Rugby Union


Higginbotham laments ban

MELBOURNE: Suspended Wallaby backrower Scott Higginbotham says his omission from Australia's four-match European tour has been hard to swallow.

Higginbotham was banned for two games for kneeing and head-butting All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw in the Bledisloe Cup in Brisbane earlier this month.

The suspension effectively became four matches when he was left out of the Australian rugby squad that departs on Saturday.

Coach Robbie Deans couldn't take a chance on including the hard-running Higginbotham, who would only be available for the final two Tests against Italy and Wales, with flanker David Pocock only just returning from long-term injury.

The 26-year-old is putting his time on the sidelines to good use by getting straight into the thick of the action with his new Super Rugby team Melbourne.

The former Queensland Red was expected to be a spectator at the Rebels' first pre-season training session but pulled on his boots.


"I find it hard to keep myself out of training most of the time," he said.

"I had last week off and after everything that's happened it's good to get out and run around and get your mind off other stuff.

"I copped the two-week penalty and, in that I also missed the tour, it's hard to swallow but if you do the crime you do the time and I guess I'm paying for it now.

"It feels like a double punishment but they have to cover all their areas and in that they needed a No.8 to come on tour to back up Cliffy [Palu]."

He said he was looking at the up-side of the ban, in that he could integrate himself in the Melbourne set-up and pre-season rather than arrive on the hop in January.

Standing 195cm and weighing 110kg, Higginbotham is no light-weight but he was surprised by the size of the some of the Melbourne players such as skipper Gareth Delve and locks Cadeyrn Neville and Hugh Pyle.

"Blokes down here.. there are some big boys.

"Being with the Reds previously we were a small pack.

"We were a good team and we won the premiership with that pack but there are a lot of solid boys (here) and a lot of stuff to look forward to playing."

Fellow Wallabies Kurtley Beale and Nick Phipps also pulled on their training gear while injured Test backline star James O'Connor completed the session on his troublesome hamstring.