Wallabies to bench Horwill?
Wallabies to bench Horwill?SHARE
A week after losing the captaincy, Wallabies lock James Horwill could find himself on the bench for the clash against Italy this weekend.
Although he produced an improved performance without the burden of the captaincy in the defeat to England at Twickenham last week, the return of line-out specialist Rob Simmons could see Horwill riding the pine on Saturday.
Coach Ewen McKenzie did not reveal much about possible changes to his team, but admitted that he would not hesitate to make changes in order to turn things around for his side who have won just two of his six matches in charge.
He told AAP: "I'm open-minded about leadership and team selections. I'm not going to make it comfortable until we start getting outcomes.
"I'm not committed to anything. I don't think, given our circumstance that we can say anything is locked in. At this stage, with four Tests left and where we've been, no one can feel settled," said McKenzie.
With utility forward Scott Fardy ruled out due to a head knock, captain Ben Mowen is expected to shift from No.8 to the flank, leaving a gap at the back of the scrum for Ben McCalman.
McKenzie has already shown this year that no one is safe, after dropping scrumhalf Will Genia two months ago.
After being sparked back into form, Genia had a poor game with the boot against England, including a charged-down box kick that gifted the home side their first try.
McKenzie put the onus on his No.9 to execute better under pressure as he was being targeted in that facet of his play.
It was a disappointing moment given we had been tracking pretty well (at 13-6 ahead)," he said. "In the end you've got to execute under pressure, and we didn't."
The loss of Fardy is a blow as he has been one of their most impressive forwards since starting against the All Blacks in late August, and Italy play a highly-confrontational game.
But it has been tempered by Simmons returning, and damaging hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau putting himself closely in the mix to play his first Test of an injury-riddled year off the bench.
Australia have sorely missed Polota-Nau's power game after a broken arm put him out of the Lions series loss and a hamstring injury ruled him out of the Rugby Championship.