Rugby in good shape says O'Neill
Paul Mulvey
19:53 AEST Tue Jun 12 2012

Australian rugby supremo John O'Neill has labelled fierce criticism from former Wallabies coach John Connolly as absurd and not based on fact.

Connolly last week said the past four years had been the worst for Australian rugby in the professional era and called for a complete review of the game if the Wallabies lose their three Test series with Wales.

His comments came between the Wallabies' disastrous 9-6 loss to Scotland last Tuesday and their face saving win over Wales in the first Test on Saturday.

The 27-19 win over the Welsh relieved the pressure on O'Neill as much as it did for coach Robbie Deans who Connolly said should be replaced if the Wallabies lose the series.

"There are those who choose to bring an agenda to any stumble in Australian rugby," O'Neill told AAP on Tuesday.

"For a commentator to say where we are now is the worst shape Australian rugby has been in in the entire professional era off the back of that loss to Scotland is absurd and cannot be supported by fact based evidence."

The Australian Rugby Union chief executive said the facts showed Australia is ranked No.2 in the world and won the Tri Nations last year, while Queensland won the Super 15 in 2011.

He also cited a 25 per cent growth in playing numbers, record TV figures and record crowds to indicate rugby was healthy in Australia.

He admitted the defeat by Scotland and last year's loss to Samoa were inexplicable, but boilovers were a part of sport.

O'Neill, who was instrumental in securing Deans in 2008 and last year re-signed him for another two years, says the New Zealander is the right man for the job and has his full support.

"It's premature to make any judgments on the coaching position until well into next year," O'Neill said.

"I'm not being drawn, and nor is anyone at the ARU even thinking about, the coaching position other than supporting Robbie and the team to go on and win the Wales series, then go on to win the Rugby Championship and then on to the British and Irish Lions series next year."

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