Australia without Lealiifano

2013-10-15 10:43
Christian Lealiifano (Gallo)
Sydney - Australia centre Christian Lealiifano will miss this weekend's Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand because of an ankle injury in a big blow to the Wallabies' chances of upsetting the world champions.

Lealiifano has played all nine matches this year since making his Test debut against the British and Irish Lions in June and his assured place-kicking could be a major loss with points likely to be at a premium for the Wallabies on Saturday.

"New Zealand in their own back yard is a tough proposition, it doesn't matter when it is, but it's also a great challenge and we're looking forward to it," coach Ewen McKenzie told a news conference on Monday.

"They've got some very strong bits and pieces to their game but we have an idea of how we want to go about it. We'll have a couple of changes now (flank Scott) Fardy's out and Lealiifano won't make the game either."

Lealiifano was to be seen climbing one of Sydney's many steep hills soon after the news conference and said that although his right ankle was sore, he was certain he would be available to face England at Twickenham on November 2.

His absence increases the likelihood of flyhalf Quade Cooper starting a match against New Zealand for the first time this year.

Matt Toomua started at flyhalf in both defeats to the All Blacks with which Australia started the Rugby Championship but McKenzie said the 23-year-old was a "definite possibility" to replace Lealiifano at inside centre.

Cooper, dubbed public enemy No 1 in New Zealand during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, has started the last four matches in the number 10 shirt and had his best Test for a couple of years in the 54-17 victory over Argentina inRosario earlier this month.

McKenzie, while clearly reluctant to talk too much about the mercurial 25-year-old playmaker, said he was confident Cooper would produce the goods if selected.

"Taking the line on is not a problem, Quade's tackling is 78 percent now. Quade, if he's in the team, he will do what we ask him to do," he said.

"A lot of this is just a creation of the media, he just gets on with playing."

Without Lealiifano in the side, Cooper and Toomua are the most likely to take on the kicking duties if there is no place in the team for Reds centre Mike Harris.

Two other regular place-kickers for Australia, fullback Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor, are missing for injury and disciplinary reasons respectively.

The defeats in the Rugby Championship Tests mean the All Blacks are assured of retaining the Bledisloe Cup this year but a first victory over their trans-Tasman Sea rivals in New Zealand since 2001 would be a huge boost to the Wallabies.

"It's a big opportunity for us to take on a very good All Blacks team who have not lost a Test this year," said captain James Horwill.

"Nobody expected us to win in Rosario either, that's just the space we're in. We're hoping to get the result and that's what we're working for."

Read more on:    wallabies  |  christian lealiifano  |  rugby

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