Connolly plan to halt injury carnage
Ben Alexander is the latest injury blow for the Wallabies. Photo: Getty Images
Former Wallabies coach John Connolly has implored the ARU to extend Australia's Super Rugby squads to prevent the top players from being ''beat up'' during a 12-month campaign.
ACT Brumbies prop Ben Alexander became the latest victim of the Wallabies injury curse yesterday when he was ruled out of tomorrow night's Bledisloe Cup clash at Suncorp Stadium.
Alexander has been battling a wrist problem and he joins a long list of established Wallabies already on the sideline, including Stephen Moore, David Pocock, James Horwill and Will Genia.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has used 38 players in 10 Tests this year.
The bulk of the Wallabies squad has had minimal time to rest over the past two years and the international season will continue with a spring tour to Europe next month.
The extended Super Rugby campaign has increased the workload on Australia's top players and the injury toll continues to grow.
Connolly urged the ARU to expand the Super Rugby squads from 30 to 35 with Extended Player Squad and Academy players on top of that to help cope with the growing rugby schedule.
''The injuries are wide ranging. I don't think you can pinpoint one thing, so it's no one's fault.
''I don't think it's a complete disaster because players have stepped up. I can see Super squads being enlarged to 35 and I can see some players being rested [to cope with the workload].
''[The ARU] has to work with the states, moving forward, one thing you can't do is belt these players around, especially the top 15.
''If they play all the time, they get beat up.''
James Slipper has been called into the starting side to replace Alexander, with Sekope Kepu joining the bench.
Also Saia Faingaa broke his hand earlier this week, and James Hanson was added to the bench as the back-up hooker.
With the likes of Genia, Pocock, Moore, Quade Cooper, James O'Connor and Digby Ioane out of action, fourth-choice captain Nathan Sharpe is the only player who has started all 10 Tests.
Hanson is poised to become the 12th new cap this year if he is used from the bench.
Connolly said the injuries should be treated as individual cases when Deans selects his touring party for the four-game trip to Europe.
Brumbies recruit Pocock is unsure whether he will be fit, while Moore is on track to make a return.
''The manageable amount of games for a player to stay at his peak is about 25-30. You always play with bumps and bruises,'' Connolly said.
''It's hard to stay in that range when you play 15 Tests a year and the pressure is on all the time.''
The injury woes make preparations for the third Bledisloe Cup match even tougher as the Wallabies search for their first win against New Zealand this year.
The World Cup champion All Blacks are aiming for a 17th straight victory.
A look at the Australian bench highlights the fitness struggles. Prop Kepu joins Waratahs teammate Drew Mitchell for their first game since August, while the remaining five reserves boast fewer than 20 caps between them.
Bookmakers give the Wallabies ($5.75 underdogs) little hope at Suncorp Stadium, especially since the All Blacks have hit their straps in the past month after securing the Bledisloe Cup with 27-19 and 22-0 wins in August.
But Slipper hit the nail on the head when he assessed that an upset against the full-strength world champions would take the Wallabies from the outhouse to the penthouse.
''It would mean everything,'' he said. ''I don't want to get too far down the track, but to beat the All Blacks any time [is huge]. I think we're the only team to do it in the last two years.'' with AAP