x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pressure on O'Connor as Australia fight to stay alive

Australia have been readying themselves for an overhead bombardment from South Africa in today's Tri-Nations Test at the Subiaco Oval in Perth.

Australia have been readying themselves for an overhead bombardment from South Africa in today's Tri-Nations Test at the Subiaco Oval in Perth. Regular fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper will replace the Wallabies two first-choice centres, Stirling Mortlock and Berrick Barnes after they were both ruled out through injury.

With the Wallabies languishing at the bottom of the table with three defeats from as many games, fullback James O'Connor has been working hard to improve his catching skills, ahead of a game expected to be characterised by up-and-unders from the South African kickers. After being dominated in the line-outs during their last clash with the Springboks in Cape Town earlier this month, Australia's backrowers have been practicing ways to upset South Africa's imposing line-out jumpers who dominated each throw-in during their last meeting.

While the pressure will be on O'Connor, Ashley-Cooper is confident the young fullback will have no problem filling his shoes. "O'Connor is a great little talent and he's looking forward to the challenge," he said. "He's got two great wingers alongside him that are going to help fight that battle. He's in front of his home crowd and he's very comfortable with it." The Australian backrow has also been reshuffled after Nathan Sharpe's shoulder injury consigned him to the stands.

Mark Chisholm will reclaim a place in the starting XV for the home side after recovering from injuries, while Elsom will move to the front of the line-out to avoid a repeat of the problems that plagued the Australians in Cape Town. "There's always a lot of pressure, particularly in these matches because you are playing the best sides in the world," said the Australia blindside flanker Rocky Elsom. "If you don't perform you might lose but also it could get embarrassing."

* With agencies Australia v South Africa, KO 2,05pm, Showsports 3