Wallabies' back row injury woes continue
October 12, 2013
Wallabies blindside flanker Scott Fardy will miss the third Bledisloe Cup clash with an eye injury © Getty Images
The Wallabies back row depth will be tested further in the third Bledisloe Cup clash against the All Blacks after abrasive blindside flanker Scott Fardy was ruled out with an eye injury.
Fardy was Australia's best forward in their 54-17 rout of Argentina last weekend and losing him is a major blow for a Wallabies outfit desperate to save face against the world champions while battling a back-row injury crisis.
The late-blooming Fardy, 29, has shone in his four Test starts after stepping into the breach left by injury to Scott Higginbotham, David Pocock, Wycliff Palu and Hugh McMeniman.
Ben McCalman looms as a replacement at blindside flanker for the All Blacks clash while Dave Dennis and Liam Gill, both included in the 32-man tour squad for Europe on Friday, will vie for a bench spot.
The immediate disappointment of losing Fardy for one Test has been off-set by Polota-Nau's long-awaited return on next month's tour when Australia make a grand slam tilt against the four home union nations and also play Italy in Turin.
The injury-plagued Waratahs rake will add much-needed oomph to a Wallabies pack which has struggled at scrum time this year and lacked power. Polota-Nau, who missed the Lions series with a broken arm, has been cleared of a lingering hamstring problem and coach Ewen McKenzie is keen to tap into his 44 Tests of experience up front.
"Tatafu hasn't had much of an opportunity due to injury over the past six months but we're picking him on reputation," McKenzie said. "He is also an experienced scrummager, which will be valuable in the UK. He'll need all of his experience to push his way back into contention although having a guy with his background will strengthen the group."
It's a group that will miss five regular starters in Pocock (knee), Higginbotham (shoulder), Palu (knee), Kurtley Beale (shoulder) and Pat McCabe (neck) through long-term injuries.
Rising players Kyle Godwin (shoulder), James Hanson (neck), Jesse Mogg (shoulder), Hugh Pyle (shoulder) and Jake Schatz (knee) have also missed out following surgery.
The biggest surprise omission was young Brumbies loose-head Scott Sio who was edged out for the fifth prop spot by NSW tight-head Paddy Ryan.
But more eyebrows were raised that Fijian-born winger Henry Speight has been forced to wait for a call-up as the IRB determine his eligibility through residency.
Seemingly a certainty for Test honours following his try-scoring deeds with the Brumbies, Speight's four-season stint with Waikato in New Zealand's provincial competition until 2011 has thrown a cloud over his availability.
At best, the 25-year-old will be eligible in time for the final Test against Wales on November 30.
Nick Cummins' return from a broken hand has bolstered the wing stocks while McKenzie has also recalled Queensland openside Gill, halfback Nick Phipps and Reds utility back Mike Harris to his squad which will be pruned to 24 for the All Blacks match on Tuesday.