New Zealand are bracing themselves for an onslaught from Australia in the final showdown of the year in Tokyo despite the Wallabies losing one of their key playmakers.
Wallabies keep chin up after Barnes' injury
New Zealand are bracing themselves for an onslaught from Australia in the final showdown of the year in Tokyo today despite the Wallabies losing one of their key playmakers. Berrick Barnes, the inside-centre and new vice captain, was ruled out of the match at the National Stadium after rolling an ankle in training. While tests revealed no break, the injury could yet force the 23-year-old out of the tour of Britain and Ireland. Barnes' absence has forced Robbie Deans into a reshuffle of his back line.
Adam Ashley-Cooper will now slot in at 12 to partner Ryan Cross in the midfield. James O'Connor, who produced an unconvincing performance in Wellington, gets a recall at full-back. The loss of Barnes means fly-half Matt Giteau will have to shoulder the full burden of directing a team who are desperate to stop the rot against the All Blacks. Since Deans took over last year they have managed just one win against New Zealand - his first game in charge against the trans-Tasman foe - and lost the past six, including the 33-6 defeat in the New Zealand capital last month.
Digby Ioan, the winger, was confident Australia could overcome the disruption of losing Barnes. "It is a big loss because he is the go-to man, along with Matt Giteau. They can mix it up and change between five-eighth (fly-half) and 12," he said. "But Coops is dangerous on the ball. He's more of a go-forward man. He can break the line and stuff whereas Barnesy's more of a ball player, a smart player."
* PA Sport