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Wallabies ready to bounce back from Bleus blitz

Back to school … Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was in directions mode and Nathan Sharpe was paying  close attention ...

Back to school … Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was in directions mode and Nathan Sharpe was paying close attention during a training run at the Latymer School in London on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

LONDON: Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has defended the character of his side following Australia's ''inexcusable'' loss to France last week.

Deans said he was confident the Wallabies could absorb the double loss of half their second-rowers and hard-running centre Pat McCabe and make amends this weekend for their ''poor'' showing in Paris.

''We've had to overcome some pretty big hurdles, things also haven't been perfect either,'' he said. ''Last week's performance was poor, we're making no excuses about that.''

Deans said questions about the side's character in the wake of a roller-coaster season hurt.

''No one enjoys that,'' he said. ''The team's also shown a lot of character along the way and that's where last week's performance was out of character, inexcusable. We've got to get on with it and address it.''

During the week they needed it most, injuries to Kane Douglas and McCabe, as well as Rob Simmons's suspension, have robbed the Wallabies of solid preparation. They will have only one full training session, plus Friday's captain's run, to work on the new combinations.

Reds centre Ben Tapuai has been moved in to replace McCabe at No.12, with Adam Ashley-Cooper starting in his pet position, outside-centre, after playing on the wing against France. Berrick Barnes will start at fullback, replacing Mike Harris, while Digby Ioane returns to the starting line-up on the wing with Nick Cummins.

Kurtley Beale reprises the playmaking role and Nick Phipps will once again start inside him at halfback, with Brett Sheehan named on the bench. The only changes made in the forwards are Ben Alexander, who replaces Sekope Kepu at tight-head prop, and Sitaleki Timani, who returns to the second row after missing the France Test with a lower-back strain.

Deans named a 5-3 bench, with props James Slipper and Kepu, hooker Stephen Moore, back-rowers Radike Samo and Liam Gill, Sheehan, Drew Mitchell and Harris the back-up in the back line. McCabe was ruled out on Wednesday with neck stiffness, which he sustained during the France Test and aggravated during training.

Deans said the ''best-case scenario'' was a one-match rest for the centre, who has been one of the few consistent presences in the back line recently.

There is also a full-blown second-rowers crisis in the Wallabies after the International Rugby Board handed Simmons an eight-week ban for a lifting tackle on French breakaway Yannick Nyanga. Deans said the ARU had not decided whether it would appeal.

''We're disappointed in the decision but I haven't had the opportunity to read the decision yet and obviously we'll do that before we settle on [whether] that's the end of the matter or not.''

The IRB judicial officer deemed Simmons's tackle to be at the ''high end'' of the scale, so gave an entry point of 12 weeks. Two weeks was added as a ''deterrent'' before six weeks was taken off the penalty for Simmons's ''exemplary previous disciplinary record''.

With a second second-rower, Douglas, already ruled out of Saturday's Test with a knee injury, Simmons's suspension increases the likelihood that Scott Higginbotham will be called into the squad following the end of his two-Test ban this weekend.

''We've maintained contact with Scotty, he continues to train and from the outset was hopeful that it wouldn't be the end of his tour prospects,'' Deans said. ''He's obviously a bloke who would have been here if he hadn't had that setback, so he's high on our list.''

Deans did not rule out calling for two replacements but said it would hinge on Douglas's recovery. ''If the medical staff believe it's marginal that he'll be available to us next week, we'll probably have to act.''

For Saturday's Test, versatile forward Dave Dennis, who will start in the back row, could be moved to the second row to replace Timani or Nathan Sharpe, should the need arise, with Samo to come off the bench at blindside.

''It's more the norm than otherwise and that's the nature of the industry, you have to keep going,'' Deans said. ''Hence we prepare as a squad. Sure we've lost Tuesday's prep in terms of combinations but it's not the end of the world.''

How the Wallabies line up: 15. Berrick Barnes, 14. Digby Ioane, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Ben Tapuai, 11. Nick Cummins, 10. Kurtley Beale, 9. Nick Phipps, 8. Wycliff Palu, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Dave Dennis, 5. Nathan Sharpe, 4. Sitaleki Timani, 3. Ben Alexander, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1. Benn Robinson. Reserves: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Radike Samo, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Mike Harris, Drew Mitchell. Kick-off: 1.30am Sunday (Sydney time).

17 comments so far

  • I'm nervous about this match. The above is a fairly upbeat assessment, but I can't see any real basis for a dramatic turnaround on last week's performance. England will have seen the many Aussie frailties on display so will approach the match with no fear - unlike if they were playing the All Blacks.

    Whatever happens, I hope the Wallabies play to their potential and pray that this match is not a rout. Many of us are lifelong, diehard Wallaby fans who won't just move on to AFL, NRL, etc. when the Wallabies start losing - but sure, it would be nice if they won a bit more.

    Please ARU, we need a national competition. In cities like Toulouse, their rugby players are celebs, the whole place gets behind them and matches have a great atmosphere. Maybe Australian rugby's chance to create that kind of expansion of the game and following amongst locals has passed by, unfortunately, but there needs to be much more done at grass roots level.

