The Wallabies are expecting a grumpy Rocky Elsom to turn on the intimidation in Saturday’s crucial Tri-Nations Test against South Africa following his recovery from injury to be named in Australia’s side.
Flanker Elsom, who missed Australia’s loss to the All Blacks in Auckland three weeks ago, and fellow aggressor James Horwill have both overcome foot injuries, providing a massive boost for the Wallabies as they seek to break an eight-year drought on South African soil.
Drew Mitchell replaces Adam Ashley-Cooper (hand) at fullback while Matt Dunning will start at tight-head prop ahead of Al Baxter.
League convert Timana Tahu gets the chance for a second Test cap from the bench and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has surprisingly nominated Western Force centre Ryan Cross as Mitchell’s cover at No.15.
Elsom’s return will boost the Wallabies’ physical presence and lineout, two negatives in Auckland sure to be tested by the backs-to-the-wall Springboks at ABSA Stadium in Durban.
“He is a bloke who is influential, he is a bloke who is inspirational because he does intimidate and blokes alongside him tend to respond to that,” Deans said.
“It is good to have him back, but most importantly it is good for him.
“He didn’t enjoy watching the last outing, and hopefully he brings that grumpiness with him.”
Dunning will start just his second Test of the season but Deans was adamant Baxter had not been demoted.
“You don’t need to read too much into that because the volume of game time won’t change, just the order,” Deans said.
“It is not a reflection of ranking, so to speak. It is the order we are using this week. We will be looking to Matty to put the after burners on and we’ll respond to what we see.
“It is a matter of how far he goes.
“It is going to be dry, it is going to be fast so that order serves.”
Deans said he had no preconceived plan for injecting Tahu into the match.
“He is a point of difference,” Deans said of the former Kangaroo.
“We have got versatility in the mix, and in terms of covering fullback Ryan (Cross) will do that.
“He has background in that position, and he has done well with each opportunity he has got.”
Cross has not regularly played at fullback since his early years at NRL club the Sydney Roosters.
Centre Berrick Barnes, who will play his first Test in the Republic, said the Wallabies had identified several areas in need of improvement since their 39-10 loss to the All Blacks, including the execution of their favoured cross-field kick in attack.
“At times there it was obvious we took the wrong option,” he said.
“A couple of times it was on and we just didn’t pull it off so skill execution and wrong options a couple of times there (were off) but the thing is we’re having a go, it’s just when to take them. We’ve just got to be a bit more clinical when we do do it.
“I think next game we’ve got to be a bit more dominant with our ball carries and hold the ball longer because it shows in the last few Tests whoever holds the ball the longest is usually scoring points so it’s going to be pretty important for us on the weekend.”
Australia: Drew Mitchell, Peter Hynes, Stirling Mortlock (capt), Berrick Barnes, Lote Tuqiri, Matt Giteau, Sam Cordingley, Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman, James Horwill, Matt Dunning, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Al Baxter, Hugh McMeniman, Phil Waugh, Brett Sheehan, Timana Tahu, Ryan Cross.Tweet