Latham slams possible Burke call-up

Injured Australia full-back Chris Latham is not happy at the Wallaby management’s plans to select former team-mate Matt Burke for Australia’s Rugby World Cup assault.

Writing in his Brisbane newspaper column, Latham described the Australian Rugby Union’s (ARU) plan-B option to conscript the former New South Wales and Test full-back as a “slap in the face to all Super 14 players”.

With Latham recovering from a knee reconstruction, the ARU have confirmed they may consider picking England-based Burke for the World Cup, starting in France in September.

It would be a major change in policy as the ARU have stood firm in putting overseas-based players off-limits for Test selection since the game went professional in 1996.

Burke moved to England to play for Guinness Premiership side the Newcastle Falcons after the 2004 Super 12 season.

Latham, who took over as Australia’s first-choice number 15 from Burke and Mat Rogers in 2004, denied his feelings were motivated from a “selfish view” to safeguard his Test position.

The 72-Test veteran went into bat for local contenders for the role.
“I’m talking for Cameron Shepherd, Drew Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Mark Gerrard, Julian Huxley and Clinton Schifcofske as other fullbacks shooting for a role at the World Cup,” Latham wrote in The Courier-Mail.

“I’m very strong on the issue that you have to be playing in Australia to be eligible for Australia.

“It doesn’t matter that Burkie has been Australia’s best player in the past. The fact is he’s playing for Newcastle Falcons in England and he’s not eligible for the Wallabies.

“You give up that right when you head overseas to play. Burkie knew that, as did Toutai Kefu and Chris Whitaker, two other top-shelf Wallabies who now play abroad.

“There are always cries about loyalty but it’s a two-way street.

“You have to show loyalty to the guys doing it week in, week out in Super 14.”

Shepherd finished last season as Latham’s back-up but the Western Force goalkicker hasn’t been given a chance to shine at full-back this year after being overlooked for Mitchell.

While Latham feared giving Burke a Test jumper would open a can of worms for others to set off overseas, he didn’t believe the 81-Test veteran was too old for international rugby.

“Burkie’s age – he’s 33 – is irrelevant to the discussion. If you are good enough, age is just a number,” Latham said.

365 Digital

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