All Blacks: Strike on McCaw costs place in tour team

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was kneed and headbutted by Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham during the Bledisloe Cup. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was kneed and headbutted by Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham during the Bledisloe Cup. Photo / Getty Images

Scott Higginbotham's attack on All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has cost him his place on the Wallabies' European tour.

Serving a two-match suspension, the fiery Queensland flanker was omitted from the 30-man squad yesterday, while fellow flanker David Pocock makes his return from injury, along with fellow stalwarts Stephen Moore, Berrick Barnes and Digby Ioane.

Veteran Nathan Sharpe has retained the captaincy in a squad which features just one uncapped player in NSW prop Paddy Ryan.

Australia play tests against France, England, Italy and Wales with the first test at Stade de France in Paris on November 10.

Higginbotham was banned for kneeing and headbutting McCaw in last Saturday's 18-18 Bledisloe Cup test draw in Brisbane.

The suspension meant Higginbotham would have to miss the first two tests, against France and England, and Radike Samo appears to have taken his place.

With No 8 Wycliff Palu having only recently returned from injury, and Pocock in the same position, coach Robbie Deans said the Wallabies couldn't carry a loose forward who was unavailable for the first two tests. "Scott was aware once he was suspended that this was a possibility."

Higginbotham will be on standby to join the tour should there be any injuries.

The squad features an 18-forward, 12-back split, with five props selected to cater for the new arrangements regarding front-row substitutes, which require two props to be included on an eight-man test reserves' bench. Deans is confident Pocock (knee) and Moore (hamstring) will hit the ground running on the tour.

"As well as being proven test performers with valuable experience in the conditions that we will face on this tour, both also provide a significant leadership element which will add to what is still a relatively young group," Deans said.

Barnes returns after recovering from a lung injury suffered against South Africa at Pretoria last month, while Sekope Kepu and Sitaleki Timani are also included after the injuries they received against the All Blacks proved less significant than initially feared.

Wallabies squad

Forwards: Benn Robinson, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Ben Alexander, Paddy Ryan, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Stephen Moore, James Hanson, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Sitaleki Timani, Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons, Dave Dennis, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Liam Gill, Wycliff Palu, Radike Samo.

Backs: Nick Phipps, Brett Sheehan, Kurtley Beale, Berrick Barnes, Pat McCabe, Anthony Faingaa, Ben Tapuai, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Digby Ioane, Nick Cummins, Drew Mitchell, Mike Harris.


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