matches and that's certainly what we will face against Italy and Ireland," Mortlock said. "Italy and Ireland will pose significant challenges," added the centre, who saw the Wallabies made to work hard for a 30-20 win over Italy last month. "You need to have that grounding if you want to progress forward.

Australia have won all four of their World Cup clashes with Ireland, but two of those were by the narrowest of margins - 19-18 in Dublin in 1991 and 17-16 in Melbourne in 2003."There has been some decent history between Ireland and Australia in the World Cup and no doubt in three years time we will make some new history," Mortlock said. Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, who played in that Melbourne match, hopes to play in a fourth World Cup. But the 29-year-old centre said: "I want to be involved but experience teaches you not to look too far ahead. "The game can be fickle, especially when the body gets older."

Ireland failed to get to the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup, failing to finish in the top two of their pool following defeats by France and Argentina, the eventual third-place finishers. Although, on paper, this looks a kinder draw, Ireland coach Declan Kidney remained cautious."Being ranked second will make us the target team for the other sides in the pool. They'll be looking to have a go at us." Ireland were almost embarrassed by Georgia in France before winning 14-10 and O'Driscoll added: "It's hard to play against any side in a World Cup - I learnt that last year."

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Stirling Mortlock welcomes Wallabies pool pressure

Julian Guyer | December 02, 2008

AUSTRALIA captain Stirling Mortlock said his side could have no complaints about any weakness in their 2011 World Cup draw after being placed in a group also featuring Ireland and Italy. The Wallabies waltzed through the pool phase in France last year only to lose to England in the quarter-finals. That defeat led to complaints that the draw had done Australia no favours by leaving them insufficiently 'match-tough’. But Mortlock, speaking after a draw in London on Monday which will see Australia also playing qualifiers from Europe and the Americas, said the Wallabies would be tested early on in New Zealand in three years' time."Having gone through the World Cup last year, you do want to have a couple of tough matches and that's certainly what we will face against Italy and Ireland," Mortlock said. "Italy and Ireland will pose significant challenges," added the centre, who saw the Wallabies made to work hard for a 30-20 win over Italy last month. "You need to have that grounding if you want to progress forward.

Australia have won all four of their World Cup clashes with Ireland, but two of those were by the narrowest of margins - 19-18 in Dublin in 1991 and 17-16 in Melbourne in 2003."There has been some decent history between Ireland and Australia in the World Cup and no doubt in three years time we will make some new history," Mortlock said. Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, who played in that Melbourne match, hopes to play in a fourth World Cup. But the 29-year-old centre said: "I want to be involved but experience teaches you not to look too far ahead. "The game can be fickle, especially when the body gets older."

Ireland failed to get to the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup, failing to finish in the top two of their pool following defeats by France and Argentina, the eventual third-place finishers. Although, on paper, this looks a kinder draw, Ireland coach Declan Kidney remained cautious."Being ranked second will make us the target team for the other sides in the pool. They'll be looking to have a go at us." Ireland were almost embarrassed by Georgia in France before winning 14-10 and O'Driscoll added: "It's hard to play against any side in a World Cup - I learnt that last year."

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Wallabies handed dream draw for 2011 World Cup

Darren Walton | December 02, 2008

AUSTRALIA have received the best draw imaginable for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. If results go according to seedings during the pool stages of the tournament, the Wallabies cannot run into the defending champions South Africa or the top-ranked All Blacks until the final. In addition to landing on the opposite side of the draw as their two Tri-Nations rivals, Australia have also been grouped in a relatively easy pool alongside Ireland, Italy and two qualifying teams from Europe and America. Currently ranked eighth in the world, Ireland are the lowest-placed side from the so-called band two nations that the third-ranked Wallabies could have been pitted against in the pool stages. If results go according the seedings during the round-robin phase of play, the Wallabies will meet Wales in the quarter-finals. Should they win that match, they would qualify for a semi-final against either Argentina or France, with South Africa or New Zealand likely to be awaiting the Australia in the final. New Zealand and South Africa would not be so pleased with their draws.

Apart from having the more difficult prospective semi-final, the All Blacks have been grouped alongside France, who eliminated them from last year's tournament, while the Springboks are in the same pool as reigning Six Nations champions Wales.

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Sanzar team of the month

Paul Cully | November 30, 2008

Rugby Heaven picks the best squad of 22 players representing the Tri Nations countries in the November internationals.

15. Mils Muliaina (New Zealand): Two tries at Twickenham were just reward for the classy fullback, who is in complete control of his game. Rock-solid under the high ball, tactically aware, and a lacerating counter attacker. Our best wishes go out to little Max, too.14. JP Pietersen (South Africa): Rebounded superbly from a quiet Super 14 and Tri Nations to usurp Bryan Habana as his country's premier wing. Defensive prowess highlighted by a shuddering hit on Shane Williams. Attacking threat shown by setting up a brilliant Adi Jacobs try against the Poms.13. Stirling Mortlock (Australia): Yes, yes we know he has been playing at No.12, but do you want to tell the still-rampaging Brumby he can't return to his most familiar position? No, we didn't think so. A selection that is also a nod to his rising leadership skills. When he went off early against Wales the Wallabies went off the rails.12. Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand): Constructive and destructive. His clever grubber kick against Ireland that lead to a crucial penalty try illustrated just how far he has come. And he played a key part in the All Blacks wall that didn't concede a try throughout the grand slam entire tour, a record that will stand for many years. Wayne Smith take a bow.11. Sitiveni Sivavatu (New Zealand): Carries so much power into contact through the hips, which makes him such a nightmare for lazy defenders. A sizeable improvement in his kicking game, which has become so crucial under the ELVs.10. Dan Carter (New Zealand): The wonderful thing about Carter is that when one part of his game is off, as his goal kicking has been, he makes up for it in another. Missed a couple of rudimentary penalties? No worries, he'll just make more line breaks to make up for it, or drill it 60 metres into the corner.9. Jimmy Cowan (New Zealand): There is a lack of outstanding candidates at No.9, but Cowan is one of a number of All Blacks who this year have identified their weakness and worked so hard to remedy them. Exhibit A - his powerful running game at Twickenham.8. Rodney So'oialo (New Zealand): His second half at Cardiff epitomized the All Blacks' forward superiority. Against a fine opponent in Andy Powell, So'oialo simply went into another gear, smashing into rucks and carrying the ball with increasing venom.7. Richie McCaw (New Zealand): It's worrying that the best player in the world can't make the top five list of the Dublin-based types that run the game, but then again these are the blokes that allow the sport to operate under two sets of laws.6. Schalk Burger (South Africa): One-man army who wreaks his wonderful brand of havoc with a smile on his face. I don't know what the English in particular did to antagonise the brilliant South African, but they can keep it to themselves. 5. Victor Matfield (South Africa): The best lineout operator in the world probably saved the Test against Wales with his ability to steal the ball under pressure, and showed against England that he can be pretty handy around the paddock too.4. Ali Williams (New Zealand): Seniority suits the highly entertaining second-rower. Dominated, along with Jerome Kaino, the All Blacks' shortened lineouts, allowing the heavy artillery to loiter with intent in midfield. The Blues' tight five is looking more than adequate next year.3. Neemia Tialata (New Zealand): Resembles a large boulder tumbling down a steep hill when the All Blacks commit to the pick-and-drive. Gets better the more he plays - a selection policy that may sound obvious but has not always been in vogue.2. Keven Mealamu (New Zealand): Sean Fitzpatrick recently nominated Stephen Moore as the world's finest rake, but we can't help but wonder if his form tailed off slightly after the high point of the England win. Mealamu simply got stronger as the tour progressed and was back to his very best against England - murderous on defence, dynamic on attack and an 80-minute player. Another New Zealander who relished a heavy workload.1. Tony Woodcock (New Zealand): England's scrum credentials were queried by Australia, but destroyed by New Zealand. But they shouldn't take it personally, Woodcock gave every tight-head he faced a working over. Reserves:

Stephen Moore (Australia): One of Australia's big improvers, although there is still a question mark over consistency. Carries the ball brilliantly but a penalty try against France and a sin binning against Wales counted against him. Brad Thorn (New Zealand): The last thing tiring defences want to see. Try against Ireland was a statement of his physical supremacy. Beast Mtwawira (South Africa): The most damaging ball-carrying prop in the world, Mr Beast will challenge Woodcock for his No.1 crown in coming years. George Smith (Australia): Started on the bench against Wales. Wales won the breakdown battle. Wales won the game. Join up the dots. Ruan Pienaar (South Africa): One of the most naturally gifted footballers on the planet, Pienaar can cover No.9, No.10, and No.15 with aplomb. It will be interesting to see where he ends up at the Sharks next year. Matt Giteau (Australia): The comparisons with Carter are a little unhelpful - the New Zealander plays behind the superior pack - but Giteau has clearly made strides this year, and his goal kicking is superior at the moment. Jean de Villiers (South Africa): The South African player of the year continued to shine with his ability to offload in traffic and outstanding defence. The leader of the back line in the way Burger is the leader of the pack.

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History beckons for Stirling Mortlock in Wales

AAP | November 28, 2008

EYEING a small slice of rugby history, Australia captain Stirling Mortlock says defeat in Saturday's season-ending Test against Wales doesn't bear thinking about. Mortlock’s men have the opportunity to join the Andrew Slack-led, Mark Ella-inspired 1984 grand slam-winning Wallabies and John Eales' class of '96 as the only Australia teams in 100 years to complete a four-Test spring tour of Europe unconquered."If you're a numbers man, you'd think it's probably time," Mortlock said ahead of what looms as an enthralling encounter at Millennium Stadium. Wales are the reigning Six Nations champions and - unless England conjure a miracle at Twickenham against the mighty All Blacks - considered the last ray of hope for a northern hemisphere rugby community facing a calamitous 20-0 whitewash in Tests against southern hemisphere nations in 2008."They've got a huge amount to play for," Mortlock said.

"And Wales are a team that always back themselves when they play us as well. They're probably the most expansive team that we're going to play on this tour as well."They've got a very solid foundation; their set pieces are really good, yet they have a great ability to use the full width of the pitch."They've got amazing backs and their forwards can play as well.

