Wallabies beef up pack to prepare for tough battle with brutal Pumas
Hard-hitting ... Tatafu Polota-Nau attacks the Argentina defence last month. Photo: Supplied
ROSARIO: In the land of gargantuan steaks and enormous forwards, the Wallabies will go for brawn in their pack to confront the Pumas on Saturday night.
After calling in enough replacements from Australia to ensure that all spots were adequately covered following a bruising encounter with the Springboks during which five players suffered injuries, the Wallabies ran a new-look team in their first training session since arriving in Argentina.
While the facilities at the Rosario Jockey Club were that of the landed gentry, with the main rugby ground surrounded by polo fields, equestrian centres and a championship 18-hole golf course, there were no noses up in the air during the team run.
It was hard, grinding work, especially with Australia preparing themselves for a gruelling up-front encounter by beckoning all the big men for their pack, including 125-kilogram Waratah forward Sitaleki Timani, who ran at No.6, instead of Dave Dennis. James Slipper did all of the scrummaging at loose-head prop ahead of Benn Robinson.
The Wallabies selectors have been waiting for some time to play Timani, who has been troubled by injury, but it was assumed Timani would return via the second row, rather than back row. However, the Wallabies used Nathan Sharpe, Kane Douglas and Timani in tandem during their lineout training drills. Scott Higginbotham is another option to join the pack, but he was unable to train due to concerns about his back, which forced him out of the Springboks Test following a mishap at training when Sharpe accidentally landed on him.
Higginbotham, who was to sit on the reserves bench in Pretoria, withdrew during the warm-ups last Saturday. This prompted a change on the bench from a five-forward and two-back contingent to a four-three split with Mike Harris being elevated.
Harris played the final 14 minutes of the Springbok Test at fullback, and that appeared to be enough to make him the prime candidate to start at No.15 this weekend, after Berrick Barnes was forced to stay in South Africa with a punctured lung. He would also take over as the team's No.1 goalkicker.
Adam Ashley-Cooper (concussion) also could not travel to Argentina, and there is uncertainty whether Anthony Fainga'a or Ben Tapuai will be the outside-centre. Digby Ioane is still troubled with an injured kneecap, prompting Nick Cummins to train in his place.
Likely Wallabies team: Mike Harris; Digby Ioane or Nick Cummins, Anthony Fainga'a or Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Dom Shipperley; Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps; Radike Samo, Michael Hooper, Sitaleki Timani, Kane Douglas, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper.