Giteau succumbs to hip injury - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Giteau succumbs to hip injury

11/06/2010 07:01:43 PM Comments (0)

The 11th-hour loss of Matt Giteau has barely caused a ripple in the Wallabies camp with Berrick Barnes to resurrect a three-year playmaking union with Quade Cooper on Saturday night.

Inside centre Giteau on Friday succumbed to a hip injury which he's been carrying ahead of the opening Cook Cup Test with England at Perth's Subiaco Oval.

A year ago, the loss of the superstar back would have been viewed as a near mortal blow but such is the current depth in playmaking stocks and Cooper's rise that few eye-lids were batted.

While Barnes is coming off a solid first season at the NSW Waratahs, he played outside Cooper at Queensland from 2007 to 2009.

Cooper, 22, regarded the 24-year-old Barnes as a big brother in his time at Ballymore but has since excelled at Super 14 level in his absence.

Australia's coaches are optimistic Giteau, who incurred the muscular problem on Tuesday, will be available for next weekend's second Test in Sydney and are unperturbed by the late switch.

"I don't think that will have an affect on us," said assistant coach Richard Graham.

"Quade and Berrick played a lot together for Queensland, we've known Gits has had a complaint during the week and Berrick has run in that position quite a lot so from that point of view we're not concerned."

Barnes first made his name three years ago at the 2007 World Cup when he performed superbly as a late replacement for Stephen Larkham in Cardiff against Wales, and skipper Rocky Elsom expects a similar display.

"You wouldn't say it's ideal but the way we train and practice it's very much a squad focus so guys can slot in and out," Elsom said.

"And Berrick is no slouch, it's not as though we don't have confidence in him."

Although Cooper and Barnes kick for their Super 14 teams, teenage fullback James O'Connor will shoulder the all-important goalkicking responsibilities.

Giteau has kicked at a superb 83 per cent for the Brumbies this year and has given Australia reliability with the boot since taking the role from Stirling Mortlock.

O'Connor has also impressed with his kicking for the Western Force (78 per cent) and booted four from five in his brilliant display for the Australian Barbarians in Tuesday night's 28-all draw with England.

"He kicked well the other night and we're happy to continue with that," Graham said.

Save for two wins in 2003 when England were the best nation in world rugby, the tourists have a terrible record on Australian soil.

With Australia selecting their most inexperienced front-row in 27 years and the tourists at near full strength, inspirational England captain Lewis "Mad Dog" Moody identified a massive opportunity.

While some bookmaking agencies have installed Martin Johnson's men $4 underdogs, England have the size, experience and direct power game to unsettle the home side.

But strong wins at Twickenham in the past two years has Elsom confident the under-strength Wallabies pack - missing five regular starters - can handle their physical, set-piece focus.

"While they have a different style to what we're used to down here we have played them a lot recently so I think the guys can feel pretty comfortable with what's coming up," Elsom said.

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