"We'll be tested on many levels so it does pose for probably our toughest challenge of the tour."Coach Robbie Deans admits it's critical for his developing side's psyche that they carry the momentum into the off-season after a watershed first year under the New Zealander. There is no doubt a loss to Wales would be viewed as a backward step after sweet victories over South Africa, New Zealand, England, France and Ireland in 2008. "Like Wales, we're trying to build a team that can compete and beat the very top teams," Deans said."We all have a sense of making progress but everyone wants to feel that confirmation."Wales have made no secret of their desire to snare a Tri Nations scalp and rate their chances highly. The Red Dragons have won one, drawn one and lost one in their last three meetings with Australia in Cardiff since 2005 and have been further heartened by sound, if not winning, performances against the Springboks and All Blacks this month."We have shown we can mix it with the best," Welsh centre Tom Shanklin said.

But for all their huffing and puffing, winning Test matches - as Deans says - involves scoring tries and in 160 minutes of rugby the Six Nations champions have been unable to breach the South African and New Zealand lines."We've got to be far more clinical when we get the chances, and at the top end of the game that's the big difference," winger Mark Jones admitted.

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Mortlock can't wait to face Welsh

AAP | November 28, 2008

Eyeing a small slice of rugby history, Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock says defeat in Saturday's season-ending Test against Wales doesn't bear thinking about. Mortlock’s men have the opportunity to join the Andrew Slack-led, Mark Ella-inspired 1984 grand slam-winning Wallabies and John Eales' class of '96 as the only Australian teams in 100 years to complete a four-Test spring tour of Europe unconquered."If you're a numbers man, you'd think it's probably time," Mortlock said ahead of what looms as an enthralling encounter at Millennium Stadium. Wales are the reigning Six Nations champions and - unless England conjure a miracle at Twickenham against the mighty All Blacks - considered the last ray of hope for a northern hemisphere rugby community facing a calamitous 20-0 whitewash in Tests against southern hemisphere nations in 2008."They've got a huge amount to play for," Mortlock said.

"And Wales are a team that always back themselves when they play us as well. They're probably the most expansive team that we're going to play on this tour as well."They've got a very solid foundation; their set pieces are really good, yet they have a great ability to use the full width of the pitch. "They've got amazing backs and their forwards can play as well.

"We'll be tested on many levels so it does pose for probably our toughest challenge of the tour."Coach Robbie Deans admits it's critical for his developing side's psyche that they carry the momentum into the off-season after a watershed first year under the New Zealander. There is no doubt a loss to Wales would be viewed as a backward step after sweet victories over South Africa, New Zealand, England, France and Ireland in 2008."Like Wales, we're trying to build a team that can compete and beat the very top teams," Deans said."We all have a sense of making progress but everyone wants to feel that confirmation."Wales have made no secret of their desire to snare a Tri Nations scalp and rate their chances highly. The Red Dragons have won one, drawn one and lost one in their last three meetings with Australia in Cardiff since 2005 and have been further heartened by sound, if not winning, performances against the Springboks and All Blacks this month."We have shown we can mix it with the best," Welsh centre Tom Shanklin said.

But for all their huffing and puffing, winning Test matches - as Deans says - involves scoring tries and in 160 minutes of rugby the Six Nations champions have been unable to breach the South African and New Zealand lines."We've got to be far more clinical when we get the chances, and at the top end of the game that's the big difference," winger Mark Jones admitted."The South Africa game still haunts some guys - it was there for the taking. And then we were 9-6 up against the All Blacks and they guys are pretty disappointed at letting that go."Deans on Thursday finalised his line-up, saying Lote Tuqiri, who has yet to make an appearance this tour, would start on the bench having bracketed the star winger with Adam Ashley-Cooper earlier in the week. Ashley-Cooper has a hip injury, leaving Tuqiri poised to play for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in September. The referee for the match is Alan Lewis, the Irishman heavily criticized for caning Australia in the penalty count in the Wallabies' 19-14 Bledisloe Cup loss in Hong Kong four weeks ago.

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Inside running suits Mortlock

Wayne Smith | November 18, 2008

IT's one small step for man, the switch from outside centre to inside centre, but it might be one giant leap in the making of Stirling Mortlock as Wallabies captain. Mortlock might have led Australia for the 23rd time against England at Twickenham on the weekend, leaving only George Gregan (59), John Eales (55) and Nick Farr-Jones (36) ahead of him, but in terms of leadership he has never been seen as their equal, nor indeed the equal of the men who statistically rank immediately below him, Andrew Slack (19), John Thornett and Greg Davis (both 16).In fact, had some critics had their way, Mortlock would not have lasted beyond his first season as captain, 2006, after having stayed out until dawn celebrating the Wallabies' less-than-impressive victory over Italy in Rome that year. But with every match on this 2008 tour, Mortlock is growing in stature as a captain and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans believes part of the explanation might be his enforced switch to inside centre to cover for the injured Berrick Barnes. "He's thriving with being a little bit closer (to the action)," Deans said yesterday. "He's growing as a leader, and first and foremost he's a bloke who evidently cares."Certainly it was in-your-face evident as far as England was concerned, with Mortlock unleashing one of his trademark high-stepping charges when the battle still hung in the balance late in the second half. He didn't need to say "follow me" to his team-mates. His actions shouted it for him. But there were other signs too that Mortlock is coming to terms with what is required of him as captain. As recently as last year, Mortlock would have made the call and kicked into touch for an attacking lineout after England prop Andy Sheridan was penalised at a 5m scrum in the right-hand corner of Twickenham. At that stage, however, the Wallabies were only a point in front with close on half an hour remaining, so he reined in his aggression and signaled for Matt Giteau to kick for the posts from his favoured side of the ground. Think back to the Hong Kong Test against the All Blacks just over a fortnight ago. Australia was awarded a penalty in almost exactly the same position on the field but instead of taking a shot at goal that, if successful, would have pushed the Wallabies out to an eight-point lead, Mortlock opted for a scrum instead. The forwards did their job magnificently but it was Mortlock himself who brought things undone when, as the decoy player, he ran into a Giteau pass intended for Peter Hynes that would have put the right winger over between the posts. Lesson learned."Yeah, I feel a lot more comfortable in the role than what I have in the past," Mortlock said."It's a combination of things but my mindset as a footy player, as a rugby player and as a leader is that I always want to improve. And that's constant. I'm always looking at how I played. What I can improve. What I need to do to improve and what I can do out on the pitch. And as a leader making certain calls, how could I have done something better?"Clearly Mortlock and Deans are having a meeting of minds. Not only does Mortlock now come out with never-before-used phrases like "less is more" (a Deans favourite) when describing how he communicates with his players, but they seem very much on the same page in terms of how the Wallabies will now play."The decision-making was better which meant we had better field position and the most obvious way that manifested itself was that the English didn't cope with that," Deans said. "We were creating opportunities that were stressing them and they were responding in a way that was trying to deny us that opportunity."

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Red Roses fretting over Mortlock, Giteau

AAP | November 14, 2008

England have identified Wallabies "talisman" Stirling Mortlock and playmaking "magician" Matt Giteau as their two greatest concerns heading into Saturday's rugby international at Twickenham. Confident of matching Australia up front, the English are wary of Australia's attacking potency and believe shutting down the Wallabies backline is the key to another home triumph over their southern hemisphere rivals."Australia are smart. They have been in the past. They usually come up with a couple of plays to try and test you out that you have not seen before," defence coach Mike Ford said."I don't think they have gone through a game this year without scoring a try. They have 28 tries in 11 games. It will be a major effort to keep them tryless."I think our back three will be tested early, but we are confident they can handle anything thrown at them."England's ability to handle Mortlock and Giteau, though, is what Ford is really fretting about."Mortlock is a talisman," he said.

"They will come at that 10-12 channel off set piece and try and dent our defence. He does that as well as anybody in the world and we feel if we can get parity in that area, it will go a long way to stopping Australia."Giteau is a magician. He gets the ball in space and some of the offloads he gets away are unbelievable at times."With (Berrick) Barnes out, there is a lot of pressure on him to create stuff. He will probably get the ball 90 per cent of the time. If we can control him, we will do well."

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Mystery Men Concern Mortlock

AAP | November 13, 2008

RESPECT for the unknown, rather than any fear of England's front-row destroyers, has the Wallabies on high alert ahead of Saturday's rugby Test against England at Twickenham. While the England pack features the usual hard nuts like seasoned props Phil Vickery and Andy Sheridan, it is a backline featuring a host of Test novices that has captured the Australian team's attention."There's a lot of fresh faces in this England team that we haven't seen too much of. That adds to the spice of this game," Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock said."They are a fresh combination with a fresh approach. That's going to make it a real interesting game of rugby on the weekend."The English, with exciting young fly half Danny Cipriani at the fore with a 19-point haul in only his second Test, racked up five tries in last Saturday's 39-13 dismissal of the Pacific Islands, including one rare long-range strike from inside their own quarter. While much of the focus this week has been on the great scrum battle, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is predicting some frenetic attack from the rival backlines."Both sides will feel each other out, but both sides will be bold at some point, given that neither will want to walk off the ground without a result," Deans said."So there'll be a bit of pushing and pulling, a bit of feeling out each other because there's a fair amount of uncertainty and of unknown in terms of how each side will approach the game."There will be some strategies that we haven't seen, in terms of trying to find avenues to succeed."And that itself, given that you've got two (lots of) coaching staff that are pretty fresh. And I think you'll see that both sides are prepared to take the shackles off in order to get what they seek."So there's a lot of unknowns in there. But you won't see a frivolous game. You'll see a game that's very likely to have everything."England's back division has five international greenhorns with a total of 10 Test caps between them."I don't know a lot of background in terms of England," Deans admitted.

"But that means we will prioritise what we do and put an emphasis on that and concentrate on that, and possibly that's an advantage."Sometimes you can get distracted from what you believe will be coming the other way. Because of course both sides are second guessing each other."So perhaps without having the second guessing will bring a bit more clarity."

Either way, the Wallabies are up for the occasion.

"It's a great opportunity," Deans said. "A great opportunity for this group to get a rugby experience. That will be rewarding in itself."Quite apart from what we'll take out of it and take forward, it's one of the great destinations."And it will be a test because England at Twickenham is one of the ultimate rugby experiences and something this group is really excited about."For a lot of them, it will be their first instance in that cauldron. They can't wait."