    I ain't ever gonna follow no game where the rules say it's ok to fumble and knock on all afternoon - the Wallabs do more than enough of that already.

    Commenter
    Wobbles
    Date and time
    November 16, 2012, 4:02AM
    • Agree Wobbles.
      All I ask is that the blokes put in a effort where they have to crawl off the field because they've left nothing in the tank. Run the lines, crisp passes, smashing rucks and mauls.. defending like demons and when you get the turn over or a gap opens pour through with venom.
      It's a mental state - these guys can turn on a scintillating performance, then next week and insipid one.
      Love to see another tier of Rugby - not just in NSW, QLD but national. Other states play rugby, and whilst they'd get towelled up initially - there are some fantastic players in WA, Victoria, SA.. some of them play AFL.. those guys have plenty of juice in the tank - Imagine the likes of your Wayne Carey, Brereton, Dipper converted to Rugby. Tough uncompromising blokes with incredible fitness and the ability to catch, run and move through traffic. Am I missing something?
      Come on Wallabies - if there is one team I can not handle losing to, that is the English. I demand perfection and demolition of the English.

      Commenter
      Matt
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 8:55AM
    • Good comments but I don't get the national comp comment comparing us to Toulouse?? We have Super Rugby and the Waratahs, get behind the Tahs and cheer for them if you want a model similar to French Rugby then Super Rugby is the equal.

      Commenter
      Ryanno
      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 10:29AM
    • Wallabies will win this. They always do after a bad loss. Remember Wales post Scotland? Always going to happen. Unfortunately they will once again be relying on emotion and not systems, skills and habits to win. I am a fan of Robbie Deans. what he achieved at the Crusaders was remarkable however he has to go. For whatever reason he has not gelled this team together and the Wallabies are embarassing. I can handle our forwards being dominated but not our backs. Time to Link to have a crack before the Loins tour

      Commenter
      james
      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 11:22AM
    • I can understand Kiwis doing it but I wish Australians would stop referring to the Wallabys as the Wobblies. It is so disrespectful. Get behind your team.

      Commenter
      Danno
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 1:57PM
    • James, that is spot on!

      I can't believe I'd ever say this, but the best thing for the Wallabies would be to lose badly this weekend and then the following two games and change becomes inevitable.

      Worst case scenario is we win this weekend (on emotion not structure) and then go on to lose against the Lions 2-1. After that we have another shocker in the 4 nations but we beat the AB's in a dead rubber at the end of the year and Deans is chosen to take us to another RWC. Nightmare!!

      Commenter
      Shop
      Location
      Argentina
      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 2:52PM
  • Seven Warratahs in the starting side to face England ? Does this mean as a Tahs fan I can get excited for next session ? or will the guys all be spent and in pre-session mode come next Feb/March ? Lucky I can get excited for the Brumbies as well .
    Good luck to them this weekend and hopefully the loss to France was the one loss of the tour ( But sadly I'm not confident ! ) .

    Commenter
    Popeye
    Location
    Manly
    Date and time
    November 16, 2012, 8:23AM
    • Interesting coment from Popeye re National competition. We certainly need some regular wintertime exposure on prime time TV to generate some grassroots enthusiasm. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to have the Super Rugby match of the round involving an Australian team televised. That is the way to get Kids wanting to play this great game. Re Deans as coach I believe that the problem is that he is trying to have Australia play a NZ type game, and we don't have the forward power or depth that NZ have to consistently play that way. Our traditional style has been to play smart and have the backs to move the play quickly and create space that way. Interestingly NZ have, in many ways, adopted our style as we try to emulate theirs.

      Commenter
      poyns
      Location
      coonabarabran
      Date and time
      November 16, 2012, 9:25AM
      • HaHa Popeye... i wish!

        For once AAC is starting in his best position and that will go a long way.

        I remember when Deans first came along there was extensive coverage in the media that he supposedly encouraged his players to play what was in front of them... many of us took that to mean playing an open attacking running rugby.....little did we realise that it really meant kick the ball away when anyone comes near you....

        As for the Tahs yes we have a very solid forward pack but the back line remains the problem, at full strength sure they have potential but they haven't lived up to it since link left.

        Wallabies by 7 and we'll be stuck with Deans.

        Commenter
        cookie
        Location
        sydney
        Date and time
        November 16, 2012, 9:28AM
        • To say the Wallabies performance was ‘inexcusable’ and in the same breath defend the side is disingenuous. Sharpe’s expression in the pic above says it all: confusion and frustration. There is no strategy, no plan. Individual players do their own thing—it’s not a question of a lack of guts. What this side lacks is guidance, structure and a will to play for each other and that needs a coach who can motivate and articulate. But we should have realized this after all Deans said right from the start, he wasn’t about to ‘tell them from on high’.

          Commenter
          krasnoff of noosa
          Date and time
          November 16, 2012, 9:40AM

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