Rugby

Wallabies forced into hooker change

Australia’s dreams of winning back-to-back Rugby Championships against Argentina have been dashed, with hooker Folau Fainga’a the latest fatality.

After experiencing concussion symptoms after a Thursday training session, Fainga’a was ruled out on the eve of the San Juan Test on Sunday AM (AEST).

It’s a huge setback for Fainga’a, who had his greatest Test performance in last week’s 41-26 victory in Mendoza.

Dave Porecki (concussion), Michael Hooper (mental health), Quade Cooper (Achilles), Hunter Paisami (concussion), and Allan Ala’alatoa (family bereavement) have already been ruled out of the tour.

Lachlan Lonergan will make his maiden Test appearance, while 20-year-old hooker Billy Pollard, a late call-up to Argentina following Porecki’s injury, is set to make his international debut.

Pollard has only played eight Super Rugby games, but he earned crucial experience last month with Australia A in the Pacific Cup.

Australia now has two reserve debutants in Pollard and Pone Fa’amausili, while fellow front-rower Matt Gibbon only played a few minutes of Test rugby off the bench in the first Test.

With the Pumas praising their set-piece, the late alteration to the front row will boost prospects of a home triumph.

However, stand-in skipper James Slipper expressed trust in both Lonergan and Pollard.

At their final practice, Slipper remarked, “Lonners (Lonergan) has been playing extremely well this year and it is another fantastic opportunity for him.”

I’m quite interested to watch how he performs, the admirer stated. It’s his first game for the Wallabies, and you know that while ‘Noss’ appears to be calm, he actually sprints at full speed when he’s on the field.

With Pollard’s hasty journey to Argentina, he quipped that he didn’t have his own footwear.

“Billy definitely arrived late, and he has been using my scrum boots all week, so I’m not sure whether he has his own footwear.

Youth brings with it an excitement, and I believe both of them will contribute significantly. He is a clever young guy who is really joyful, and his excitement is contagious.

Slipper claimed the shift from Super Rugby to the Test stage will help the two players feel at ease, with former Brumbies coach Dan McKellar now leading the Wallabies.

Slipper said, “It’s not really brand new to the players coming in.”The fact that Dan is here and is their coach is a huge advantage for them since there isn’t much detail uptake to do and they are comfortable with what they need to know.

“They are quite comfy. They don’t seem scared at all, but we’ll have to wait till tomorrow.”

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