Betham answers country's call as wing injuries mount

By David Barbeler, Jim Morton

Peter Betham is a surprise choice for Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images
Peter Betham is a surprise choice for Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images

Tackle-shedding Peter Betham, battling for a Super rugby contract 12 months ago, is set to be pitchforked into the Wallabies' backline against the All Blacks on Saturday.

Australia's growing wing crisis is expected to see Betham debut in the dead-rubber third Bledisloe in Dunedin after joining the Wallabies' 24-man squad on their flight to New Zealand yesterday morning.

At the start of the year, the Kiwi-born flyer was rated as the Waratahs' fourth-best winger at best.

But a strong Super rugby season, netting five tries, and a host of injuries to the country's best finishers has elevated him to a surprise test debut in Dunedin.

With both Joe Tomane and Chris Feauai-Sautia ruled out with hamstring problems on Tuesday, and Nick Cummins yet to recover from a broken hand, Betham was brought into the squad as the only fit specialist winger.

The wayward James O'Connor (suspended), France-bound Digby Ioane, Fiji-born Brumbies flyer Henry Speight (ineligible), Dom Shipperley (shoulder) and Rod Davies (knee) are also unavailable.

Australia's wing dramas had already forced coach Ewen McKenzie to move Adam Ashley-Cooper from his preferred position at outside centre for the last-start 54-17 win over Argentina.

McKenzie could move Israel Folau to the wing instead of Betham and elevate fellow Waratah Bernard Foley to fullback but that's unlikely after the All Blacks successfully limited Folau's wing opportunities in the 47-29 and 27-16 Bledisloe losses in August.

A 2006 Australian Schoolboys representative, Betham's meteoric rise comes after failed stints with the Brumbies, Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels from 2008 to 2011. The 24-year-old turned his career around with an eye-catching 2012 season with Tasman in the ITM Cup.

The Wallabies included another New Zealand-born back in their travel squad with radar-boot Mike Harris likely to be picked as a reserve.

- AAP

- NZ Herald

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