Rugby: Mass midfield injuries could force Israel Folau into a positional switch

Israel Folau could be a surprise selection at second five eighth for the Wallabies against the All Blacks in Wellington this weekend. Photo / Photosport
Israel Folau could be a surprise selection at second five eighth for the Wallabies against the All Blacks in Wellington this weekend. Photo / Photosport

Israel Folau is a shock consideration for the Wallabies No.12 role this weekend in the second Bledisloe Cup match, such is the spate of injuries afflicting the team's midfield.

Matt Giteau's 103-Test career is seemingly finished after suffering syndesmosis in the eighth minute of the 42-8 hammering last Saturday to the All Blacks, while injuries to back-up options Rob Horne (dislocated shoulder, out for the remainder of The Rugby Championship) and Matt Toomua (concussion, unlikely to be available this weekend) have left Australia desperately short of secondary playmakers.

The leading candidate for the No.12 role this Saturday in Wellington is Samu Kerevi, who started there in the first two Tests against England in June, while uncapped rookie Reece Hodge is also in the frame, with Folau and Adam Ashley-Cooper left-field considerations.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika suggested he will keep Folau at fullback.

"I've always seen Israel as in the fullback role and that's been his main role and it's probably somewhere I'd like to see him keep playing," Cheika said.

But the coach has not completely ruled out a switch to either inside or outside centre.

Folau was Australia's only threatening ballrunner at ANZ Stadium and it's believed he would like to be closer to the action.

Kerevi was dropped for the third Test against England as Cheika opted for a secondary playmaker in Toomua, but he offers enough thrust to be the early favourite.

"We could go for two ball carriers as opposed to two playmakers as we did against England," Cheika said.

As for Giteau, the 33-year-old is likely to likely to be sidelined for up to two months.

"Matt's got a bit of a break in his leg, at the top of his leg I think and a bit of a fracture in his ankle, so he's done a pretty good job on his leg," Cheika said.

"He's disappointed but he's also very realistic.

"He's a pro, he still knows he's got to get himself right to get back to his club commitments (with Toulon) later in the season so that's what he will be doing."

Wallabies vice-captain Michael Hooper feels for Giteau, who sacrificed hundreds of thousands of dollars from his French club contract to have one final tilt at winning the Bledisloe Cup.

"It sucks for Matt and for the wider team," Hooper said.

"He's such a vibrant character with him and Drew (Mitchell) and the other guys who come back.

"For him to go out so early in the game is really tough to take, so it'll be disappointing not having him at full fitness."

Horne also faces surgery on his shoulder after it popped out trying to tackle Israel Dagg and is unlikely to be available until the spring tour.

Toomua was concussed after getting his head on the wrong side of an attempted tackle on Beauden Barrett.

"I would say [Toomua] will struggle to be available for this week after he took a pretty heavy head knock," Cheika said.

"We'll just go through the recovery protocols for the head knock and see how he stands."

- news.com.au

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