Vodacom Super 14

Waugh's path unclear

2009-02-05 12:38
Uncertain future (Gallo Images)
Sydney - Waratahs captain Phil Waugh has vowed to not let the question mark over his playing career in Australia become a distraction for the team in this year's Super 14, even though he is not certain where his future lies.

Waugh, 29 and a veteran of 77 Tests, hopes to meet Wallabies coach Robbie Deans in the next fortnight to discuss his prospects, but on Wednesday said he did not want the issue to drag on as a source of public debate.

The openside breakaway has been in constant battle with the Brumbies' George Smith for the Wallabies No 7 jersey, but the contest has only intensified with the emergence of the Western Force's David Pocock last season.

Waugh comes off his Australian Rugby Union and NSW Rugby Union contracts this year, and there are suggestions Europe looms as an alternative career path should he feel his opportunities are limited in Australia.

When asked if he were concerned about the subject becoming a distraction in the Super 14 season, Waugh said: "I don't think so. I am a hundred per cent committed to getting us off to a good start here in the Super 14.

"I would be happy to put it to bed sooner than later, but you won't catch me talking about it too much at all. I will be completely focused on my job here at the Waratahs. I guess it is about the appropriate timing."

Last week, Deans said Waugh was still a valuable asset for the Wallabies, but he recognised the increasing pressure Pocock was putting on him and Smith in the selection race. Pressed about Waugh's future, Deans said: "I can't bring any clarity to the future. Probably, the critical drive to that will be Phil himself … what excites him."

Waugh, who will lead the Waratahs in their final Super 14 trial match against the Brumbies at the SFS, said he was looking forward to addressing the subject with Deans soon. "I will catch up with him over the next couple of weeks. That will give me a better indication of where I am placed in Australian rugby," he said.

The Waratahs were put through a full training session at the SFS on Wednesday, rather than the customary and less formal captain's run, which is usually a run through aimed at keeping the players limbered up.

Timana Tahu was rested to avoid overloading his hamstrings after two hard days of training. The centre, who will be on the bench tonight, was instead put under the tutelage of Waratahs kicking coach Matt Burke for the first time.

Burke said he encouraged Tahu to take a leaf from the book of his former Newcastle Knights team-mate and NRL legend Andrew Johns.

He said they spoke about being "smarter with the kicking".

"He will be called upon to do some kicks in a game and just to make sure you are confident to execute the skills," Burke said. "(I talked) with him about the field and where you want to kick and think back to where 'Joey' used to kick and what you want to try and do.

"(It was) just to get him to think more rather than an aimless kick or kicking for the sake of kicking. (It was about) kicking to be proactive."

Waratahs scrumhalf Brett Sheehan said he viewed tonight's game as a prime opportunity to challenge fellow Wallaby Luke Burgess for the No 9 jersey.

Sheehan, who will also be up against former Waratah Josh Holmes, is especially keen that his starting chance comes against the Brumbies.

"They are a tough side, and you always compare yourself against the tough teams," Sheehan said.

"Josh is a good player, and we will have to keep on our toes and watch him, as we have to watch every other player (in the Brumbies line-up)."

Sheehan also knows every good performance will augur well for his continued ambition to play for Australia despite the Barbarians game marking his only playing appearance in last year's Wallabies tour.

"I love playing for my country. Hopefully, I (will) get another opportunity but that depends on me. I guess how much I want to put in and play well."


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