Ban leaves Deans with difficulties

Australia will face France and England without Scott Higginbotham after the Reds back rower picked up a two-game ban. [more]

Ban leaves Deans with difficulties

Australia will face France and England without Scott Higginbotham after the Reds back rower picked up a two-game ban.

The 26-year-old is suspended for the November 10 encounter against the French and the following week’s trip to Twickenham for two counts of striking.

Higginbotham pleaded guilty to separate counts of kneeing and headbutting Richie McCaw in the Wallabies’ 18-18 draw with the All Blacks on Saturday.

New Zealand boss Steve Hansen described Higginbotham’s blows as a ‘cheap shot’ as he reacted to McCaw’s entry at a 26th-minute ruck in Brisbane.

Higginbotham has decided not to appeal the length of the ban after both incidents were considered to be ‘low entry level offences’.

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The two-game punishment means he could still play a part on the Wallabies’ end-of-year tour as he will be free to feature against Italy on November 24 and Wales on December 1.

However, head coach Robbie Deans now has to decide whether it is worth taking a player who will be unavailable for 50 per cent of the fixtures, especially as he may yet pick fellow back rower David Pocock even though the star openside won’t be fit to face France.

But despite the unwelcome suspension, leaving Higginbotham at home would be a big call by Deans given the role the new Rebels signing has played for his country this year.

Higginbotham started all four summer Tests against Scotland and Wales and the first two Rugby Championship fixtures against the All Blacks.

He was on the bench for three of the four remaining tournament fixtures after a back injury ruled him out of the defeat in South Africa and Deans then recalled him to the starting lineup for Saturday’s trans-Tasman clash at the Suncorp Stadium.

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