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Mortlock Heads into the Unknown

AAP | November 13, 2008

Stirling Mortlock: A fresh approach

A lot of history has been spoken about in the build-up to Saturday's England-Australia clash at Twickenham, but Stirling Mortlock went to considerable lengths to point out that Saturday is more of a new beginning for both teams. England’s backs are full of Test novices, and there's a sprinkling of new faces across both packs, as well as Australia's backs. Both sides have new coaches since the last clash between the two as well, and both sides are playing different brands of rugby."There's a lot of fresh faces in this England team that we haven't seen too much of. That adds to the spice of this game," Mortlock said to AAP."They are a fresh combination with a fresh approach. That's going to make it a real interesting game of rugby on the weekend. "There is speculation that the game could be in marked contrast to last year's Rugby World Cup quarter-final, which was tense, but rarely exciting. This time, neither side has anything to lose."Both sides will feel each other out, but both sides will be bold at some point, given that neither will want to walk off the ground without a result," said Australia coach Robbie Deans."So there'll be a bit of pushing and pulling, a bit of feeling out each other because there's a fair amount of uncertainty and of unknown in terms of how each side will approach the game."There will be some strategies that we haven't seen, in terms of trying to find avenues to succeed."And that itself, given that you've got two (lots of) coaching staff that are pretty fresh. And I think you'll see that both sides are prepared to take the shackles off in order to get what they seek."So there's a lot of unknowns in there. But you won't see a frivolous game. You'll see a game that's very likely to have everything."The smattering of new faces will also make researching the opposition harder, according to Deans, but that also means he will up the focus on having his team play their own game."I don't know a lot of background in terms of England," Deans admitted.

"But that means we will prioritise what we do and put an emphasis on that and concentrate on that, and possibly that's an advantage."Sometimes you can get distracted from what you believe will be coming the other way. Because of course both sides are second guessing each other."So perhaps without having the second guessing will bring a bit more clarity."

"It's a great opportunity for this group to get a rugby experience. That will be rewarding in itself."Quite apart from what we'll take out of it and take forward, it's one of the great destinations."And it will be a test because England at Twickenham is one of the ultimate rugby experiences and something this group is really excited about."For a lot of them, it will be their first instance in that cauldron. They can't wait." 

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Mortlock not mulling over Marseille

Plant Rugby | November 12, 2008

Australia captain Stirling Mortlock insists the Wallabies' World Cup defeat by England in Marseilles last year will be of "no relevance" when the teams meet again at Twickenham on Saturday.

England's 12-10 victory in Marseille was notable for a dominant display by the eventual finalists' front row, which wrecked the Australian scrum. But what tended to get lost in the euphoria surrounding a victory which many England fans believed highlighted a fundamental Wallaby weakness, was that Mortlock only narrowly missed a penalty which could have won his side the game. Mortlock, speaking after Australia coach Robbie Deans had unveiled his team at the squad's hotel in London on Tuesday, said that he wasn't going to linger on the past."I always have fond memories of great wins and obviously not so fond memories of defeats. That's the way it is, that's sport," said the 73-times capped centre."But this weekend I don't think what happened in Marseille will have any relevance at all. There's a lot of new blood in this team and there's a lot of excitement about what we're doing."He also said the Wallabies' position was similar to that of their hosts, who last weekend won their first match under new team manager Martin Johnson, England's World Cup-winning captain five years ago when they beat Australia in Sydney, with a 39-13 Twickenham victory over the Pacific Islanders."There's a lot of fresh faces in this England team that we haven't seen too much of. But what we've seen from last week, England looked like a very positive, well-drilled attacking unit," the 31-year-old added. Marseille wasn't the first time in recent memory when England had overpowered the Wallaby scrum. When Australia were last at Twickenham, in 2005, the match ended in uncontested scrums after England loose head prop Andrew Sheridan first saw off Al Baxter and then Matt Dunning. For some this was further proof of the supremacy England established over Australia at the 2003 World Cup final, only to be denied their just rewards by South African referee Andre Watson. Australia have lost on four of their last five visits to Twickenham and, with Baxter once more facing Sheridan, it is easy to see why some England supporters are anticipating a case of déjà vu all over again. But Deans, having named a side which features just six survivors in all from the Marseille match and only three forwards feels differently “If you examine our performances this year, the scrum has been a great launching pad," said the Wallaby coach. For this latest Anglo-Australian encounter, Deans selected the bulk of the team beaten 19-14 by New Zealand in Hong Kong two weekends ago, with the only change seeing Hugh McMeniman replace Dean Mumm at blindside flanker. Matt Giteau starts at outside-half with Mortlock and Ryan Cross in midfield.

Stand-off rising star Quade Cooper retains his position among the replacements after the 20-year-old came off the bench to score a decisive try in Australia's 30-20 win over Italy last weekend.

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Mortlock Not Taking Italy Lightly

AAP | November 07, 2008

Australia captain Stirling Mortlock insisted the two-time world champions will not be taking Italy lightly on Saturday when the two teams meet at the Euganeo Stadium. The Wallabies have beaten Italy in every one of their previous eleven Test encounters but the last time, in Rome in 2006, was the closest match of them all with the Italians leading 15-13 at the break before going down 25-18.But although the visitors are expected to win, before going on to play England and Wales during their European tour, Mortlock says they are not treating this game as just a warm-up."It's very easy, this is a Test match, we're representing our country," he told AAP."We take huge honour and pride in wearing the green and gold jersey.

"We had an outstanding presentation of the new jersey this morning to underline how lucky we are to play with this group."Now it's D-day, it's a Test match, our preparation has been positive and we're giving the Italy team the respect they deserve."Although not taking the Italians lightly, there are bigger tests to come against World Cup finalists England and Six Nations Grand Slammers Wales, so Australia are determined to get off to a good start."It's pretty important for the group to show our intent really," added Mortlock."We're preparing for a tough, physical battle and it's important we're ready for that battle."In the bigger picture it would be nice (to get off to a good start) but our focus is firmly on tomorrow and what we need to do to get in the right frame of mind to win."The feelings have been really good in the team, our energy levels, our intent; our underlying intent is very good."For a lot of guys this is an opportunity for them, there's a number of uncapped players on the bench as well. Our preparation has been really positive."The main battle is expected to be up front where Italy are traditionally strong and where they will be trying to play the game to keep things tight and prevent Australia's backs from stretching them all over the park. Wallaby lock Mark Chisholm, who played in the last test between the sides two years ago, said the Aussie pack will need to be on their game."It's extremely important. Italy pride themselves on their scrum and maul. They're big and technical and our focus has been on combating that," he said."Mentally and physically we've got to be on the front foot and matching them."

Australia, though, will be trying as best they can to spread the ball out wide where they have some of the most talented backs in the world. As well as centre Mortlock, they can call upon half-back pairing Luke Burgess and Berrick Barnes while Matt Giteau will start on the bench. Burgess and Barnes will play together for the first time but the scrum-half is not expecting that to affect their play."Something we need to focus on is keeping the speed of our play up," said Burgess."We need to keep the ball moving, stay on the front foot with our attacks and keep things simple and direct."That's the strength of our game so we'll focus on that."

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Mortlock raises bar for Europe

Brett Harris | September 20, 2008

AUSTRALIA will have to find consistency to navigate what is arguably their most arduous tour of the northern hemisphere when they depart for Hong Kong and Europe next month. For the first time, Australia will play a Bledisloe Cup match against the All Blacks in Hong Kong en route. The Wallabies will then play four Tests, including matches against European heavyweights England and France, as well as Six Nations champion Wales. They may or may not gain some respite against Italy, but they finish the tour with a gala match against a star-studded Barbarians side at Wembley. "It poses significant challenges," captain Stirling Mortlock said.

"Anyway you look at it, it is a massive tour.

"There are six fixtures and all the matches are going to be pretty tough Tests.

"Hong Kong is first and then finishing up against the Baa Baas at Wembley.

"I'm looking at it positively and I'm pretty excited about the prospects. It's a great challenge, but a good opportunity for the group to develop and grow and hopefully put in some positive results out there."The Wallabies have won six of their nine Tests under coach Robbie Deans, but they were up and down in the Tri-Nations tournament, which ended in a 28-24 loss to the All Blacks in the decider at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium last weekend. "The volatility that's happening in the global economy has come into our team," Mortlock said."We'd like to have more consistency in what we do.

"I have no doubt when we play to our potential we can beat anyone, but we weren't able to maintain that."Whether that is a reflection of the intensity we have played in the Tri-Nations or whether that is a reflection of this team I'm not sure."The tournament was played with a tremendous amount of physicality and express pace."It was extremely draining. Perhaps that comes into the equation, but we would like to be more consistent. "Deans is looking forward to having an extended training block with the Wallabies to work on their skills before they depart for Europe. "The progression we've made has been positive, but there are still things we know we need to work on," Mortlock said."To play an up-tempo, up-skilled game, you really need to have improvement in core skills and execution under pressure and fatigue."I'm sure that will be a focus point in the lead-up to the tour.

"We need more time as a group to understand what we need to do in certain situations, for instance, when the momentum has swung against us. "Mortlock had no doubt the Wallabies would be motivated for the All Blacks match in Hong Kong even though there was no silverware up for grabs. "I guarantee it will be a great game," he said.

"Obviously, it's disappointing that it doesn't have as much hype around it as the last match did because the Kiwis have already retained the Bledisloe. "But we are pretty keen to go out there and have a good showing."To level at two apiece would be nice, but the Bledisloe (games) are among the biggest matches you can be part of."We'll give it all the respect it deserves and hopefully prepare accordingly and take that on to the pitch. It's the beginning of the tour and obviously you want to start on a good note. There is still a lot to play for both parties."Meanwhile, medical staff will assess winger Lote Tuqiri in four weeks to determine whether he is fit to tour. Tuqiri had an arthroscopy on a knee last Monday.

