No role for hero of old

Simon Turnbull wonders if it is now full-time for free spirit David Campese
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The Independent Online
Murrayfield yesterday was last of the summer wine country for David Campese. Sat on the sidelines (high in the west stand in the first half, cross-legged in front of the Australian bench in the second), Campo might have been Compo, or Clegg, or any other of the retiring veterans from the TV. There may yet be a drop or two of goose-stepping vintage left in those 34-year-old legs, but we shall have to wait to find out if the sell-by date is finally nigh for rugby's intoxicating free spirit.

Joe Roff assumed the golden mantle of Australia's No. 11 shirt yesterday. He was a seven-year-old schoolboy when Campese burst on to the international stage as a try-scoring teenage debutant opposite Stu Wilson in Christchurch. He was still only nine when Campo galloped half the length of Murrayfield's west stand touchline to apply the finishing touch-down to the glorious Wallaby Grand Slam of 1984.

The wizard of the Aussie left wing has always maintained that Australian rugby has not quite scaled such an inspirational peak since that 37-12 beating of Jim Aitken's Five Nations Grand Slammers, success in the 1991 World Cup notwithstanding. The Wallabies in 1996 are still recovering from the order of the boot administered by Rob Andrew MBE at Newlands last year; that much was clear when they were put in their place, firmly behind New Zealand and South Africa, in the summer Tri-Nations series. Thus sentiment, never a prime Australian consideration, is the least of Greg Smith's concerns on this rebuilding tour of the British Isles.

Campese may boast a century of international appearances and the world try-scoring record, but he was handed the No. 16 shirt yesterday because, as Smith put it, "he hasn't been playing as well as Roff". You had to accept the word of the Wallaby coach. Roff, right wrist bandaged a la Campese, was a virtual spectator himself. Not once did the ball find its way into his hands in the Scottish half.

That lamentable fact said as much as anything about the anodyne nature of Australia's victory. It was as clinical as the snatch and despatch jobs Burke and Hare once performed in the Scottish capital. The Scots committed so many unforced errors that Matthew Burke merely had to swing his right boot to leave Scotland picking over the corpse of another spirited failure against Southern Hemisphere heavyweights. The New South Wales full-back could afford the luxury of two missed penalties as the 19 points he kicked proved the difference between the teams.

Australia only cut loose once, when David Knox flung the ball out for Daniel Herbert to score. Roff's services were not required in that 68th- minute passage. Two unemployed Wallaby left-wings was a sorry sight at Murrayfield yesterday.