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Wallaby pays price for 'bump' on McCaw

Date

Georgina Robinson

The incident ... Mark Higginbotham strikes All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

The incident ... Mark Higginbotham strikes All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Photo: Fox Sports

SCOTT HIGGINBOTHAM will miss the two most crucial Test matches of the Wallabies' end of year tour after pleading guilty to striking All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

The Australian back-rower was handed a two-Test suspension last night for kneeing and head-butting McCaw during Saturday night's 18-18 draw between the Wallabies and All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium.

It is a good result for the Wallabies, who feared losing him for the entire tour. But it is a blow to Australia's chances in the northern hemisphere next month, because he will miss the crucial first two Tests, against France and England, before being free to play Italy and Wales late next month and early December.

France and England, ranked fourth and fifth in the world respectively, will be targeting the games as opportunities to improve their IRB rankings before the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw, which will be held on December 3, two days after Australia plays Wales in Cardiff.

SANZAR judicial officer Jannie Lubbe deemed Higginbotham's strikes to be ''low entry level'', calling the knee to McCaw's head, as Higginbotham was pulled to the ground after a tackle, ''more of a bump than a hit''.

''The head-butt was reckless and not executed with much force,'' Lubbe said. ''McCaw was not injured and play resumed.''

The decision will perplex some who noted that Springboks forward Eben Etzebeth's head-butt on Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe last month, for which he was also given a two-week suspension, did not appear to make contact.

Higginbotham's physicality will be missed on the tour but is tempered to some degree by the return of Waratahs No.8 Wycliff Palu, who made an immediate impact for the Wallabies against the All Blacks at the weekend, and the availability of Radike Samo and Dave Dennis.

The anticipated playing return of David Pocock, coupled with the strong performances of back-up opensides Michael Hooper and Liam Gill, also give coach Robbie Deans options in the back row.

In other news, Waratahs back Bernard Foley has put Test-capped teammate Berrick Barnes on notice with a declaration he wants to make the No.10 jersey his own next year. Foley played at five-eighth as a junior but was used by former coach Michael Foley at fullback for most of last season after joining the Waratahs, with Barnes at No.10 or inside-centre.

Foley intended transitioning his new recruit to five-eighth as he gained experience and used him there towards the end of the season, with Barnes outside and Adam Ashley-Cooper at fullback.

Bernard Foley said yesterday he enjoyed playing both positions but wanted to return to the position in which he was most comfortable.

''I've made it known I want to play in the front line but it comes back to personnel we have available and the structure [the coach] wants to play,'' he said.

New coach Michael Cheika has made it clear positions are there for the taking next season, and reiterated that yesterday in reference to the No.10 jersey.

''If a player thinks the best opportunity for him is in a certain position or if he enjoys playing a certain position the most, then that's where he's going to get the chance to play,'' Cheika said, adding that he would probably play Foley at both fullback and five-eighth.

Elsewhere, injured Wallabies halfback Will Genia is expected to announce this week he is staying in Australia. Genia was considering a sabbatical from rugby and a move to Japan but is understood to have resolved his contracting issues with the ARU, and will play alongside his estranged teammate Quade Cooper in the Queensland Reds line-up next year.

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Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
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Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
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Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
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