Wallabies Tahu, Polota-Nau axed - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies Tahu, Polota-Nau axed

By Laine Clark 09/09/2008 07:04:56 PM Comments (0)

Fears that injured playmaker Berrick Barnes would have to go under the knife have been allayed - but there was still plenty of surgery done on the Wallabies on Tuesday.

Coach Robbie Deans wielded the axe in the wake of the Wallabies' record 53-8 loss to South Africa, ushering in five changes for Saturday night's Tri-Nations decider against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium.

Centre Timana Tahu and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau were the biggest casualties, cut from the 22 altogether.

In another blow, Barnes succumbed to a shoulder complaint, forcing Deans to move skipper Stirling Mortlock to inside centre in place of Tahu and slot league convert Ryan Cross outside him.

But there was a silver lining - Barnes said the shoulder injury he aggravated in South Africa last month would not require surgery.

Deans said scans had cleared an "underlying issue" with Barnes' shoulder.

"He's the sort of bloke who, if you had named him he would have run out there and played anyway - but the good news is that it (injury) won't be long term," he said.

But Barnes' omission creates another potential headache.

A question mark hovers over the back-up No.10 after Deans named an interchange with a 5-2 forwards-backs split.

Reserve halfback Brett Sheehan and fullback Drew Mitchell are the only backs on the bench.

Mystery surrounds just who Deans would call up if the Wallabies' worst nightmare becomes reality and Matt Giteau goes down.

"I got asked that question last week and I avoided it," Deans said of the No.10 conundrum.

"There's no great need to disclose that but we have a plan - there's got to be some intrigue."

All Blacks coach Graham Henry admitted a 5-2 split was "always a risk".

But Deans said he bolstered his bench to prepare for the onslaught to come in the "winner takes all" showdown.

Australia can win their first Tri-Nations title in seven years with a weekend win and also keep alive their hopes of regaining the Bledisloe Cup from New Zealand.

Quite simply, the stakes couldn't be higher for either team.

And all in front of a sell-out, 52,000-strong Suncorp Stadium crowd.

"We have seen some great encounters in Tri-Nations and you are going to see an even better one on the weekend," Deans said.

"There's been a lot of fast games, there's been a lot of physical games - this will be both.

"That's the reason for the 5-2 split. We've opted for people that we believe will offer something that will be the difference when it counts."

Deans looked as excited as a coach could be after suffering a record loss just 10 days ago.

"Last week is gone. We have a fantastic opportunity this weekend," he said.

"We will be better out of necessity. I am very excited about this week, about this group.

"It's not a matter of reinventing the wheel or tipping everything on its head (after the loss).

"It's a matter of sticking to what serves you and trying to win more of those little contests so that the outcome deals with itself."

Henry admitted he couldn't have picked a worse time to play Australia.

"I don't think it (the record loss) does us any favours at all," said Henry, who today named the same starting XV for the third straight Tri-Nations Test.

"They will be hugely disappointed with their performance and the result will give them more edge and more attitude, and we don't really need that, so that's a pity that's happened."

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