The rollercoaster rugby career of Tim Gavin reached a fresh high yesterday when the 32-year-old New South Wales No 8 and captain was called up by Australia for the remainder of their European tour.
Gavin, capped 45 times, replaces Mark Connors, who was added to a growing injury list during a 37-19 victory over a combined Edinburgh/Glasgow side at Anniesland. Connors snapped knee ligaments when he lost his footing during one of the rolling mauls used to establish a victory platform over a spirited combined side, among whom Test contender Kenny Logan showed signs of running into form.
Although the coach Greg Smith tried to console Connors by indicating he would have gained a debut cap at Murrayfield next week, the player was devastated. "I can't believe it. I was so close to my dream and now flight QF2 beckons." The Australians want to spare every member of the likely Test side any risk of injury when they play a Scottish Select in Perth tomorrow evening. They hope Gavin will arrive in time to play.
Gavin has a few points to prove. He was left out of the tour party despite being a member of the Wallaby side which played in the final match of the Tri-series. In the weeks leading up to the tour, Gavin was even touted as a contender for the captaincy.
He was then named one of two extra players who would have travelled had it been possible to arrange the Test against England.
The build-up to Saturday's Test against Scotland is likely to be dominated by talk of Australia's mauling, a tactic which the "combined cities" coach, Kevin Greene, claimed could only be stopped illegally. "There were times when the referee could have penalised Australia for blocking. They had guys in front of the ball carrier and the only way to defend is to give away penalties at source and hopefully not concede a seven-pointer."
Smith refused to be drawn into controversy. "It's probably best for me not to talk about laws." The injury to Connors apart, Smith was more forthcoming about the ability of his side to stay upright despite slippery underfoot conditions. Richard Harry looked useful in broken play and Warwick Waugh also posed a threat at the lineout, where he and John Welborne dominated.
Denied a similar springboard, Combined Districts had to rely heavily on the goal-kicking of Ally Donaldson to keep them in contention for more than an hour and feed off poor Australian ball retention.
Combined Scottish Districts: Try Logan. Conversion Donaldson. Penalties Donaldson 4. Australia: Tries Connors, Manu, Wilson, Knox, Campese. Conversions Knox 3. Penalties Knox 2.
COMBINED SCOTTISH DISTRICTS: D Lee (Watsonians); D Stark (Melrose), S Hastings (Watsonians, capt), A Garry (Watsonians), K Logan (Stirling County); A Donaldson (Currie), G Beveridge (Boroughmuir); A Watt (Currie), G Bulloch (West), B Stewart (Edinburgh Accies), P Jennings (Boroughmuir), A Lucking (Currie), S Reid (Boroughmuir), D McLeish (West), D Clark (Currie).
Australia: J Roff; D Campese, B Tune, D Herbert, P Howard; D Knox, G Gregan; R Harry, M Foley, A Blades, W Waugh, J Welborne, D Manu (M Caputo, 66), M Connors (T Kefu, 63), D Wilson (capt).
Referee: A Watson (Ireland).