Latham's pressure mounts on Burke
May 30, 2000
Matt Burke has rarely been under such pressure to hold his position as Wallaby fullback but he's happy to face the challenge from hard-running Chris Latham.
Often rated the world's best fullback in the past, Burke had his share of critics during the Super 12 season as he struggled to make an attacking impact behind the under-performing Waratahs team.
Latham, on the other hand, was quite outstanding in attack for Queensland and he gets a further chance to press his claim when the two clash in the NSW versus Queensland Ricoh Cup game on Saturday night.
The pressure has mounted on Burke with the Sydney Morning Herald producing a poll of 11 rugby "experts", seven of whom opted for Latham as their first choice Wallaby fullback ahead of the New South Welshman. They included former Wallabies David Campese, Roger Gould, Rod McCall and Peter Grigg.
But if Burke is feeling any added strain, he was doing a good job of hiding it.
"I guess there is always pressure when you are in such a good team but you can't start worrying about other players," Burke said. "I think my form has been pretty good in the past few weeks and I'll just go out and continue to play my own game."
Outstanding goalkicking remains Burke's trump card and it's hard to see the selectors dropping him following last year's World Cup success. But there have even been suggestions he should be picked out of position on the wing and Burke said he'd cop it if it happened.
"The team is so strong at the moment you can't put your head down and sulk if you get chosen out of position," Burke said.
Meanwhile Latham did not believe too much could be read into Saturday's match.
"I agree that selectors probably shouldn't look too much into these (Ricoh Cup) matches," Latham said. "Having said that it would be very easy for Burkey to play brilliantly on the weekend and to reclaim favouritism for his spot."
Latham was happy to be receiving recognition from some quarters as the No.1 fullback.
"It's something I've been working on since the World Cup and I'd be delighted if it came through," he said.
Ironically it was Burke who inadvertently helped Latham make up his mind to leave NSW for Queensland in 1998. Latham, who played his formative rugby in Narrabri, was unhappy living in Sydney but it was the prospect of having to oust Burke from the Waratahs that really twisted his arm to head north.
"There were a few reasons why I left but I wanted to be the No.1 fullback in Australia and it was always going to be hard with Burkey there," Latham said.
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