Adding injury to insult for Wallabies
The Wallabies insist their massive injury toll, with top prop Taniela Tupou now in possible danger of missing the World Cup, comes down to bad luck and the perils of a collision sport.
Tupou was stretchered off in the second half of their 10-13 loss to Ireland in Dublin with a suspected Achilles tendon injury.
Untouched, the burly prop fell to the ground clutching his leg as he attempted to cart the ball up.
If the tendon is ruptured Tupou faces a minimum nine-month recovery, putting his chances of playing in next year’s global showpiece in France in jeopardy.
He was one of five Australian casualties from another tight loss, with all set to be ruled out for the year-end tour-ending clash with Wales next weekend.
Hunter Paisami suffered medial ligament damage in the opening minutes, leaving Australia without a specialist inside centre for the Cardiff Test.
Outside back Andrew Kellaway (toe) and No.8 Rob Valetini (ankle) was forced off during the second half, while hooker Dave Porecki was concussed.
Scrumhalf Nic White also suffered a head knock, but surprisingly passed his HIA to return to the field.
“We’re still assessing things, but Bobby Valetini, syndesmosis, so he’s doubtful for next week,” Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said.
“Andrew Kellaway will definitely be out with a toe injury, Nela [Tupou] potentially an Achilles so he will be out, Porecki with another concussion so he will have to have a minimum of 12 days so he won’t be able to back up.
“Hunter [Paisami] has done his medial, so definitely those four plus probably Bobby.”
The Wallabies already had a long list of players sidelined with long-term injuries including first-choice playmaker Quade Cooper (Achilles) and star centre Samu Kerevi (knee).
Fullback Tom Banks, who broke his arm earlier this year, already returned home from the tour with an ankle injury as did Lalakai Foketi with a leg fracture.
But Rennie said it was part of playing a contact sport, plus some bad luck.
“Hunter got his leg caught under him – that’s footy,” the coach said.
“Porecki got a shoulder to the head, that’s bad luck, I’m not even sure how or what Kells [Kellaway] has done.
“It’s a collision sport and they’re collision injuries.”
Rennie said he would have to work through his squad to field a line-up for Wales, with lock Will Skelton and five-eighth Bernard Foley unavailable as the match falls outside the international window.
He said he would call on a number of players who took part in their historic loss to Italy.
“We’ll have to go into the depth of the squad again,” Rennie said.
“I can guarantee there will be guys itching for another opportunity after the Italy effort.”
Wallabies’ long-term injuries: Quade Cooper (Achilles), Samu Kerevi (knee), Matt Philip (knee), Angus Bell (toe), Rob Leota (Achilles), Izack Rodda (foot), Izzy Perese (knee), Lachie Swinton (shoulder), Tom Banks (ankle), Lalakai Foketi (leg).
* (Article continues below captain’s interview …)
The captain’s view
* Meanwhile Skipper James Slipper boldly declared the Wallabies are heading in the right direction, despite a third successive year-end tour loss that has put them in danger of finishing 2022 as the worst-performing Australian team in more than 60 years.
The Wallabies rebounded from a humiliating loss to Italy with a gritty showing in Dublin against world No.1 Ireland before ultimately falling 13-10.
The home side only hit the front in the 76th minute with replacement flyhalf Ross Byrne kicking his side ahead.
The Wallabies had the chance to tie up the match through a penalty kick a minute later, but opted to go after a try to win it.
The Australians kicked to the corner, only to concede a penalty themselves for a technical offence as they tried to maul the ball.
From four year-end Tests, three points is the biggest margin, beating Scotland by one point before losses to France and Italy also by a point.
With Wales still to come next weekend, the Wallabies have repeated their 2018 effort under then-coach Michael Cheika, when they also managed just four wins from 13 matches.
In 1958 they only managed two wins and a draw from 11 Tests which was historically their worst outcome in years where 10 or more Tests have been played.
But Slipper felt they were on the up ahead of the World Cup in France next year.
“In terms of where this group is heading, what we’ve faced, I’ve got a lot of confidence,” Slipper told reporters.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity and lost a lot of players, I could go through the list but at the end of the day, we haven’t got the results we wanted.
“As a captain at the moment, I’m happy with where we are heading.
“I’d love to be in a better spot so I’m understanding of that, but it sets up a big game for next week.”
Slipper backed coach Dave Rennie, whose future beyond the World Cup is in doubt with a dismal win strike rate of 36.4 percent.
“There’s so much trust in Dave. We’re the players out there in those big moments that we’re failing in,” the Test centurion said.
“We go into these games and we couldn’t be more prepared.”
The Wallabies’ discipline was a massive talking point after 16 penalties in their loss to Italy.
They conceded four early for “neck rolls”.
However, the penalty count ended at 12 apiece in Dublin.
Nic White was denied a third-minute try with hooker Dave Porecki pinged while replacement hooker Folau Fainga’a put the team under immense pressure when he was yellow-carded for the same offence.
With Porecki already off following a head knock, Folau’s foul play meant that, with no available hookers, the Wallabies were forced to play with 13 players and uncontested scrums for two minutes early in the second half.
The Wallabies kept the home side from crossing the line, with White and Bernard Foley tackling Australian-raised Ireland winger Mack Hansen into touch as he flung a pass in-field.
Rennie said they were “gutted” they didn’t take their opportunities against the top-ranked team.
“We had a fair bit of adversity and showed a huge amount of character but there’s frustration because we had opportunities,” he said.
“You’ve got to give credit to the Irish defence but I’m gutted for the boys.”
Some positives out of the match were the performance of rookie winger Mark Nawaqanitawase and flanker Michael Hooper, who was in vintage form.
Fullback Jordan Petaia, who replaced Hunter Paisami (knee), also produced his best showing of the year.