Mitchell set to return as Wallaby No.15 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mitchell set to return as Wallaby No.15

By Jim Morton 05/09/2008 04:51:28 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies speedster Drew Mitchell can't help but feel a sense of deja vu as he vies with Adam Ashley-Cooper for the same position in the biggest Test of the year.

Mitchell is poised to return to Australia's starting XV at fullback in Saturday week's Tri-Nations decider against the All Blacks with Ashley-Cooper looking out of place at No.15.

The talented Brumbies utility is in the firing line after a disappointing comeback from a broken hand in the record 53-8 loss to South Africa in Johannesburg on the weekend.

Attacking spark Mitchell's case for a return at Suncorp Stadium was strengthened by an assured performance at fullback in the previous week's 27-15 triumph in Durban.

But superior form didn't get the Force flyer into the Wallabies starting line-up for last year's World Cup quarter-final against England, where Ashley-Cooper started ahead of him on the wing but had an off-day.

"With these games being such big occasions, you want to be starting," Mitchell said on Friday.

"I guess personally it was disappointing not to get the start in the quarter-final but it was a great occasion and I was happy to get the time I got.

"I don't know but it always seems to come down to Adam or myself. I guess we'll see how it pans out."

Coach Robbie Deans won't announce his side until Tuesday after the squad reassembles in Brisbane on Sunday.

There is expected to be up to half a dozen changes made after Deans rotated and experimented in the last Test against the Springboks.

Flanker George Smith and hooker Stephen Moore are certainties to replace Phil Waugh and Tatafu Polota-Nau respectively while Berrick Barnes will start at inside centre if he can recover from a shoulder injury.

Mitchell, prop Al Baxter and seasoned lock Nathan Sharpe are also in the mix for the winner-takes-all encounter.

Mitchell admitted he didn't expect to be retained in Johannesburg but Ashley-Cooper himself believed he was somewhat fortunate to be rushed back due to his replacement's form.

Ashley-Cooper has started in four different positions in the Wallabies backline in the past two seasons but is yet to produce his best at fullback.

While he's been near invincible on the wing, the 24-year-old has struggled at No.15, especially with his kicking game.

Against the Springboks he regularly hoisted garryowens too far down the middle of the field on his kick returns, merely handing over possession without putting any pressure on the opposition catchers.

It was the same in the 39-10 loss to New Zealand in Auckland where his kicking was in stark contrast to Daniel Carter's bombs which consistently led to Australian turnovers.

To be fair to Ashley-Cooper, he started the year as no better than the Wallabies' fourth best fullback behind Chris Latham, Julian Huxley and Cameron Shepherd, who all had their seasons wiped out by injury.

Worcester-bound Latham was the best general-play kicker in the business and Mitchell conceded there would be no quick recovery from his loss.

"I don't think anyone who is jumping into the fullback role is expecting to fill his shoes any time soon but it certainly is something that comes with experience," he said.

"Everyone can kick the ball but it's putting it in the right spot and picking the right kick at the right time."

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

0 Comments about this article

Post a comment about this article

Please sign in to leave a comment.
Becoming a member is free and easy, sign up here.

« All sports news