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Wallabies' front row takes another hit but Sekope Kepu has faith

Date

Georgina Robinson

Decisions: Ewen McKenzie.

Decisions: Ewen McKenzie. Photo: Matt King

Experienced Test prop Sekope Kepu says the Wallabies can rise above a litany of injuries to match a seasoned All Blacks pack in front of more than 70,000 people at ANZ Stadium this weekend. 

As ticket sales tracked towards the biggest Bledisloe Cup crowd since Sonny Bill Williams' return to Sydney with the All Blacks in 2012, the Wallabies lost another forward to injury.

Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu broke an arm in a Shute Shield game on Sunday, joining fellow front-rowers Laurie Weeks (hamstring), Tatafu Polota-Nau (knee) and Stephen Moore (knee) on the sidelines. 

Front row replacements can get the job done: Sekope Kepu.

Front row replacements can get the job done: Sekope Kepu. Photo: Simon Alekna

Reds hooker Saia Fainga'a was called into the squad, boosting the pack's experience with his 27 Test caps, and NSW prop Paddy Ryan replaced Weeks. 

Kepu said the injuries were disappointing but backed the replacements to get the job done. 

"It's not like you're pulling guys that haven't played at Super Rugby level and guys like [James] Hanson and [Nathan] Charles have played massive amounts of games this year, and credit to them they've played really well," he said.

"It's their chance to step up to the plate. I've no doubt they are looking forward to soaking up the occasion and taking the opportunity. They're ready to go and as long as we can prepare well as a forward pack and a team we'll be in for a fight."

Jaco Peyper will be on the whistle on Saturday and the Wallabies will be hoping last year's Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington was not a marker for games under the South African referee. 

Peyper was criticised for letting the All Blacks get away with a raft of cynical breakdown infringements in New Zealand's 27-16 second-Test victory, and for heavily penalising Australia. 

Kepu, who came off the bench in that match, will also be under the spotlight after attracting Craig Joubert's attention in the Super Rugby final. 

The Waratahs' scrum had trouble adapting to Latu's injection in the front row after Polota-Nau was injured, and Joubert was heard breathlessly telling his assistants Kepu was "getting smashed" by the Crusaders' pack in the second half.

The stage could be set for a rematch of sorts, as Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett – the loose-head during that game – is in line for Test selection this weekend.

"I've already looked at ways to nullify that." Kepu said. "I sat down with the set-piece coaches and went through it last week. They're little things, and we'll look to improve on that provided I get the chance to come up against them this week.

"It's always exciting going up against those guys, whoever they put up in the front row there they've always got class." 

ARU officials will be breathing a sigh of relief to learn the afterglow remains from the Waratahs' historic Super Rugby victory.

Where the State of Origin opener appeared to affect sales for the opening Test of the France series in Brisbane 10 days later, no such hangover will affect Saturday's match. 

ANZ Stadium is confident the crowd will top 70,000, surpassing the 68,700 for last year's Sydney Bledisloe Test as well as the 70,200 who turned out for the same game in 2010. 

It will take a special effort to beat the 76,800 at the 2012 Test, which was league convert Williams' first international back in Sydney with New Zealand. 

But after the Waratahs' victory there two weeks ago and the Blues' Origin drought-breaker in June, officials, players and fans alike will be hoping good things happen in threes. 

Possible Wallabies team: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Pat McCabe, Bernard Foley, Nic White, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (c), Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Nathan Charles, James Slipper.

 Twitter: @geerob

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Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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