Sheehan into Australia A's rugby side - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sheehan into Australia A's rugby side

By Darren Walton 19/07/2006 06:41:49 PM Comments (0)

Under-21 star Josh Holmes will replace his NSW Waratahs rival Josh Valentine at halfback for Australia A's return rugby match against Fiji at Melbourne's Olympic Park on Saturday.

Holmes, tipped as a potential World Cup bolter, was called into the side Wednesday after Valentine was ruled out with a sprained ankle that will sideline the Waratahs recruit for three weeks.

Newcastle-born Valentine, who will link with the Waratahs for next year's Super 14 competition after three seasons with Queensland, sustained the injury at training earlier this week.

Giant prop Rodney Blake, making a comeback from his own ankle injury, is one of 12 Wallabies in a powerful Australia A line-up looking to follow up its 47-19 victory over Fiji in Adelaide last Saturday.

Blake will use Saturday's match to strengthen his claim for a starting position for the Wallabies' Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup showdown with New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday week.

While the big Queenslander is considered a near-certainty to return for the must-win Bledisloe Cup match provided he proves his fitness, Wallabies coach John Connolly said Wednesday he hasn't ruled out giving Guy Shepherdson another crack at the All Blacks.

Shepherdson and fellow prop Greg Holmes spearheaded a Wallabies pack clearly outpointed by the All Blacks forwards in the 32-12 loss in Christchurch two weeks ago.

"Technically, Shepherdson's done very well and he's a big man too. He's 120-odd kilos, Rodney's 130. They're both big men," Connolly said.

"So we'll have a meeting after Saturday, I guess."

The inclusion of Sheehan and Blake are among seven changes to the side that ran in seven tries against the Fijians at the weekend.

Queensland flanker John Roe will captain the team after joining the squad this week along with fellow Wallabies Blake, prop Al Baxter and centre Ben Tune.

At lock, Will Caldwell comes for Al Campbell, who headed to Camp Wallaby at Coffs Harbour on Sunday, while Roe replaces Mitchell Chapman, who moves to the bench.

In other changes, Adam Ashley-Cooper has been named on the left wing, while Tune will start at outside centre instead of Scott Staniforth, who has linked up with the Wallabies.

Australia A coach Laurie Fisher said the changes had not proved overly disruptive.

"The changes this week increase the competition for spots, within this squad and at Wallaby level, which means blokes are going to push themselves to play better individually and as a team," Fisher said.

"When we assembled, a lot of these blokes hadn't played together before, so they've had to work hard on their teamwork and, as a result, have come together nicely.

"Fiji play an unpredictable game, which they showed in Adelaide last week when they started throwing the ball around and scored three late tries, so teamwork's going to be an important area again this week and we'll be concentrating on staying focused for the full 80 minutes."

The full team is: Cameron Shepherd (WA), Digby Ioane (WA), Ben Tune (Qld), Gene Fairbanks (ACT), Adam Ashley-Cooper (ACT), Sam Norton-Knight (NSW), Josh Holmes (NSW), Wycliff Palu (NSW), Richard Brown (WA), John Roe (Qld, capt), James Horwill (Qld), Will Caldwell (NSW), Rodney Blake (Qld), Stephen Moore (Qld), Al Baxter (NSW). Reserves: James McCormack (ACT), Matt Dunning (NSW), Mitchell Chapman (Qld), David Croft (Qld), Brett Sheehan (NSW), Morgan Turinui (NSW), Drew Mitchell (WA).

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