Battered Wallabies struggle for creativity
Wallabies coach Deans has selected his strongest available team, in his eyes, for Saturday night’s clash with Wales by making eight changes to the side humiliated 9-6 by Scotland on Tuesday night.
SOAKING up rising criticism, Robbie Deans has stuck by a similarly besieged Berrick Barnes to unlock Wales’ brick-wall defence in a backline lacking the creativity of the Wallabies‘ past.
Coach Deans has selected his strongest available team, in his eyes, for Saturday night’s clash with the Six Nations champions by making eight changes to the side humiliated 9-6 by Scotland on Tuesday night.
But the continued absence of injured playmaking “three amigos” – Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor – has left an Australian backline full of power but lacking finesse.
As the Welsh only conceded three tries in their five unbeaten matches to claim a Six Nations clean-sweep it will primarily be up to an under-pressure Barnes, who will also shoulder the goalkicking responsibilities, to spark his side’s attack.
The promotion of Pat McCabe and Rob Horne into the centres suggests Australia will again play a direct, field-position game they adopted with limited success at the World Cup.
But Deans, who spent Thursday morning plotting an effective game plan, stressed he wanted to see the ball get into the hands of fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper and winger Digby Ioane.
“We’re going out there to attack … and to turn the scoreboard over,” he said.
“We’ve got some plans that suit us and suit our playing group and the rest remains to be seen.
“We’ve got some firepower across the backline that we’ll be wanting to bring into the game.”
The Welsh, ranked fifth in the world, see a great opportunity to claim a big “southern hemisphere scalp” and end a 42-year drought on Australian soil.
NSW five-eighth Barnes, who’s played his best rugby for Australia at inside centre, notably starring in two wins over Wales late last year, hasn’t tasted victory in his past seven matches.
He’s looked frustrated and down on confidence in recent weeks but Deans had no thoughts of replacing him with Queensland inside-backs Mike Harris or Ben Lucas.
“He’s very confident. He’s a tough kid,” the coach said.
Goalkicking inside centre Harris has been dropped to the bench on Saturday night while Lucas has been cut from the official 30-man Test squad, along with Waratahs utility Bernard Foley.
In contrast to the All Blacks team which was also named on Thursday for their clash with Ireland, the Wallabies’ starting 15, containing seven Waratahs, lacked a strong spread of in-form players.
On a day when Brumbies winger Joe Tomane was ruled out for up to six weeks after injuring his left ankle at training and was replaced by Rebels flyer Cooper Vuna, the good news story for the Wallabies is the return of prop Benn Robinson.
The 27-year-old will join Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu in a powerful all-NSW front-row.
A world-class loose-head before a heart-breaking knee injury ruined his 2011, Robinson will play his first Test in 18 months.
The Waratahs Super Rugby scrum domination has convinced Deans that World Cup loose-head Kepu’s best position is at tight-head, allowing Robinson to stay at No.1.
“You look at some of the scrummaging work of the Waratahs, (Robinson) clearly is enjoying being back out there,” he said.
“No one has bettered them, in fact they have bettered everybody. That’s something that we’re excited about having with us.”
IMAGE: Australian Wallabies coach Robbie Deans (centre) gestures to players during the team training session at Ballymore in Brisbane, Thursday, June 7, 2012. There have been 8 changes made to the squad since their loss to Scotland for their 1st Test match against Wales on Saturday. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)