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Tri Nations team of the tournament

Paul Cully | September 15, 2008

15 Mils Muliaina (New Zealand): In boxing parlance, pound for pound one of the strongest players around with the priceless ability to plough through heavy traffic. Took his tactical kicking game to a new level.14 Richard Kahui (New Zealand): Have the kick-and-chase ELVs killed the pure finisher? A strong defensive centre by nature with a big boot but, regrettably, that may be the new template for wingers.13 Stirling Mortlock (Australia): Being pushed hard by Ryan Cross for his jersey but still has a peerless, King Kong-style ability to swat away defenders, as shown by his brilliant try in Durban. Rock solid defence.12 Jean de Villiers (South Africa): Direct, incisive, outstanding with his offloads. Career-best form in a back line that looked clueless at times.11 Lote Tuqiri (Australia): Bryan Habana's injury deprived him of this spot, but Tuqiri's increasing maturity and physical presence were meritorious nonetheless. Easily his best year in rugby.10 Dan Carter (New Zealand): Quite simply, he does everything better than anyone else. Robbie Deans has created a monster, and he knows it.9 Ricky Januarie (South Africa): No one in this position played more than three games but this fantastically bolshie little character provided one of the moments of the comp with a sensational chip-and-collect late try in Dunedin, which ended the Boks' 10-year drought in Kiwi soil.8 Rodney So'oialo (New Zealand): Battled away manfully in the ill-fitting No.6 jersey until Richie McCaw returned and subsequently raised his game several hundred notches in his true position. A real menace at the breakdown.7 Richie McCaw, captain (New Zealand): Opposition players respect him and opposition fans loathe him. In other words, the perfect All Blacks captain and the most influential player in the world.6 Rocky Elsom (Australia): The Wallabies are just not the same side without Elsom's edge and lineout ability even though his Waratahs teammates sledge him for having short arms.5 Victor Matfield (South Africa): Every lineout suffered from the wobbles at some stage, but Matfield is still the smartest around. Captained the Boks to their first win in Dunedin, and was so confident of victory he put his feet up in the sin bin for the final minutes.4 James Horwill (Australia): God must have made this likeable big lump from Queensland when he was in the rudimentary phase and working only with blocks. Rugged, brave and unstoppable close to the line. Much, much more to come.3 Greg Somerville (New Zealand): The All Blacks' most-capped prop carried the large shadow of Carl Hayman into every scrum and still didn't buckle.2 Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa): Battleship-style dimensions to go with the name. Would have been an impact player had it not been for John Smit's injury at the hands of Brad Thorn which says a lot about Smit's captaincy, because this fellow is the world's finest hooker. 1 Tony Woodcock (New Zealand): Started the campaign as "a myth" and finished it a legend after thundering 90 prop metres down the sideline in Brisbane to score the single-most important try of the whole tournament. Can scrum, too. Reserves:

Beast Mtawarira (South Africa): Or as we like to call the uncommonly powerful Bok prop, Mr Beast. Andrew Hore (New Zealand): The quintessential New Zealand tight-five forward. Owns a rarely employed but nifty sidestep. Ali Williams (New Zealand): A No.10 trapped inside the body of one of the world's most amusing second-rowers. George Smith (Australia): When he didn't start in Johannesburg the Wallabies got smashed. Enough said. Jimmy Cowan (New Zealand): Got on the wagon and started steering the All Blacks around with his smart kicking and increased willingness to run. Matt Giteau (Australia): Keeps getting close to Carter before seeing him step away. His goal kicking was impeccable. Conrad Jantjes (South Africa): Another one to feel the cold shoulder of the selectors, yet consistently impressive. A ball of energy and inventiveness, with pace to cover the wing.

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All Blacks retain Tri-Nations, Bledisloe

AAP | September 13, 2008

A drought-breaking Tri-Nations title slipped through the Wallabies' fingers as the All Blacks pulled off a 28-24 comeback victory at a heaving Suncorp Stadium. Australia wasted a 10-point second-half lead in the pulsating clash through costly turnovers which were duly punished by the ruthless New Zealanders who retained the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup with the win. The All Blacks scored three straight converted tries after trailing 17-7 early in the second-half to have the decider seemingly wrapped up at 28-17.But a bustling Ryan Cross try and a last-minute attack had the Wallabies inside the visitors quarter on the last play of the game but couldn't produce the dream finish most of the 52,328-strong crowd wished. The All Blacks' comeback not only denied Australia their first Tri-Nations title since 2001 but snuffed out hopes of a Bledisloe Cup win with NZ taking a 2-1 lead in the four-match series."I'm speechless, we ran ourselves ragged," said Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock."The build up tonight was for a colossal match and I think we gave that.

"I'm incredibly proud. Unfortunately we didn't get the result we want ... but the growth of the group has been fantastic and I think the boys can hold their heads high."Two outstanding Matt Giteau-inspired tries within five minutes either side of halftime took the Wallabies from out-of-sorts 7-3 trailers to confident 17-7 leaders. But a comedy of Australian errors from an ill-conceived Dan Carter chip that led to a counter-attacking try finished by prop Tony Woodcock opened the door for the visitors. They waltzed right in midway through the second half when another Australian turnover on halfway allowed a Rodney So'oialo breakout. A Sitiveni Sivivatu dummy then fooled Cross before he put reserve half Piri Weepu over for a 21-17 lead. The All Blacks continued to carve up the Wallabies defence, a sustained attack allowing Carter to run around Mortlock and then bounce off an attempted shoulder charge by Cross to score the clincher with 12 minutes left. The All Blacks led for the majority of the first half following a 13th minute try to Mils Muliaina and looked the more damaging team but Australia made the most of a Giteau cross-field kick in the final play of the 40 minutes. Hynes skillfully took the ball in the air over Sivivatu and off-loaded to Ashley-Cooper to score. Giteau slotted the conversion for the three-point lead.

But Australia were guilty of needlessly kicking when looking dangerous in space out wide, handing possession back to the visitors.Wycliff Palu limped off in the 34th minute with a medial ligament injury which may cost him his place in the end-of-season tour.

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Mortlock proud in defeat

September 13, 2008

Defeated Australian captain Stirling Mortlock has praised his side, despite seeing them slip to a 28-24 defeat against New Zealand - in doing so losing both the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup. Australia had looked good at 10-7 going into half-time, and then 17-7 shortly after the break, but could do little but watch as New Zealand ran in 21 unanswered points. Despite being hugely disappointed Mortlock could not praise his side enough for their effort in Brisbane, “I’m almost speechless, we ran ourselves rugged out there, but hats off to the Kiwis," said Mortlock. "The build-up this week was for a causal match, and I think both teams went at it for 80 minutes. Unfortunately we weren't on the positive side but I think the effort was great."The game swung back and forth, as first New Zealand surged ahead, before Australia roared back only to see New Zealand turn on the style. Then Ryan Cross scored late on to ensure a frantic finish, but the Wallabies could not finish the job."Yeah, we were very positive at half-time," Mortlock added.

"The guys just stuck to their guns and we got some pay for that just before half-time and we came out after half-time ready to go."It felt like we had a bit of ascendancy but unfortunately didn't get too much pay for it - New Zealand came back."We had it again at the end but unfortunately it wasn't enough."

Just as Richie McCaw did, Stirling Mortlock highlighted the battle of the breakdown was crucial in the final outcome."It certainly is very hard to get your momentum against New Zealand's efforts at the breakdown," he said."I think the battle of the breakdown nowadays under the new laws is massive, and due to the speed of the game, everyone seemed to give totally everything they could. Australia had a last ditch effort at winning the game, but New Zealand held firm and eventually the ball was turned over and Piri Weepu banged it off the field to secure the victory."We tried to keep our composure after Cross' try and focus on getting things right, it got very close," the Aussie skipper said."But I'm incredibly proud of the boys - I think this season the whole group has grown tremendously."Unfortunately we didn't get the points tonight and didn't get the Tri-Nations, but I think the growth with a lot of the players in this group has been fantastic, and the guys can hold their heads high."

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Moment of truth for Mortlock in Tri-Nations

Jim Tucker | September 12, 2008

AS a kid, Stirling Mortlock never idolised rugby stars. His worship was heaped on Michael Jordan and his outrageous ability on a basketball court.

Ask the All Blacks. If there is one Wallaby they fear can change the course of tomorrow night's huge Tri-Nations showdown, it is the 102kg tormentor in the gold No.12 jersey. Mortlock is Australian rugby's magic moments man. That leg-driving, turf-shredding stride of his has history and the Kiwis know it. He broke their hearts at the 2003 World Cup with that 80m intercept try. He did it again in Melbourne last year by picking on the suspect link in the All Blacks backline. As a captain, showing the way by skittling a wall of black tenpins will be better than any words he can bark at Suncorp Stadium. When he first hit top rugby a decade ago the young Mortlock was permanently wired with energy and loved to reverse slam dunk footballs over the crossbar at ACT Brumbies training. It was a nod to Jordan.

"As a teenager playing basketball, rugby and whatnot, Michael Jordan was the sort of guy you couldn't take your eyes off," Mortlock said. "He was my idol growing up. He was always the man in the clutch moments to step up."Jordan was a quotes goldmine during his time at the top of the NBA in the US.

If one Jordan line fits Mortlock it is this: "Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen."That's Australia's Tri-Nations destiny. We've heard all week about how ferocious it's going to be, how exciting and how close. Even how overdue the Wallabies are for a major trophy as if losing big Tests somehow means you deserve the next. Rubbish. Which Wallaby is going to make it happen?

A Matt Giteau, a Rocky Elsom? A Mortlock who wants the ball when the contest is fiercest? At 31, Mortlock is a father of three. Off the field, the wilder side of his youth is now restricted to Harley-Davidson Australia's "Rev Up Your Wild Side" photo auction to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Robbie Deans arrived in Australia with a history of forward skippers for his teams. Todd Blackadder, Reuben Thorne and Richie McCaw had led the coach's Crusaders sides in New Zealand. He had no qualms about anointing Mortlock.

