Robbie Deans has named an unchanged line-up for Saturday night’s second Test against Wales in Melbourne.
Despite concerns over the fitness of Sekope Kepu, after he strained a tendon in his forearm during last weekend’s 27-19 win over Wales in the first match of the series, the tighthead prop has been named subject to proving his readiness later in the week.
Kepu completed the full 80 minutes of last weekend’s match at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane before reporting the injury once he had cooled down following the game.
“We are hopeful that ‘Keps’ will be good to go, but we do have a contingency plan in place if we need it,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says. “There are five props in the group we have with us in Melbourne so we saw no need in bringing anyone extra in.”
The Brumbies’ Ben Alexander, who replaced loosehead prop Benn Robinson during the first Test of the Tour but has played the majority of his 38 previous Test matches as a tighthead, has once again been named on the bench.
Deans says the continuity of the selection reflected the level of last weekend’s performance, although he acknowledged that the same would not be good enough for the return bout against the Six Nations champions.
“The Welsh will have seen a lot of opportunity in last weekend’s Test,” Deans says. “They showed during their Six Nations campaign that they are resilient – twice winning games in the final moments. That trait was apparent again in a 12-minute period in Brisbane when they closed from 6-20 to 19-20, to put themselves in a position to win the game after we had made the better start.”
The Welsh camp, who are this week being joined in Melbourne by their injured head coach Warren Gatland, made it clear prior to undertaking this tour that they believed a series win in Australia was within their capabilities.
“That belief won’t have been altered by last Saturday night,” Deans says. “If anything, that game – and more particularly the opportunities that they were able to create within in it – will only have hardened their resolve.”
The impact of last year’s Rugby World Cup on domestic Test playing schedules in the Southern Hemisphere means that Saturday night sees the Wallabies make their first appearance in Victoria since the advent of the Melbourne Rebels franchise in Super Rugby.
Fittingly, the Victorian side, which is into its second season, is represented in the Test XV, with Rebels winger Cooper Vuna having retained his spot after an encouraging debut last weekend following a late call up in place of the injured Joe Tomane.
Fellow Rebels player, Kurtley Beale, was not considered for selection, with Deans saying that the 2011 John Eales Medal winner still had some work to do, in his comeback from a shoulder injury, before he would be ready to go again.
Australia v Wales
Saturday, 16 June 2012 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. Cooper Vuna, 13. Rob Horne, 12. Pat McCabe, 11. Digby Ioane, 10. Berrick Barnes, 9. Will Genia, 1. Benn Robinson, 2. Tatafu Polota Nau, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Rob Simmons, 5. Nathan Sharpe, 6. Scott Higginbotham, 7. David Pocock (C), 8. Wycliff Palu
16. Stephen Moore, 17. Ben Alexander, 18. Dave Dennis, 19. Michael Hooper, 20. Nic White, 21. Anthony Fainga’a, 22. Mike Harris