Connolly: Larkam move can work

Australia coach John Connolly has defended his plans to switch fly-half Stephen Larkham to inside centre for next month's European Tour. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Australia coach John Connolly has defended his plans to switch fly-half Stephen Larkham to inside centre for next month’s European Tour.

Larkham is rated as one of the best outside halfs in the game, but the Wallabies’ new attack coach Scott Johnson believes the lanky veteran would be better suited under Australia’s radical new backline blueprint at No.12.

And Connolly agrees, insisting his attacking spearhead will be able to control the play better from wider out in the backline.

"He can probably boss the game a little bit more from No.12 – in very much the New Zealand style, like Aaron Mauger," Connolly told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"You’ve got to be able to play off your half-back, five-eighth and inside centre these days. You can’t just play off the No.10."

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Larkham, who started his international career at full-back and has also played on the wing and at outside centre, said he was enjoying the challenge of learning the new role and the extra time in attack the position offers.

"I suppose playing at No.12, you will get a little more time to play with the ball in hand and size up the opposition," Larkham said.

"I don’t know if I am going to be used as a running inside-centre who will run over the top of people. I don’t think I’m capable of doing that. A bit of sleight of hand a little further out may be more my go."

Mat Rogers, who has stepped into the fly-half role, also indicated he was excited by the prospect of playing in his preferred position of pivot.

The dual international has played at No.10 for Australia before, but it has always been in place of Larkham.
Now he will have the experienced World Cup winner outside him in the backline.

"It’s great having Bernie [Larkham] outside me because he knows what is expected of a No.10," Rogers said.

"It takes a lot of pressure off me by having [him] there. It certainly makes my job a little easier.

"He’s already in my ear…and that’s great. You have that little voice on the shoulder and it’s nice to hear it. 

"Being a first receiver, you are pretty much watching the ruck all the time, so you don’t get the chance to see what’s going on outside. So he lets me know, which is good.

"To be there now with Bernie in the side makes it more special. And it makes you want to strive that little bit harder."

Australia will take on Wales in the first Test of the tour at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday November 4.

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