"You need players who embrace the challenge and welcome it. That's the most obvious physical element of leadership," Deans said."You hear a lot about captains being in the forwards but when you've got a guy like Stirlo who is so wholeheartedly committed to the physical aspects of the game, it's not an issue."You always know he's going to be up for the game. Players tend to be drawn to that sort of person out on the ground particularly when things are difficult."Things will get difficult at Suncorp Stadium. They always do against the All Blacks. If things get as pressured as they did in Marseilles on October 6, 2007, when the Wallabies were bundled out of the World Cup by England, Mortlock hopes his captaincy growth shines in a more subtle way. In George Gregan's new autobiography, Halfback, Half Forward, Mortlock's former teammate says the half-time direction in that dire 12-10 quarter-final loss was poor."It wasn't specific or positive enough. The message was quite loose," Gregan said. It wasn't a jab at Mortlock because coach John Connolly, forwards coach Michael Foley and backs coach Scott Johnson also had their say in that small, yet vital, break from the frenzy of play and the heaving grandstands."Possibly, when we came together we should have had more clarity in addressing the things that needed to be rectified," Mortlock reflected."Personally, I remember being quite annoyed at how we were going in that game.

"It just reinforces to me you've got to be able to step back from where your emotions would normally go."As a player, I'm pretty hyped up and excitable and can get quite 'in the moment'."That attribute of being very calm, like a John Eales, and clear in really high-pressure moments is something I'm improving on in my growth as a captain."Mortlock is clear that the fresh team environment created for the Wallabies by Deans in just 14 weeks is a winner. Fewer meetings, fewer staff, less information overload."He's had the ability to free up a lot of the blokes' minds. It's been that way for me and it's made my job a lot easier," Mortlock said."He has a knack of simplifying things and still identifying priorities. It's reduced the amount of stress and the end result is you're seeing guys playing to their potential."While rugby has been getting up to speed with professionalism, there has been a trend to impose more and more load on coaches, staff and players because everyone is 'professional'."Robbie has released the shackles and hopefully we put that to good use at Suncorp."On match eve in Melbourne last year, Mortlock even named centre rival Luke McAlister as the potential fracture point: "Do our job well and we'll take the opportunity to go there."He named him.

It was Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers where he was going to dispatch a home run. It didn't happen in the second minute or the 42nd. It happened in the 72nd.

Bang! Mortlock made the angled run on McAlister. He was through to set up the winning try. There’ll be a Test-turning moment tomorrow night if a Wallaby is good enough to grab it. Perhaps the last word should go to "Mr Clutch" himself.

"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it," Jordan said. Through the All Blacks or around them ... Mortlock's Wallabies have to find a way.

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Wallabies Groove to an Old Tune

Bret Harris | August 25, 2008

AUSTRALIA played Holy Grail by the Hunters and Collectors in their dressing room as they celebrated a rare win against South Africa in Durban late on Saturday night. Winning in South Africa had become something of a crusade for the Wallabies, who are now within striking distance of securing the Tri-Nations trophy for the first time since 2001.Regardless of the outcome of Australia's Test in Johannesburg on Saturday, it will play the All Blacks in a Tri-Nations decider in Brisbane on September 13.The All Blacks are on 14 points, while the Wallabies move to 13.

"We are competing for the Tri-Nations. It's a seriously tough competition. You only have to look at the games so far to see that," Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock said."Our mindset is to get up for the challenge next week. If we can do that, there might be an opportunity for us a couple of weeks after that."Everyone can do the ramifications and what-ifs, but that won't come into play too much for us."It's more about the challenge that immediately faces us."

Mortlock has the distinction of being the only one to have played in both of the Wallabies' Tri-Nations wins in South Africa, kicking a last-minute penalty goal to give them a 19-18 win in 2000.Asked to compare the two sides, Mortlock said: "Chalk and cheese. I feel very honoured to have been part of that era winning pretty much every trophy there was to win."At the moment we are a group that is starting on a journey that hopefully is very productive, but it's only a beginning for this group."If you ask that question in a year or two, hopefully I'll give you a positive answer."While it is still too early to compare the 2008 side with the golden Wallabies of 1998-2001, Robbie Deans’ team is showing similar traits. Australia's 27-15 win against the Springboks has confirmed this team has the self-belief which is the hallmark of great sides. The manner in which the Wallabies controlled the game and then showed composure when the Springboks made a late run was encouraging."We have come over so many times and got so close, but we've faced disappointment after disappointment," Mortlock said."To finally get the monkey off our back is just great.

"That really emphasises where this group is at the moment.

"We've got so many young guys who haven't got that baggage. I think that helps. All those guys whose first time it was on African soil, I thought they did really well."The group that we've got here are slowly, but surely, building a great mentality."Belief was something that I mentioned before the game. That always gets tested over here and again it came into play late in the game."The positive mindset this team has and the belief is so far holding us in good stead."Mortlock had a big influence on Saturday, scoring a crucial try in the 68th minute to put the Wallabies out to a match-winning 27-10 lead."I lost my composure a little bit, but that was because I was pretty dirty with myself for what I did a few minutes before which led to them scoring," he said."It was a square-up as far as I was concerned, so I was pretty happy. Also, in the context of the game, it got us into a more comfortable position."While the Wallabies congratulated each other on the win and were clearly delighted, there were no wild celebrations."It's a reflection of how much the guys gave to secure that victory and that our feet are firmly planted on the ground," Mortlock said."We know this is a two-match tour. Very happy with what we achieved today and rightly so, but another challenge awaits us in seven days. "I'm happy with the general mindset of the whole group."

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The Most Significant Win in a Long, Long Time

Greg Growden | August 25, 2008

AUGUST 23, 2008, could easily go down as a defining date in the revival of Australian rugby. The importance of the Wallabies' first triumph on South African soil in eight exasperating seasons cannot be overstated. So many Australian teams have come to this part of the world and been humiliated by good, bad and indifferent Springboks teams, while a steady line of Wallabies Tri Nations coaches, from Greg Smith to Eddie Jones to John Connolly, have disconsolately headed back to Sydney with nothing to show from their African adventures. It had turned into a horrible hoodoo, and was starting to get the Wallabies down. But the combination of an understated coach who knows all about winning, a line-up that included eight players who had not experienced a Test in South Africa before and a squad that is starting to honestly believe it can leap mountains enabled the Wallabies to withstand a desperate South African outfit. And this country is certainly desperate. The agony of one day being World Cup winners and the next being on the bottom rung of the Tri Nations is hurting South Africa to its core. It all came to the surface shortly after the final bell when the South African television crew interviewed Springboks captain Victor Matfield and coach Peter de Villiers on the ground. Their comments were virtually drowned out by the loud booing from the crowd. The Springboks audience has clearly turned on their team - they applauded the Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock as he headed to the interview area. Then after witnessing another action-packed news conference involving de Villiers, where he made strange statements about sticking to the same style even if it does lead to continual defeat, one can only come to the conclusion that if he's still in this job this time next season, he must be the world's best rugby politician. De Villiers has turned the Springboks into the jigsaw puzzle of world rugby - there are clearly a few pieces missing. There don't seem to be too many in the Springboks party who know what's going on and why the missing pieces have fallen under the cushions. In contrast, the Wallabies are starting to gain that level of composure and patience that marks a great team. That was all on show in Durban. They soaked up everything the Springboks could offer, in particular in the opening 20 minutes and the final 10. They were watchful and careful in what they did. Their errors were minimal. As in Perth, they forced the Springboks to play an unusually fractured one-out, kick-away possession game, which went nowhere. For the Wallabies, there was also enormous intensity and a willingness to ignore personal wellbeing for the good of all by taking the big hit, the big run or effecting the big tackle. Admittedly, the Auckland Test loss was a serious blow to the Wallabies but what was so rousing on Saturday was that they made dramatic improvements in all of the areas that let them down against the All Blacks. The lineout did not function in Auckland. In Durban, it was a vital attacking tool, with the Wallabies winning five opposition lineout throws - a fair effort against the best in the business. Australia's midfield kicking game against the All Blacks was poor. Against the Springboks, it was outstanding, with Matt Giteau's choice of kicks a crucial factor in the South African bogyman being thrown off their back. As crucially, the Wallabies are starting to develop a reserves bench that can win games. Injuries put them under stress, especially when Berrick Barnes and Dan Vickerman were early casualties. But Ryan Cross and Dean Mumm immediately stepped up. And later, when another back-line reshuffle was required, Timana Tahu showed he has a healthy future as a Test No.12.Yes, jot that date down. It does mean something.

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Wallabies Break Hoodoo

Greg Growden in Durban | August 24, 2008

South Africa 15 Wallabies 27

EIGHT years of anguish are over.

The Wallabies early today succeeded in winning their first Test on South African soil since 2000 - and captain Stirling Mortlock was again a major contributor. On the same ground eight years ago, Mortlock kicked the winning penalty in the final minutes for Australia's first and then only Tri-Nations success in South Africa. This morning, Mortlock's outstanding solo try in the 57th minute, in which the Wallabies skipper weaved and skipped around numerous Springboks defenders to score under the post, guaranteed Australian jubilation at ABSA Stadium. As expected, the Wallabies at full-time were in near disbelief as they at last achieved victory in this part of the world. This was the most courageous of wins, with many casualties, including Berrick Barnes, Dan Vickerman and James Horwill, who had to be helped from the field at full-time. Every Wallaby put his body on the line and there were several outstanding performances, in particular from Matt Giteau - his poise and midfield kicking were crucial. The Wallabies thwarted a spirited Boks revival in the second half when their centre, Adrian Jacobs, scored twice to bring the home team within reach of the Wallabies. But in the final 10 minutes, they held firm to be able to savour a special away moment. The Wallabies withstood incredible pressure from the Springboks and succeeded with their few opportunities to take a 10-0 lead at the break. Despite the Boks dominating territory and possession early on, incredible defence by the Wallabies all over the field enabled them to thwart countless dangerous attacks. In the first quarter, Barnes was hit heavily on numerous occasions, primarily from Springboks five-eighth Butch James, who seemed to be intent on knocking his head off. Then, in the 18th minute, when Barnes attempted a clever pass through his legs to Wycliff Palu, James came in on the angle and with a legitimate charge hit him directly on the right shoulder. He received attention and had to be replaced by Ryan Cross, which brought a back-line reshuffle. Mortlock had to be moved from 13 to inside-centre to enable Cross to play in his customary centre spot. Vickerman then became the next casualty when he also received a heavy hit on his shoulder. Illness even struck the team before the game when reserve forward Hugh McMeniman was ruled out because of a virus, which led Dean Mumm to take his place on the bench and then come on the field for Vickerman. The Wallabies had only limited attacking chances but they used them judiciously. The best was in the 26th minute, when for the first time in the game, they were perched in the Springboks' quarter and, after several head-down charges, their loose-head prop Benn Robinson succeeded in finding the line to make it 10-0.AUSTRALIA 27 (Stirling Mortlock, Benn Robinson, Lote Tuqiri tries Matt Giteau 3 cons 2 pens) bt SOUTH AFRICA 15 (Adrian Jacobs 2 tries Percy Montgomery con Butch James pen) at ABSA Stadium. Referee: Lyndon Bray (NZL). Crowd:48,123

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No Deja Vu for Mortlock

AAP | August 24, 2008

CAN the current Australian side be as a good as the side which last won on South African soil in 2000? Ask Stirling Mortlock in a year or two. The skipper is the only player left from an Australian side which held the World Cup, Bledisloe Cup and, with a victory in Durban that year, the Tri-Nations title simultaneously. Mortlock also sealed the victory in both 2000, with a last minute sideline goal, and in the drought-breaking 27-15 win with a determined run to the try line in the 68th minute."It's chalk and cheese at the moment," Mortlock said of the two Wallaby sides.

