Sunday 22 October 2017

Kurtley Beale to start for the Wallabies in second test

Kurtley Beale of the Wallabies slips over while kicking for goal during the First Test match between the Australian Wallabies and the British & Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium
Kurtley Beale of the Wallabies slips over while kicking for goal during the First Test match between the Australian Wallabies and the British & Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium

Duncan Bech

Once again all eyes will be on the backline when Australia coach Robbie Deans names his team for the second Test against the British and Irish Lions tomorrow morning.

The identity of their fly-half will be the biggest talking point with Kurtley Beale a possibility to start ahead of James O'Connor.

By Deans' admission, O'Connor endured a "difficult" match in the 23-21 defeat in the first Test at the Suncorp Stadium, although he was hardly helped by the succession of injuries that decimated the Wallabies' threequarters.

Whatever Deans decides at 10, Beale will start the match following his 41-minute substitute appearance in Brisbane with full-back the likely option after Berrick Barnes was ruled out of the showdown at the Etihad Stadium through concussion.

Centres Adam Ashley-Cooper and Christian Leali'ifano have been recovering from a shoulder injury and concussion respectively but are expected to be passed fit, enabling Australia to field their first choice midfield.

With Digby Ioane out for the remainder of the series because of a shoulder problem, Joe Tomane is favourite to join rugby league sensation Israel Folau on the wings.

Captain James Horwill escaped punishment for stamping on Alun-Wyn Jones last weekend, so the only area of debate in the pack is whether 110-Test veteran George Smith should be involved.

The 32-year-old breakdown specialist has spent the last five weeks sidelined by a knee injury and while he is unlikely to break up the back row of Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper and Wycliff Palu, he could displace Liam Gill from the bench.

Mowen was one of several Wallabies who covered himself in glory, despite the outcome of an epic match that is being talked of as one of the great Lions Tests.

The 28-year-old blindside flanker, who will be winning his second cap, insists Australia are determined to rescue the series.

"We were desperate last weekend but we're well aware that if we don't get the result on Saturday then it's gone," he said.

"That's a really disappointing thought and has given the guys huge motivation. It's all on the line."

A potential swing in momentum occurred within 12 eventful hours as the weekend came to a close after Horwill was controversially cleared of stamping and Lions lock Paul O'Connell was ruled out of the remainder of the series with a fractured arm.

"Paul was a huge general for the Lions. He's got massive respect from both teams," Mowen said.

"When you lose a player of that calibre it takes a massive effort to cover for him. He ran their line-out extremely well, making it difficult to get any defensive pressure on them.

"He's staying with the squad so I'm sure they'll draw on his experience right up until game day.

"It's a massive relief that we have James available. He's our captain and a huge leader in our pack, getting through an enormous amount of work.

"He gives the team direction so you always want to make sure a player of that calibre is on the pitch."

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