Wallabies overlook Timani for crucial Boks clash

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 06:49
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NEWS: The Wallabies dropped hulking loose forward Lopeti Timani from their bench on Friday, shunning an opportunity to match South Africa's forwards strength in their crucial Rugby Championship Test.

Australia are desperate to break a six-Test losing run in Brisbane on Saturday after two heavy defeats to the All Blacks left them wallowing at the bottom of the four-nation tournament standings.

The strongest running forward in the Wallabies' squad, 1.93m) Timani was expected to get his chance against the Springboks, who have gone for six forwards and two backs on their bench.

Instead head coach Michael Cheika preferred Friday to drop Timani from his list of extended reserves and go with a five forwards, three backs split for the Brisbane Test.

Timani's Melbourne Rebels teammate Sean McMahon survived the cut, as did lock Rory Arnold and French-based wing Drew Mitchell, who is in line for his first match in five months after overcoming a groin problem.

"It just gives us better balance in the backline," assistant coach Stephen Larkham told reporters. "Rory Arnold gets an opportunity to come off the bench, as does Sean McMahon.

"Those guys have been training exceptionally well and they certainly deserve their opportunity off the bench."

Cheika had indicated Timani was in the frame when he told reporters Thursday: "We're very keen to give Lopeti an opportunity to go out and play some Test football."

Cheika, who coached the Wallabies to last year's World Cup Final against New Zealand, has been under fire for the Wallabies' run of defeats and cannot afford a seventh straight reverse.

Another loss would equal Australia's worst run in the post-1995 professional era.

Significantly for Cheika, seven consecutive defeats back in 2005 brought about the demise of then coach Eddie Jones, who is now in charge of England.

Larkham said the Wallabies were in good shape to take on South Africa, who have only won two of their last 12 internationals in Australia and last year lost 20-24 to a try after the full-time siren in Brisbane.

"It's certainly been our best training week since we've been together this year," Larkham said.

"Motivation's high, the energy's high. We've carried a fair bit of embarrassment out of the last five games so the guys are very focused on trying to put a good performance out on the paddock." 

Another Wallaby under pressure to perform is the 107-cap skipper and hooker Stephen Moore, particularly with the accuracy of his throws to the line-outs.

The loss of 10 line-outs in their three most recent Test defeats to the All Blacks and England has put all the jumpers, and especially starting thrower Moore, under scrutiny.

"He's not under pressure. I don't like to think it's pressure, I like to think it's competition," Cheika said.

"Yes, I'd say Moore's in a competitive battle with Tatafu Polota-Nau. And he knows it too. I think that's a good thing, because he's feeling it and he says 'I want to play better' and I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

Dean Mumm, who has been selected at blindside flank to boost the ailing lineout against the Springboks, backed Moore.

"It's a collective. If there's a line-out and we're not in the right place or the jump's short, then the throw gets judgement on it based on that," he said.

"I think anything that's offered towards him is a judgement on us as a line-out as a whole."

Australia-revised: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio. 
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Tevita Kuridrani, 23 Drew Mitchell.

Date: Saturday, September 10
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 20.05 (12.05 SA time; 10.05 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Pascal Gauzère (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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