"I feel very honoured to have been part of that era where pretty much every trophy there was to win we got our hands on, whereas at the moment we're a group that is starting hopefully on a journey that is very productive."But it's only sort of the beginning for this group and I think maybe if you ask that question in a year or two's time we'll hopefully give you a positive answer."Mortlock said the two Durban clashes had been completely different, too.

"Other than late in the game when we let them back in, we had a fair bit of control throughout the whole game so it was slightly different to 2000," he said."I think 2000 was more of an arm wrestle the whole match."

The big centre celebrated hard after his try, which took Australia out to a 15-point buffer after they had allowed the Springboks to score and get back into it two minutes earlier."I probably lost my composure a tiny bit but that was just because I was pretty dirty on myself with what I did a few minutes before to let them score," he said."So it was a square-up so far as I was concerned."

Mortlock said the feeling at the end of an eight-year drought in the Republic was hard to describe."We've come over here so many times and got so close," he said.

"It's been a constant place where we faced disappointment on disappointment, so to finally get the monkey off our back is just great."Aussie rock band Hunters and Collectors' 'Holy Grail' blared from the Australian dressing room, and the Wallabies can now win their first Tri-Nations series since 2001 by beating New Zealand in Brisbane. They will first face South Africa again in Johannesburg, where they haven't won for 45 years, next Saturday."We are competing for the Tri-Nations and it is a seriously tough competition," Mortlock said."You've only got to look at the games so far to see that and our mindset is hopefully to get up for the challenge next week."If we do that then that might be an opportunity for us a couple of weeks after that."

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Mortlock Eyeing Piece of History

AAP | August 22, 2008

AUSTRALIA will hope they can seize an opportunity to make history and, at the same time, confirm they are making progress when they face a wounded South Africa in Saturday's crucial Tri-Nations Test in Durban. The Australians are hungry for a first win on South African soil in eight years and desperate to prove their 39-10 loss to New Zealand three weeks ago - their first in six Tests under Robbie Deans - was an anomaly. A win would also give the Wallabies a realistic shot at winning the Tri-Nations title for the first time since 2001, but it was the bigger picture on the mind of skipper Stirling Mortlock, the only current Wallaby to have tasted victory in the Republic."I think it's pretty important for this crew as far as looking to take a step up or a step forward," said Mortlock, who booted a sideline penalty goal to ensure the Wallabies' last win here, also in Durban in 2000."So far throughout the season I think we have made progression and improved.

"Obviously we were pretty disappointed as a group how we went in Auckland so for us it's a good opportunity to prove to ourselves and obviously to everyone else that we have taken a step forward."I'm very hopeful we can show that we can do that."

Unlike Mortlock, eight members of Australia's 22 - Peter Hynes, Berrick Barnes, Sam Cordingley, James Horwill, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Hugh McMeniman, Timana Tahu and Ryan Cross - haven't lived through recent history in the rainbow nation and will play their first Tests on South African soil at ABSA Stadium."I think that's a good thing, there's a lot less baggage amongst this crew at the moment," Mortlock said."We possibly saw that in our first match against the All Blacks (a 34-19 win) a while back and hopefully we can see that over the next few matches."Australia have tried all kinds of weird and wonderful approaches to overcoming the 14-hour flight, the jetlag and the hostile crowds that have contributed to their poor record in the Republic. Mortlock said this time Deans had the side more relaxed and able to turn on the intensity when it is needed."You can just tell everyone's very responsive," Mortlock said.

"When someone's talking you're getting a lot of eyes directed straight at you and intensity as far as contests at training."That's a good thing and (we've) just (got) the positive mindset to ... put ourselves under as much pressure as you can at training and to execute under those pressures. "The Wallabies will face a Springboks side struggling to build on its Rugby World Cup win last year and stinging after a loss in Perth and being held scoreless in last Saturday's loss to the All Blacks."They're a side that have the world champion tag so there's still an underlying confidence with that," Mortlock said."It wasn't too long back when they secured that amazing (32-30) victory in Dunedin."I think South Africa are an extremely proud nation and especially at home. We are expecting a significant battle in front of us on Saturday."But the skipper said Australia feel more at home in Durban, where the temperature is expected to reach 28 degrees on Saturday, than at other grounds in the Republic."When you play at even Newlands and especially at Jo'burg and Pretoria, those venues they're on top of you and it's like a cauldron and the crowd can be at times quite hostile," he said."Whereas at Kings Park (ABSA Stadium) there's still a massive crowd ... but they don't feel as though they're suffocating you."Part of history eight years ago, Mortlock has his eye on creating more.

"It was a long time ago and I've got great memories about that whole trip, that whole era really," he said."So now it's hopefully time to implant some new ones."

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No Need to Panic, Says Mortlock

AAP | August 7, 2008

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock believes Australia's game has no need of a drastic change after last week's thumping Tri-Nations rugby loss to New Zealand, and has tipped his team to be "back up" for their two looming clashes with the world champion Springboks in South Africa. The Australians are currently in a rare rest period prior to reassembling next Wednesday in Sydney to prepare for their Tri-Nations clashes with South Africa in Durban on August 23 and Johannesburg seven days later. The Springboks are scheduled to play the next four weekends against Argentina, New Zealand and then twice against Australia. Mortlock was hoping that the daunting schedule might work in Australia's favour."They would have played a bit of footy coming up with those two matches (against Argentina and New Zealand)," Mortlock said."They are world champions and they will have their backs up, they've gone quite well so far this year."It's a good opportunity for us and one that I dare say we will be up for."

Australia have lost their last eight matches in South Africa, but Mortlock was the hero the last time they triumphed in that country eight years ago. His last minute penalty from the sideline secured Australia's first Tri-Nations title. The bustling centre acknowledged Australia needed to improve on a number of areas from last weekend's game, but described the heavy loss as "a unique situation"."With the All Blacks it seemed that everything they did turned into points and they profited from it, whereas whenever we tried to be positive it didn't quite come off and then they profited again from the turnover or the ensuing phase."There was some glaringly obvious things that we can improve, the breakdown, some of our set piece and probably our kicking accuracy."They are the things we work on all the time, so drastic changes don't need to be made so that we can turn around."Mortlock posed aboard a Harley Davidson as part of a promotion to boost awareness of prostate cancer. He is one of several high profile sporting personalities involved in the campaign, including Sydney Roosters rugby league stars Craig Wing and Willie Mason, Sydney Swans AFL stars Jude Bolton, Peter Everitt and Amon Buchanan and Olympians Ky Hurst (swimming), David Barlow (basketball) and Nikki Hudson (hockey).The sports stars will all be pictured on - or around - a Harley Davidson with the photographs auctioned to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia."Awareness of male health in general, anything to do with that is a good thing because too often men tend to just bottle everything up and don't come out and investigate and make sure that everything is going as well as it should be," Mortlock said.

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Mortlock braces himself for the beasts of Eden Park

Greg Growden | July 29, 2008

Stirling Mortlock is adamant he will lead the Wallabies on to Eden Park on Saturday night and is preparing himself for the most brutal of Bledisloe Cup battles.

Mortlock was a frustrated spectator at ANZ Stadium last Saturday night after being forced out of the Test following a serious head knock when Springboks second-rower Bakkies Botha shoulder-charged him at Subiaco Oval. The Wallabies' line-up will be announced this afternoon, and unlike his New Zealand counterpart, Richie McCaw, who remains in doubt with ankle problems, Mortlock yesterday declared he is ready for selection. He is scheduled to regain his outside-centre spot at the expense of Ryan Cross.

"I've been 100 per cent since Thursday last week, so I'll be right. I'm now raring to go," Mortlock said. And the skipper is preparing for his head, body and mind to get another battering. "Next week's challenge is more significant," Mortlock said. "The fact that we beat them will make them come out bull-at-a-gate in Auckland. They'll be wanting to bash us, and bring everything they have."Mortlock believes the fact the bulk of the Wallabies are unaccustomed to playing against New Zealand will work in their favour, not burdened by the fact an Australian team has not won at Eden Park since 1986. "We are in a unique situation where the mind set of this group is to go out and give whatever you can to the performance. You saw evidence of that on Saturday, where you had eight guys playing for the first time against the All Blacks, and they weren't daunted by that," Mortlock said."Sure, we're going over there expecting an extremely, unbelievably tough game, and Bledisloe Cup matches are always that, but it is a big challenge we are very excited about, and which you have to give wholeheartedly to."Mortlock also conceded he would not be surprised if he will be confronting Conrad Smith, even though he was relegated to the reserves in Sydney. Mortlock said he was surprised Smith was not part of the starting line-up last weekend."He's not the sort of centre that stands out immensely, but one who makes good breaks," Mortlock said. "He provides a lot of insight for their back line, and he steers them around really well. He provides a lot of significantly different traits to what a lot of other guys in the back line do."The Wallabies trained in torrential rain at Coogee Oval yesterday, with winger Lote Tuqiri and second-rower James Horwill rested.

