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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Eddie Jones sceptical of David Pocock's injury ahead of Wallabies Test

'I hear this every time we play Australia – Pocock's not going to be fit – so when I heard it I thought: 'Here we go again.''

Australia's David Pocock is still a fitness doubt for the Test match against England. Reuters
Australia's David Pocock is still a fitness doubt for the Test match against England. Reuters

England coach Eddie Jones reckons the talk of Australia's David Pocock being in doubt for Saturday's Test is just predictable mind games from the Wallabies camp and fully expects the loose forward to play at Twickenham.

Pocock was forced off the field in the second half of the win over Italy last weekend with a sore neck, an injury he first picked up in the second Bledisloe Cup loss to New Zealand this year.

Australian scrum-half Will Genia suggested his 30-year-old teammate may struggle to make the seven-day turnaround but Jones felt it was a deliberate ploy from his old Randwick clubmate Michael Cheika to keep England guessing.

"We're not even thinking about it," Jones said. "I hear this every time we play Australia – Pocock's not going to be fit – so when I heard it I thought: 'Here we go again.'

"You know those merry-go-rounds? It's a bit like that."

An openside flanker who plays largely at No 8 to accommodate Michael Hooper in the back row, Pocock is one of the best "poachers" of the ball in world rugby and comes under a lot of attention from opposing forwards at the breakdown.

Pete Samu could come into the back row if Pocock was unable to play and said his Wallabies teammate had definitely been unable to train because of the injury.

England coach Eddie Jones says he is not focused on David Pocock's fitness situation. Getty Images
England coach Eddie Jones says he is not focused on David Pocock's fitness situation. Getty Images

"Yeah well [Jones] probably thinks it's mind games from us, but if he's not right, he's not right," he said. "He was out of training yesterday, so we'll give him every opportunity to be right this week, and go from there."

Australia have also had to contend with a stomach bug sweeping through the camp, infecting full-back Israel Folau and fly-half Bernard Foley among others.

"It's not ideal," defence coach Nathan Grey said on Tuesday. "But it's part of footy, so just got to get on with it and those guys, no one's going to die."

Jones himself threw a curveball in Australia's direction this week when he retained powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi in his 26-man squad, just a day after rating the prospects of the Leicester Tigers centre being involved as "very doubtful".

Tuilagi was due to make his first international appearance since 2016 in the opening November international against South Africa only to be withdrawn from the bench due to a groin strain.

Scotland player Finn Russell will shift to inside centre to allow his former Glasgow teammate Hastings to start at fly-half. Getty Images
Scotland player Finn Russell will shift to inside centre to allow his former Glasgow teammate Hastings to start at fly-half. Getty Images

Scotland make eight changes

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has made eight changes to his starting line-up for Saturday's final autumn Test against Argentina, experimenting with Finn Russell and Adam Hastings as dual playmakers.

Racing 92's star No 10 Russell will shift to inside centre to allow his former Glasgow teammate Hastings to start at fly-half.

A new front row of Allan Dell, Fraser Brown and Simon Berghan start, while lock Grant Gilchrist is joined in a new-look pack by flanker Jamie Ritchie and No 8 Josh Strauss.

In the backs, Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn is also given a run-out against the Pumas on the right wing.

Scotland, who lost to South Africa last week, will be looking to repeat their record 44-15 trouncing of Argentina in Resistencia during the summer but Townsend is warning the visitors will be a tough proposition.

"While it was a great effort from the players to win in Argentina last summer, we are under no illusions as to how different a prospect their team will be on Saturday," Townsend said.

"Under Mario Ledesma, Argentina delivered some outstanding performances and they were hugely impressive in their victories over South Africa and Australia in the recent Rugby Championship.

"I'm sure that they will throw everything at us to end their international season on a high note."

Wales will be without Leigh Halfpenny against South Africa at the Millennium Stadium. Reuters
Wales will be without Leigh Halfpenny against South Africa at the Millennium Stadium. Reuters

Wales without Halfpenny

Wales will be without experienced full-back Leigh Halfpenny for Saturday's final November international against South Africa at the Millennium Stadium, but have been boosted by the return of wing George North.

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said that Halfpenny would be rested for the clash against the physical Springboks after complaining of feeling light-headed in training over the weekend.

He had been suffering from concussion after a tackle from Australia's Samu Kerevi in Wales' narrow 9-6 victory earlier this month.

"Leigh is out. He did some training on Saturday morning and was feeling a little bit light-headed. It's only common sense," Howley said on Tuesday.

"From a back three perspective, it gives us an opportunity to look at others. Liam Williams has played at full-back, Gareth Anscombe has stepped up there and Hallam Amos has played there."

Amos has been added to the squad after last playing for the side against Argentina in June.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland will likely play Anscombe in the full-back position, and select Williams and the returning North on the wing, leaving Dan Biggar to stay in the No 10 jersey.

North returned to training on Tuesday after missing the 74-24 victory over Tonga on Saturday with a bruised leg.

Wales are seeking a clean-sweep of their November international series after also defeating Scotland 21-10 in their opener and have won their last eight Tests in a row.