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Cummins, Tapuai plug latest gaps in Test team

Date

Greg Growden

Ben Tapuai ... returning to the Wallabies team.

Ben Tapuai ... returning to the Wallabies team. Photo: Getty Images

ROSARIO: The Wallabies merry-go-round continues to spin with two more newcomers - Nick Cummins and Ben Tapuai - joining the Test team, taking the tally of players who have appeared in the green and gold this season to 38.

Winger Cummins and centre Tapuai will play against Argentina on Saturday night as the Wallabies selectors have been forced to revamp their back line once again due to another week of major injury losses. It will be Cummins's first Test cap, while Tapuai played against Wales in Cardiff during last year's end-of-season European tour.

Tapuai takes over at outside centre from Adam Ashley-Cooper, who returned to Sydney after being knocked out during the Pretoria Test loss, while Cummins replaces Dom Shipperley on the wing.

Nick Cummins.

Nick Cummins. Photo: Getty Images

The Wallabies have been eager to use Tapuai for some time, but the Reds midfielder has had his injury concerns, while selectors have been impressed with Cummins's enthusiasm this season. Although Cummins's ball skills can be haphazard, it is impossible to fault the eagerness of the Force utility. He is known as ''The Honey Badger'' for his keenness to make an impact in attack.

There could be further alterations as the selectors are sticking with Digby Ioane on the other wing, although he has problems with his kneecap. Ioane will have to be monitored until game day, although he is adamant he will be available.

Ioane said yesterday he was desperate to play against the Pumas to redeem himself for what he believed was an unacceptable performance in Pretoria.

''I'm still hurting from the South African Test, as are a lot of the guys,'' he said. ''I learnt a lot from that game. I was trying to be a hero. I got knocked out in the first half and tried to keep playing. That really rattled me during the second half.

''I'm upset about the weekend because I couldn't do the things I normally do. I know as a player I can offer a lot more.''

Up front, the Wallabies have gone for all-out bulk by including Sitaleki Timani as the blindside flanker for Dave Dennis, while James Slipper will start as the loose-head prop ahead of Benn Robinson.

The Wallabies have delayed announcing the Test line-up because they want to ensure everyone had overcome the gruelling loss in Pretoria, where there was a succession of major injuries, followed by a day's travel to the centre of Argentina.

The squad is bound to be listed in pencil until kick-off, especially as the team has grown accustomed to losing players during warm-ups, such as Scott Higginbotham before the Springboks Test.

Then again, the selectors have also become used to juggling players all season. While the All Blacks have been relatively stable in their selections this year, with their only major injury loss being Daniel Carter, the Wallabies have been forced to delve into their second XV and even third XV ranks for players.

While Mike Harris will be the fifth fullback used this season, following Luke Morahan, Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale and Berrick Barnes, the midfield has also undergone constant change as key players have disappeared through injury. Overall 19 different back-line players have played a Test this season, while some of their most important attackers, such as James O'Connor, have yet to be sighted with the Wallabies in 2012.

The only two players who have appeared in the same position in each of the 10 Tests are captain Nathan Sharpe and Ioane.

Harris will take over as the team's goalkicker on Saturday.

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