x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Wallabies coach Deans wields axe

George Smith, who captained Australia in the 33-6 loss of their final Tri Nations match against New Zealand, paid a heavy price when he was dropped for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Tokyo.

George Smith, who captained Australia in the 33-6 loss of their final Tri Nations match against New Zealand, paid a heavy price when he was dropped for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Tokyo. The demotion of the 100-Test veteran to the bench, was one of five changes in the Wallabies starting side that was announced yesterday. James O'Connor, the teenage full-back, was also axed after an unimpressive show against the All Blacks at Wellington, allowing Adam Ashley-Cooper to revert to his usual position and make room for Ryan Cross in the centre. The wingers Digby Ioane and Peter Hynes joined the 15 in straight swaps for Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner. "Returning Adam to full-back helps with the balance of the side," the Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said. "It is not a slight on the performance of O'Connor at all. "He's already had a big year, which it must be remembered has been his first at this level. We're wary of over exposing James and will be looking to manage his involvements through this tour." Stirling Mortlock, who missed most of the Tri Nations with an injured leg, and Smith, who was deputising for him as captain in their last game, were both overlooked for leadership roles but were selected for the tour in Japan before consecutive Tests against England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The forward Rocky Elsom will captain Australia. The new vice- captain Berrick Barmes is expected to switch to No 10 with Matt Giteau at inside centre. The Wallabies managed just one win in six games in the Tri Nations and Barnes admitted they had deserved all the criticism directed their way and targeted the Tokyo game to right all wrongs. "So it's crucial for us to have a good result here," he said. "It will also send a message to the teams we are playing in the grand slam leg of the tour that we are fair dinkum. "Probably right now they are looking at us thinking they can knock us off, and that we are the easiest of the three southern hemisphere teams to beat. "What we have talked about the last three weeks is winning back some respect, not just in our part of the world, but also up north. This is a big stepping stone for us." Meanwhile, Luke McAlister is the only player unavailable for New Zealand for the match after suffering an ankle injury. The coach Graham Henry indicated the team, which he will name today, will be similar to the one that handed Wallabies a 33-6 defeat last month. "It will be a strong side on Saturday and similar to the side that played in Wellington," Henry said. "Everyone's available apart from Luke McAlister probably. He's still got that ankle injury. If we really pushed him he could be available but there's no point."

15-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14-Peter Hynes, 13-Ryan Cross, 12-Berrick Barnes, 11-Digby Ioane, 10-Matt Giteau, 9-Will Genia, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-David Pocock, 6-Rocky Elsom (captain), 5-Mark Chisholm, 4-James Horwill, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-Benn Robinson Replacements: 16-Stephen Moore, 17-Matt Dunning, 18-Dean Mumm, 19-George Smith, 20-Luke Burgess, 21-Drew Mitchell, 22-James O'Connor

* Agencies