Larkham in doubt for Wallabies
July 16, 2000

Stephen Larkham is in doubt for Australia's next Tri Nations rugby Test against South Africa after Saturday night's extraordinary series opener took a heavy toll on the Wallabies.

Flyhalf Larkham was the major casualty of the 39-35 loss to New Zealand at Stadium Australia, suffering another ligament strain in his oft-battered knees.

Centres Daniel Herbert and Jason Little, fullback Chris Latham, second rower David Giffin and prop Glenn Panoho were among others nursing injuries after a match being lauded as the greatest rugby Test ever played.

After the All Blacks stunned Australia with three tries in the opening five minutes and took a 24-0 lead after eight minutes, the Wallabies staged one of the great comebacks to
lead 27-24 early in the second half.

The world record rugby crowd of 109,874 was ready to witness an extraordinary victory when Australia led 35-34 with two minutes left until barnstorming Jonah Lomu crossed out wide to give the All Blacks first points in the Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations campaigns.

The Wallabies were a confused camp this morning - proud of their resilience and ability to come back from the dead, but disappointed in losing their first big test since becoming world champions last year.

"We're happy with a lot of aspects of last night but we're extremely flat today and disappointed with the result," coach Rod Macqueen said. "There's a sense of achievement and pride in a lot of things, but a real feeling of frustration and flatness."

If there is such a thing as a good loss, this was one of Australia's best. The composure and intelligence applied to get back in the match with four first half tries to Stirling Mortlock (two), Latham and Joe Roff was a measure of their mental strength.

Macqueen was confident Herbert's and Panoho's rib injuries, Latham's damaged ankle, Giffin's hamstring and Little's cut head would heal in time to take on the Springboks back at Stadium Australia on Saturday week but said Larkham's grade one medial ligament strain made him doubtful.

On the plus side, winger Ben Tune, who has not played a Test this year because of a leg injury, and flanker Matt Cockbain, who injured his knee against Argentina last month, should be available.

Fullback Matt Burke and centre Tim Horan will also join the Wallabies in camp this
week but Macqueen was uncertain when they'd be fit for a recall.

Burke is likely to be back as soon as he recovers from his ankle injury as goalkicking remains a concern, with Australia converting five from nine attempts last night compared to New Zealand's six from nine.

Stirling Mortlock kicked four from six, Eales missed both his shots and Andrew Walker was unsuccessful with his only kick.

Australia must now travel to Wellington next month to keep the Bledisloe Cup it has held for the last two years and stay in the Tri Nations hunt.

Macqueen said the two bonus points from last night kept Australia in contention.
New Zealand plays South Africa this Saturday in Christchurch.

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