Wallabies seek answer for SBW
Sun, 05 Aug 2012 11:26
NSW midfielder Rob Horne will be considered for a switch from outside centre to No.12
The Wallabies are brainstorming on how to solve the Rubik’s cube that is All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams ahead of the Rugby Championship.
Williams was not included in the All Black squad announced by coach Steve Hanson on Sunday but is expected to be called up to the side next week once arrangements with his new Japanese club the Panasonic Wild Knights are finalised.
Australia, ahead of their Rugby Championship opener against New Zealand on August 18, are pondering how, and more importantly who, to select to go head-to-head against the freakishly talent Williams, with Wallaby incumbent inside centre Pat McCabe set to miss the opening rounds of the four-nation tournament due to injury.
Australia are hopeful McCabe (leg stress fracture), James O'Connor (hamstring) and Wycliff Palu (shoulder) will be available for the third Test of the Rugby Championship against the Springboks in Perth on September 8.
But in the meantime, the Wallabies face the enormous task of winning back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in a decade without two of their key backline stars.
Despite the loss in experience, Wallaby coaching coordinator Tony McGahan says the belief is still there.
Coach Robbie Deans is known to be a fan of McCabe's direct running, and tough NSW midfielder Rob Horne will be considered for a switch from outside centre to number 12 if the coach is trying to create a replica.
Some backline juggling could see Berrick Barnes or Adam Ashley-Cooper marking up against Williams, while inexperienced Queenslanders Ben Tapuai and Mike Harris remain in the frame.
McGahan confirmed a decision would have to be made soon.
"You want to be giving players the opportunity to train there and then be able to settle on that and give the whole team and the individual time ... and confidence," said McGahan.
"Our primary focus will be how we want to play and how we want to defend. We'll look at the make-up of what they're going to come with, but it's what we want to deliver more so than what the opposition want to throw at us."
If Quade Cooper gets the nod to start in Sydney, or if Kurtley Beale is brought from fullback into the frontline, Barnes could find himself back at inside centre where he played most of last year's World Cup as a secondary playmaker.
Ashley-Cooper is used to being the Wallabies’ ‘Mr Fix It’ and says he'd be ready if required to defuse Williams.
"I approach any position the same - it's just a different number on your back ... we've got a lot of versatility in this backline which is great. Whoever steps up will do a great job," said Ashley-Cooper, who believes the Wallaby training camps have them on track to break their hoodoo against the All Blacks.
"It's hard to know if (Williams) will play 12 or 13 knowing Conrad Smith is out. Who knows if it's going to be Ma'a Nonu or SBW at 12?
"In itself, that's a challenge facing one of the best centres in the world."
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