Ioane set to become Wallabies' lucky 13 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Ioane set to become Wallabies' lucky 13

By Jim Morton and Darren Walton 07/11/2009 02:40:20 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies great Andrew Slack has tipped destructive Digby Ioane to swiftly take the baton from Stirling Mortlock and nail down Australia's No.13 jersey.

Slack, who captained Australia to the 1984 Grand Slam from outside centre, expects Ioane to star in the same position in a potentially Test-ending blow to deposed skipper Mortlock's career.

The veteran was due to join the Wallabies on Sunday but aggravated his injured calf muscle in a hitout before he was due to leave Australia.

After a series of injuries there are question marks about his future in the national team - and Ioane now has the opportunity to step up to the plate.

Slack said with a successful Grand Slam tour Ioane would become Australia's long-term outside centre following on from Jason Little, Daniel Herbert and Mortlock.

The powerful Reds three-quarter makes his maiden Test start in the position in Sunday morning's (AEDT) clash with England at Twickenham.

Ioane has played his first five Tests on the wing but was the stand-out Australian player in this year's Super 14 at No.13 where he broke the most tackles and gained the most yardage.

"I think if this works this could be him for years down the track, he could have a mortgage on it like a Mortlock or a Little did," Slack told AAP.

"In fairness to Stirling, who's been great, he's at the stage where he's not as effective as he once was, it catches up with us all.

"That's not to say he's done and dusted but I think Digby is a great call."

Deans said Ioane had shown enough at Super level to suggest he could tackle outside centre for the national team.

"He played outside centre for the whole of the Super 14 program so we always saw him as an outside-centre option, but didn't feel it would be appropriate to put him straight in there (against the All Blacks) with him not having played for so long and not even having played in the hit-out that we had domestically before we came away.

"But he came through that game well and played with confidence so we felt he was good to go now."

There's been an almost seamless transition with the No.13 jersey since 75-cap Little made his debut in 1989.

Herbert played 67 Tests from 1995 to 2002, while Mortlock has owned it since for most of his 81 Tests.

Former Test selector Slack felt Australia sorely missed Ioane's penetration during the Tri-Nations where they lost five of six Tests and struggled to make an impact out wide as he recovered from a shoulder reconstruction.

With Mortlock missing the final half of the series with a knee injury, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Ryan Cross shared the No.13 jersey with mixed success.

The versatile Ashley-Cooper's preferred position is outside centre and has long been seen as Mortlock's successor but he has produced his best Test rugby at fullback this year.

Slack doubted anyone could emulate Mark Ella's feat of a try in each of the four Grand Slam Tests but pointed to the heavily-tattooed Ioane as the most likely.

"It was a great shame he missed most of this year," he said.

"He's potentially really world class.

"I would certainly like the ability of Digby, don't know about his tattoos but certainly his ability."

Slack believes coach Robbie Deans picked his best backline combination for the England Test with Quade Cooper and Ioane in the midfield outside of playmaker Matt Giteau, and Ashley-Cooper at fullback.

"There's debate over where his best position is but I think it's very exciting in terms of if they get some ball, what that midfield three of Giteau, Cooper and Digby can do," he said.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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