Wallabies to battle on as stars go down - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies to battle on as stars go down

By Darren Walton 09/11/2008 06:14:44 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is "unlikely" to send an SOS home to Australia for back-up troops after midfield generals Berrick Barnes and Timana Tahu suffered probable tour-ending injuries in the tension-filled Test victory over Italy.

Barnes (knee) and Tahu (hamstring) will have MRI scans when the Wallabies arrive in London on Monday, but Deans said he feared the worst for the pair, who had been two of the more influential performers in a scratchy display in Padova.

He suspected Barnes' injury was "significant", while Tahu has been dogged by hamstring problems throughout his career and, having missed most of NSW's Super 14 campaign this year after yet another breakdown, Deans admitted "it doesn't look good" for the dual international.

But after being impressed by the manner in which his Test novices lifted to pull out a 30-20 win over the Azzurri after the match was locked at 20-all with 10 minutes to go - Deans said he'd probably soldier on with a 32-man squad regardless.

While dissatisfied with his side's poor option taking in attack and concerned about the Wallabies' defence and discipline, Deans was thrilled with other aspects, most particularly the emergence of 20-year-old Quade Cooper and several other untried rookies.

The sidestepping Cooper proved the Wallabies' unlikely saviour, coming off the bench for the final quarter after Tahu broke down.

Cooper scored the match-winning try in spectacular fashion, leaving four Italian defenders in his wake with a dazzling 30-metre run in the 71st minute.

His key play, plus the equally composed display of 18-year-old backline utility James O'Connor - who became Australia's second-youngest Test player when thrust into the fullback role for the final nine minutes - proved to Deans they were both capable of deputising for Barnes as Matt Giteau's back-up five-eighth for the duration of the tour.

"It was a great workout for this group," Deans said.

"We were exposing a lot of players to Test rugby for the first time and their response from the 65th minute was superb - remarkable in the circumstance.

"The more we can develop that depth - because the reality is, we have been prone to injury and to form - we've now got some choice.

"If you had asked me a week ago if we lost Berrick, how would we be feeling with four Tests to go, we might have been a bit anxious.

"But now we've got some blokes who are lining up and showing that they're prepared to back themselves at this level."

Cooper, who said he had lived a dream playing for the Wallabies, described his try as "the cherry on the top".

It was for Deans, too, with Cooper, O'Connor and fellow Test debutant, prop Sekope Kepu, now locked in as Wallabies for life.

Loosehead Ben Alexander also proved a revelation in his first-ever starting professional rugby match - and first game of any sort since July.

In a welcome change, the Wallabies were awarded two scrum penalties during the match and also stole a stack of possession from the Azzurri lineout, leaving veteran flanker Phil Waugh deeply satisfied.

"We came into the game and trained all week knowing the Italian forward pack was one of their strengths and we had the confidence we could dominate that area," Waugh said.

"So it wasn't a surprise to us. It might have been to a few others."

Even with Barnes, Tahu and star winger Lote Tuqiri, who has yet to play this tour as he recovers from knee surgery, unlikely to be available, Deans said the Wallabies could enter next Saturday's showdown with England with optimism.

"That's something we're really excited about," Deans said. "Playing at Twickenham against England, it doesn't get any better."

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 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