Australia recall Polota-Nau, snub Higginbotham

  • Rugby
  • Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia welcomed hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau back from injury for Saturday's Rugby Championship test against Argentina but there was a snub for Scott Higginbotham when Ben McCalman was named as starting number eight on Tuesday.

The return of Polota-Nau, who has not played since he injured his knee in the Super Rugby final, could not have come at a better time with the Wallabies expecting a serious challenge in the front row from the Pumas on the Gold Coast.

The switch at hooker was the only one of the three changes from the team that beat South Africa 24-23 in Perth last weekend that was not forced on coach Ewen McKenzie.

Peter Betham comes in on the right wing for Adam Ashley-Cooper, who was ruled out with a neck injury, while McCalman replaces Wycliff Palu, who suffered a head knock against the South Africans.

Higginbotham impressed as a replacement number eight in the match against the Springboks as well as in the 51-20 drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks that preceded it and will count himself unfortunate not to have earned the start.

McCalman, who along with flanker Matt Hodgson was a key factor in the best ever Super Rugby season for Western Force this year, will win his 33rd cap, while Higginbotham will again be used as an impact player.

"Ben is no stranger to the international arena and we feel he has certain characteristics which will suit the team for the beginning of the match," McKenzie said in a news release.

"He'll set the tone early with his high work-rate and provide a good balance for what we'll be looking for from our back row as a group.

"We'll also then have the benefit of being able to call on Scott and Matt from the bench late in the game. 

"We have strong thoughts on how we want our 'finishers' to play and they all have defined roles in how we want to close out the match."

Another of the "finishers" in Perth last weekend was Kurtley Beale, who, having been dropped as flyhalf in favour of Bernard Foley, played an integral role in the late converted try for Rob Horne that won the match.

Beale was again named as one of only two backs on a forward-heavy bench along with former captain James Horwill, who retains his spot as back-up lock ahead of youngster Will Skelton.

Betham missed the back end of the season for the New South Wales Waratahs because of a broken foot and gets his chance to win his second cap because of an injury to Henry Speight.

Powerful Fijian winger Speight, who becomes eligible to represent Australia on residential grounds on Thursday, is still struggling with a hamstring injury he sustained in the Super Rugby playoffs.

Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Peter Betham, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Rob Horne, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Nick Phipps, 8-Ben McCalman, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Scott Fardy, 5-Rob Simmons, 4-Sam Carter, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-James Slipper Replacements: 16-James Hanson, 17-Pek Cowan, 18-BenAlexander, 19-James Horwill, 20-Scott Higginbotham, 21-MattHodgson, 22-Nic White, 23-Kurtley Beale

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ian Ransom)

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