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Fortunate duo are key Wallabies wildcards

Jim Morton and Darren Walton 19/08/2011 03:43:51 PM Comments (0)

Centres of attention Berrick Barnes and Rob Horne count themselves as lucky World Cup inclusions but the pair are poised to start the tournament as key Wallabies wildcards.

Barnes is in the frame to renew his long-time playmaking combination with Quade Cooper while Horne's specialist outside-centre skills could also see him force his way into the midfield.

Coach Robbie Deans showed his high regard for the Waratahs duo by this week selecting them in his 30-man squad for next month's Cup despite neither completing a first-class match since May.

Cleared of the concussion issues which had threatened to end his career, Barnes isn't just seen as a five-eighth back-up to Cooper, with Deans admitting he was ready to start back where he ended 2010 at inside centre.

The Wallabies best two backline performances of the past two seasons were when Cooper and Barnes played beside each other at No.10 and 12 for impressive victories over England (27-17) in Perth and France (59-16) in Paris last year.

With Barnes unavailable for the past four Tests, Deans surprisingly overlooked Matt Giteau to select hard-running Brumbies utility Pat McCabe at inside centre.

But the coach has hinted he may return to his Cooper-Barnes combination, who played together for Queensland from 2007-09.

"Berrick picked up an injury (this year) and that probably impacted on the possibilities but he's back now and he's played four (club) games, he'll have half a dozen games before the Cup, and he's good to go," Deans told Fox Sports' Rugby Club.

"I guess we've gone back to where we finished last year."

Barnes' World Cup value is also increased by being Australia's best drop-goal exponent.

"I think Berrick Barnes' drop-goalling game could be a big difference when you need to close out a game at the end of a quarter-final, semi-final or final," said former Wallabies playmaker Pat Howard.

Horne has been an unlucky No.13 in his six-Test career, plagued by an elbow injury since undergoing surgery last July, and he only played the first three rounds of Super Rugby.

But the 22-year-old admitted fortune had smiled on him with a Cup selection he didn't see coming only months ago. He's now pressuring versatile incumbent Adam Ashley-Cooper at outside centre.

"When I got busted in the Super season I had my doubts," Horne said.

"I was weighing up my options whether to get surgery or play through it and things like that.

"There was definitely sometimes there where it was all a bit up in the air but at the end of the day I had to do what was right with my body and have a bit of faith."

Deans can also call on the likes of Digby Ioane and Anthony Faingaa to play at No.13 but Horne, regarded highly as much for his defence as his sharp attack, is the only specialist in the squad.

While Barnes and Horne will continue their comebacks in Sydney club rugby, winger Drew Mitchell is set to make his long-awaited return from ankle surgery off the bench for Randwick on Saturday.

The trio are all in line to play for the Australian Barbarians against Canada on the Gold Coast next Friday.

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