Wallabies drop Giteau after Samoa shambles

MATT GITEAU’S chances of playing in a third Rugby World Cup have suffered a major blow after he was left out of Australia’s squad for Saturday’s Tri Nations opener against South Africa in Sydney.

The 92-Test veteran is the major casualty from Sunday’s embarrassing 32-23 loss to Samoa after coach Robbie Deans wielded the axe at yesterday’s team announcement.

While most of the seven changes to the starting line-up were expected given that Deans rested several of his Queensland stars last week, Giteau’s omission from the 22-man squad is a surprise. Brumbies utility back Pat McCabe has been retained at inside-centre and is joined by star halves Will Genia and Quade Cooper, while full-back Kurtley Beale and wing James O’Connor also return.

There are three changes to the forward pack, with Reds locks James Horwill and Rob Simmons forcing Nathan Sharpe to the bench, while openside flanker David Pocock returns from a foot injury.

Deans said the ability of both Beale and O’Connor to cover the playmaking role meant the Giteau’s services were not required.

Asked if Giteau still has a role to play in the side for the remainder of the Tri Nations campaign and looking ahead to the World Cup in September-October, a coy Deans replied: “Well Gits is part of the (Tri Nations) squad so he has a big part to play. We prepare as one and next week’s another week. You can look at anyone and make assumptions but like I’ve said many times, we’re presuming nothing going forward.”

Meanwhile, the coach confirmed prop Benn Robinson has opted against having the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee repaired in a desperate bid to return in time for the World Cup.

“Robbo isn’t going to proceed with his operation, his knee is remarkably stable for an ACL injury...so he’s opted to give it a go and attempt to play without an ACL,” Deans said.

Elsewhere, South Africa are set to start three debutants. Props Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger will join loose forward Ashley Johnson in making their first appearance in Springboks colours after coach Peter De Villiers named his squad yesterday.

Uncapped scrum-half Charl McLeod will also start on the bench as De Villiers has been forced to test the depth of his squad following a worrying run of injuries ahead of the World Cup.

John Smit will lead the side with Greyling and Kruger either side of him in a forward pack that is also without experienced second row pair Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield due to injury. Lock Flip van der Merwe will therefore get his chance alongside Ulster’s Johann Muller. The Springboks’ backline features joint Super Rugby top try scorer Bjorn Basson with Lwazi Mvovo no the other wing. Experienced half-backs Ruan Pienaar and Morne Steyn will pull the strings.

AUSTRALIA: K Beale; J O’Connor, A Ashley-Cooper, P McCabe, D Ioane; Q Cooper, W Genia; S Kepu, S Moore, B Alexander, R Simmons, J Horwill, R Elsom, D Pocock, B McCalman.

Replacements: S Fainga’a, P Cowan, N Sharpe, M Hodgson, S Higginbotham, N Phipps, A Fainga’a.

SOUTH AFRICA: G Aplon; B Basson, J de Jongh, W Olivier, L Mvovo, M Steyn, R Pienaar; A Johnson, D Rossouw, D Stegmann, J Muller, F van der Merwe, W Kruger, J Smit, D Greyling.

Replacements: C Ralepelle, CJ van der Linde, A Hargreaves, J Deysel, C McLeod, A Jacobs, P Lambie.

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