Australia yesterday lost Michael Hooper, one of their two star opensides, for Saturday’s Pool A encounter with Wales in London, but blindside flanker Scott Fardy doesn’t give the impression of a guy who will lose sleep over the news.
Hooper fell foul of the citing commissioner during the Wallabies’ sensational defeat of England last weekend when he charged into Mike Brown at a ruck without making proper use of his arms. He was lucky to escape with just the one-week ban, instead of two. His admittance of guilt stood to him, it turns out, which means he will be available for the quarter-final – likely to be against South Africa or Scotland – a week later.
The development leaves Fardy and David Pocock auditioning for a new face in their back row.
Wycliff Palu’s tournament had already been ended by injury and, with his place being taken by lock Sam Carter, which leaves Ben McAlman as the man most likely to benefit. But Fardy insist Australia have the players to cover any eventuality.
“The system revolves around any guy coming in there and being able to do it well,” said the blindside. “We know looking at our squad that there is a lot of depth in there in all different areas so we are confident what we can get out of every man in this 31-man squad.”
Fardy is the drummer in the back row band: the guy who rarely gets the plaudits but plugs away in the background. It is the dogged work of Pocock and Hooper at the breakdown and Michael Cheika’s decision to play them both from the off that has hogged the headlines. The only surprise now is that no-one thought of it before Cheika paired them for a Rugby Championship game against New Zealand this year, but then it was so unorthodox that there was never the guarantee that it would work.
Certainly not to the extent that it has.
“I didn’t have any concerns at all,” said Fardy who has etched out a solid spot at number six despite the fact that he was a late bloomer who only made his Test debut two years ago at the age of 29.
“Cheiks is a good salesman: I don’t know if you’ve heard that before! There were no concerns with me because I had played with both of them a number of times in Super Rugby and Test rugby so I knew they were both fantastic players. So, to have the opportunity to play with both of them, I could see the benefits.”
Meanwhile James Hook has admitted to a sense of World Cup “unfinished business” after his painful experience in New Zealand four years ago.
Wales reached the semi-finals of that tournament – their best performance on a global stage since 1987 – but an agonising 9-8 defeat against France in Auckland meant their dream ended.
The Gloucester fly-half has only made four Wales starts since then, but his 80th cap could arrive on Saturday if – as looks likely – he will be involved in Wales’ match-day 23 against Australia.
“Yes, there is unfinished business,” said Hook, who was called into Wales’ squad last week along with Gareth Anscombe following injuries suffered by Scott Williams and Hallam Amosd.
“I was hoping to be involved in this World Cup and get out to do something. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to do that and play a positive part.”
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