by Ben Coles
REELING FROM an injury list that has deprived them of David Pocock, Will Genia and James Horwill to name just a few, Australia have been forced to select an inexperienced XV for their encounter with Argentina this Saturday in Rosario, with only one player possessing over 50 caps in captain Nathan Sharpe.
The heavy defeat against South Africa in Pretoria last weekend saw the Wallabies also lose Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper to injury, depleting a backline that has struggled throughout The Rugby Championship even further.
James O’Connor and Quade Cooper are two other notable absentees, O’Connor due to a long-standing hamstring injury whilst Cooper has been excluded because of knee injury, although his recent outbursts regarding the management of Robbie Deans, won’t have done him any favours .
As a result the Wallabies will field an unfamiliar back three, with talisman Digby Ioane partnering Reds teammate Mike Harris and the uncapped Western Force winger Nick Cummins. Kurtley Beale will fill the Australian No 10 shirt, the fourth-choice option behind O’Connor, Cooper and Barnes. In South Africa last weekend, Brett Sheehan made his first appearance for Australia in four years off the bench.
Up front the Wallabies are also heavily depleted, with blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham only fit enough to make the bench. Second row Sitaleki Timani will fill the No 6 shirt with veteran Radike Samo at No 8.
The tight-five is one area where Australia are not missing too many bodies, the leadership and influence of Horwill aside. Against the Pumas at home Australia held their own in the scrum and lineout, but Saturday appears to be Argentina’s best opportunity for a first win in The Rugby Championship and their pack will be ferocious in the hunt for a first scalp. As the pressure continues to rise on Robbie Deans, failure in Rosario could be critical.
Argentina v Australia
Sunday, 7th October 2012 at Estadio Gigante de Arroyito in Rosario
Kick-off: 00:00 BST live on Sky Sports 1
AUSTRALIA: Mike Harris; Nick Cummins, Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps; James Slipper, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Alexander, Kane Douglas, Nathan Sharpe (captain), Sitaleki Timani, Michael Hooper, Radike Samo.
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, Benn Robinson, Dave Dennis, Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Dom Shipperley