The Wallabies are optimistic the enforced exclusion of Nathan Sharpe may adversely effect Victor Matfield’s lineout preparations.
Sharpe is held in high regard by the Bok camp, especially Matfield, come lineout time. The Bok No 5 has dominated this set-piece throughout the Tri-Nations, but Wallabies coach Robbie Deans believes employing Mark Chisholm or Dean Mumm in Sharpe’s place could be a blessing in disguise.
‘Nathan has been an integral part of the lineout for a long time, but all the other blokes are well versed and have a background in calling lineouts,’ said Deans. ‘It might be an advantage in that Victor is a great reader of body language and he analyses lineouts. He’ll have less to work off.’
Sharpe is not the only player ruled out, with Berrick Barnes also withdrawing, while Rocky Elsom and James O’Connor are still in doubt. Deans, continuing with his positive rhetoric, said he doesn’t feel it will hamper the Wallabies.
‘We’ve got blokes who have been working with us for a while, so it shouldn’t be that significant,’ he said optimistically.
Barnes’s place is likely to be taken by Adam Ashley-Cooper, who will move from outside to inside centre, while if O’Connor is injured, Drew Mitchell could revert to fullback. If O’Connor resumes at fullback, Peter Hynes could replace Lachie Turner or Mitchell.
Deans was confident Ashley-Cooper – who has played No 15, wing and both centres this season – has the organisational skills to move into the No 12 jersey.
‘There are not too many who can specialise in those four different roles,’ said Deans. ‘He can. If that’s the way we opt to go, I have no qualms about it because he has already shown he is up for that.’