All hands on decks for the Wallabies
The depleted Wallabies will have forwards playing in the backs against Russia in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash in Nelson after centre Anthony Faingaa was all but ruled out on Wednesday.
THE depleted Wallabies will have forwards playing in the backs against Russia in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash in Nelson after centre Anthony Faingaa was all but ruled out on Wednesday.
The Wallabies were hoping Faingaa would pass strict IRB concussion protocols after being KO’d in the very last minute of Australia’s 67-5 thrashing of the USA in Wellington last Friday.
But coach Robbie Deans conceded on Wednesday that “this weekend we’ve still got some challenges – we’ve got five backs who aren’t available to us right now”.
With fullback Kurtley Beale (hamstring), winger Digby Ioane (thumb) and fellow midfielders Rob Horne (cheekbone) and Pat McCabe (shoulder) all confirmed absentees and now Faingaa seemingly losing the battle against time and officials, it will be all hands on deck at Trafalgar Park.
Deans only brought 13 backs to New Zealand, including three No.9s, meaning playing out of position will be a must for some Wallabies.
Back-rower Radike Samo will almost certainly start on the right wing, where he finished with a try against the USA.
“To have Radike in our side is great,” Deans said.
“He’s one of those blokes the boys enjoy playing with. He’s definitely capable of that if that’s what’s asked of him.”
Ioane, who on Wednesday confirmed he was on track for a quarter-final return next week, also had full confidence in 35-year-old Samo’s versatility.
“He used to be a winger. He’s got the experience. If anyone can do it, Radike’s the man to do it,” Ioane said.
“He’s got speed to burn. He’s a big Fijian unit. He’s a big bloke. I wouldn’t tackle him if I was by myself.
“He can step off both left and right, he’s got the goose (step). He’s got everything.”
Deans would have preferred to wrap attacking general Will Genia in cotton wool for Sunday week’s likely quarter-final showdown with South Africa.
But he will probably need Genia on the bench, with Nick Phipps or Luke Burgess to start at halfback.
“If I happen to be on the bench, I could be possibly covering everywhere from nine to 15, maybe eight as well,” Genia said.
“I’ve been told I could play hooker. You might see me in all of them.”
Australia’s injury woes will at least allow Berrick Barnes his first Test start of the year, probably at inside centre next to playmaker Quade Cooper.
“He played very well when he came on against the USA,” Wallabies captain James Horwill said of Barnes’ 42-minute cameo at the Cake Tin.
“He controlled the game, he kicked really well and I’m sure if he does get the opportunity he’s going to go well.
“The 12 and 10 will alternate in and out.”
Possible Wallabies team to play Russia: James O’Connor, Radike Samo, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Quade Cooper, Nick Phipps, Scott Higginbotham, Ben McCalman, James Horwill (capt), Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu. Reserves: Salesi Ma’afu, Saia Faingaa, Dan Vickerman, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, Luke Burgess, Will Genia.