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Wallabies expecting All Black aggression

July 28, 2008

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock has predicted the All Blacks would try and bash his side in Auckland on Saturday in a bid to end their losing streak.

Successive Tri-Nations losses to South Africa and Australia have ratcheted the pressure up on the All Blacks and their coach Graham Henry, who retained his position ahead of compatriot Robbie Deans, who subsequently landed the Wallabies post. Deans has started his tenure with five straight victories at home but acknowledged his charges faced their toughest test yet on Saturday. New Zealand haven't lost at Eden Park since 1994 and the last time the Wallabies lowered their colours at that venue was in 1986.Mortlock, who has declared himself fit to play on the weekend after missing last Saturday's 34-19 victory over New Zealand in Sydney with a head knock, was anticipating a fiery response from New Zealand on Saturday night."They will be going out with a massively positive mindset this weekend, there's no doubt about that," Mortlock said."The fact that we did beat them is going to make them come bull at a gate, probably wanting to bash us."He predicted an "extremely, unbelievably tough game" for the Wallabies on Saturday."I've been over there (to New Zealand) a number of times and there's always a common theme with playing them over there, they are always arm wrestles and extremely tight," Mortlock said."I think the group state that we are in mentally at the moment, it would be to go over there with a real positive mindset."It's a great challenge and one that is going to be extremely difficult but one that we are looking forward to."While there are mental hurdles the Wallabies need to leap in beating New Zealand away for the first time in seven years, Mortlock insists overcoming the fatigue factor will be just as important."It's an interesting challenge for us as well because it's our third week in a row of playing unbelievably intense Test matches," Mortlock said."We've got to get the mix right, the balance right at training and make sure we get that right physically, also get mentally right for what the atmosphere and the reception will be like on game day at Eden Park."Mortlock praised the defensive efforts of the blossoming midfield combination of five-eighth Matt Giteau and inside centre Berrick Barnes."Gits and Berrick as a combination have just been growing and in particular there were question marks asked about their defence," Mortlock said."Everyone knows they are both among the best defenders in the game and they are actually statistically making me look bad."The balance of back row power could possibly shift to New Zealand this week with Wallabies blindside flanker Rocky Elsom sidelined with a foot injury and inspirational All Blacks captain and flanker Richie McCaw tipped to return from injury. Elsom, who hoped to miss just the one game with his ligament strain, predicted an even bigger battle at the breakdown this weekend."I think it will be a new challenge this week if Richie (McCaw) comes back, and you would think they are going to push it as hard as they can to get him back, they are going to want to get a lot of that turnover ball that they didn't get last game," Elsom said."I think that is some of the most potent attacking ball so they probably see that as an area they can really pick up and will help them to win the match."I think the battle at the breakdown will be much bigger because he's there, but also if he's not there, just because that will still probably be their focus." 

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Adam always in Mortlock's debt

April 04, 2008

WHEN Brumbies captain Stirling Mortlock runs on to Canberra Stadium tonight for his 100th game of Super rugby, against the Chiefs, it will also be a special occasion for his teammate Adam Ashley-Cooper.

"It's a great achievement for Stirling and I'm very proud to run out and share it with him on Friday night," Ashley-Cooper said. The 24-year-old Wallabies back last night paid tribute to the crucial role Mortlock has played in his burgeoning career since he joined the Brumbies in 2005."Stirling's had a major impact. I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without his assistance and guidance," Ashley-Cooper said."He is the bloke I have based my game on in the last four years of professional rugby."It hasn't just been in games that Mortlock has influenced his young teammate.

"Once you step into this professional environment, you just learn so much hanging around the senior players," Ashley-Cooper said."Seeing how they prepare, how they recover and how they train is basically an outline of what you have to do to become as good as them."I've basically tried to follow in Stirling's footsteps and do everything that he does - and I'll hopefully play as many Tests."The Brumbies' backline has been substantially boosted tonight by the return of both incumbent Wallaby skipper Mortlock and Test back Ashley-Cooper. Mortlock had a shoulder reconstruction after the World Cup last year and this is his comeback match."You can notice this week back at training, Stirling has lifted the blokes around him another 15 to 20 per cent," Ashley-Cooper said."He's had a great impact on the field with his physical dominance, with his ball carrying and defence. It is very lifting." 

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Mortlock to record a Stirling century

Thursday, 3 April 2008

CA Brumbies captain Stirling Mortlock will become the sixth CA Brumbies player to reach 100 Super Rugby matches when he leads his side against the Chiefs at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. The 30-year-old joins former team mates George Gregan (136 matches), Stephen Larkham (116), Jeremy Paul (112) and Bill Young (100), and George Smith, who recorded his century against the Cheetahs a fortnight ago, to be included in the 100 Club. The CA Brumbies skipper reached his 99th cap against the Highlanders in the final round of 2007 but was forced to undergo surgery after dislocating his left shoulder in the Wallabies 32-20 Rugby World Cup win over Wales in Cardiff delaying his next Investec Super 14 appearance. Mortlock, who made his Super 12 debut in 1998 during the CA Brumbies 32-7 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney, says he is looking forward to returning to the field.

This match against the Chiefs was always identified as my comeback game, I’ve done the rehab and now I can’t wait to get out there, he said: We have got a great young squad at the moment and the enthusiasm they bring to the squad is infectious. I feel very privileged to be able to work with these exceptional young players to help shape the future of the Brumbies: I feel very fortunate to have been able to play at this level for so long. I’ve loved being part of the Brumbies and I’ve always enjoyed and will continue to enjoy &n playing my football here: When you look at the guys who have played 100 games for the Brumbies, they stand out as some of the greatest players to ever play for the club and for the Wallabies, so to be considered in that company is a real honour. Mortlock, who re-signed with the CA Brumbies until the end of the 2010 season in February, took on the CA Brumbies captaincy during their Super 12-winning season in 2004.He also holds the record as the CA Brumbies all-time highest point scorer with 825 points and remains the Province’s second all-time try scorers list with 48 tries, nine behind Joe Roff’s 57 tries. Mortlock marked his 50th Super Rugby cap with a three-try performance in the CA Brumbies 45-35 win over the Bulls in Pretoria in 2002.Head Coach Laurie Fisher says Mortlock has been a key to the CA Brumbies backline: We are very pleased very pleased to have Stirling back in the squad, he said. He’s been a very influential player in the success of the Brumbies over the past decade. During his career, Stirling has developed into a world-class leader. He’s a player that other players listen to and he’s a player that inspires his team mates with his lead-by-example style of play. He has provided Brumbies supporters with some memorable moments over the past 11 years and I’d like to think they will get out to Canberra Stadium on Friday night and help celebrate this terrific achievement.

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Deans will take Australia into a new era : Mortlock

Monday 31 March 2008

Mortlock believes that the appointment of New Zealander Robbie Deans as the national team's head coach will mark a new era for the Wallabies, but he admits it will be a journey into the unknown. Deans currently coaches the Crusaders in the Super 14 series and does not officially take over as Australia coach until June the 1st which is just two weeks before the first Test of the year against Ireland in Melbourne. In the highly unlikely scenario that the Crusaders do not qualify for the play offs Deans could have as much as a month to familiarise himself with the players and for them to get to know him."Initially, it will take us out of our comfort zone," said Mortlock in The Australian."I talked to Robbie before the season. He was totally comfortable with it. It's not too dissimilar to what we normally do. Everyone is focused on their provinces."We have two weeks before our first Test whereas last year we only had one week and it was extremely tight. This will be positive for everyone."With Mortlock being out injured he has had more time to watch matches and he has taken a special interest in the Crusaders, trying to determine aspects of their game which Deans may apply to the Wallabies."I'm not sure what direction he will take the Wallabies," Mortlock said.

"There are certain traits the Crusaders display that I'm sure he will want the Wallabies to display."If we do that, it will be a good thing because those traits are the hallmark of a great team. We would be heading on the right track. We (Australians) are different in style and mentality to New Zealanders in general."There will be a little bit of tailoring the program to the guys he has at his disposal. It will be a little bit of the unknown."But the Crusaders' performance this year has just reinforced how successful he has been in Super rugby for a long period of time. "It's a real positive opportunity for the Wallabies. A new era for Australian rugby. A great opportunity and a very exciting time."Everyone was disappointed with the way we performed at the World Cup. There will be a clean slate for guys trying to get in as well." 

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Stirling Mortlock Inspires School Kids for Earth Hour

March 18, 2008

Australian and international personalities from all walks of life will be switching off their lights for Earth Hour at 8pm on March 29, 2008 in the hope of raising awareness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become more energy efficient. Locally, Brumbies and Wallabies star Stirling Mortlock has signed on as an ACT Earth Hour Ambassador and is keen to spread the Earth Hour message. On Wednesday 19 March Sterling visited Yarralumla Primary, where Mortlock spoke to the students from grades five and six about how important their action on climate change is for the future of our planet. Mortlock, who has a genuine interest in environmental issues, approached the organisers of Earth Hour early in February and expressed his enthusiasm to support the initiative.

Earth Hour sends an important message that each individual can contribute to reducing global warming by making simple changes to their everyday energy consumption, said Mortlock: Getting kids in the habit of thinking about how their everyday actions affect our planet is important for all our futures.& Yarralumla Primary School Principal Sue Nott said, Our school is in the process of implementing the recommendations of an extensive energy audit conducted by the ANU last year. These recommendations will be discussed with students, with a planned implementation mapped out and led by our Student Representative Council and staff. Yarralumla Primary is excited to have Stirling come and support us in promoting Earth Hour. His visit will strengthen the message about global environmental issues and what we can do at the school, as well as the local and wider community level, to make a difference. Cathy Freeman is another prominent Australian personality getting behind Earth Hour by featuring in an Earth Hour community service announcement for TV. She is joined by some of Australia’s most recognisable icons in supporting Earth Hour’s mission. Australian and international musicians, actors, media personalities, fashion designers and sporting figures are pledging their commitment to this campaign. Celebrities can carry a message to a mass audience, said Earth Hour Director Andy Ridley. Earth Hour’s message is that everyone needs to take responsibility to address climate change. So whether you are Silverchair, an accountant, a father, a politician, or a CEO, Earth Hour is something you can take part in. There are some amazing people supporting Earth Hour and it’s heart-warming to have support from all corners of the globe. The supporters represent a list of Australia’s who’s who, featuring over 50 personalities. We are amazed by the support Earth Hour is receiving from individuals across the globe and want to encourage all members of the community to get involved in Earth Hour. Supporters are pivotal in spreading the word and engaging the community with the simple idea of turning off their lights. Climate change is an issue that affects all of us so we need to come together to meet this challenge, said Ridley. Mortlock said, Switching appliances off at the wall when they are not in use and turning off the lights when you leave a room is just the beginning. Earth Hour is about inspiring thought on climate change &n it’s wonderful to see this happening right now in schools all over the world, including Yarralumla Primary. Get involved and sign up for Earth Hour now.

