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Mad scramble Down Under

There is no doubt the Australian loose forward combination will have a very different look to it in 2012.

The main reason is that a few of last year’s regulars – namely Ben McCalman and Radike Samo – have dropped off the pace. Add to that Scott Higginbotham’s barnstorming performances for the Reds and it is obvious there will be a new No.8.

With the Reds’ openside star Liam Gill named to captain Australia at the IRB Junior (Under-20) World Championship, it means that Western Force star David Pocock will have an armchair ride into the national team.

On form Gill would have given him a serious run for his money, but the U20 tournament – taking place in South Africa – and the June internationals will overlap.

That leaves Brumbies youngster Michael Hooper  as the biggest threat to Pocock’s No.6 jersey.

Rocky Elsom had a monopoly on the blindside flank last year, before – in the final match of their World Cup campaign – Robbie Deans opted to play Higginbotham in the No.6 jersey.

If he does go that route, it will open the door for a recall by Wycliff Palu – which looks like the most dynamic Wallaby loose trio.

There is plenty of cover for the bench – Matt Hodgson, Richard Brown, Jake Schatz, Ben Mowen and even Samo.

The Wallaby loose forwards:

Starting:

8 Wycliff Palu:
He will be hoping to remain injury free, having missed large chunks of the previous two years. Still one of the most damaging ball-runners and defenders.

7 David Pocock:
He may have struggled in the unsettled environment that is the Western Force – who fired their coach mid-season – but once he steps back onto the Test stage he will be a real menace again.

6 Scott Higginbotham:
He has taken his game to new heights this year and has been one of the most consistent performers for the Reds. Despite standing at 1.95m and 110kg, he has the athleticism and natural skills of a back. In fact he was selected in the Australian Sevens side during the 2007-08 World Sevens Series.

Bench:

19 Rocky Elsom:
He is still a strong ball carrier and his experience will be invaluable off the bench.

20 Michael Hooper:
He would be the ideal back-up if Pocock was to break down.

By Jan de Koning

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