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Injuries spare wobbly Wallabies

By Jim Morton 22/06/2010 06:07:26 PM Comments (0)

A number of Wallabies are breathing easier after injuries swayed Robbie Deans against wielding the axe following their deflating second Test defeat to England.

Deans on Tuesday admitted he was considering dropping players from his starting team to play Ireland at Suncorp Stadium before opting for continuity over change.

Injuries to key backs Will Genia (broken hand) and Digby Ioane (shoulder) forced the Australian coach into two changes for Saturday night's Lansdowne Cup Test, and he deemed that enough.

The likes of Drew Mitchell and Dean Mumm, both disappointing in the 21-20 loss to England, could consider themselves the most fortunate as Deans tries to build combinations within his young, injury-hit team.

In expected promotions, Luke Burgess will start at halfback for Genia while Adam Ashley-Cooper replaces Ioane on the wing.

"A certain amount of change was forced on us with the injuries and then you weigh up all the considerations and you determine your mix," he said.

"And I guess in this instance we felt that there was enough change that was forced on us."

Deans has rarely had the luxury of naming the same 15 since taking over as Wallabies coach in 2008, and is now trying his best to get his strongest team on the park consistently ahead of next year's World Cup.

He admitted there have been youngsters in the mid-week Barbarians squad who had pushed their claims and his 30-man Tri-Nations squad, to be picked in the coming weeks, was far from settled.

"That hasn't been resolved and this week will be important to that end," Deans said.

Ashley-Cooper is one man who continues to perform no matter his position or the men around him and has happily accepted he'll continue to be the Wallabies Mr Fix-It.

Seven months after returning from the Grand Slam tour feeling he'd finally found his home at fullback, the 26-year-old has overcome an ankle injury to be picked on the wing, where he finished the Super 14 season with the Brumbies.

"Most of his recent rugby has been on the wing ... so there's a fair bit of continuity to that end but I'm sure it won't be the last position you will see him in this year," Deans said.

Ashley-Cooper said he felt just as comfortable playing a fullback type role alongside James O'Connor and fellow winger Mitchell.

"I see it as three fullbacks rather than winger, fullback, winger," he said.

Wallabies great Tim Horan rated the loss of Ioane as more worrying than that of Genia, but in Ashley-Cooper they have a similar line-breaking weapon.

Rising NSW centre Rob Horne will become the sixth different Australian player to line up opposite Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll in his 10 Tests against the Wallabies.

O'Driscoll made his debut in Brisbane 11 years ago in a 46-10 defeat but also announced himself as the world's best No.13 in 2001 when he starred in a memorable win for the British Lions.

Horne is licking his lips at taking on one of his idols.

"He's someone that's been one of the best centres of his generation," Horne said.

"To me he's the benchmark 13 and always has been so hopefully I can get out there and perform well."

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