Australia will give full-back Kurtley Beale every chance to prove his fitness for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
Beale is recovering from a left hamstring strain that has twice forced him off the field during the tournament, most recently in Australia’s quarter-final victory over South Africa.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has named Beale in his provisional starting line-up but he has also outlined a contingency plan that would see Adam Ashley-Cooper switch to full-back and Anthony Fainga’a start at outside centre.
“We will leave it as long as we can before making a decision,” Deans said.
“It will be tough on Kurtley if he has to miss this one, but we will take no chances. If he can’t play, he will contribute off the field as he always does.
“Adam and Ant are both good men. They will do a more than capable job in Kurtley’s absence.”
Pat McCabe has recovered quickly from a shoulder injury and will start at inside centre in a Wallabies team that will be unchanged from the quarter-final, if Beale is fit.
The one confirmed change on the bench is the inclusion of abrasive Queensland Reds lock Rob Simmons ahead of Nathan Sharpe, who will have to wait for his 100th Test cap.
Australia’s last win against New Zealand at Eden Park was in 1986 – the year before Rugby World Cup began.
The All Blacks have not lost at the ground to anyone for 17 years – but Deans said: “The circumstances this weekend are unique.
“It’s a tough place to play, and those are impressive numbers for sure, but they don’t matter once Sunday night’s match kicks off.
“Rugby World Cup elimination matches are stand alone contests, distinct from any other that are played in the international game.
“The pressure is divided equally on both sides as there is no tomorrow, and the ultimate prize [a place in the Rugby World Cup final] awaits the side which earns that right of passage.”
Australia team to play New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-final, at Eden Park, Auckland on Sunday (kick-off: 9.00am BST):
K Beale (NSW Waratahs) or A Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies); J O’Connor (Western Force), A Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies) or A Fainga’a (Queensland Reds), P McCabe (Brumbies), D Ioane (Queensland Reds); Q Cooper (Queensland Reds), W Genia (Queensland Reds); S Kepu (NSW Waratahs), S Moore (Brumbies), B Alexander (Brumbies), D Vickerman (NSW Waratahs), J Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain), R Elsom (Brumbies), D Pocock (Western Force), R Samo (Queensland Reds).
Replacements: T Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs), J Slipper (Queensland Reds), R Simmons (Queensland Reds), B McCalman (Western Force), L Burgess (NSW Waratahs), B Barnes (NSW Waratahs), A Fainga’a (Queensland Reds) or R Horne (NSW Waratahs).