Midfield mystery

Australia's midfield men admit it is anybody's guess who will play in the centres against New Zealand. [more]

Midfield mystery

Australia’s midfield men admit it is anybody’s guess who will play in the centres against New Zealand.

The Wallabies lost Pat McCabe to a stress fracture of the lower leg earlier this week, making it even more unclear who will wear the No12 and 13 shirts for the start of the Rugby Championship on August 18.

With James O’Connor out injured and Berrick Barnes tipped to start at outside-half ahead of Quade Cooper, the make up of the Wallaby midfield remains a mystery.

The Lions’ next opponents have plenty of options in the form of Mike Harries, Ben Tapuai, Rob Horne, Anthony Fainga’a and Adam Ashley-Cooper but head coach Robbie Deans isn’t giving anything away, even as far as the players themselves are concerned.

"We've got half the backline here capable of playing at No12," said Ashley Cooper, who was selected in the Wallaby training squad as a full back or wing but who has also played for his country in the centre.

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"History shows that selections are a mystery, especially with Robbie. We won't know until the week leading into the game who is actually playing at 12.

"I approach any position the same – it's just a different number on your back. We've got a lot of versatility in this backline, which is great. Whoever steps up will do a great job."

Tapuai has struggled for game time at the Reds this season due to injury and the form of Harries and Fainga’a but the manner in which he contained Kiwi giant Sonny Bill Williams in the 2011 Super 15 Final could yet see him start in Sydney in two-and-half weeks’ time.

The young Queenslander played a pivotal role in preventing Williams from imposing his offloading game as the Reds saw off the Crusaders just over a year ago and, with Sonny Bill looking likely to start for the All Blacks given Conrad Smith’s nasty eye injury, he could fill a similar role for his country.

"We're just subbing in and out, everyone's getting the detail," added Tapuai.

"You never know, you could be playing 12, you could be playing 13.

"We're all different. Robbie is a hard man to please. You just don't know who he is going to pick.

"He (Williams) is a big man to stop. His key asset is his offload so the main thing in my head was to shut him down, two-man tackle him, because if he doesn't have his off-loads it's better for us.

"I'm guessing that will be our mindset against the All Blacks. He is big, athletic, and got a big fend, too. It's a good challenge for you if you're up against him."

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