Veteran prop hopeful to return as young spearhead is ruled out for Wallabies crucial Rugby World Cup clash against Fiji that could secure a quarter finals berth
- James Slipper is hoping to return from foot injury
- Would be playing at his fourth Rugby World Cup
- Australia play Fiji for place in the the quarter finals on September 17
- Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results
The Wallabies have mixed news on the injury front with spearhead Taniela Tupou unlikely to face Fiji while fellow prop James Slipper appears set for his first appearance of the Rugby World Cup.
Tight-head Tupou suffered a minor hamstring strain at the team’s training base outside of Saint-Etienne and while he hasn’t been officially ruled out, they are unlikely to risk him despite the importance of the clash on Sunday (Monday AEST).
With Fiji losing their opening pool match against Wales, Australia are almost guaranteed a quarter-final berth with a victory.
Playing in his fourth World Cup, Slipper has been battling a foot injury but was running freely early in their session on Thursday.
It would be a big blow to lose Tupou, with the powerhouse prop leading the way up front in Australia’s tournament-opening victory over Georgia.
Star Wallabies prop James Slipper is hoping to return from a foot injury to play against Fiji at the Rugby World Cup
Australian spearhead Taniela Tupou is unlikely to play against Fiji with a minor hamstring strain set to rule him out
Pone Fa’amausili is starting to realise his potential and remains an option to play against Fiji for coach Eddie Jones
But the Wallabies will be relieved if 34-year-old Slipper, who can play both sides of the scrum, is able to suit up for his 132nd Test appearance.
Pone Fa’amausili, who has started to deliver on his giant-sized promise this year, is another option after overcoming a calf complaint.
‘Taniela has a minor injury but we are going to test him tomorrow and I hope he will be ready for the game against Fiji,’ said Wallabies lineout coach Pierre-Henry Broncan.
‘Slipper and Pone are back today and trained with the team no worries, so they’re available for selection.’
Backrower Rob Leota, who came off the bench in the 20-point win in Paris against Georgia said that the team had a ‘next man up’ mentality if players were ruled out.
‘There’s 33 in this team and and we know it’s out of our control when things like that happens so our prep can’t change,’ Leota said.
‘We’ve got to keep prepping like we’ve been doing the whole week against Fiji and we just back the next guy that comes up and if they take Nela’s (Tupou’s) spot we just give them the same confidence that we give Nela.’
Backrower Rob Leota said the playing group would be ready for Fiji no matter which members of the squad were named for the clash
Ben Donaldson was a shock selection at fullback against Georgia and the playmaker will retain his place against Fiji
Leota, who is at his first World Cup, said the experience of Slipper had been invaluable before their first outing at a full house at Stade de France.
‘Before that first game Slippy (Slipper) helped us, just giving us insight into what it was like the first time for him.
‘Just helping us with our nerves … it’s normal to have nerves and to hear that from someone like Slippy it just helps ease our nerves a lot knowing that one of our leaders is just like us.’
Coach Eddie Jones will name his team on Friday (5.30pm AEST), with sharp-shooter Ben Donaldson firming to again start at fullback ahead of Andrew Kellaway.
Veteran Nic White and rookie Issak Fines-Leleiwasa are vying to wear the No.9 jersey with first-choice halfback Tate McDermott sidelined after a head-knock.
With Fijian heritage Fines-Leleiwasa has a similar running style to McDermott and has impressed Broncan, who is a former halfback.
‘Nic has more experience and he can control the game perhaps more than Fines but Fines is a Fijian player,’ said Broncan, who coaches at France club Castres Olympique.
‘He’s an athletic player, very fast, he can carry very well and he’s a strong boy.’
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