Wallabies coach make radical selection - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies coach make radical selection

By Darren Walton 06/11/2009 12:07:27 AM Comments (0)

Robbie Deans has made the most radical selection change of his 25-Test reign as Wallabies coach, naming a brand new centre pairing for Saturday's Twickenham showdown with England.

Deans and fellow selectors Jim Williams and David Nucifora have opted to play the dynamic Digby Ioane at outside centre, with Quade Cooper inside him after starring in the Wallabies's 36-5 victory over Gloucester on Tuesday night.

Ioane and Cooper have teamed in the midfield for Queensland in the Super 14 this season, but never before at Test level.

All up, the Wallabies have made three changes to the starting side from last Saturday's 32-19 Bledisloe Cup loss to the All Blacks in Tokyo, with champion flanker George Smith recalled to the back row and David Pocock relegated to the bench.

Drew Mitchell replaces Ioane on the wing, Adam Ashley-Cooper moves from the centres to fullback in place of teenager James O'Connor, who drops to the bench, as does Ryan Cross despite his strong game at outside centre against Gloucester.

Wallabies skipper Rocky Elsom says losing to depleted England doesn't bear thinking about as Australian rugby's international credibility goes on the line at Twickenham.

Never mind the grand slam sweep, the Wallabies are under extraordinary pressure to deliver merely on the first leg after a dire run of six defeats from their past seven Tests.

For one reason or another, the Wallabies are the most maligned national sporting team in Australia and Elsom needs no reminding that success-starved fans simply won't cop another second-best result - especially against a hopelessly weak England outfit.

"I certainly wouldn't like the idea of us losing on the weekend," Elsom said.

"Yeah, it's a massive, massive game for us." Only the most fair-minded neutral acknowledges the fact that the Wallabies are the lone national side on the planet to have conquered the world champion Springboks in 2009 and that all six of Australia's defeats this season have come at the hand's of the top two ranked sides in the game.

Elsom, though, accepts that perception is reality and the reality is the Wallabies will be the laughing stock of world rugby if they are unable to kick off their grand slam quest with a commanding victory over an England outfit relying on Jonny Wilkinson and little else.

As it is, the British and Irish already consider it preposterous that the Wallabies are even entertaining the idea of upstaging the four home nations on successive weekends this month.

The truth is, the Wallabies publicly harbour no such grandiose expectations and Elsom, never one to pull punches, says his under-achieving side will be happy enough just to restore some order and confidence with success over the seventh-ranked English.

"It's pretty big for us. We were absolutely stinging for a win last weekend and that didn't come," Elsom said, conceding the Wallabies succumbed to all-too-familiar failings in last Saturday's 32-19 loss to the All Blacks in Tokyo.

"Coming into the game there was probably a little bit of anxiety around the fact that we hadn't been able to notch one up against them (this year) but, really, we had been a big part of that reason by not being able to execute the way we wanted to, which probably happened again." Hence the Wallabies have spent this week getting their own shop sorted rather than fretting over their next opponents.

"Thinking about England probably wouldn't be at the top of our list just because we've got our own issues to worry about," Elsom said.

Wallabies: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Will Genia, Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Rocky Elsom (capt), Mark Chisholm, James Horwill, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Matt Dunning, Dean Mumm, David Pocock, Luke Burgess, Ryan Cross, James O'Connor.

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