Gordon set for axe as Wallabies face Welsh reckoning

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool C - Australia v Fiji - Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne, France - September 17, 2023 Australia's Carter Gordon in action REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

By Nick Mulvenney

SAINT-ETIENNE, France (Reuters) – Australia coach Eddie Jones looks set to abandon at least part of his gamble on youth at the World Cup by dropping flyhalf Carter Gordon for the crunch Pool C match against Wales this weekend.

Jones omitted experienced playmakers Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley from his squad for the tournament and Gordon was the only player specifically named as a flyhalf.

Gordon was replaced after being targeted with multiple high balls in the loss to Fiji last weekend, however, and with the World Cup campaign on the line, multiple media reports on Thursday said the 22-year-old would not start on Sunday.

Ben Donaldson, who was listed in Jones’s squad as a “utility” and brought into the side at fullback for his place-kicking when Carter’s faltered, would replace him, the reports said.

Assistant coach Dan Palmer would not confirm or deny the reports on Thursday.

“We’ve got two 10s that we’re confident in and they’re pushing each other really hard,” he told reporters after training.

“I think Donno brings a level of composure to that position but … we’ll just pick the guy who’s right for this weekend.”

Donaldson moved to flyhalf when Carter was replaced early in the second half against Fiji and starting him at 10 on Sunday would allow Andrew Kellaway to slot in at fullback.

“He brings experience and direction at the back of the field,” Palmer said when asked about Kellaway’s attributes.

“He’s been around this squad before, he knows the game well, he’s a leader both on and off the field, so yeah, experience.”

Injuries to two of his most powerful players, captain Will Skelton and prop Taniela Tupou, means Jones was already likely to be having another look at his game plan.

Palmer, however, said flexibility had been built-in to the strategy.

“Obviously we’ve got to come up with a plan that suits the players that are on the field,” he said.

“But we’ve got a framework that we play to that we can make slight adjustments to according to whoever’s playing, that was thought about well in advance.

“We will play a style of play that suits whoever we’ve got playing, but it’s not a huge shift from what we’ve been doing.”

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Toby Davis)

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