Australia to investigate ‘unprecedented’ injury crisis as they limp into final Wales test
Rugby Australia have said that they will launch a probe into their “unprecedented” injury crisis as they prepare for a final match of their season against Wales on Saturday without many key players.
Seven Wallabies players have now been ruled out of the Cardiff clash, with most-capped captain Michael Hooper failing a concussion test.
Tom Banks and centre Lalakai Foketi were ruled out earlier in the northern hemisphere tour, while other first-choice players including flyhalf Quade Cooper, Taniela Tupou and Samu Kerevi have also picked up injuries.
“It certainly has been unprecedented,” Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos said in comments published by the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday.
“The part for me that is puzzling, as much as it is concerning, is just the innocuous nature of some of these injuries. It has all come as a surprise.
“Four Achilles tendons in one season is quite alarming, so absolutely there is going to be a review.
“Rest assured, it is a concern to all of us.
“We have a World Cup looming and a big Super Rugby season starting up next year, we certainly want all of these guys back on their feet.”
The review will come as Australia have lost nine out of 13 tests this season, including a first-ever loss to Italy.
But they will meet a Welsh side themselves desperate for a win after losing to Georgia for the first time ever last Saturday.
Josh Macleod said that he believed Wales are ready for Australia’s challenge after some “very honest” conversations following the humiliating defeat against Georgia.
Wales will end the international year – one that has been scarred by home losses to Georgia and Italy – on Saturday by targeting a fourth successive victory over the Wallabies.
But the playing squad, head coach Wayne Pivac and his staff are under enormous pressure in the aftermath of a result that Wales skills specialist Neil Jenkins described as being among his country’s darkest days.
Macleod made his Test debut in the 13-12 loss, and he is again likely to be involved in Wales’ matchday 23 against Australia.
Pivac names his team on Thursday, with a possible recall for world record cap holder Alun Wyn Jones headlining that selection.
And number eight Taulupe Faletau is poised to make his 100th appearance for Wales and the British and Irish Lions as Pivac is set to to rely heavily on experience.
Six expected starters – Jones, Faletau, full-back Leigh Halfpenny, centre George North, hooker Ken Owens and captain Justin Tipuric – have 626 Wales caps between them.
Wales, though, have won just three games from 11 starts this year, and even success against an injury-hit Australia might not be enough for Pivac to survive.
But there is also a piercing spotlight on Welsh Rugby Union chiefs, who must decide whether a change of coach is the right response just 10 months out from a World Cup.
Wales debriefed the Georgia debacle on Monday, and Scarlets forward Macleod said: “They (conversations) were very honest.
“It was a good day and we got a lot out of it. I think we have wiped that slate clean and now we are really pushing hard for Australia.
“As a squad, we were massively frustrated and disappointed with the result as a whole, but as Toby (Faletau) mentioned after the game, we are going to stick as one – management, players and staff.
“We’ve put Georgia to bed and all the disappointment with that, and we will move forward to this week with a positive attitude.
“Naturally, everyone says there will be a reaction after a defeat like that. Come Saturday, I am sure whoever takes the field will be ready.”
Macleod’s first cap was the only feelgood story to emerge for Wales as Georgia took centre-stage in Cardiff.
He had been selected to start in Wales’ Six Nations appointment with Scotland last year, but ruptured his Achilles tendon during a training session four days before the game.
He also gained selection for Wales’ 2020 autumn squad, yet a hamstring injury ruled him out of that campaign.
“It has been a tough time since the last call-up. I was just glad to get that monkey off my back,” Macleod added.
“I changed my routine a bit – more recovery, a bit less weights – and I try to be out on the training park as much as I can because I find that builds a little bit of resilience to all these niggles and stuff.
“I have never struggled physically with getting myself back in shape from an injury and from a rehab perspective.
“I’ve had my fair share of bad luck in the past with injuries, but it has always been a one-off, then rehab and then you are back on the pitch.
“But those hits virtually together make you feel a little bit separated from the boys because you are constantly rehabbing and you are never on the training pitch.
“Mentally, that was the hardest part for me, but thankfully we are over that now.”
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