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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, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
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Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
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