Suck it up, McKenzie tells Dublin Six

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has demanded his banished players suck up their disappointment as Australia prepare for one of their “greatest challenges” at Murrayfield.


Bans to the ‘Dublin Six’, combined with a tour-ending injury to Matt Toomua and suspension to Tevita Kuridrani, will see the Wallabies sport a patched-up backline against Scotland at the end of a tumultuous week.

They will miss the entire three-quarter division that starred in the 32-15 win over Ireland, forcing McKenzie to manufacture playmaker Christian Leali’ifano into an outside centre.

Leali’ifano, normally a No.12, has been selected to partner Kiwi-born Mike Harris in a makeshift midfield combination while rookie Chris Feauai-Sautia will make his run-on debut on one wing and Joe Tomane on the other.

The changes and the drama surrounding the decision to stand down six players and warn nine others for their late-night drinking session in Dublin means Sunday morning’s (AEDT) encounter looms as a pivotal moment in McKenzie’s reign.

“It will be one of our greatest challenges, given we have a bunch of changes,” he said.

“The guys are going to be hungry for different reasons, so if you don’t get the best out of them now I don’t know when you will.

“This is a test of character for everyone, for all of us, the coaches, the whole lot. It will be an important moment.”

The fallout of the team sanctions – which has been criticised by the Rugby Union Players Association – has rubbed extra salt into the wounds of banned players.

But McKenzie has told disappointed players – Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Liam Gill and Paddy Ryan – to get back on the horse.

“I’m sure plenty of guys will wish they could have their time again, but that’s the spent arrow, it’s gone,” he said. “Nothing’s going to change so we have to suck it up and get going.

“What we can change is how we function as a group so we’ll pulled together. You circle the wagons and get on with it.”

McKenzie admitted he briefly considered calling in France-based forwards Peter Kimlin and Dan Palmer to bolster his squad but their lack of recent match experience stopped him.

It’s out wide where the Wallabies are most struggling for troops but the coach ruled Digby Ioane and Drew Mitchell, also playing in France, as ineligible because they chose to head overseas when they were still wanted, unlike Brumbies duo Kimlin and Palmer.

The threadbare depth left in the backline stocks is shown by third-string halfback Nick Phipps selection on the bench as a back-up winger.

Toomua’s hamstring strain couldn’t have been more untimely, especially with Kuridrani slugged with a five-week suspension for his tip tackle on Irish flanker Peter O’Mahony.

McKenzie felt Kuridrani was harshly treated, hinting at inconsistencies within sentencing from previous cases, but was also cautious about rushing into an appeal.

Wallabies: Israel Folau, Joe Tomane, Christian Leali’ifano, Mike Harris, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben Mowen (capt), Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Res: Saia Faingaa, Ben Alexander, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Ben McCalman, Nic White, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley.

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