WELLINGTON, 7 Oct. – Australia coach Robbie Deans has returned to the same backline that helped beat South Africa 14-9 in their last encounter in Durban two months ago in naming his side to play the Springboks in Sunday’s quarter-final at Wellington Regional Stadium.
Wing Digby Ioane is back from a broken thumb, Pat McCabe has recovered from a partial dislocation of his shoulder against USA to displace Berrick Barnes at inside centre and Kurtley Beale returns at full back after missing the Russia match with a hamstring strain.
Deans said the return of the backline trio from their respective injuries came at just the right time for the Wallabies.
“It’s good timing. It’s obviously preferable than the other. We’ve had our challenges but the boys are coming back on stream,” he said.
Deans also acknowledged the selection of inside centre McCabe would provide early physicality, while Barnes could have a ball-playing impact off the bench late in the match.
“That’s what we’ll get by playing them in this order. We believe that will work for us,” he said.
Second row Nathan Sharpe and back row forward Scott Higginbotham both started in the Durban Test on August 13, but for this match Sharpe reverts to the bench to make way for Dan Vickerman, while the return of Radike Samo to number 8 from his enforced spell on the wing leaves no room in the 22 for Higginbotham.
Deans said the experience of Sharpe and Vickerman, who both played a part in Australia’s quarter-final loss to England at RWC 2007, meant they demanded selection.
“Two good men. Two blokes who have been through this circumstance before,” he said.
“They understand the reality of quarter-final rugby and they understand the importance of composure and accuracy. We’ll get that from both of them.”
Deans opted for a 4-3 split of forwards to backs on the replacements bench, with Ben McCalman covering all three back-row positions and centres Barnes and Anthony Faingaa covering the high numbers.
Deans said those selected were the players and the combinations that had served the Wallabies best over the past year.
The starting line-up is the same as the one that faced Italy in the opening pool match, except for right wing James O’Connor replacing Faingaa. O’Connor was benched for that match for disciplinary reasons but brought a spark to the Wallaby backline when he came on in the second half.
Deans was at his philosophical best when asked about the significance of Sunday’s quarter-final encounter.
“History will be created this weekend and we desperately want our piece of it,” he said.
“There’s no tomorrow, unless you create one for yourself.”