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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 16:35 GMT
Gregan receives Wallaby support
By Rob Hodgetts

George Gregan
Under-fire captain George Gregan has the unequivocal backing of his Australian team-mates, according to assistant Wallaby coach Alan Gaffney.

Gaffney also insists the scrum-half, the world's most-capped player, will make his own decision on retirement rather than waiting to be pushed.

"The squad is wholeheartedly behind George. I'm not just saying that, it's a fact of life," said Gaffney.

"George is an outstanding person and an outstanding leader."

Australia go into Saturday's game against England at Twickenham having lost their last six Tests.

And Gregan faced renewed criticism after the 26-16 defeat against France last weekend.

But Gaffney says the 32-year-old veteran still has plenty to offer the international game.

He's had an outstanding career so far so I'll think he'll finish it off in the correct way
Alan Gaffney

"He's still very enthusiastic and has a very competitive spirit," said the former coach of Irish province Munster, who feels the poor performances of the forwards have not helped Gregan.

"We have struggled a bit in the tight five this year and it does make it difficult for a number nine," said Gaffney.

Gregan overtook England prop Jason Leonard as the most-capped player in history when he made his 115th appearance for the Wallabies in Marseille.

He also has a World Cup win under his belt, having helped the Australians to victory in 1999, and was awarded the International Rugby Player's Association Player of the Year for 2001.

But despite his collection of accolades, many think his best days are behind him.

Gaffney is not one of them and does not think Gregan is ready to retire just yet, saying: "I do believe George will make the decision in his own time.

"I don't think it will have to be made for him. He'll know when it's time.

"He's had an outstanding career so far so I'll think he'll finish it off in the correct way.

We won't hide behind saying it's a development tour, it's not
Alan Gaffney

"George is in the selection process like everybody else. He knows he has to compete for his position."

Australia last won against South Africa in July but since then have lost three times to the Springboks and twice to New Zealand as well as France.

"We have lost six on the trot and that's unforgiveable. There's no easy solution other than hard work," said Gaffney, who stressed that Australia were not treating this autumn's series of matches as a development tour.

"We won't hide behind saying it's a development tour, it's not," he said.

"We've come to win four Test matches, obviously we can't do that now, but we've got a desire to win the remaining three.

"We've been forced into bringing some young boys on this tour [because of injuries] but in the medium to long term it's going to be beneficial to Australian rugby."

And Gaffney admitted that the coaching staff, including himself and head coach Eddie Jones, had to shoulder some of the blame for Australia's slump.

"We've all got to improve. We make mistakes as much as the players make mistakes," he said.

"We've got to examine ourselves and look at whether what they get sent out to do is correct.

"But when you're on the back foot things don't necessarily go your way.

"It's a game of margins and we're not that far away. We're creating but we're not being precise enough to finish it off."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Australia flanker George Smith



SEE ALSO
Gregan achieves rugby milestone
05 Nov 05 |  Internationals
Gregan remains Australian captain
15 Sep 05 |  Internationals
Gregan keen to add to cap record
03 Sep 05 |  Internationals


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