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Mortlock in Anti drink-driving ad

March 17, 2008 02:44pm

WALLABIES captain Sterling Mortlock admits that when he was younger he had little idea of the full effect of alcohol on his body. The morning after a big night of celebrations, there was a good chance he was over the blood alcohol limit when he got behind the wheel of a car, without knowing it. But having often seen, during his own physio after football injuries, the consequences for crash victims involved in drink-driving episodes, Mortlock is now a public supporter of efforts to warn against drink-driving. His message: make sure you have a designated driver before heading out to party. Mortlock told of his experiences while supporting the launch of a new television commercial for the group known as Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drink Driving (RADD).RADD has the support of about 600 high-profile public figures, some of them former wild child musicians such as Jimmy Barnes and Aerosmith.

"From my perspective, when I was younger I wasn't as much aware of how much alcohol affects your body," Mortlock said."On, say, a Saturday night, when there was a night out, Sunday morning perhaps I'd drive and think nothing of it."But now, since becoming a professional rugby player, having learnt how long it takes for alcohol to go out of your system, possibly that is one I may have pushed without even knowing it. "Through rugby I've learnt that, even the next day, you've got to be careful."

Mortlock urged not only young players but also sport fans as well to pay attention to the drink-driving message and ensure they had alternative means of getting home."In sport you obviously see a lot of people going out and enjoying themselves," he said."It's most important that (when they) go out and support us, don't sacrifice anyone else's night or themselves, putting them at risk, by driving home." Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the issue of drink-driving was not one that would go away."Sadly, drink-driving continues to be one of our biggest road safety problems," he said."Intoxicated motorists still account for over a quarter of drivers and riders killed on our roads. "It is time for a renewed effort to curtail the harmful effects of alcohol in this country."The new 30-second RADD ad has support from the major broadcasters - Seven, Nine, Ten and Foxtel - and others, and will be screened in time for the Easter holiday break.

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Mortlock re-signs with ARU, Brumbies

28th February 2008

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock resisted "enormous money" from overseas and "global interest" in his services to effectively play out his career in Australia. The powerful 30-year-old Brumbies and Wallabies outside centre has signed a two-year contract extension, taking him to the end of the 2010 season. The 63-Test stalwart wouldn't rule out continuing to the 2011 World Cup, depending on his fitness and form, but doubted he would ever play overseas. Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill said re-signing Mortlock was "very comforting" given the Wallabies had already lost or were about to lose three other champion backs, George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Chris Latham. With Mortlock now protected from offshore raids, the likes of forwards Nathan Sharpe and Rocky Elsom were among the handful of major Wallabies unsigned beyond this season. Mortlock said he retained a burning and huge passion and desire to play for Australia and was also influenced by the appointment of New Zealander Robbie Deans as the new Wallabies coach, plus an emerging crop of young talent.

"There are significant lures to go overseas, but when I weighed everything up and how significant my desire was to play for Australia still, this was definitely the right way forward me," Mortlock told AAP."In particular hopefully in the next duration looking at a smooth integration into the workforce post-rugby as well."And I think having family in Australia, there were a lot of issues that weighed in to me committing to staying in Australia and not pursuing overseas opportunities."I really do think I will see my career out in Australia," added Mortlock, who was looking toward a career in the banking and finance sector. Mortlock’s agent Nick Johnston said his client gave serious consideration to the sizeable offers he was made from a number of overseas suitors."There was enormous interest in Stirling out of Japan and Europe, they were offering enormous money, but his desire to play for the Wallabies and to continue to lead his country was the over-riding factor," Johnston said."There was global interest in Stirling........it was a very exciting time for Stirling."Mortlock said his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery was going as well as he could have hoped and he was looking at playing in around five weeks. He has already spoken to Deans, who he described as "an impressive guy" but emphasised they had not discussed the captaincy. O’Neill said he didn't allow himself to get over confident about retaining Mortlock, though he gained the impression the robust back wanted to remain in Australia following last year's World Cup disappointment."Apart from his deeds in the midfield over a very long period of time, he's shown himself to be an inspirational leader, he's led by example both for the Brumbies and with the Wallabies, a real captain courageous," O'Neill said. Mortlock said he still had a lot of things he wanted to achieve in a Wallaby jersey."It's been a long while since I've been involved with a winning Bledisloe or Tri-Nations Cup campaign," Mortlock said."With Robbie Deans as the new coach, that's a significant draw card. With a lot of new guys coming through hopefully we will be able to initiate some initiatives in how the Wallabies' style changes or innovates itself." 

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Mortlock in Rugby World Cup Team of the Tournament

Sunday 21st October 2007

Heard the one about seven South Africans, three Frenchmen, two Argentineans, two Englishmen and a Wallaby? Then we've got one for you!

A total of 48 matches were played in this World Cup, with the luckiest players involved in seven of them. We’ve picked off the cream of the crop for a definitive 'team of the tournament' with nine of finalists making up the backbone of the team, bolstered by the choicest tidbits from Friday night's leftovers match, and one star turn whose exit came far too early. It’s a cracking team on paper:

15 Percy Montgomery - Difficult at full-back, for Jason Robinson's chances were equal at least before he departed to injury, and Ignacio Corleto put himself in the frame with a terrific performance in Argentina's second win over France. But when it came to the crunch, under a barrage of high balls and with pressure goal and touch-kicking at its most intense, Montgomery stepped up to the mark and passed the test every time.14 Vincent Clerc - Faded a little towards the end of the tournament, but that had far more to do with the French tactics than his own effort. Clerc weighed in with so many line and tackle breaks, belying his size, and his twinkle-toed running was a joy to watch at times. The second try he scored against Ireland showed his strength on the ball.13 Stirling Mortlock - The only player from a team that did not make it past the quarter-finals, but Mortlock shouldered so much of the responsibility in Australia's team and broke the line so many times in attack. A dab boot from the tee too.12 Felipe Contempomi - Delivered it all for Argentina: handling, running, goal-kicking, and even a little needle of the opposition. But most importantly, he shepherded Juan Martn Hernndez through his first steps as a fully fledged fly-half. His 19-point haul in the final game was a fitting end - although his silly yellow-card was not.11 Bryan Habana - The tournament's top try-scorer couldn't find the gaps in the Final to make a new World Cup record his own, but England's close attentions to him in defence were reminiscent of South Africa's to a certain Jonah Lomu some a dozen years ago - a compliment indeed. The semi-final, however, was all Habana's own...10 Jonny Wilkinson - Possibly the first time since the last World Cup that he has been fit for more than a month, Wilkinson bailed England out supremely. But, by his own high standards, he might not have been as good as 2003 - but he was still the steering column that guided England's shaky axles time and time again over the roughest ground.9 Fourie du Preez - When Jake White took over, Fourie du Preez was a fringe player, working hard on his game and concentrating on getting the decision-making right. Being stuck behind anyone in White's loyal order is a tough task, but Du Preez's gradual accession to the Bok number nine shirt has been born of some incredible work and irresistible displays from the Bulls scrum-half, and this tournament confirmed his position as a rival to the fabled Joost in the historical pecking order, as well as arguably the finest player in the world on current form.8 Gonzalo Longo - Maybe hasn't got the unique gliding running skills of team-mate Juan Manuel Leguizamon or the busting strength of Finau Maka, or the handling skills of Danie Roussouw, but Longo has huge heart, a beaverish attitude to work, and an inexhaustible supply of strength and courage in his running and tackling. Time and time again he queued up to be Argentina's man of the match, and ended up a real unsung hero of the Pumas' campaign.7 Thierry Dusautoir - A star arrived out of the left field at this World Cup! Dusautoir had been on the fringes, at best, of Bernard Laporte's ridiculously rich selection of loose forwards. But he was magnificent in France's triumph over New Zealand, and proved that was no fluke in the semi-final against England.6 Juan Smith* - Has been at the heart of so much that has been good about South Africa, including an excellent cameo role when Jake White needed the old heads to steer his team past Tonga. Tries, runs, tackles - all have been his forte at all times.5 Victor Matfield - The king of the line-out, his title undisputed, Matfield's departure to France is a massive blow to South African rugby, but his man of the match performance in the Final was a fitting end to a superb Test career.4 Simon Shaw - The most controversial omission from Sir Clive Woodward's 2003 title-winning squad, Shaw rolled back the years to recoup his form and finally got the chance to show the world his class.3 Pieter de Villiers - French he may be by allegiance, but the Stellenbosch-born prop takes his place in a front-row populated by fellow South Africans. De Villiers held Andrew Sheridan into anonymity in the semi-final when all thought Sheridan was indestructible, a week after doing the same to Tony Woodcock. An unsung hero of France's cause.2 John Smit (captain) - Smit has continually been up there with nominations for Team of the Week, many times only losing by the odd vote, winning a couple of times. Matfield and Botha make his job easy for him in the line-out, and he is the centerpiece of a superb pack, but he has gone through this tournament with barely a blot to his copybook, and with his leadership skills carrying a nation to victory. Australia had John Eales, England had Martin Johnson, and now Smit continues the tradition of legendary World Cup-winning captains.1 Os du Randt - Props all over the world will be crying into their fry-ups this morning as Os calls time on his career. The Free State farmer has achieved icon status in the front-row community, and his display in the Final a rarity, for it was all 80 minutes - showed why. Sheridan is strong but can go missing in action, Woodcock appears to be slowing down a tad, but at 35 years old, Os is the world's finest loose head.

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