Wallabies in disarray in Argentina
2 October, 2014, 7:36 pm
Update: 7:36PM Injuries, travel chaos and Kurtley Beale have conspired to throw the Wallabies’ preparations for Saturday’s Rugby Championship stoush with Argentina into disarray.
Just hours after referring Beale’s “alleged incident” on the Wallabies’ flight from South Africa to South America to the Australian Rugby Union’s integrity unit, coach Ewen McKenzie dumped the wayward playmaker entirely from Australia’s match-day 23.
McKenzie will also be without influential lock Rob Simmons after the lineout general failed a concussion test, leaving former skipper James Horwill to fill the breach against a Pumas outfit craving their first-ever win in the four-nation tournament.
Combative Scott Higginbotham replaces No.8 Ben McCalman (shoulder) in the back row and McKenzie will have just two training sessions, including Friday’s light captain’s run, to prepare his side after a dire build-up.
As if the injury concerns and arriving in Buenos Aires after a 24-hour journey from Cape Town without their luggage wasn’t sapping enough, Beale’s latest alleged misdemeanour and another half day at airports and on planes hit the Wallabies for six.
McKenzie admitted he couldn’t be sure if Beale’s row with a member of Wallabies management – who has since opted to fly home to Australia – had threatened team unity because he’d been too busy picking up the pieces to feel any vibes.
Tied up planning Beale’s investigation with ARU chief Bill Pulver and the integrity unit back in Australia instead, McKenzie was unable to attend the team’s only training session since last Saturday’s taxing 28-10 loss to the Springboks.
“I can assure you I don’t enjoy the distraction of these things because they take massive amounts of time,” said McKenzie.
His mid-air incident aside, Beale lost any chance of forcing his way back into the starting line-up when Matt Toomua, in one welcome piece of good news for the Wallabies, passed a concussion test and was cleared to retain his No.12 jumper in an unchanged backline.
Expecting another torrid physical battle, McKenzie opted for six forwards and just two backs on the bench – half Nic White and robust utility Rob Horne.
The reserve forwards include four new faces, including two potential debutants in back-rower Jake Schatz and hooker Josh Mann-Rea.
Giant lock Will Skelton and flanker Matt Hodgson also return.
Wallabies: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Joe Tomane, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper (capt), Scott Fardy, James Horwill, Sam Carter, Sekope Kepu, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper. Reserves: Josh Mann-Rea, Benn Robinson, Ben Alexander, Will Skelton, Jake Schatz, Matt Hodgson, Nic White, Rob Horne.