Rugby: Wallabies set to ring the changes

Adam Ashley-Cooper at training in Christchurch. Photo / Getty Images
Adam Ashley-Cooper at training in Christchurch. Photo / Getty Images

"We're still in consultations as to how we apply our programme. In our decisions this week, you'll get an insight into our thinking."

A throwback to the John Mitchell era? No it's his former All Blacks assistant coach Robbie Deans outlining - in typically quirky fashion - the significance of tomorrow's Wallabies' team naming.

Australian mentor Deans may be honing a reputation for his offbeat press conference utterings but it is his coaching skill and, before that, his selection nous that are crucial this week as he plots how to turn around last weekend's 21-point hiding from the All Blacks.

Changes are a certainty when Deans names his side tomorrow for the second Bledisloe Cup test in Christchurch on Saturday.

A backline shuffle looms, particularly after centre Rob Horne was forced out by his season-ending elbow injury.

Training combinations at Deans' old school, Christ's College, this week suggest the stocky Adam Ashley-Cooper will shift from fullback to wear No 13 although his midfield partner is less clear-cut.

Queensland youngster Anthony Faingaa may well replace Berrick Barnes at second five-eighth after the latter endured a subdued night in the 49-28 loss at Melbourne.

Waratahs fullback Kurtley Beale seems set to be injected at 15 rather than shifting winger James O'Connor to the custodian role.

It would be a starting debut for Faingaa, as it would be for his Queensland teammate and lock Rob Simmons, 21, who has taken a heavy part in training after impressing off the bench at Melbourne.

Deans remains hampered by the non-availability of at least seven key players - backs Horne, Digby Ioane and Quade Cooper and forwards Wycliff Palu, James Horwill, Ben Alexander and Tatafu Polota-Nau.

Meanwhile, Wallabies great John Eales this week said a change of tactics would be as important as personnel switches if they are to end an eight-test losing streak against New Zealand.

The double-World Cup winning lock noted the All Blacks didn't commit great numbers to the breakdown at Melbourne.

"A pick and drive game through the middle will find gaps and the required reinforcements will create more space out wide," Eales told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"In his playing days this skill was a speciality of assistant coach Jim Williams - hopefully some of his style may transfer.

"Revision may also reveal the need for more kicking, not in a random way but in a way that challenges the All Blacks and allows the Wallabies to get in behind their wall of defence.

"I know this will be a long week. It mightn't be fun but it will be reveal character within the team - which is important, as character will get the Wallabies out of this situation."

Possible team:

Kurtley Beale; James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Anthony Faingaa, Drew Mitchell; Matt Giteau, Will Genia; Richard Brown, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom (captain), Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Salesi Ma'afu, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson.

- NZPA

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