AT LEAST nine Wallabies are facing the task of playing two matches in four days at venues thousands of kilometres apart to start their northern hemisphere grand slam tour.While the Wallabies will shortly select different starting XVs for the opening tour match against the All Blacks in Tokyo on October 31, and then a midweek game against Gloucester in England on November 3, some players may have to play twice.As the Wallabies are taking away 35 players, two of the starting Test players in Tokyo will have to sit on the bench in Gloucester, while the full bench contingent of seven players used in the Bledisloe Cup will be required to start in the midweeker. And more personnel will be needed if there are any injuries in Japan.As there is a 13-hour flight to London, and then a 2½-hour bus trip from London to Gloucester, it will require precise planning to ensure the two Australian sides do not lose their bearings.Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says he wants to separate the squad into two distinct starting XVs, and plans to have them repeatedly oppose each other at training during the tour, including in Tokyo before the Bledisloe Cup Test. It is only during that session that the separate starting sides will be revealed.”We’ll train the two teams at the same time, which will be a good thing,” Deans said yesterday. ”We do want two starting XVs which are distinct, and ideally we don’t want someone starting on Tuesday against Gloucester who had also started in the Tokyo Test.”Having two distinct starting XVs will be good for preparation, because it will see that the training sessions have genuine meaning. It will be good for the whole group, even if there is going to be some logistical challenges.”It will also ensure the back-up players never lose interest over a five-week tour, which in the past has often only involved Saturday Test matches. This led to the some fringe players becoming mere spectators for weeks on end.Deans hopes to use the Gloucester match to trial some of the newer members of the squad to get an idea of who is ready to step up.”It’s not like the old midweek fixtures, when you were just playing the club side, Gloucester,” Deans said. ”Now they are an international side; so they will be formidable opponents. It will be a good, torrid workout, because those blokes don’t get the chance to play against international sides that often. It will be a real education for them.”Deans has yet to decide whether he will make dramatic changes for the Bledisloe Cup match, after the All Blacks swamped the Wallabies 33-6 in Wellington. That dreadful performance prompted Deans to accuse the group of lacking pride in the jersey.”We haven’t finalised that group actually, so I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you who played last time … it was that long ago,” Deans said with a laugh.However, some tinkering is anticipated. Digby Ioane, who missed the bulk of the season due to injury, is in contention for a wing spot, while former skipper Stirling Mortlock will be under consideration for a midfield spot. If Mortlock returns to outside-centre, Adam Ashley-Cooper is likely to move to fullback, although Lachie Turner is also in contention for the No.15 jersey.While the tight five is expected to be retained for the clash with the All Blacks, the make-up of the back row could be changed, because of uncertainty over whether veteran George Smith will remain at No.8.Wycliff Palu and Richard Brown are hovering, which could mean Smith moves to his more favoured openside flanker position. The only two certain selections are the new captain Rocky Elsom at blindside flanker, and his deputy Berrick Barnes, who could play at five-eighth, with Matt Giteau shuffled to inside-centre.
Nanjing Night Net

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